Rock Climbing in North Carolina is Full-Value Adventure

Looking for scary run-outs, stout leads, and heady exposure in a land where trad reigns supreme? You’ll find that and plenty more rock climbing in North Carolina. If you’re up for a wild ride, here’s my beta for a 6-pack (plus one) of the finest crags in The Tar Heel State.

Take it from a local: North Carolina is the Southeast’s adventure climbing capital. With giant granite domes and steep quartzite cliffs set in the Blue Ridge mountains, the climbing is as diverse as it is scenic. To top it off like a Heist Brewery IPA, no other state this side of the Mississippi has such a concentrated array of multi-pitch traditional routes.

Sound like your cup of brew? Come on down and be sure to bring your grit, gear, and good head game!

Getting Ready to rock climb in North Carolina on an approach hike in Linville Gorge. Image title: Blue-Ridge-Mountains-Linville-Gorge
Soaking in summer views of the Blue Ridge mountains on an approach hike in Linville Gorge. Photo by Amanda Ellis

The East Coast’s Trad Climbing Paradise

Over nine years ago, I learned to climb while studying at the University of Georgia. I cut my teeth on the Southern sandstone near Chattanooga but spent many weekends in North Carolina, climbing granite domes by day and enjoying Asheville beer tours by night.

Beginners and seasoned climbers enjoy rock climbing in North Carolina

While the area is steeped in traditional ethics and wilderness climbing there’s something for all levels. Prolific trad lines abound, ranging from easy single-pitch moderates to multi-pitch test pieces. Sport climbing is sparse but present and there’s a burgeoning bouldering scene.

I spoke with Grant Price of Blue Ridge Mountain Guides and he said during the shoulder seasons of the year, North Carolina is his favorite place to be. Even as a professional guide who’s climbed all over the state, he still enjoys exploring new routes or taking clients up his favorite leads.

North Carolina is full of huge exposed cliff faces called “balds”

No North Carolina climbing guide is complete without mention of the scenery and striking rock formations. Across the state you’ll find 400 to 1,200 foot faces on giant granite domes called “balds” which provide hair raising exposure and unimpeded views. These ancient relics are a holdover from volcanic magma intrusions that scoured the landscape over 300 million years ago.

Today, the balds range in elevation from 1,600 to 3,400 feet above sea level so while the scenery will take your breath away, you won’t be gasping for air—a nice perk when compared to the high mountain crags out west!

1. Linville Gorge: Marion

TOP CHOICE FOR BACKCOUNTRY CLIMBING IN EXPANSIVE WILDERNESSES
Beautiful approach trails
Camping is closeby
Scenic, undeveloped wilderness views
Sometimes difficult to find climbs
Camping and parking can get crowded
Low hanging clouds and a surreal Linville Gorge sunset after a day of rock climbing in North Carolina
Low hanging clouds during a surreal Linville Gorge sunset after a day of climbing.

Linville Gorge is one of the few climbing destinations on the East Coast where you can completely unplug. Defined by endless ridgelines, rocky bluffs, and scenic overlooks, it’s a popular place for a variety of outdoor activities. Accordingly, plan on sharing the trails and campsites with hikers, backpackers, and high liners.

The crown jewel of North Carolina trad climbing

Linville Gorge is North Carolina’s premier traditional rock climbing destination. Whether you’re looking for moderate routes or bold test pieces, its many well-known crags, such as Shortoff Mountain, the Amphitheater, Hawksbill Mountain, and Table Rock will keep any climber entertained.

Two of the best areas for first-time visitors are The Amphitheater and Table Rock. Table Rock is close to the main parking area and has easy routes for cutting your teeth on exquisite quartzite faces. The Amphitheater has a longer approach but is home to some of the most classic moderate multi-pitches in the state. One of my favorite memories is topping out on The Prow (5.4) with my friends in November as we watched the sunset over the gorge, aflame with red and orange autumn foliage in every direction.

If you’re willing to go the distance, there’s plenty of opportunity to put up new routes and problems too. A long bushwhacking hike to the bottom of the gorge awards you with access to untouched cliffs and boulders in a remote backcountry setting.

Be aware of seasonal closures and difficult route finding

At 3,300 feet, Linville Gorge is higher in elevation than most other crags in the state, making it an ideal reprieve during the sweltering heat of summer.

However, before you plan your trip for other seasons, check for potential closures. Many crags at Linville Gorge are subject to seasonal gate and peregrine falcon nesting restrictions, limiting when and where you can camp and climb.

It’s not just closures that are a barrier to entry, route finding is too. This vast wilderness area has few signs, limited fixed anchors, and trails overgrown with flora. First time visitors should go with someone who knows the area well or consider hiring a guide.

The epitome of adventure climbing. The remote drive in is continued with a remote hike that rewards you with amazing views and multi-pitch climbs.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Linville Gorge: Marion - Good to Know

Skill level

There is a range of climbing grades and lots of opportunity for novices, but climbers will need to have ample experience placing gear and setting anchor systems

Getting around

You’ll need a car to get to the parking area but once there, many of the routes (such as the Amphitheater climbs) are walking distance from the camping and parking. The closest town is Linville but it’s still a trek down winding mountain roads

Terrain

Slab and vertical quartzite climbing

Season

Autumn and spring are the best seasons. Linville can also be popular in the summer, especially for bouldering near the river

Local bars and restaurants

Restaurants aren’t close, but if you’re willing to drive 40 minutes check out Mountain Crossing Mercantile for comfort food like burgers and pizza, along with groceries for your trip. Louise’s Rock House Restaurant is about the same distance for more country cooking

Rest day activities

Linville Gorge is chock-full of hikes such as the Linville Falls Trail, Babel Tower Trail, and Upper Creek Falls. For more fun, check out the Linville Caverns for guided cave tours, The North Cove for disc golfing, and the Jonas Ridge Snow Tubing Park during the wintertime

Guidebook

There isn’t a current guidebook to Linville (another reason this place is tricky to navigate). You can attempt to purchase out of print editions such as Climber’s Guide to North Carolina or Selected Climbs in North Carolina. Most people refer to Mountain Project for route details

Recommended guided tour:

Rock Dimensions based out of Boone is a good local guiding company for Linville. Another option is Fox Mountain Guides or Granite Arches Climbing Guides

2. Rumbling Bald: Lake Lure

TOP CHOICE FOR VARIETY: OF CLIMBING DISCIPLINES, TERRAIN, AND GRADES
A variety of rock features and climbing styles
Huge boulder field underneath the crag
Beautiful scenery and a cute town below
Too hot and overgrown for summer climbing
Limited camping and lodging nearby
A rock climber works through the endurance crux on Frosted Flake 5.9+ on the Cereal Buttress of Rumbling Bald in North Carolina
A climber works through the endurance crux on Frosted Flake (5.9+) on the Cereal Buttress of Rumbling Bald. Photo by Amanda Ellis

Nestled in the Hickory Nut Gorge above the village of Lake Lure, Rumbling Bald offers peace and quiet—and some of the best climbing in the state—just five minutes outside of town.

Splitters, overhangs, chimneys, or slab? You don’t have to choose, the Bald has it all

Rumbling Bald is one of the most diverse places to climb in North Carolina. There are thin, crimpy sport routes, splitter cracks, steep overhangs, chimney squeezes, and delicate slab climbs. And that’s not all: North Carolina’s biggest boulder field is located right below the cliff, offering access to hundreds of quality problems.

No matter which discipline you choose, the difficulty may surprise you. Because of its sandbagged feel, Rumbling Bald is often referred to as “Humbling Bald”.

In addition to Rumbling Bald proper, Eagle Rock is a scenic trad climbing destination on the other side of the gorge. As of 2020, you can also climb the Chimney Rock Village Boulders. This small sector is within walking distance from town and has 50+ problems.

Note that Rumbling Bald is partially owned by Chimney Rock State Park, partially by the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), and is partially private land. If you want to climb in Chimney Rock State Park, you can arrange tours through Fox Mountain Guides.

Beat the winter blues

T-shirt climbing in January, anyone? Thanks to the warm, sunny weather, Rumbling Bald is a great winter crag. When Boone or Linville Gorge are freezing, Hickory Nut Gorge will have perfect send temps because it sits in a unique isothermal belt that keeps the surrounding area warmer than the rest of Western North Carolina.

The prolonged warmth makes this area home to flora and fauna you won’t see anywhere else, including the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander and white irisette flower.

North Carolina’s #1 wintertime crag, it stays warm even in the coldest months and provides climbers with a variety of classic cracks and boulder problems.”

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Rumbling Bald: Lake Lure - Good to Know

Skill level

Great place for both beginners and skilled climbers. Most routes include established anchors

Getting around

A car gets you to the main parking area but it fills up fast, so arrive early. There is an overflow lot at the bottom of the hill, but parking there adds time and hiking to your approach, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. There is no camping or lodging within walking distance to the crag

Terrain

Slab, crack, vert, and overhung climbing can all be found at this granite/gneiss crag

Season

Mid October through March is the prime time to visit the Bald. Summer is typically much hotter than the other climbing destinations near Rumbling Bald

Local bars and restaurants

Lake Lure is home to Hickory Nut Gorge brewery, Burntshirt Vineyards winery, La Montana Mexican, and a handful of other restaurants. For more options, go to Asheville. Asheville is also considered the craft brew capital of the Southeast for those craving a frothy beverage

Rest day activities

Families enjoy touring Chimney Rock State Park just across the street from the turnoff for Rumbling Bald. Otherwise, your best rest day options are exploring Asheville where you can visit the Biltmore Estate, dozens of micro breweries, lots of concert venues, The Riveter climbing gym and bike park, and scenic hikes. I also highly recommend touring the Carolina Climbing Museum inside Black Dome Mountain Sports to truly get a sense of the state’s noteworthy climbing history and culture

Guidebook

The latest route guidebook is Ground Up Publishing’s Rumbling Bald Rock Climbs. There is also a very thick and extensive Rumbling Bald Bouldering guidebook

Recommended guided tour:

Fox Mountain Guides is very knowledgeable about everything Rumbling Bald. They are also the only guides permissioned to give climbing tours at Chimney Rock State Park right next door to the Bald

3. Looking Glass Rock: Brevard

TOP CHOICE FOR UNIQUE TRAD CLIMBING
Distinct “eyebrow” rock holds
Great for experienced trad climbers looking for a challenge
Plenty of nearby camping
Easy to get off route near the top of pitches
3 mile approach in the winter when the road is closed
Looking Glass Rock looms over the colorful autumn foliage in the distance.
Looking Glass Rock is one of the most iconic climbing areas in the Southeast and is especially beautiful during the colorful autumnal season.

When my friends first told me about the infamous “eyebrows” of Looking Glass Rock, I quizzically raised… my eyebrows. Essentially horizontal depressions in the rock, these brow-like features are used for hands and feets and placing gear. Here’s a tip for Looking Glass that doesn’t typically apply outside of climbing at the gunks: bring tricams! The pink and brown sizes are especially useful.

Stout slab climbing at its finest

Bring your best head game too, the routes here are stout and often run-out through long sections of blank slab. On harder lines, the eyebrows tail off and climbers have to rely on thin cracks and friction with less placements for protection. As a result, many of the climbs in the 5.10+ range need to be aided and/or are given a PG13 or R protection rating. You’ve been warned.

But wait, there are steep cracks too!

For novices, I suggest checking out the South Side. Route finding is relatively straightforward and there are rap stations. If you climb at the grade, The Nose is one of the most historic 5.8 lines in the state. With lengths that range from 200-500 feet, keep in mind that climbing one route at Looking Glass can take all day.

Looking Glass Rock has a unique climbing style that requires getting acquainted with the eyebrow features. It’s also a good vacation spot with lots of fun things to do in Brevard and nearby Asheville.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Looking Glass Rock: Brevard - Good to Know

Skill level

Ideal for experienced climbers. But beginner climbers can have fun with the right mentor

Getting around

Drive a car into Pisgah National Forest toward Slickrock Falls Trail and there are three different pull offs for Looking Glass Rock depending on the crag. If you’re visiting in the winter, you may have to park behind the locked gate which adds 2.5 miles of walking

Terrain

This huge dome has endless granite slab climbing options with a few vert cracks in between. The exposure is relentless and some routes will require a whole day of climbing

Season

The best seasons are fall and winter. Spring might have more runoff. The summer is possible if you’re willing to chase shade on the North Side

Local bars and restaurants

Brevard is about 20 minutes from the trailhead. The small town has plenty of eateries such as Sully’s Steamers, Vescovo Neighborhood, and Smoke On BBQ. Asheville is only an hour away if you want a larger selection of bars and restaurants

Rest day activities

While visiting, take advantage of all the beautiful attractions Pisgah National Forest has to offer. There are numerous waterfalls and swimming holes such as Sliding Rock, Cedar Rock Creek Falls, Cove Creek Falls, and Daniel Ridge Falls. Or soak in the beautiful Appalachian views from vantage points such as Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower and Devil’s Courthouse

Guidebook

Ground Up Publishing’s Southern Pisgah Rock and Ice is the latest and most updated guidebook

Recommended guided tour:

Fox Mountain Guides and Granite Arches Climbing Guides are both reliable sources for Looking Glass tours

4. Moore’s Wall: Danbury

TOP CHOICE FOR STEEP ROUTES AND BOULDERS
Includes trad, sport, and bouldering options
Most walls are shaded and north facing making it a good summer option
The parking lot has a bathroom and water station
Not ideal for top roping
Many routes lack fixed anchors
​​A climber on the route Hopscotch at Moore’s Wall.
Scrambling up Hopscotch (5.3) at Moore’s Wall. Photo by Grant Price

If you’re looking to grit down and try hard on slick but stunning steep quartzite, then you’ve come to the right place. Considered the Gunks of North Carolina, Moore’s Wall is steeper and more featured than other areas in the state. Here you’ll find bucket-like holds and horizontal cracks adorning the 300ft face, but even so, gear placements are less than obvious. Combined with tricky descents and route finding, it’s worth seeking out a knowledgeable local or guide—especially if it’s your first visit.

One of North Carolina’s first crags, it remains sought-after today

Popular from the beginning, Moore’s Wall was one of the first crags established in North Carolina, dating back to 1959. Today, it is still one of the most frequented in the area since it caters to Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) locals and visitors from the nearby New River Gorge.

Explore notable pitches, hard sport routes, and a huge boulder field

Moore’s Wall is worth a visit no matter what grade you climb. The varied holds and difficult gear placements make every climb thought-provoking and the endless bands of swirly quartz chunks add a surreal beauty to the rock.

For classic 2-pitch routes like Zoo View, considered North Carolina’s best 5.7, visit the Circus Wall. The North End and Hanging Garden have a large concentration of harder routes that are sure to intimidate even the most confident climbers. In fact, the sport line Hercules (5.14) is one of the hardest routes in the state. These walls are generally north facing and shaded, making for a great summer crag.

If you prefer a less committing day, the boulder field at the base of the cliff features hundreds of problems at the moderate and advanced grades. Many are steep with power endurance roofs, crimp traverses, and slopey top outs. While winter is the best time to boulder here, psyched climbers looking to test their skills in the worst conditions should check the Dawg Dayz competition that takes place in July.

Considered the Gunks of North Carolina, Moore’s Wall trad climbing includes a short approach, 1 to 3 pitch routes, horizontal cracks, and great exposure to the Piedmont valley below.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Moore’s Wall: Danbury - Good to Know

Skill level

There are routes for beginners but experience with gear placement and anchor systems is recommended. Experienced trad and sport climbers will have a lot of fun here

Getting around

You’ll want a car to access the parking lot and drive to nearby camping or lodging areas. Located within Hanging Rock State Park, camping and amenities abound

Terrain

Meandering, steep, and thought-provoking quartzite climbing on a variety of holds and features in every climbing discipline

Season

Moore’s Wall can be climbed yearlong; you just have to either chase the shade or sun. March and October are the most popular climbing months

Local bars and restaurants

There are some eating and brewery options in the small town of Danbury such as River Rock Café and Green Heron Ale House. For more choices, drive to Winston-Salem 40 minutes away

Rest day activities

There is plenty of sightseeing and adventuring in the Piedmont area. Popular nearby hikes include Tory’s Den Cave, Cascade Creek Trailhead. There is canoeing and fishing along the Dan River. And kids will have fun at the Carolina Ziplines Canopy Tour

Guidebook

Routes can be found in the Carolina Rocks: The Piedmont guidebook. The bouldering has its own guidebook called Moore’s Wall Bouldering

Recommended guided tour:

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides is well-versed with Moore’s Wall and Hanging Rock State Park

5. Pilot Mountain: Pinnacle

TOP CHOICE FOR SPORT CLIMBING AND EASY TOP ROPE ACCESS
Great for beginners
Short approaches and accessible top rope set up
Includes a large selection of sport routes
Recent forest fires have affected the park’s scenery
Has a tendency to overcrowd
Top roping the south facing quartzite cliffs that define the Pilot Mountain climbing area in the Piedmont region of North Carolina
A climber top ropes the south facing quartzite cliffs that define the Pilot Mountain climbing area in the Piedmont region. Photo courtesy of Grant Price

A haven for budding climbers and new leaders

Pilot Mountain is a great classroom for beginners to try top roping, learn how to place gear, and get on some moderate sport climbs. In a state known for scary run outs, few fixed anchors, and tricky route navigation, the area is a refuge for those who aren’t quite ready for full-value adventure climbing.

The best destination for moderate sport climbing in North Carolina

Rock climbing in North Carolina typically means sport lines are far and few between—if anything is bolted, it’s usually because the line doesn’t take gear. On the other hand, Pilot Mountain is an area anomaly with sport grades ranging from 5.7 to 5.13 and safe bolting throughout.

The rock and climbing style mirrors its neighbor, Moore’s Wall (only 30 minutes away), but on a less intimidating scale. Like Moore’s, the quartzite cliffs are full of features such as steep roofs, dihedrals, and slab. Better yet, the holds are noticeable, varied, and easy on the fingers.

From afar, the distinguishing Pilot Knob is a captivating sight—though it’s closed to climbing for conservation purposes. Rather, the established climbing area is found on the cliff faces below, with 85+ routes across 10 different walls. When you’re climbing, the views of the surrounding Piedmont plains and distant Appalachian Mountains are stunning.

Pilot Mountain has allured travelers for centuries

In the 1700s, the indigenous Saura people lived near Pilot Mountain and used the giant monadnock (an isolated, erosion-resistant outcrop) as a point of navigation for trade routes. The Sauras named the mountain Jomeokee, meaning “Great Guide”. Nowadays, the dramatic spectacle of Pilot Mountain’s precipice attracts climbers and tourists alike.

Pilot Mountain has a little bit of everything with top rope, sport, and trad routes. The terrain is appropriate for folks who have never climbed outside before, and seasoned climbers, with dozens of routes in the 5.11-5.13 range.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Pilot Mountain: Pinnacle - Good to Know

Skill level

Pilot Mountain is ideal for beginners because of the top rope options and moderate grades. A few 5.12s and 5.13s give climbers of all levels reason to visit

Getting around

You’ll want a car to access the parking lot and drive to nearby camping or lodging areas. The closest airport is the Piedmont Triad International airport near Greensboro

Terrain

This quartzite crag has a little bit of everything from slab, overhangs, horizontal cracks, dihedrals, and more. Most routes are shorter and single pitch

Season

Pilot Mountain is climbed year round but the shoulder seasons are the most popular time to visit

Local bars and restaurants

Minutes away you’ll find the Pilot Mountain Winery and JOLO Winery. There are also numerous restaurant choices, such as pizzerias and diners, in the small town of Pilot Mountain

Rest day activities

The Bean Shoals Canal Trail along the Yadkin River or one of the many hikes in Hanging Rock State Park are good easy rest day options. Winston-Salem is a short drive away and offers museums, parks, greenways, and more

Guidebook

Pilot Mountain routes are listed in the Carolina Rocks: The Piedmont guidebook

Recommended guided tour:

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides and Rock Dimensions both offer tours at Pilot Mountain

6. Stone Mountain: Joynes

TOP CHOICE FOR SCARY SLAB
Home to one of NC’s most famous routes
The state park has beautiful views and great amenities
A rebolting effort by the CCC on the North face has reopened climbing in warmer temps
Most routes have scarce gear placement
The blank run outs can be unnerving
Climbers on the classic route The Great Arch located at Stone Mountain in North Carolina
Grant Price heading up The Great Arch (5.5) on Stone Mountain. Photo by Cassandra Justine

The first time I gazed up at Stone Mountain’s blank slabs of white and black striped granite, my jaw dropped. The grandiose 600 foot dome looms over the forest like a monolithic guardian.

The crew of 1960s and 1970s developers who first established the area is just as awe-inspiring as the cliff itself. They did many first ascents from the ground up, on long runouts, without the modern climbing gear we take for granted today.

Treading the line between fear and fun

Most of the routes at Stone Mountain require technical climbing on friction-dependent nearly-non-existent holds. Not to mention, there’s often long sections in between bolts and gear placements. Most of this runout slab climbing means huge potential for “cheese grating” whips if you fall above your protection.

Some of the most notable lines include the 4-pitch Rainy Day Women (5.10a), 3-pitch No Alternative (5.5), and 2-pitch Mercury’s Lead (5.9). Depending on your fortitude, looking at these blank, slabby climbs can make you queasy or excited.

No ambiguity here: The Great Arch is a joy for climbers of all levels

Stone Mountain’s most popular route is unquestionably The Great Arch (5.5). Put up in 1965, this 3-pitch 400 foot climb is one of the most sought-after in North Carolina with a line that follows a continuous crack dihedral and a gentle sloping ramp for your feet nearly to the summit.

Unlike most routes here, this one is accessible, safely protected, and fun for beginners. Still, you get the same perks found on other lines like beautiful views and tree stands at many belays. Even if you only climb The Great Arch, Stone Mountain is worth the visit.

With the state park open year long, this is a phenomenal winter crag and The Great Arch is certainly a must-do for the North Carolina rock climbing bucket list.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Stone Mountain: Joynes - Good to Know

Skill level

Climbers will need experience plugging in trad gear and climbing tricky slab. Beginners should check out The Great Arch but most of the other climbs can be hairy for a new climber

Getting around

Stone Mountain is a fairly remote crag far away from any convenient cities. You’ll need a car to drive here, to camp, and to get to other locations

Terrain

The granite slabs are friction dependent. Put a lot of trust in your feet and head game to get to the top of these routes

Season

Stone Mountain’s most popular crag is south facing and gets quite hot in the sun. Winter is most ideal but fall and spring are also common months for climbers to visit. There are a few routes on the north side for summer climbing

Local bars and restaurants

The Stone Mountain Country Store right next to the state park has a no frills atmosphere for climbers. There are several wineries in Doughton. And Elkin (30 minutes away) has additional restaurants

Rest day activities

Nearby hikes such as Stone Mountain Traphill and Flat Rock Ridge Trailhead are fun rest day activities. Widows Creek Falls and Stone Mountain Falls (both inside the state park) have beautiful waterfalls and small swimming holes

Guidebook

Stone Mountain routes are listed in the Carolina Rocks: The Piedmont guidebook

Recommended guided tour:

Blue Ridge Mountain Guides is a great option

7. Laurel Knob: Burnsville

TOP CHOICE FOR THE LONGEST ROUTES IN THE STATE
Epic multi-pitch climbing with great exposure
Free camping near the approach
Never crowded
Long approaches
Inconvenient location for rescues
Laurel Knob is the tallest rock face in the eastern U.S. and features the longest multi-pitch trad routes in North Carolina
Laurel Knob is the tallest rock face in the eastern U.S. and rose to prominence in the history of the Carolina Climbers Coalition as the first acquisition of the non-profit. Photo courtesy of the Carolina Climbers Coalition

I’ve talked about slabby trad run-outs in a lot of these places (if you haven’t noticed already, a recurring trend for North Carolina rock climbing), but Laurel Knob takes the cake for being the most intimidating.

While most of the places we’ve covered have rockfaces under 600 feet tall, Laurel Knob is a staggering 1,200 foot cliff—the tallest on the East Coast. This towering granite dome rivals other notable East Coast multi-pitch climbing destinations, such Seneca Rocks. Let’s just say, I won’t be leading any of these daunting routes anytime soon, but following up on top-rope is still quite the quest!

Climb the longest multi-pitch trad routes in North Carolina

While the average route is 6 pitches, the mega-classic Groover Variation (5.8) is 9 lengths of roped climbing. Generally, most of the lines follow sloping water grooves and bulletproof cracks and while the run-out sections are sparsely bolted, the climbing tends to be easy. No matter what route you climb, plan for a full-day outing—it takes about two hours to hike in and at least three hours to hike out.

Laurel Knob is the Carolina Climbers Coalition’s landmark access purchase

The Carolina Climbers Coalition set the bar for protecting North Carolina’s climbing access with the purchase of Laurel Knob. The crag went up for sale in 2006 and the CCC quickly took action, securing a loan for $250,000. By 2008, they raised the necessary funds and Carolina climbers celebrated with a rainy day kegger party—fitting for this misty, microbrew-laden state!

Since 1995, the CCC continues to preserve and protect climbing opportunities throughout the Carolinas. As someone who climbs here regularly, I support the CCC through participating in climbing competition fundraisers and trail days (even once a year makes a difference). Whether you’re a local or just visiting, you can learn more about the CCC through its website and social media pages.

If you enjoy North Carolina climbing, consider donating your time to stewardship efforts on a rest day, or contribute to the general fund to help secure current and future climbing area access. If it weren’t for the efforts of the CCC and the climbing community, crags like Laurel Knob would have been closed forever.

Laurel Knob is a true adventure crag with a long approach and bigger rock terrain for experienced multi-pitch trad climbers.

– Grant Price, Head Guide, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides

Laurel Knob: Burnsville - Good to Know

Skill level

Climbers should have all the trad tricks up their sleeve or hire a guide. Prepare for all-day exposure to the elements

Getting around

Laurel Knob is near the small town of Burnsville about an hour and a half from Asheville. Once here, get ready for a long hike and do not top out the cliff (the top is on private land)

Terrain

Laurel Knob has the best friction granite climbing in the state

Season

Ideal in the shoulder season with peak visits in November and March

Local bars and restaurants

The area is fairly remote but you can find some food at J & J’s Grill on the Green and Mount Mitchell State Park’s restaurant

Rest day activities

Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi) is a short drive away. Visitors can either hike nearby or check out the many overlooks

Guidebook

There isn’t a guidebook for Laurel Knob but the Carolina Climbers Coalition made a mini PDF guide for public use

Recommended guided tour:

Fox Mountain Guides offers a few tours here and recommends previous climbing experience

About the author
Local Southeast Climber and Founder of the Regional Media Brand, Steep South

Elaine Elliott is a writer and climber living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She also directs Southeast climbing films and has raised over $12k for local climbing coalitions through her media platform Steep South.

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