Top Ten National Parks for Rock Climbing

Arches National Park, Utah

Looking through Delicate Arch toward the La Sal Range in Arches National Park is like viewing a thought trapped in time. It is disconcertingly beautiful, and like its fellow rock formations in Arches, it speaks loudly of nature's creative spirit, the power of erosion, and the beauty of decay.

A wonderland of balanced rock, sandstone fingers, fins, plateaus, and canyons in colors ranging from dove-white to sunset-red characterize this land five miles north of Moab, Utah. More than 2,000 arches, the highest concentration of natural arches in the world, give the park its name. Because they are unique and fragile, the national park service has wisely declared these arches off-limits to climbers. The park's sandstone spires, towers, and walls, however, are free game.

The entrada sandstone found in Arches National Park is decent rock for climbing, and Arches offers many engaging options. The West Face of Dark Angel on Devils Tower, established some 40 years ago, is a classic route. A very popular formation, as well as a relatively easy climb, is the squat 100-foot spire Owl Rock. Nearby, the two-pitch Tonka Tower offers a fun and engaging route with some crack climbing and an exciting mantle at the end. In the southwestern corner of the park both Three Gossips and Three Penguins have a bevy of options for the adventurous climber.


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