We were looking for a hobby that took us outside after we moved to the city a few years ago. Luckily, we haphazardly discovered rock climbing. Whether you’ve climbed at a local gym a few times or you’ve yet to slip on a climbing shoe—climbing can be one of the most thrilling ways to experience the outdoors and there’s more than a few options to give it a go near New York City. We recommend climbing with guides if you’re doing anything other than bouldering until you have a good grasp of the technical knowledge needed to safely climb outside. Local shops like Alpine Endeavors and HighXposure Adventures both offer guided trips to the areas where you can rope climb listed below.
While it’s not real rock, the newly opened Dumbo Boulders in Brooklyn Bridge Park is a great place for climbers who are new to the sport or those trying it for the first time to hone their skills. The park, which is located outside beneath the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, is a bouldering area which means the climbs are low enough to the ground that they don’t require a rope.
Grab your shoes, chalk and a crash pad and head to Central Park which is dotted with a few different places to boulder. The authority on Central Park climbing is a guidebook called New York City Bouldering that includes great photos and descriptions of the routes or “problems” as they’re referred to in bouldering. While Central Park is the most convenient place for New Yorkers to get some experience on real rock, it’s also one of the toughest. The routes are difficult—even after years of rock climbing, we still struggle to get up these climbs. Keep this in mind and don’t get discouraged if you’re not able to climb here at your gym level.
We’re fond of Peterskill because it’s where we really learned to hold our own on outdoor climbing trips. The area is similar to the nearby Shawanagunks (see below) but the ridgeline is accessible on foot which means you can hike to the top of a climb and set up a top rope anchor once you learn how. Until then, book a trip with a certified guide who will help you orient yourself to the area and teach how to safely build anchors using either trees or some of the fixed bolts that are at the top of some of the routes. You’ll also find really great bouldering at Peterskill but be sure to rent or bring a crash pad to break your falls.
Just outside of New Paltz, New York is one of the most coveted spots to trad climb (or traditional climb). This means that in the Shawangunks (or Gunks as it’s often shortened to), climbers will place gear as they ascend the route before setting up an anchor and either rappelling back down or belaying their follower to meet them so both can continue upward. Trad climbing is our favorite version of the sport but it’s important to make sure each climber understands how to place and retrieve gear before giving it a go on your own so hire a guide for your first few trips or check out the bouldering in the area.
Trip tip: If you work up a climbing APPetite… When you find yourself in love with climbing at Peterskill and the Gunks (it’s inevitable), you’ll want to download the mobile guidebook called the Gunks App which also includes route information for climbing at Peterskill. We also use Mountain Project on our desktop and mobile. The site is a community supported database of climbs around the U.S. (there are a few international entries) and can help plan a trip as well as get you started on the beta (or instructions) you’ll need to complete more technical climbs.