There’s a lifetime’s worth of perfect sandstone just down the road from Chattanooga, and it’s more accessible now than ever. In the last decade, thanks to effort by locals and climbing advocacy organizations, tons of landowners have opened the door to climbers. Of course, in order to preserve access to Chattanooga’s best crags, it’s crucial that climbers respect private property. Now that temperatures in the southeast are cooling off, local crags are heating up—and whether you like to clip bolts, plug gear, or boulder, the Chattanooga climbing scene has something to offer.
Stone Fort/Little Rock City
With four-star boulder problems ranging from V0 to V10, it’s no wonder Stone Fort is one of the three destinations of the famed Triple Crown Bouldering Series. October is prime time to head to Stone Fort: On average, it only gets about five days of precipitation and temperatures hover in the 50s and 60s. The area is owned by a local golf course, which asks that users park in a lot designated for climbers, sign a waiver, and pay a $6/day fee upon arrival. The fee is well worth it—Stone Fort is home to hundreds of problems, and the diversity of climbs here is unparalleled. Warm up on Storming the Castle, a 20-foot V1, then work your way up to classics like The Hulk—a V6 with big moves to an exciting finish. For a true taste of southeast climbing, head over to Grimace, a V8 problem defined by the sloper holds this area is known for.
Though climbers head to Foster Falls year-round, fall brings the dry, crisp rock you need to send hard sport routes. There’s a good variety of routes here. Jacob’s Ladder (5.8) is perfect for warm ups and new leaders. Jimmywood, the area’s most popular crag, boasts an excellent assortment of moderates. The real fun at Foster Falls, however, begins when the climbing gets tough. It’s not all steeps and roofs, though. With sixty routes in the 5.10-5.11 range, there’s plenty to keep sport climbers entertained.
Suck Creek Canyon
For trad climbers looking to avoid the crowds, Suck Creek Canyon —with its classic multi-pitch routes and, occasionally, variable rock quality—is an adventure climbing destination. First developed in the 1970s, Roadside Wall offers a short, easy approach to what’s considered the best climbing at Suck Creek Canyon. Bomb’s Away, a three-pitch 5.8, feels like an alpine climb; crack climbers will delight in the four-star GPS Crack, a single pitch of 5.9.
Right on the Georgia-Tennessee border, Rocktown is 45 minutes from Chattanooga, and the quality of its boulders has been favorably compared to the famous Horse Pens 40 area. Best of all, it’s way less crowded than many local crags. Rocktown is home to classics ranging from V0 to V8, but be ready for some highball problems and heady top-outs: lots of Rocktown routes are in the 15- to 20-foot range. Warm up on the aptly named El Classico, a four-star V0, then take your pick of dozens of named and unnamed four-star problems.
It’s not an exaggeration to say the Tennessee Wall is the premier destination for single-pitch trad climbing in the southeastern United States. Climbers from all over the country flock to the T-Wall for its gorgeous red sandstone and top-notch rock quality. Autumn is the season to head to T-Wall—the view of the Tennessee River is best when framed by beautiful fall colors. There are plenty of moderate warm ups here, along with uber-classics like Hands Across America, a world-famous four-star 5.12c. Seasonal hunting closures occasionally affect access here, so pay close attention—the Southeast Climbers Coalition updates its website with closed dates to avoid a hefty fine.
Climbers have been drawn to the high-quality sandstone at Sunset Rock since the 40s, and thanks to many pioneers, it became one of the first established crags in the region. It is located on the western brow of Lookout Mountain and is home to some of Tennessee's finest single-pitch trad climbing, and one of the most breathtaking views from the anchors. This is a great spot for beginners with plenty to top rope or seasoned trad climbers who want to try out their skills on new routes such as Jennifer's World.
Denny Cove is located about 30 minutes from Chattanooga in the South Cumberland State Park and is a popular spot for climbers and hikers. It features a large climbing area with nearly three miles of cliffline and approximately 150 climbing routes of all grades and ability levels. Climbers love testing their skills on the Cumberland Plateau's long overhanging walls, massive roofs, slabs, cracks, and corners made up of quality, multi-colored sandstone. The park is also home to Foster Falls and Stone Door climbing areas. Climbers are required to register online or with park management prior to climbing.