Experience Rock Climbing in the Great Lake State

Rock climbing is a unique sport that offers an exhilarating way to experience the great outdoors in Michigan. Now it might not be the first thing you think of when Michigan outdoor activities come up, but our state really does have it all. There are some great places for newcomers and seasoned experts. Beyond the physical and mental benefits it provides, the breathtaking scenery at the top of each route is a sight that few have the privilege of enjoying.

Getting Started: Indoor Gyms and Guided Trips

For those new to rock climbing, Michigan offers numerous resources to help you get started. Indoor gyms serve as ideal training grounds for familiarizing yourself with the heights and unusual movements involved in climbing before venturing onto real rock faces.

Terra Firma Bouldering Co.

One highly recommended indoor gym is Terra Firma Bouldering Co. in Grand Rapids. This gym focuses solely on bouldering, which involves free climbing on shorter walls without ropes. This approach allows you to gain familiarity and confidence in climbing before attempting taller and more challenging routes.

Down Wind Sports

If you prefer to start your climbing journey outdoors, Down Wind Sports is an excellent option. With locations in Marquette, Munising, and Houghton, this outdoor sports store offers guided rock climbing trips for new and skilled climbers. The Down Wind team provides all the necessary gear and takes groups of up to eight climbers to various locations across the Upper Peninsula.

True North Outpost

Primarily known for its rafting opportunities, True North Outpost also organizes climbing excursions. Located in Norway, a town in the Upper Peninsula, True North Outpost accommodates groups ranging from one to ten climbers and organizes half-day or full-day trips to climbing crags in the surrounding areas.

Other cities in Michigan, such as Ann Arbor and Detroit, also have indoor gyms that cater to climbers of all skill levels. Traverse City’s Elev8 gym, for instance, provides a beginner-friendly environment with both bouldering and rope climbing options available on tall and short walls.

a guy rock climbing on the side of a cliff
a pile of ropes that are used for rock climbing
A young boy bouldering outside in the cold

Rock Climbing Areas in Michigan

Once you’ve acquired the necessary gear and developed confidence in your climbing skills, it’s time to explore some of Michigan’s iconic climbing areas. Before heading out, make sure to have a guidebook and consider downloading Mountain Project, a free crowd-sourced guide providing valuable information on crags and routes.

Oak Park – Grand Ledge

A short 20-minute drive from Michigan’s capital city, Grand Ledge is the only crag in the Lower Peninsula. Easily accessible, the climbing area in Oak Park is just a brief walk from the parking lot. While lead climbing is not permitted, there are over 100 top rope and bouldering routes suitable for climbers of all levels. The climbing community in this area is friendly and often shares their ropes, allowing everyone to take turns on the various routes. Make sure to try the challenging and sought-after Doug’s Roof climb.

Slugg's Bluff – Richmond Township

Situated approximately 20 minutes outside of Marquette, Slugg’s Bluff boasts an impressive 80-foot quartzite cliff, offering both traditional and sport climbing opportunities. With over twelve marked routes, this popular crag was recently acquired by the climbing community. The Upper Peninsula Climbers Coalition organized a climbing event called Slug Fest, where climbers had the chance to participate in clinics and enjoy the routes.

Sunset Gulley – Marquette

Located at Sugarloaf Mountain, one of Marquette’s most beloved hiking destinations, Sunset Gulley awaits. To reach this crag, you can park in the same lot as hikers and follow an unmarked track through the woods. Sunset Gulley features nearly 20 routes suitable for sport, traditional, and bouldering enthusiasts.

Carney Crag – Iron Mountain

Positioned in state forest land near the Wisconsin border, Carney Crag in Iron Mountain offers an excellent location for novice climbers. Many routes provide secure hand and foot holds, making it an ideal spot for beginners. There are 29 official climbs at this location, including options for traditional, sport, and top rope climbing. Carney Crag also doubles as a stunning hiking destination, showcasing the awe-inspiring forests and natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula.

Climbing and Sustainable Practices

While rock climbing’s popularity continues to rise, the climbing community is committed to environmental stewardship. Michigan climbers often organize crag cleanups and implement anti-erosion measures to preserve their beloved climbing areas. This dedication and care for the natural environment played a significant role in climbers being granted ownership of Slugg’s Bluff, as the previous property owners recognized their deep love and respect for the area.

If you decide to embark on a rock climbing expedition, remember to appreciate the space you occupy and make a conscious effort to treat the land and rock with consideration. By practicing sustainable climbing, you ensure that future generations can also appreciate and enjoy these natural wonders.

Michigan Rock Climbing Resources

For further information or help with your rock climbing endeavors in Michigan, consider exploring these resources:

Discover a thrilling rock climbing journey in Michigan and conquer nature’s vertical playground. Whether you prefer indoor gyms or crave outdoor adventures, the diverse climbing areas scattered throughout the state will leave you craving for more.


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