The Top 8 Best Places for Rock Climbing in Canada

From coast to coast, Canada is full of world-class rock climbing spots. These Top 8 just barely scratch the surface.

Canada is so vast in its size and offerings for rock climbing that it can be daunting to even know where to begin. The best option, in my opinion, is to take a year of your life, live in a van, and explore every single one of them. Barring that idealistic pursuit, I’ll outline what I think are the best options and you can decide which suits you the most. No matter what you’re looking for — big walls, sport routes, epic multi-pitch options, beginner routes and everything in between — Canada delivers the incredible rock climbing for every skill level and style of climber. 

Greg Hill climbing British Columbia
The author, Greg Hill, is an ACMG ski guide and all-round adventurer, seen here climbing in British Columbia

Where to find the best rock climbing in Canada

Contending with the best places for rock climbing in the USA, Canada is a world-class climbing destination due to the quality of the rock and the variety of climbing styles you can sink your hands and feet into. It all depends on what style you really enjoy. For some, Canmore is their top spot because of the variety and objectives that lie everywhere, and maybe trad climbing on granite is not their cup of tea. For others, there is no place like Squamish for honing their skills and bringing them to the spires of the Bugaboos and beyond to Baffin Island.

Lake Louise Rock Climbing
A rock climber outside Lake Louise, in Banff National Park, just a short drive chrome Canmore, Alberta.

To be honest, I have waffled back and forth between Canmore and Squamish as the top spots. Canmore keeps pushing itself to the top in my mind, yet there is something so special about the ocean and being able to climb above the Pacific waters that makes Squamish more appealing. 

To me, climbing has always been interesting because of the different experiences I get every time I climb. I love that no two places are ever alike.  I have climbed in most of these places and have had challenging and rewarding experiences in all of them. I encourage you to read on and then go explore the places you haven’t yet seen. After all, the best crag is always the one you’re currently climbing.

British Columbia

1. Squamish

TOP CHOICE FOR TRAD CLIMBING
Huge multi-pitch climbing on the famous Chief
More traditional climbs than anywhere in Canada
Long climbing season
Proximity to Vancouver makes it a popular spot; expect crowds

Squamish is a world-class climbing venue and arguably the best place in Canada for climbing. To a climber, hearing the name “Squamish” brings to mind huge granite cliffs hanging steeply above the dark ocean waters of Howe Sound. It has endless traditional multi-pitch climbs on the Chief, a 2000-foot monolith that towers over town. Dotted amongst the giant cedars at the base are tonnes of boulders, with endless puzzling problems. If neither trad nor bouldering is your style, there are also lots of steep sport climbs in Cheakamus Canyon, as well as plenty of other crags.

#Vanlife is a little harder than it used to be, but this is the spot to hang in the summer and focus on climbing. When it rains, and it does, there are endless other adventures awaiting. Plentiful ocean adventures like kiteboarding or paddleboarding, and warm lakes to swim in when not climbing on perfect granite. This place is a must visit.

view of stawamus chief provincial park and squamish river estuary
The town of Squamish, with Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief and the Estuary in view

A great testing ground for bigger venues

If you dream of ever going to Yosemite or simply being a great crack climber, this can be your testing grounds. There are so many single-pitch trad climbs to learn the ropes on, and then take those skills higher up the bigger faces. There are also alpine objectives worth visiting, the Tantalus Range being the most awe inspiring of the bunch.

A few classics that come to mind are Diedre (5.7), Angel’s Crest (5.10b), and the obvious Grand Wall (5.11a, A0).

For overall appeal, Squamish has the best climbing you’ll find north of the 49th Parallel.

By Jase Wilson — avid climber and former Squamish local

Read full review

1. Squamish - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Vancouver and rent a car; Squamish is an hour away.

Best spot for climbing gear:

Climb On, Escape Route, and Valhalla Pure

Skill level:

All climbing levels

Guidebook:

Squamish Rock Climbs by Kevin McLane and Andrew Boyd

Best time to visit:

May-October

Guidebook:

Alpine Select by Kevin MacLane

Guidebook:

Squamish Bouldering 3rd Edition by Marc Bourdon

Where to grab a pint and a bite:

Backcountry Brewing and Howe Sound Brewery are worth a visit after a good day of climbing.

Alberta

2. Canmore

TOP CHOICE FOR SPORT CLIMBING AND MOUNTAINEERING
Huge multi-pitch climbing on many different cliffs, mountains
Endless limestone sport climbs in all difficulty ranges
54 11,000-foot peaks to test your mountaineering
The alpine climbing can get chossy

If you close your eyes and imagine the perfect climbing area, something with steep, hard limestone climbs, long multi-pitch alpine walls, endless cliffs to stare at and dream, Canmore is what you’re picturing. It is the epicenter for hard sport, ice and alpine climbers in Canada (even the Alpine Club of Canada’s headquarters are in Canmore). At their doorstep, lie 10,000-foot mountains, with thousand-foot steep cliffs everywhere, some chossy and some not. The guidebooks are a testament to the endless pitches, steep and dry, long and technical, run out and wild. It has it all.

Canmore Climbing
Canmore, with the Three Sisters mountains in the background, is a classic mountain town full of equally classic climbing options

Endless climbing options in Canmore and the surrounding area

In my mind, all the climbing between Lake Louise and Canmore can be lumped into the same area, since it all resides within Banff National Park. Staying in Canmore, you can get up early and be climbing on the incredible Grand Sentinel, or jamming on the newly bolted Apollo route on Mt. Hector, or even climbing the super steep sport routes at Bataan.

Classics are plentiful, like Eeyore’s Tail (5.8, 10 pitches), or the East Ridge of Mount Temple (5.7), an alpine classic, and the hard 5.14, 15-pitch bolted route, The Shining on Mount Lewis, with the hard line up the Diamond Face. Truly, there are too many classics to even list.

If you close your eyes and imagine the perfect climbing area… Canmore is what you’re picturing.

2. Canmore - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Calgary and rent a car; Canmore is one hour and 20 minutes away

Best spot for climbing gear:

Vertical Addiction at 1300 Railway Ave

Skill level:

All climbing levels

Guidebook:

Rock Climbs of Mt. Yamnuska by Andy Genereaux

Best time to visit:

June-October

Guidebook:

Rockies Central Guide by David P. Jones

Where to grab a cup of coffee:

Beamer’s Coffee Bar has been a Canmore staple for over 25 years

Where to grab a pint and a bite:

The Grizzly Paw pub for a microbrew experience

British Columbia

3. Bugaboos

TOP CHOICE FOR ALPINE CLIMBING
The best alpine trad climbing in Canada
Granite spires sticking out of tumbling glaciers
Top grade makes it easier to be successful and not epic out
The classic routes can get quite busy
Difficult to access, 50km up a logging road, followed by 3 hr hike to camp

Somehow it took me over 20 years as a climber to finally visit the Bugaboos, and it blew me away. Its remoteness adds so much value to the summits. Near Golden, BC, it’s a 50km drive up a dirt logging road, which can be navigated by a two-wheel drive car, albeit slowly. Then, a three-hour hike up an incredible trail, surrounded by tumbling glacier seracs and incredible scenery. The campground is perched on the edge of the world and is a social scene worth embracing.

The three distinct granite peaks of Howser Spire — the highest mountain in the Bugaboos. Howser Spire by Runemaker licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Patagonia of Canada

Located in BC’s Purcell Mountains, the Bugaboos are the Patagonia of Canada, with high quality multi-pitch alpine climbs of all ranges. Everywhere you look, there’s an obvious line to the summit of one of the many spires in the area. Access to most routes involves glacier travel, so extensive knowledge is a must. On easy, classic climbs, there can be many people, so be watchful of everyone around you, as they may be your biggest hazard. My last visit there someone dislodged a rock on a snow slope and it tumbled towards me, barely missing my head as I dove out of its way.

Start small in the Bugaboos

Alpine grades are typically worth approaching with less confidence, and I advise climbing well below your regular grades, at least at first. Being humble and starting up some of the easier classics will help you learn the character of the Bugaboos. The 5.4 to the Pigeon Spire summit is an incredible day — a perfect introduction to alpine climbing or a nice rest day.

I would plan on staying at least a week, if not more. My fingers were ruined after two days of climbing, so be prepared to take days off. It’s quite far to go back and re-supply, so plan well before venturing in. I promise, once you visit, you’ll want to go back again and again… and again.

As with most top BC climbing locations, the Bugaboos classics are endless: Snowpatch (5.8), Becky Chouinard (5.10), East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire (5.7), Surf’s Up, Sunshine Crack (5.11), and the list goes on.

The Bugaboos are the Patagonia of Canada, with high quality multi-pitch alpine climbs of all ranges.

3. Bugaboos - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Calgary and rent a car — a high clearance car if possible

Skill level:

Alpine climbs for all skill levels

Best time to visit:

Late June to September

Guidebook:

The Bugaboos by Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche

Camping/lodging:

Backcountry camping or Conrad Kain Hut can be reserved through the Alpine Club of Canada

Additional information:

Bugaboo Provincial Park

British Columbia

4. Skaha Bluffs

TOP CHOICE FOR EARLY SEASON CLIMBING
Usually the first place to warm up in the spring
Great climbs up to three pitches
Predominantly sport climbing
The classic routes can get quite busy
Car camping can be challenging

When you think of Canada, do you think dry, arid desert? Well, Skaha Bluffs are situated in an interior desert just outside of Penticton, BC; it’s hot and rocky and unlike anywhere else in Canada. There is not a spring that goes by, when I’m out skiing and my friends are climbing in Skaha. Situated in the middle of BC, it’s a top choice for edgy, steep climbing. It’s been many years since I have climbed here, but the memory of positive holds on steep faces will never fade.

Skaha Bluffs are the place to start your climbing season off, with plenty of moderate routes full of small positive holds

Shaka’s climbing season starts early and ends late

There are over 50 crags with moderate routes, lots in the 5.10 to 5.12 range. The rock is gneiss, which gives you the small positive holds, and mostly vertical cliffs. As I mentioned, it is one of the few canadian zones that climbing begins in March and goes well into November. Most people hit it at the start or the end of the season as it gets pretty hot in the summer.

The place to start your season off, Skaha Bluffs’ long pumpy pitches will warm up your forearms, and dial in your footwork. Off days can be enjoyed at the lake or cruising the best wineries in British Columbia. Most camping is pay camping, with my favorite campground being Banbury Green.

Some Skaha Bluffs classics are Plum Line (5.10a), Wings of Desire (5.11c), and Bladerunner (5.12a).

The place to start your season off, Skaha Bluffs’ long pumpy pitches will warm up your forearms, and dial in your footwork.

4. Skaha Bluffs - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Kelowna and rent a car, Skaha is an hour away.

Guidebook:

Skaha Rockclimbs: A User’s Manual by Howie Richardson

Skill level:

All skill levels

Guidebook:

Skaha Climbing, First Edition by Marc Bourdon

Best time to visit:

April-November

Best rest day activity:

Great wineries in every direction

Where to grab a pint and a bite:

Bad Tattoo Brewing for good beer and food

Additional information:

Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

Ontario

5. Niagara Escarpment

THE BEST PLACE TO CLIMB IN ONTARIO
Amazing pocketed limestone
Close proximity to Toronto
700-km stretch of rock climbing routes
The classic routes can get quite busy
Many off-limit areas, so do your research beforehand

If you’re looking for climbing in Eastern Canada, the Niagara Escarpment is a pretty perfect place to start. The cliffs are not as massive as out west but this ridge of rock is over 700 km long, and there’s climbing the whole way along it. Tie that in with the deciduous tree forests and the Great Lakes backdrop, and it’s magical. I climbed here in the 90s, and can still remember topping out of a great climb and looking back over the lakes, blown away by the experience.

Tracing the edge of the Great Lakes, Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment is 700 kilometers long — with rock climbing the entire way.

Rock climbing close to Toronto

The Niagara Escarpment’s proximity to Toronto makes this a weekend climbing trip well worth doing. The rock is limestone and you may get lucky and spot some fossils embedded into your handholds!

The closest spot to Toronto is Rattlesnake Point, an easy to intermediate zone and one of the most popular rock climbing spots in Ontario. If you are looking for harder and more challenging routes, Devil’s Glen and Metcalf Rock are both 2.5 hours north of Toronto.

Due to its length, there is a huge variety of climbing, and it’s all different. Classics include Knob Hill (5.7,) Mainline (5.10a), Laplacian Ballroom (5.11a), and Seamstress (5.12a/b). There is bouldering amongst all these climbs, with a huge variety that will challenge everyone.

The Niagara Escarpment’s proximity to Toronto makes this a weekend climbing trip well worth doing.

5. Niagara Escarpment - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Toronto and rent a car. The crags are anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours away.

Guidebook:

Ontario Climbing Vol 1, The Southern Escarpment by Gus Alexandropoulos and Justin Dwyer (coolest climbing guide cover ever?)

Skill level:

All climbing levels

Current crag status:

Ontario Access Coalition

Best time to visit:

May to October

Additional info:

A brief history of rock climbing on the Escarpment

Quebec

6. Val-David

TOP CLIMBING SPOT IN QUEBEC
Granite climbing in Quebec
Something for every style of climbing
Over 400 boulder problems
The classic routes can get quite busy

Val-David is the birthplace of rock climbing in Quebec. It has a nice Eastern Canadian feel to it and climbing here on a nice September day while surrounded by the fall colors is an unparalleled experience. About an hour outside Montreal, there is rock climbing to suit every style, from V13 boulder problems, big walls, sport climbs, to 5.14 trad climbs, it has it all. The rock is part of the Canadian Shield and very compact granite.

Val David Climbing
One of the best times to visit La-Val is in early fall when the leaves change — a striking backdrop to hard granite climbing.

The quaint little villages that surround these cliffs are a tourist’s dream, dotted with small lakes everywhere, it would be easy to rent a cabin on a lake and climb all day. How perfect does that sound?

A few classic climbs include L’amphitheatre (5.8), the Crowne Directe (5.10a), and the mega-classic, Hallucinoreve (5.11c).

Val-David is the birthplace of rock climbing in Quebec, with something for every style of climbing.

6. Val-David - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Montreal and rent a car; it’s about a one-hour north to Val-David

Guidebook:

Guide des Parois Val-David by Paul Laperriere, in French with an English intro

Skill level:

All skill levels

Best spot to grab a pint and a bite:

Restaurant L’Épicurieux has a great scene

Best time to visit:

June-October

Additional info:

5 Things to Know About Val-David Climbing

Nunavut

7. Baffin Island

BIG WALL CLIMBING IN THE CANADIAN ARCTIC
Massive remote climbing on huge granite walls
You won’t find crowds here
Challenging and costly to get to since it's as remote as it comes

Baffin Island climbing is big wall expedition climbing at its best. The rock climbing and variety of objectives is worth the epic adventure, but it’s for experts only. I have yet to go, but I’m constantly dreaming up a reason to visit. Simply getting to the rock walls is a challenge in itself. It involves flying to one of the most remote places in Canada, then flying to an even smaller, more remote one. Then, it’s a decision between either snowmobiling in for 140 km or taking a boat and hiking in for 42 km. Tumbling glaciers, floating icebergs, giant polar bears — is there anything missing to make this a more dramatic adventure?

Rock climbing baffin island, canada
Rock climbing on Baffin Island is a remote adventure to the Canadian Arctic. Basecamp in Auyuittuq National Park, Nunavut, Canada.

The images of the mountains up Weasel Valley are mind boggling. Mount Asgard, known as ‘Sivanitirutinguak’ by the Inuit, is Baffin’s most famous, and most beautiful peak, and it commands your full attention. I wouldn’t know where to start in listing off possible objectives, it all depends on ability. As I write this, I am dreaming of getting strong again and heading up here for a month.

Stacked with amazing mountains, the objectives were plentiful and the views always mind-blowing.

By Jon Walsh — alpine climber

7. Baffin Island - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly to Iqaluit Airport and then make your way further to the small fishing village of Pangnirtung

Guidebook:

Climbing, Trekking & Skiing Baffin Island by Mark Synnott

Skill level:

Experts only

A word of caution:

Take this place very seriously and only go with a very strong and competent group

Best time to visit:

Mid-June to mid-August

Additional info:

Read about this 2017 climb of Mount Asgard on Baffin Island

Nova Scotia

8. Halifax

BEST BOULDERING ON THE EAST COAST
Bouldering beside the ocean
No big walls but over 550 routes in the province
Unique, quiet climbing culture
Mostly smaller crags but not a lot of other options

I used to climb around Halifax in the 90s; there was Eagle’s Nest and some oceanside bouldering, but there really wasn’t much extensive development. What I did find, was a unique blend of fun bouldering and single-pitch adventures backdropped directly by the Atlantic Ocean. Doing my research now, it seems like there’s been lots of changes in the last 20 years. According to Climb Nova Scotia, there’s well over 500 routes!! It appears lots has changed and it might be worth a re-visit soon.

People rock climbing near the entrance to Sugarloaf Mountain, a Canadian peak in Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands. Photo by Dennis Jarvis licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a tranquil beauty and a feeling that time has forgotten Nova Scotia that makes it really special. You might not travel here solely for the climbing, but tying it into a cultural experience would make it worth while.

Classics include See with Joy (5.8), Taming the Shrew (5.10c), the Golden Egg (5.12).

Just outside Halifax, you’ll find a unique blend of fun bouldering and single-pitch adventures backdropped directly by the Atlantic Ocean.

8. Halifax - Good to Know

Getting there:

Fly into Halifax, Nova Scotia and rent a car.

Guidebook:

The Complete Guide to Rock Climbing Nova Scotia

Skill level:

All levels

Guidebook:

Nova Scotia Rock: A Climber’s Guide by Sean P. Cassidy.

Best time to visit:

March through May is ideal

For a night out in Halifax:

The Carleton Music Bar & Grill

Best place to grab climbing gear:

The Trail Shop in Halifax

Bouldering resource:

Mobeta

About the author

Greg Hill

Greg Hill

ACMG Ski Guide extraordinaire and emission free adventurer

Greg Hill is known far and wide for incredible first ascents and all around skiing prowess. He’s also a good friend of 57hours. His on mountain accomplishments are too many to list here, but he’s been known for skiing the odd 2,000,000’ in 2010; he skied 50,000’ in 24hrs because he can. Oh, yeah, he also climbed and skied 100km in the month of March, 2014. Not too shabby. Of late, Greg’s changing the world one adventure at a time with his Chevy Volt. Zero emission skiing and adventure.

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