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The USA is big. And packed into its bigness are some of the world's greatest rock climbing locations. Asking which climbing experience is the best one possible is like asking which is the best flavour of ice cream. There is no one preference.
Everyone has their own favourites, and for their own reasons. Setting, difficulty, variety, length and time of the year are just some of the many factors people. So in making this list, we're not looking at best as much as we're looking at diverse!
With over 1600 possible climbs, the sandstone cliffs of The Red are one of the biggest rock climbing attractions in the country. If you're a serial climber, there is no way this place is not on your list, and it is probably already ticked off. The Motherlode climb is likely the best sport climbing location in the park. And while you're here, check out the many sandstone arches and natural bridges in the area. Spring and autumn are the prettiest times to be here, but the seasons don't affect the climbing.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
The coast of Maine is rugged and wild. Cliffs of pink granite soar above the cold Atlantic, some with smooth faces, others with narrow cracks. But if you're reading this article you're probably the kind who will spend less time taking dramatic pictures from afar, and spend more time making sure you're not dramatically falling into the ocean. With incredible views of the ocean and the sky, the best area for climbing are the Otter Cliffs.
3000 foot high, this vertical monolith is intimidating just to look at. Yet in 2015, two climbers made history when they scaled the Dawn Wall by only their fingertips. Now, you probably don't want to free climb the wall as such, but the park does offer a lot of great climbs for every experience range. Also, weatherwise, Yosemite is almost perfect throughout the year. In winter, so long you don't fall victim to the Sierra storms, the climbing experience is at its most crisp.
There are two sides to the park - east and west. The eastern is the nicer, shaded part. The western is where the best climbing happens. Don't visit during the summer. The heat will kill you. The other thing that might kill you is the 'less than granite quality' rock. It's not unusual to spend a lot of time on the walls tapping away at your hold, trying to determine if you want to trust them with your weight or not. Climbing here is an art. The other thing people like to do here is bird watching.
When filmmakers want to portray strange lands and alien worlds, they come to Arches National Park. That's how surreal this red-sandstone wonder of rock is. High pinnacles, elegant natural bridges, huge balanced rocks, and the thousands of stone arches. Climbing here is mostly for experts. You are not allowed to deface the rocks with pitons, which means you must free climb. On the upside, unlike most other climbing areas, the climbs are really close to the main road, so you won't be tired from the approach. You can visit practically any time of the year.
6. Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
Made famous by Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this mountain is probably the best crack climbing location in the world. The cracks in Devil's Tower are clean and uniformly shaped and there are a LOT of them. Be careful of the final or so hundred feet - the rock quality isn't the best. If you want to get all the way to the summit, do so through the Meadow's area. Word to the wise - in case you run into trouble, help will not be arriving anytime soon, as there is no park rescue-team. Make sure you have some way to call for help. Also, don't climb during June.
These are some of the most beautiful landscapes in the USA. Climbing has been a staple activity here since the late 19th century. But one usually doesn't try and attempt the climbs here without thoroughly proving themselves in lesser challenges. Not only do the climbs require a long hike to approach, or have lots of loose rock sections, the park discourages anything other than clean climbing. They are really serious about preserving the beauty of the rocks, and prohibiting the placement of bolts. But it's all worth it. There is NO one best climb here. Every single climb is utterly jaw dropping. The Forrest Finish seems to be a favourite though.
Just remember that most of these climbs are on protected lands and you will need back country camping passes for overnight trips. Also, all of these locations (indeed, pretty much any rock climbing location at all) is a precious resource. Preserve it, add your memories and experiences, and don't spoil the place for anyone else.