The Prime 7 Bouldering Gyms in the USA

Bouldering-only gyms have loads going for them. They’re typically small and easy: fill out a waiver, and off you go — no auto-belay lectures or anxiety-inducing belay assessments. The terrain is often dense with issues, and there is perhaps a light-up coaching board and even Treadwall. You possibly can prepare for no matter your targets are, be they bouldering your hardest, indoors or out, or sport-climb redpoints.

And indoor bouldering is simply plain enjoyable, from searching for out the smallest holds you possibly can pull on to hucking the most important dynos you possibly can follow getting bizarre and wild with comp-style upside-down or parkour issues. There’s no feeling higher than lastly cracking the beta with mates — each previous and new ones you simply made as you all work the strikes collectively.

Oddly sufficient, bouldering gyms weren’t at all times a factor. Solely up to now 2 a long time have they begun to pop up round the USA, although they’re now almost ubiquitous. I can rely no less than 10 inside a 1.5-hour drive in my house on the Entrance Vary, Colorado!

With a watch towards the perfect, most unusual bouldering gyms throughout the nation, we picked seven favorites, a few of them OG venues like The Spot Boulder in Colorado and a few new faculty like The Boulder Discipline in Sacramento.

Along with specializing in bouldering solely, standards included diversified terrain, historical past, openness and accessibility, neighborhood and inclusivity, geographic location, and maybe most essential of all, the standard and popularity of the setting. You possibly can have the most effective bouldering partitions on Earth, but when the setting is dangerous, it simply received’t matter.

The Spot Boulder in Boulder, CO
(Photograph/The Spot Boulder)

When The Spot — now generally known as The Spot Boulder, a part of a sequence of 4 Colorado gyms — opened in 2002, it was one of many first industrial climbing gyms within the nation, a daring transfer in an period when bouldering was removed from mainstream. As its proprietor, Dan Howley, says in a video, “We made bouldering way more commonplace, versus it being form of a distinct segment sport.”

However greater than that, it launched the idea of freestanding gymnasium boulders, and the long-lasting Font Boulder and Hueco Boulder, together with all the unique partitions, are nonetheless standing: you possibly can actually climb on historical past. So many high climbers have labored or skilled at The Spot that itemizing all of them is sort of unimaginable.

However previous head setters have included Jackie Hueftle, a co-owner and co-founder of Kilter, and Carlo Traversi, considered one of America’s greatest rock climbers and proprietor of The Boulder Discipline gymnasium in Sacramento (see under). 

There’s additionally 21 years of bouldering historical past on these partitions, from occasions within the PCA and ABS comp sequence within the ’80s to the tens of 1000’s of climber’s toes which have graced the downclimbs, sprucing them to a glassy sheen. The Spot is thought for its steep, bodily setting, and when you don’t present up with grapefruit-sized shoulders, you’ll in all probability develop them after a couple of periods.

And it’s at all times been a heat, welcoming gymnasium with a various clientele, from the Boulder skilled folks sneaking away for a noon session to the school youngsters and dreadlocked double-digitizers who hang-out the place come nighttime.

The Boulder Field in Sacramento, CA
(Photograph/The Boulder Discipline)

Traveled longtime boulderer Matt Battaglia calls The Boulder Discipline “hands-down the most effective bouldering gymnasium I’ve been to. He cites its huge quantity of cool terrain, wonderful setting, and state-of-the-art coaching space, with weights, a campus board, a twig wall, and so forth. None of this must be a shock for the reason that gymnasium’s proprietor is Carlo Traversi, a former head setter at The Spot Boulder and one of many world’s greatest boulderers.

Traversi has despatched a number of cutting-edge blocs, together with the second ascent of The Recreation. It was considered one of America’s first V15s, put up by Daniel Woods in 2010 and repeated by Traversi a 12 months later. With years as knowledgeable climber, competitor, and setter, Traversi knew precisely easy methods to construct an epic bouldering gymnasium.

The partitions are tall (14 toes), with textured Walltopia panels and a protracted, freestanding boulder two boxcars in size culminating in an intimidating prow. There may be 10,000 sq. toes of climbing area, together with a MoonBoard, circuit wall, and children’/household wall with a slide. All of it resides in a 33,000-square-foot area, which provides climbers room to unfold out: no old-school, dark-and-dingy, cramped gymnasium vibes right here. And the gymnasium presents free introductory bouldering lessons for brand new climbers.

Traversi acquired the gymnasium up and operating in March 2018 and shepherded it via the soon-to-come pandemic. It was a tough time for climbing gyms, which have been shuttered on the top of the coronavirus — all whereas nonetheless taking down 5.15 sport and 5.14 conventional climbs outdoor.

The Refuge Climbing and Fitness in Las Vegas, NV
(Photograph/The Refuge Climbing and Health)

Regardless of being a serious vacation spot space, with Purple Rock and all of the limestone cragging, Las Vegas has a comparatively small neighborhood of devoted locals. The Refuge opened in 2014 and presents nice, densely packed bouldering in its 12,000-plus sq. toes of area (6,500 sq. toes of bouldering wall). It additionally acts as a hub for Vegas (and visiting) climbers to collect to climb and hosts neighborhood or youth comps and fundraising occasions.

“The setting is constantly wonderful — they do an superior job of setting inventive however not overly comp-style issues throughout the entire grade vary,” says professional climber Jonathan Siegrist, a Vegas native and coaching aficionado. “The setting crew pays consideration to element and goals for ‘outdoor-influenced’ problem in a really refreshing manner.” 

The gymnasium has a protracted, gently overhanging wall, a cave, and a centerpiece freestanding boulder with a particular anvil-shaped prow. And there’s a good collection of weights and hangboards, plus a side-by-side Pressure Board and MoonBoard. The latter is the frequent coaching venue of the legendary @raviolibiceps and which he options in his Instagram reels. Ravioli praises the gymnasium’s “brutalist performance,” which has helped make him the bouldering machine he’s at the moment.

The gymnasium additionally has a passionate native boulderer Miguel Villegas (@miguelclimbs). He movies superior movies there, together with his fashionable “Sunday Sends” sequence. Villegas says the gymnasium’s small dimension is what makes it particular for him. “Each time you go in there, you possibly can instantly scan the room in seconds, and it feels such as you’re at your individual private house gymnasium,” he says of The Refuge’s intimacy.

“On weeknights after work, you’ll have 150 folks in there, and it appears like an enormous neighborhood occasion. Conversely, within the mornings, there can be 10 folks, and you’re feeling very linked to the opposite 9 climbers in there with you.”

The Springs Climbing Center in Colorado Springs, CO
(Photograph/Springs Climbing Middle)

Based as The Sport Climbing Middle in 1992, this was considered one of America’s earliest rock gyms. This was the period of skinny, vertical faces; painful, tweaky holds; mono pockets; flat, horizontal roofs; and Entre-Prises hexagonal wall panels. You possibly can nonetheless see these panels at the back of the gymnasium getting used as footholds under the hangboards.

Colorado Springs climbers Ric Geiman, Mark Van Horn, and Eric Christianson constructed the bouldering gymnasium in its authentic (and nonetheless present) location. It hosted a few of America’s earliest competitions, together with a velocity occasion on its high rope partitions. (Take a look at the gymnasium’s photograph of “Hollywood” Hans Florine, a one-time speed-record holder for the Nostril of El Capitan, blitzing his manner up the grips.)

Today, the Springs Climbing Middle has expanded right into a stacked, 16,000-square-foot bouldering gymnasium that gives 210 issues, per its web site. It homes choices all over the place you look, from tall, monolithic comp partitions, to deep, darkish caves, to lowball lip-traverse partitions, to softly overhanging panels, to a highball boulder with an enormous, epic prow/overhang for displaying off how effectively you’ve skilled your delts and lats.

I at all times cease in after I’m in Colorado Springs — it’s not removed from the Nice Wolf Lodge resort and waterpark when you’re down there with the household — and boulder till I can barely shut my fingers. The setting is constantly considerate and flowy, with bonafide hard-ass crux strikes thrown in. There’s additionally an enormous spray wall and loads of coaching equipment, in case you have got vitality left at your session’s finish.

The Circuit Southwest bouldering gym in Portland, OR
(Photograph/The Circuit Bouldering Fitness center)

The Circuit’s OG location (now Southwest) opened in 2005, early within the bouldering-gym period, introducing its iconic “suspended” or “hanging” boulder. It’s principally a large blob hanging from the ceiling with a dead-horizontal roof beneath.

This iconic construction is surrounded by a steeps-heavy boulderers’ playground of partitions, roofs, caves, arêtes, face panels, and different enjoyable options, together with a singular, seamless, swooping wave that may problem your physique rigidity.

The Circuit has since expanded to incorporate three different places in Oregon, however the Circuit Southwest stays the template.

“The OG location was one of many first legit bouldering gyms within the nation and fashioned an superior neighborhood of weirdos, rejects, hippies, and so forth.,” says Ryan Pecknold, a longtime boulderer who grew up in Portland and was a one-time worker. “It was a strong assortment of outcasts that simply needed to tug onerous. Everybody supported everybody — no cliques, and positively no cool youngsters.”

As Pecknold recollects of his time working there, “A lot of the employees was so stoked on climbing that you possibly can typically discover a late-night after-hours session taking place.”

That try-hard-or-die vibe nonetheless permeates to this present day, combined with a unusual “Portlandia” vibe and a neighborhood focus that’s welcoming to boulderers in a area whose notoriously grey, wet climate. This implies you’ll be bouldering on plastic loads in preparation for these uncommon sunny days on the native basalt blocs.

BlocHaven bouldering gym in Greenville, SC

Regardless of good (however restricted) cragging and bouldering choices within the Appalachian foothills, South Carolina isn’t precisely generally known as a mega-destination climbing space — all of the granite and gneiss cragging and bouldering is in neighboring North Carolina.

So, it’s essential that the state has killer plastic, particularly throughout the scorching, steamy Southern summers. Greenville, South Carolina, up within the mountains, is the state’s climbing heart and has a core however fashionable bouldering gymnasium to match: BlocHaven. It opened in 2021 within the metropolis’s historic Judson Mill redevelopment, on the location of an enormous former textile mill that had 52,864 spindles and produced 11 million yards of fabric yearly.

Mike Pont, an influential maintain shaper and setter who was in on the primary wave of gyms and competitions that began within the early Nineties, is an enormous fan and has been to Bloc Haven fairly a couple of instances together with his household and to observe his son compete.

“The gymnasium has nice selection, good top (16 toes) with an excellent touchdown, and it flows across the partitions with no bottlenecks,” he says. “And there aren’t tons of climbers clogging that space of the nation, like (ahem …) some locations I’ve been!” — referencing his former house state of Colorado.

The gymnasium has fashionable Vertical Options textured birch partitions, arches, steeps, swells, and slabs. It has an open really feel, tons of terrain to check boulderers of all ranges, and a Kilter Board and Pressure Board.

RoKC bouldering gym in Kansas City, MO
(Photograph/RoKC Underground)

The Midwest — significantly the rolling hills of Kansas and Missouri — isn’t identified for its plentiful climbing, particularly bouldering. However, the area has gyms aplenty and stacks of motivated climbers who assume nothing of 10-hour drives for a weekend of climbing or who will gasoline up the automobile for a “gymnasium street journey.”

One of the vital distinctive bouldering gyms within the Midwest, if not the nation, needs to be RoKC Underground, a bouldering-only gymnasium located 100 toes, effectively, underground. It sits in a former mine that was renovated within the Sixties and is serviced by a lone elevator, a part of the town’s many subsurface caves and tunnels hollowed out of the limestone bedrock.

The gymnasium is a part of a sequence of three gyms in Kansas Metropolis and was opened in 2018 by the brothers Frank and Andrew Potter, the latter a veteran of the warfare in Afghanistan.

“A lot of KC is dated — it simply appears like an previous metropolis, and the bouldering right here has an identical ‘old-school’ vibe,’ says Adam Ruggiero, the editor-in-chief of this website. “It’s powerful to quantify, however you already know it if you see it.” RoKC follows go well with. Says Ruggiero, “Of us ought to go right here if they need a dose of bouldering for bouldering’s sake — no frills, no extras, only a bunch of issues to work on for a few hours.”

Whereas the boulders aren’t super-tall, with the gymnasium being underground, it nonetheless has one of many coolest cave options Ruggiero has seen. It begins out simply 6 inches off the mat and traverses to a face panel 12 toes up, yielding lengthy issues and wonderful setting/motion selection.

The gymnasium is a single open room with 4,800 sq. toes of climbing terrain — loads of area to sink your tooth (fingers?) into, even when there are not any large, shiny home windows to let in that Instagram-friendly sunshine.