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The first time I went climbing outside in Chattanooga I was skeptical. My gym friends were driving me to a bouldering place called Stone Fort tucked behind a golf course. A golf course of all places?!
What about the snow-capped mountains? Where were the huge granite domes?
Just a few yards from a neighborhood and golf greens, towering boulders and bizarre rock features unfurled as if out of a fairytale. These ancient stones are encompassed by a forest teeming with a mélange of bird chirps, cicada hums, and occasional throaty oration from a boulderer cruxing on a problem. The refrains simultaneously calmed and excited me. Before I knew it, I was hooked—so much so that I made the city my home.
Climbing in Chattanooga: There are Endless Opportunities On and Off the Rock
Everyone knows Chattanooga is the best Southeast climbing hub. And for those who don’t, the locals are glad it has remained a secret. Even though there are other Southern hotbeds—Red River Gorge is a premier sport climbing destination and New River Gorge has a stellar concentration of trad and boulder problems—Chattanooga offers a lot more opportunities and activities for permanent residents.
For the modern nomad and traveling climber, there are a lot of perks. The city has the world’s fastest internet (a huge plus for my freelance copywriting compared to more rural zones I’ve visited), there are tons of coffee shops and bars to work at, and once I’m finished the town is surrounded by four mountains (Lookout, Racoon, Signal, and Mowbray) to go hiking, biking, and swimming.
The city has it all: Trad, sport climbing, and bouldering
Chattanooga has an abundance of each discipline of outdoor rock climbing. From historical trad lines established in the ‘60s at Sunset Rock, to just opened boulderfields like Dogwood and the Old Wauhatchie Pike Boulders, this slice of the Cumberland Plateau has something for everyone.
There is currently a huge access boom right now which means more crags are being preserved and protected. New rope climbing spots like Denny Cove and Woodcock Cove have been purchased by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), the local climbing organization, within the past five years meaning climbers have a bigger selection of routes and existing zones will be less crowded.
Get ready for burly, athletic movements
Chattanooga climbing is known for its steep terrain that will make your forearms swell and shoulders sore. Even though the slabby big wall climbing in North Carolina is right next door, Tennessee boasts a drastically different style because of the natural features of the sandstone. And since it is more pumpy power than technical skill, this is a great place to transition from the gym to outdoor for beginners.
My 6 Favorite Climbing Spots in Chattanooga
Alright, already! Where can I rock climb in Chattanooga?, you might be asking. Below is my Chattanooga climbing guide filled with some of the most popular—and personal favorite—climbing areas to get you started. But remember, these are just the tip of the escarpment in this stone-laden land!
1. Stone Fort, Soddy Daisy
Stone Fort, about 20 minutes north in Soddy Daisy, is the first place that comes to mind when climbers think of Chattanooga climbing.
The best introduction to Southern sandstone bouldering
What type of rock is Stone Fort? Classic Southern sandstone, of course! This bullet-proof rock—climbable even after spouts of rain—is often smeared with rusty red iron splotches amid a gray patina. Unique features include slopey aretes (see, The Wave, V6), bulbous “beach whale” top outs (Fish Market, V4), protruding flakes (Fire Crack Flake, V1), splitter cracks (Crack of Doom, V5), tricky dynos (Castaway, V7), and steep pockets (Super Mario, V4).
It is a great place to climb outside for beginners too. I climbed my first V3, V4, V5 (Sternum), V7, and V8 (Cleopatra) here. Whether you climb double digits or are just cutting your teeth on outdoor rock, this stony corridor has endless problems for everyone.
With much effort, Stone Fort has been preserved
Located on the Montlake Golf Course, accessing the boulders hasn’t always been easy. In the early 2000s, the boulderfield was closed-off until the Triple Crown Bouldering Series partnered with the owners to allow usage during the annual climbing competition. The results were overwhelmingly positive, and the golf course decided to open things up year-round for a daily fee of $9. Even though many climbers huff and puff at the fare, we need to remember this is the price we have to pay for admission to private land.
The property was recently placed on the market, however, and fortunately, a group of climbers bought the property to ensure it remains open to the sport.
There’s more bouldering in town
Looking for another introductory bouldering area even closer to downtown? The Old Wauhatchie Pike Boulders, in the historic district of St. Elmo, opened to the public in 2016 in partnership with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy. Thanks to gravel paths leading to each boulder, well-marked signage, and slew of V1-V4 problems, this is a prime place to take beginners or climb circuits.
Stone Fort is one of the most popular bouldering areas in the world, and for good reason. The boulderfield has over 200 problems on stellar sandstone with unique features you won’t find anywhere else.
– Elaine Elliott
1. Stone Fort, Soddy Daisy - Good to Know
All skill levels are embraced at Stone Fort. The boulderfield has problems from V0-V13
The boulder problems range from slab, vert, steep, and roof gradients on primo Southern sandstone
Drive to Soddy Daisy just north of Chattanooga. Drive up Mowbray Mountain toward the Mont Lake Golf Course and park in the same lot as the golfers
The path to the boulders is just to the left of the clubhouse. The trail is short and easy, but strollers would have difficulty on the steps. The boulderfield is very concentrated and takes less than ten minutes to walk to the “Back Nine” which are the farthest boulders from the parking lot
You might be wondering who bought Stone Fort? The property was for sale last year but luckily, a group of climbers bought the land. Now the boulders are protected forever. But please respect the rules and pay the daily $9 fee and sign a waiver before climbing
Stone Fort Chattanooga has a guidebook available on Rockery Press’ site. Or you can buy the Stone Fort guidebook at Rock/Creek, the local outfitters in town
Stone Fort does not have any camping onsite (yet!), but you can camp in nearby areas like Dayton or Tennessee Wall
Stone Fort is at its prime from November to March. But you’ll see climbers boulders year round, especially on summer nights when the temperatures cool off
Although there isn’t a vibrant restaurant scene in Soddy Daisy, there are dozens of tasty options in Chattanooga (only 20 minutes away). Climbers love to frequent Tremont Tavern, Bitter Alibi, Hutton & Smith brewery, and Basecamp Bar
Some of the best swimming holes are minutes from Stone Fort! Check out North Chickamauga Creek and Big Soddy Creek Gulf – both are at the base of Mowbray Mountain. Climbers also like to swim and hike at Upper Middle Creek or Rainbow Lake, both are on Signal Mountain
2. Sunset Rock, Chattanooga
Just above the St. Elmo neighborhood, nestled on the side of Lookout Mountain, is Sunset Rock. Minutes from the popular tourist attractions, Rock City and Ruby Falls, it is convenient for climbing after work or getting a few pitches in before sightseeing around town—heck, the views from the crag itself are worth the trip.
Just remember, Sunset Rock climbing is trad only. Even though many of the routes are moderate and great for beginners, make sure you have someone in the group who is experienced with gear placement.
Enjoy the climbing history
Sunset Rock is the only place where you can climb on a Civil War battlefield, part of the Chickamauga National Military Park. It’s also home to the first ever established gear lines in Chattanooga dating back to the 1940s. Many of the known classic routes were documented between the 1960s and 1980s by developers like Tim McMillan, Stan Wallace, Bill Smith, Rob Robinson, and Forrest Gardner. Such classics include Walk in the Park (5.8), Jefferson Airplane (5.10a), and The Prow (5.11d).
Rope up in the summer
Sunset Rock is the best crag for summer trad climbing due to the 2,000 feet in elevation (higher than most Chattanooga crags) and west-facing shady walls. When the heat is on and you’re in doubt about other crags, run it out to Sunset.
Sunset Rock is the birthplace of Chattanooga climbing, and it still remains one of the best spots to take both beginners and trad diehards.
– Elaine Elliott
2. Sunset Rock, Chattanooga - Good to Know
Grades range from 5.4-5.14 at Sunset Rock. Every route is trad, so have someone in the group who is confident with gear placement
Most of the routes are on vert walls with cracks, jugs, and crimps. But there are plenty of roofs for experienced trad climbers. Most of the gear placement is safe and abundant
Drive up Lookout Mountain toward Cravens House. There is closer parking, but climbers are told to park here
The trail from Cravens House is about 20-30 minutes to the climbs going upward on a gentle incline
Climbers must leave before sundown and park at Cravens House. Climbing is permitted and free, so please keep it this way by respecting the rules!
Sunset Rock climbing is featured in the ChatTrad guidebook on Rockery Press’ site. Or you can buy the ChatTrad guidebook at Rock/Creek – the local outfitters in town
Sunset Rock does not have any camping, but you because it is so close to the city you can easily find an airbnb, hotel, or stay at The Crash Pad hostel
Sunset Rock climbing is best in the fall and spring. But many climbers seek sunny walls in the winter or shady walls in the summer
At the base of Lookout Mountain are plenty of food options like The Tap House, 1885 bistro, Clumpie’s ice cream, and The Purple Daisy BBQ. Climbers also love to frequent Tremont Tavern, Bitter Alibi, Hutton & Smith brewery, and Basecamp Bar in Chattanooga
Sunset Rock is right next to a lot of historic Civil War sites such as Point Park and Cravens House. A lot of families also take their kids to Rock City or Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain
Fun Fact: Chattanooga’s only 5.14 gear line (Power Ranger) is at Sunset Rock. It was sent by British climber James Pearson in 2017
3. Foster Falls, Jasper
When sport climbers come to Chattanooga, this is usually the first place they visit—and same was true for me! The climbing at Foster Falls is diverse in both style and grade with both steep, thuggy lines and beautiful vert faces ranging from moderate to hard.
Sample a large concentration of grades, routes, and styles
What kind of rock is at Foster Falls? Although known for its steep lines and tallus-filled Southern sandstone caves called the “bunkers,” the area also has a lot of approachable routes like Holy War (5.9) and Fish-Eyed Fool (5.10b) on intriguing orange stone.
There are about 20 separate crags all along the single cliff face, and every wall is unique. For example, the Sandford Wall is a beautiful orange face full of 5.11s, while the White Wall has stout routes with trad-like cruxes in crack seams such as Acquittal (5.11b) and Satisfaction (5.12a).
Swim, camp, and picnic after a long day at the crag
After a long day, you’ll be itching to take a dip next to the picturesque waterfall at the beginning of the trail. Even though Foster Falls is great in the winter, a lot of folks come here in the summer too, to try-hard at shaded crags before swimming.
If one day isn’t enough, you can reserve a campsite at one of over 20 primitive campsites. The park is also convenient for families and friends who want to enjoy amenities such as bathrooms, grills, and picnic tables.
From the stunning waterfall to juggy climbing on steep rock, you’re guaranteed to have a fun time at Foster Falls.
– Elaine Elliott
3. Foster Falls, Jasper - Good to Know
Route grades range from 5.6-5.13 at Foster Falls. This is a great place to introduce beginners to top-roping or lead climbing
The route gradients vary from slab to steep roofs. There are also a few dihedral and crack climbs, even though most of them are bolted. The Southern sandstone at Fosters is excellent!
Drive to Jasper, Tennessee which is about 40 minutes from Chattanooga. Head toward Foster Falls state park right past other classic climbing areas like Denny Cove and Castle Rock
The trail heads down to the waterfall on steep terrain. But once you pass the bridge, the trail will be fairly easy and straightforward. The hike to the cliffs takes 15-30 minutes
Climbing in Foster Falls is free and accessible yearlong
Foster Falls climbing is featured in the Chatt Steel guidebook on Rockery Press’ site. Or you can buy the Chatt Steel guidebook at Rock/Creek, the local outfitters in town.
Foster Falls has primitive camping available but book ahead of time because these limited spots fill up fast
Foster Falls climbing is best in the fall and spring. But many climbers seek sunny walls in the winter or shady walls in the summer before taking a dip next to the waterfall
There are limited food options in Jasper. Most climbers return to Chattanooga and eat at Tremont Tavern, Bitter Alibi, Odd Story brewery, Goodfellas Pizza, or Basecamp Bar
Foster Falls is a fun place for casual hiking and swimming. There are also other trails and state parks nearby. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a show at The Caverns – a unique underground music venue just 30 minutes away
4. Rocktown, LaFayette, Georgia
Rocktown’s steep, thuggy style has made it a premiere destination for those looking to flex their muscles. Tucked back in the woods on top of Pigeon Mountain in Georgia, a 15-minute hike through remote forest takes you to an enchanting playground of huge, bulbous sandstone outcrops.
Rocktown is a great place to post up for the bouldering season
Once you purchase an annual Rocktown bouldering permit—which is actually a Georgia fishing license—it’s easy to pitch a tent at the campground and stay for a month, or more. Many visiting boulderers will stay here during their Chattanooga climbing tour in order to get adjusted to the burly style.
Discover one-of-a-kind boulders in this unforgettable sandstone labyrinth
Similar to Stone Fort, Rocktown has rock features that aren’t found elsewhere—at least in the U.S. Infamous boulders such as the Golden Harvest, Orb, and Comet are sought after because of qualities such as vivid yellow hues, globular slopers, steep visages, and entangled iron bands sculpted on the stone. Problems on these three boulders include classics like Golden Showers (V5), Standard Deviation (V6), and The Orb (V8).
The grading is typically a little sandbagged compared to Stone Fort. Come prepared to try-hard and be humbled on the thuggy terrain.
Rocktown truly is a magical place. The quiet forest, abundant moss and foliage, and larger-than-life boulders will make you feel like you stepped into a fairytale.
– Elaine Elliott
4. Rocktown, LaFayette, Georgia - Good to Know
Problems range from V0-V15 at Rocktown. Be aware that the climbing is stout here, but it’s still a very fun place for climbers of all levels. Check out notable problems such as Ripple (V2), El Bano (V3), Soap on a Rope (V4), and Splashback (V6)
The boulders tend to be burly and steep, although climbers can still find vert highballs and tricky slabs among the mix
Drive to LaFayette, Georgia just an hour south of Chattanooga. Drive up Pigeon Mountain toward the Rocktown trailhead
The trail is about a half mile to the front boulders and a mile to the back boulders. The path is flat and wide, but still not ideal for strollers
A Georgia hunting and fishing license, which allows access to climbing, is required. Be sure to purchase one ahead of time to avoid a fine from park rangers! For more information, visit the SCC Rocktown page
The Rocktown guidebook is out of print, but Mountain Project has a thorough Rocktown bouldering guide, and there are others available online if you poke around
Rocktown has free primitive camping as long as you purchase a Rocktown bouldering permit
Rocktown is best from November to March
There are limited food options in LaFayette. Most climbers return to Chattanooga or bring food if camping
Cloudland Canyon State Park, just minutes away, has plenty of casual hikes for a rest day
Fun Fact: The first V15 ever established in the Southeast was in Rocktown. Jimmy Webb sent The Matriarch in 2015 and it hasn’t seen a second ascent yet
5. Tennessee Wall, Chattanooga
Tennessee Wall is known among locals and travelers as the crown jewel of Chattanooga trad climbing. Other than climbing at the Gunks, “T-Wall” is the most well-known single-pitch trad destination in America.
Sunset Rock, Foster Falls, and Suck Creek Canyon had been climbed for years before the wall was discovered. So where is the Tennessee Wall? It’s only 20 minutes from Chattanooga, but due to the dense forest below the cliff line, developers, such as the prolific Rob Robinson, didn’t find the crag until they saw it from the other side of the river on Raccoon Mountain in 1984.
Top-notch trad lines and hard sport
T-Wall is the go-to spot for trad climbing on steep, burly sandstone. Case in point, there are a handful of roof caps where climbers can enjoy horizontal cracks on stout 5.12-5.13+ gear routes such as Hands Across America (5.12c) and Tamper Proof (5.13a). With that said, there are plenty of easier lines that are well-loved each season such as Nutrasweet (5.7), Passages (5.8), and Golden Locks (5.9).
In addition to the endless trad lines, there are also several dozen bolted routes starting at 5.11+, making this one of the best places in Chattanooga for advanced sport climbing. Some of the classics include Twistin’ in the Wind (5.12c) and Burn (5.13a).
Endless crags full of orange rock and stunning dihedrals
Tennessee Wall is a south-facing two-mile long unbroken cliff face basking in the sun, which makes it the best place to rope up in the winter in Chattanooga. The Southern sandstone is covered in bright orange and ochre blotches that beautifully juxtapose the blue waters of the Tennessee River below.
On a sunny, winter day, there “ain’t no place I’d rather be” than the Tennessee Wall. The renowned routes are on scenic stone with an equally scenic river view.
– Elaine Elliott
5. Tennessee Wall, Chattanooga - Good to Know
Grades range from 5.6-5.13 but routes are known to be difficult. First time trad climbers should have a guide or mentor assisting
Most of the routes are vert, slab, dihedrals, or slightly steep. The harder classic routes will have roof caps guarding the cruxes
Drive toward the Tennessee Wall trailhead in Prentice Cooper State Forest. The crag is on the outskirts of town between Signal Mountain and the Tennessee River
The approach to the cliff line is quite steep and strenuous. It’s only about a half mile of hiking but be prepared for a leg workout
Tennessee Wall is free to climb yearlong. Just be aware that on some weekends in the fall the crag is closed for hunting
Tennessee Wall climbing is featured in the ChatTrad guidebook on Rockery Press’ site. Or you can buy the ChatTrad guidebook at Rock/Creek – the local outfitters in town
Tennessee Wall has free primitive camping at the trailhead
The crag is south facing and gets full sun, meaning T-Wall is only in-season from about November to early March
Your best bet is to head back to town
It is right next to the Tennessee River which many people love to paddle or boat. You can also find trails on Signal Mountain at Rainbow Lake or Upper Middle Creek
6. Denny Cove, Jasper
Denny Cove is one of Chattanooga’s newest sport crags, just south of Foster Falls. Even though it wasn’t developed until 2011, it’s already made a huge impact on the Chattanooga climbing scene as one of the premier places to climb moderate and advanced sport routes.
Denny Cove is an access success story
When Denny Cove was first discovered, only a handful of developers climbed there. But soon after, they joined forces with the SCC and Access Fund to get the area protected. After a lot of hard work and fundraising, the crag was opened to the public in 2016 and became the biggest land and monetary purchase ever made by America’s original climbing nonprofit advocacy organization.
It took over four years for the land loan to be fully paid off after numerous fundraisers. I even produced and directed a short film, called Filling the Void, to show off Denny Cove climbing and promote the efforts. The film tour raised over $10,000 which went directly to the loan!
Many unique crags
Denny Cove has a handful of crags but three of them have been instrumental: Buffet Wall, Shaman Cave, and Salad Bar. Buffet Wall has the highest concentration of 5.12s in Chattanooga. The looming sea of sandstone stays dry in the rain, and takes on a limestone-like appearance full of sidepulls and holds that almost mimic tufas. This style can be seen on classics like Magic Meat (5.12a) and Pressure Cooker (5.12a).
The Shaman Cave is a giant cave with 5.13 and 5.14 routes. This is one of the best places to try-hard in Chattanooga! Test pieces like Rockstar (5.13b) and Lucid Dreaming (5.14a) are sure to stump, yet entertain, visitors. And the Salad Bar is the ideal wall for warming up or guiding beginners on must-trys like Three Star Salad Bar (5.9) and Wish-bone (5.10b). The vert cliff is covered in bright orange lichen and has a stellar view of the gorge.
Looking for more sport climbing options after checking out Denny Cove and Foster Falls? The Obed Wild and Scenic River is only two hours from Chattanooga and full of juggy horizontal roofs, proud prows, and steep routes. Locals love taking weekend trips to enjoy the fun climbing, beer drinking at Dell’s brewery, and swimming in the river.
Denny Cove is quickly becoming another prized crag in the impressive Chattanooga climbing lineup. Even though it’s a fairly new area, this sport destination is already a must visit.
– Elaine Elliott
6. Denny Cove, Jasper - Good to Know
Route grades range from 5.6-5.14. There are a handful of walls for beginners, although most climbers visit to seek out the harder routes
Denny Cove is known for its steep terrain, but there are also vert walls and juggier routes
Drive to Jasper, Tennessee which is about 40 minutes from Chattanooga. Head toward the Denny Cove park sign. If you see the Foster Falls sign then you’ve gone slightly too far
The trail to the popular walls like Buffet Wall and Salad Bar is a little over a mile, but the hike is flat. A few of the other walls like Denny Cove East is closer to the parking lot
Climbing in Denny Cove is free and accessible yearlong
Denny Cove climbing is featured in the Chatt Steel guidebook on Rockery Press’ site. Or you can buy the Chatt Steel guidebook at Rock/Creek – the local outfitters in town
Denny Cove does not have any camping. But Foster Falls, which is only a mile down the road, has primitive camping options if you book ahead of time
Denny Cove is best in the fall and spring. Many climbers seek sunny walls in the winter or shady walls in the summer. Fortunately, Buffet Wall is sunny in the winter and gets shade after noon in the summer
There are limited food options in Jasper. Most climbers return to Chattanooga
There are plenty of trails and swimming holes at state parks nearby such as Foster Falls, South Cumberland State Park, and Grundy Forest. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a show at The Caverns – a unique underground music venue just 30 minutes away
Good to Know Information for Climbing in Chattanooga
To help you plan for your trip and to make the most of your time while you’re there, here is some additional information.
Map of climbing in Chattanooga
To help you get around, Outdoor Chattanooga has an interactive map of all the climbing spots covered in this article. For a bit more detail, you can check out the Southeast Tennessee Rock Climbing Guide.
Accommodation in Chattanooga
Many visitors stay at The Crash Pad hostel, an eco-friendly climber-themed hotel, or book one of many Airbnbs or campsites in the area. For more information about camping at or near specific climbing spots, check out the Good to Know sections above.
The best time to climb in Chattanooga
The ideal season for climbing in Chattanooga is from October to March, though crags such as Sunset Rock are climbable through the summer, while Foster Falls and Tennessee Wall are popular in the winter.
Permits and park fees when climbing in Chattanooga
Most of Chattanooga’s climbing is on private property or state land. This means you might have to pay a daily fee (Stone Fort), purchase an annual recreation pass (Rocktown), or be mindful of hunting closures in the fall (Tennessee Wall, Rocktown). Please double check about fee requirements before visiting a crag in Chattanooga.
SCC: The Local Climbing Organization
Moving to Chattanooga from Atlanta was a little intimidating at first, but the close-knit community was easier to tap into than I expected. Between meeting people at Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) events and gym sessions, I realized folks are always stoked to meet you if you express psych for the local scene.
The SCC works on preserving and maintaining crags in the TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia) region. Since the SCC is headquartered in Chattanooga, most of their climbing fundraisers take place in the city. Throughout the year, you can participate in SCC happenings such as trail days, rebolting efforts, beer mixers, movie nights, and climbing competitions. Since the Chattanooga climbing community is continually growing, you’ll always meet fresh faces when you attend these fun gatherings!
The SCC is the glue that keeps the climbing community together in Chattanooga. Whether you’re a boulderer or rope climber, every climber in the area shares a similar passion for protecting and preserving crags in the region.
Best of all, this dedicated coalition of climbers means business. When a crag’s land is threatened by development, or a private crag needs to be purchased to preserve the land, this group of Southeast climbers gets to work. Between raising money, promoting conservation causes online, and communicating appropriately with landowners, all these efforts have successfully acquired new climbing destinations in the region. Which means the Chattanooga climbing playground keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Consider climbing in Chattanooga with a guide
If you’re just getting started with climbing or looking to transition from the gym to outside, Chattanooga is a great place to learn given the prevalence of beginner grades and quick access. Along those lines, an AMGA certified Rock Guide will make sure you’re beginning with a foundation of proper techniques and safety.
See You Out at the Crag!
Now that you know where to climb in Chattanooga, it’s time to plan your trip! Whether you’re a diehard trad climber, boulderer, or “only” clip bolts, it’s worth checking out all the different zones and disciplines available. Each is unique and offers an amazing sampling of our beloved Southern sandstone.