Places to Climb Rocks in SF

Outdoor Rock climbing San Francisco


While not generally thought of as a destination area for rock climbing, the pure number of visitors that head to the bay area for other purposes make this a great location for a quick day on the rock in between other commitments.

You can climb year round in the Bay Area, provided that winter rains haven't pummeled the area too recently. Often, inland areas are extremely hot in the summer, though the coastal areas will stay pleasant.

American Big Wall climbing took its first roots here, with locals practicing their skills on local rocks before heading to Yosemite for its renowned cliffs. Almost every area that has a chimney in Northern California was first climbed by Warren Harding or Forrest Shute, and you will often see a piton stuck in the rock left over from climbers of another age.

Berkeley, Castle Rock and Sonoma will hold your attention for a great day of bouldering. Mount Saint Helena or Lover's Leap (in the Tahoe area, but still only about 2 hours drive from most locations), or Table Mountain for a sport or trad experience.

Visitors and locals alike should check out the area along the Sonoma coast for a sport or bouldering experience unique to California, where waves, wind and rock found only here make an unforgettable day's climbing.

People with several days free in the Bay Area will probably want to head east to the Tahoe area in the summer or fall, to Yosemite for the trad folks, and perhaps all the way out (6-8 hours) to the Eastern Sierra areas like Bishop and Mammoth for a world class alpine, sport, or bouldering experience.

Unfortunately, a significant portion of the best climbing in the Bay Area is on private property, and unless you're in the know, you don't get to go.

The Bay Area's Areas

A few notes for first time visitors on where the rocks are clustered around here.

  • The East Bay is across the Bay Bridge from the city, and includes many parks in Berkeley and Oakland. The best climbing is near its eastern boundary, at Mount Diablo State Park.

  • The South Bay and Silicon Valley are south of the city. The most popular climbing areas here are in the Castle Rock Area, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can overhear tech employees talking about Google while you belay.

  • The North Bay starts north from the city across the famous Golden Gate Bridge, including Marin and neighboring counties. Climbing areas here include Mickey's Beach, Mount Tam and Ring Mountain.

  • Wine Country refers (Baycentrically) to wild and rural areas further north than the North Bay. This includes Napa, Sonoma and nearby counties, with climbing mostly on the rolling hills of the coast ranges, sometimes right on the scenic coast. Areas here include Mount St. Helena and The Nut Tree Boulders.

Most urban locales can be reached by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and connecting systems, or Uber if you're a high roller. Some crags are best reached by car, but keep in mind parking can be pricey in spots, and the bridges often collect tolls.


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