Where to Climb in Fall & Winter

By Elaine Elliott 

One of the best perks about rock climbing is the ability to climb outside year-round in the United States. Even as temperatures lower and snow blizzards come in full force, certain areas of the country remain warm and dry enough for climbing even in the middle of January. Plus, crisper conditions, lower humidity, and added friction to the rock make winter and fall prime seasons for sending!



Ultimately, the biggest challenge is deciding which crag to pick. Burly southern sandstone in the Southeast? Crimpy granite adjacent to the mountains? Or sun-kissed desert rock in the Colorado Plateau?  

Whichever spot you choose, make sure to bring along plenty of layers and gear to keep you comfortable in fluctuating degrees. I wear wool socks, baselayers, a hybrid jacket (the Capa Hybrid is my favorite because I can actually climb in it) and beanie while hiking and climbing. And I bring a puffy, winter gloves, and hand warmers to wear between rests to stay extra warm. Bonus points if you put a pair of hand warmers in your chalk bag to stay warm between shake-outs!


Red River Gorge, KY 

The first spot on the list is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve climbed around the world and I still think the Red River Gorge is the most enjoyable place to climb.


Red River Gorge climber in fall A climber sending a sport route in fall at Red River Gorge (Photo by Elaine Elliott)


The sandstone cliff faces are full of interesting features, movement, and rock colors. I’ve climbed vertical orange walls. I’ve tackled 100-foot overhangs with relentless pump factor—meaning, they’ll wear out your forearms. And I’ve enjoyed thought-provoking climbs with tent-sized huecos (natural holes in the cliffs) for big rests. 

Fall is a memorable time to visit because of all the events happening around the Gorge. Rocktoberfest, which happens in early October, is one of the biggest and most entertaining climbing events in the country. Every Halloween, local restaurant Miguel’s Pizza hosts a costume contest and dance party. And Thanksgiving, dubbed Redsgiving, is a popular time for the community to relish in the tasty homemade spreads at Miguel’s post-climb.


New River Gorge, WV 

If you love southern sandstone, but want to avoid the crowds at the Red River Gorge, the New River Gorge is just as good an option. In fact, most climbers would argue the rock quality is even better (shhhh).

New River Gorge is about 200 miles east of the Red in the heart of the Appalachians. The elevation of the crags is over 1,000 feet higher than the Red, which means the coveted “send temps” stay around longer into the fall. Autumn is a cherished season at the New, when the dramatic backdrop of extensive cliff faces, fall colors, and the sheer river gorge would make anyone’s jaw drop.

Endless Wall is home to 3 miles of unbroken cliff faces overlooking the river. This “crown jewel” of the New receives ample sun, making it the perfect late fall and winter crag. True to its name, there are endless options in terms of climbing grade, style, and aesthetics. Whether you prefer splitter cracks—fractures in the rock face that remain nearly the same width up the entire route—or steep bolted faces, Endless Wall is one of the most pristine and underrated places to climb in the winter.


climbing in a crackA climber jamming their way up a crack 

Indian Creek, UT

Speaking of splitter cracks, there’s no better place in the world to test your crack technique than at the Creek! There are mesmerizing desert towers to summit, infinite single-pitch splitters at the Creek, and plenty of boulders for less committing days.

Many climbers migrate to Indian Creek every fall for the cool days, dry conditions, great camping, stellar stargazing, and lack of cell service. Tucked away in a valley full of towering red sandstone, this remote haven is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of life. 


Indian Creek cragsThe crags of Indian Creek 


When you do want to return to civilization, Moab (about 1 hour away) is a hip town with plenty of activities. Between the adventure tours, mountain biking, quick access to two national parks, and trendy eateries, part of the magic of Moab is the fact that there’s tons to do other than just climb.


Red Rocks, NV

Even Moab can get too cold between December and February for climbers who camp, which makes Vegas the perfect stop to find more comfortable temperatures. Believe it or not, Vegas is a great place to climb year-round. There are limestone crags at higher elevation for the summer, and sandstone crags and boulder fields to hit in winter and shoulder seasons.

In fall and winter, climbers love to flock to Red Rocks for multi-pitch trad, steep sport climbs, and bouldering among the beautiful red canyons and desertscape. In terms of climbing disciplines, there’s something for everyone.

Red Rocks climbingThe author Elaine climbing at Red Rocks 


The campgrounds are quick to fill up in the high season (fall and spring break months), but fortunately there are plenty of Airbnbs and hotels nearby. Vegas might be known for its nightlife and gambling, but climbers know it as one of the most diverse spots to climb. From 9-pitch 5.6 sandstone trad routes to 5.15a limestone sport climbs, the options are unlimited.


Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga is a boulderer’s paradise. Within an hour from town, there are numerous boulder fields to explore such as Stone Fort, Rocktown, Horse Pens 40, Hospital Boulders, Pep Boys, and Dayton Pocket. 


 Bouldering in Chattanooga A boulderer in Chattanooga (Photo by Elaine Elliott)


From October through April, temperatures are comfortable. Even in the dead of winter, you’ll see dozens of people out at the boulder fields and crags (though you might want to bring a portable heater and thermos).

The bouldering is undoubtedly world class, but don’t let this deter you from getting on ropes! Tennessee Wall (called T-Wall for short) is an amazing multi-mile cliff face above the Tennessee River with hundreds of trad and sport routes. The walls are south-facing, which means climbers bask shirtless in the winter sun even in January. Best of all, it’s only 20 minutes from downtown Chattanooga!

Chattanooga climbingSport climbing at Lizard Wall in Chattanooga (Photo by Elaine Elliott)


Tucson, AZ

The Sonoran Desert with its famed saguaro cactus makes for an enchanting backdrop to Tucson climbing. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds of Vegas and Bishop, California, Tucson is a great option. And unlike the Southeast, it will almost never rain on you.

Most limestone areas in the states are too cold in the winter, but not here! Crags like the Homestead, Farmhouse, and Dry Canyon are ideal sport climbing spots in the winter. 

If you prefer granite, Mount Lemmon has thousands of routes dispersed throughout the Santa Catalina mountains. If you’re itching to get on multi-pitch trad routes, Cochise Stronghold boasts an adventurous backcountry experience for those seeking an all-day challenge.

All of these crags are driving distance from town, so you’ll have plenty of time to return to a delicious taco dinner.

rock climbing Utah


Elaine is a climber and copywriter who focuses on content for outdoor nonprofits, climbing athletes, and brands. She started a media platform called @SteepSouth where she directs and produces conservation films, which have raised $19k for local climbing coalitions. Her goal is to use the power of storytelling to improve land access to recreational areas while simultaneously roaming from one crag to the next. Follow her adventures at @elainelliott