One of the great things about climbing is that it’s an inherently solo sport. No, that doesn’t mean you have to go free soloing without any rope like a certain Alex Honnold on El Capitan. And of course, the climbing community—one of the most tight-knit subsets of outdoor-minded folks there is—would probably beg to differ about just how individual vs. communal climbing really is. But at the end of the day, when you’re actually climbing, it’s just you, your taped chalky fingers, and the rock. So if you’re looking to hone in on that solitude with some great places to get after it on your own or with a small group of friends, here’s a quick-hit guide to some stellar socially-distant stashes in the Chattanooga area.
Stone Fort - Little Rock City
Okay, it’s not a hidden gem by any means. In fact, it’s regarded by many as one of the most legendary bouldering spots in the Southeast and plays host to one of the legs of the famous Triple Crown Bouldering Series. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a problem or two away from the crowds at Stone Fort (Little Rock City). Located 25 minutes from downtown at Montlake Golf Club in Soddy Daisy, this sandstone boulder field is positively littered with world-class lines—of all difficulty levels too ranging from V0 up to V13. Beyond the primo sandstone and crazy range of problems, one of the best aspects of Stone Fort is the way it’s always unraveling like some sort of Russian Doll. Behind every nook, there seems to be a new cranny. As you walk through the property, just as you think you’ve reached the end, some new rocky labyrinth will unveil itself. In short, it’s a great place to get lost, get socially distanced, and get high up on some stone.
If you’re looking for a boulder field a little more off the beaten path, Rocktown is the way to go. Located on Pigeon Mountain, about 45-minutes from downtown, this maze of sandstone is home to over 500 established problems. Getting there is actually one of the best parts, as you drive past Historic St. Elmo through Lookout Valley and then through the peerlessly bucolic McClemore’s Cove. Then it’s up the gap between Pigeon and Lookout mountains before arriving at this highly concentrated gem. The bouldering here is as good as it gets. In colder months, the friction is stellar. In warmer months, the location on the edge of Pigeon Mountain ensures a welcome and near-constant breeze. From the parking lot to the back boulder cluster is about a mile long, so expect to hike. It’s worth it. Be sure to check out the classics at the Orb Area!
Come for the trad climbing, stay for the views. Tennessee Wall, or T-Wall, is legendary in both variety and in breathtaking beauty. Rising high above the Tennessee River Gorge, this sandstone cliff line boasts more than 600 documented routes. The views once you break above the trees are like something from a Jimmy Chin documentary. And the crazy array of cracks, arêtes, and overhanging walls & roofs make it a veritable playground for experienced climbers. Meanwhile, the campground at T-Wall, along the banks of the Tennessee River, is one of the best places to sleep under the stars in the area.
If you’re at all familiar with Chattanooga, chances are you’ve heard of Sunset Rock. Not only is it the panoramic terminus of a variety of Lookout Mountain hikes, it’s also one of the crown jewels of Chattanooga single-pitch trad climbing. Truth be told, it’s a popular spot. Between the hikers on the Bluff Trail and the handful of other rock hounds taking on the numerous high-quality routes, it’s rare to have this place all to yourself. But that doesn’t take away from its allure. Along this linear cliff band are roughly 130 routes, ranging from 5.6 to 5.12.
High Point Climbing & Fitness
Dubbed the “Country’s Coolest Gym” by Climbing Mag, High Point might not be an actual outdoor destination, but what it lacks in real rock, it more than makes up for in convenience and state-of-the-art facilities. Located about as smack dab in the bullseye middle of downtown as you can get, High Point’s indoor gym is great for boulderers of all ability levels. But if you really want that socially-distant, fresh-air feeling with bird’s-eye views, the outdoor wall is where it’s at. Rising to eye level with the nearby Tennessee Aquarium, when you climb this wall you effectively get to see what it's like to scale a building.
Wherever you decide to scale some routes in Chattanooga, you’re guaranteed to have a fun, forearm-pumping time.