Rock On

6 Climbing Spots In Southwest Idaho

COVID-19 has affected many activities and businesses in SW Idaho. Be sure to confirm hours and availability before your visit.

Famous crags and hidden gems — Southwest Idaho has everything a climber could want and more. We’ll give you the lowdown so you can climb high.

Safety First!

Whether a newbie or an experienced climber, everyone should know the rules and guidelines that’ll keep your climbing trip fun, safe, and full of great memories.

  1. Pack carefully. Along with your harness, rope, belay device, and climbing shoes, you should have water, a first aid kit, and extra quickdraws. Make a list based on your climbing site, and work with your belay buddy to make sure that you’ll have everything you need.
  2. Check conditions before you head out. Weather in Southwest Idaho can change rapidly, so check the forecast and make sure you’re prepared for anything.
  3. Do a gear check. Make sure that everything is in good condition and working properly — especially locking carabiners. Put on a helmet and make sure it’s secure.
  4. Check your harness. Make sure you and your belay buddy’s buckles are double backed. And double-check those knots!
  5. Communicate. Make sure that you and your belayer are both familiar with commands and replies. Practice a few times if you feel uncertain.
  6. Have a plan for the top. How long is the route? What equipment will you need? Will your lead be setting up a top rope, rappelling or being belayed down, and so forth? What’s the plan if something goes wrong? Take the right supplies to build a solid anchor.
  7. Watch where you put your hands. Like many western states, Idaho is home to venomous rattlesnakes. Keep your eyes and ears open, especially on hot days when the snakes like to sun themselves on rocks.

If you are a first-time climber, don’t set off into the wilderness! Go to a climbing gym to get the training and practice you need from a certified instructor.

Ask The Locals

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Need gear, guidebooks, and beta? Swing by Idaho Mountain Touring in Boise or Gravity Sports in McCall. Their expert staff will be able to advise you about what equipment and information you’ll need for your climbing destination.

Weather’s bad? No worries. Check out Asana Gym, Vertical View, or The Commons in Boise to get your indoor climbing fix and chat local climbing with their experienced crew.

Time to Climb

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Here are our six picks for the best climbing across the southern half of Idaho.

City of Rocks

This is the king of climbing in Idaho. Towers of pocketed granite spring out of the sagebrush desert, and hundreds of routes await climbers of any ability. There’s a reason why City of Rocks is a climbing mecca. Bring your camping gear and make it a weekend getaway — It’s a 3-hour drive from Boise, so plan for an overnight trip. Swing by Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls to see folks BASE jumping in the summer. City of Rocks is accessible from late April to early November.

Details

Areas: 72
Routes: 564
Rating: 5.6 to 5.12, V2-3 to V10-11

Types

Trad, sport, toprope, and boulder

How to get there

From the Boise airport, head east on I-84 towards Burley. Take exit 216 for Delco, and continue south on 77. Turn right at the Conner Creek Junction. Take another right just after passing the visitor’s center in Almo.

Stop by Elevation 486 in Twin Falls on your way back for a craft beer sampler and crispy Idaho potato skins. You’ve earned it. Crash for the night at the Blue Lakes Inn.

Black Cliffs

With hundreds of routes and quick access from the Boise airport, these basalt cliffs are the #1 local climbing destination. Make a day of it, or sneak in a climb at the end of a busy day. The crags are accessible year-round, but be aware that high temperatures and slippery basalt can make for a tricky climb in the height of summer.

Details

Areas: 15
Routes: 254
Rating: 5.6 to 5.12

Types

Trad, sport, and toprope

How to get there

From the Boise airport, take Hwy 21 east towards Lucky Peak. You’ll hit the basalt canyon right after passing the Boise Diversion Dam.

Local’s Tip: Get your grub on at Bittercreek Alehouse, and then head to the Riverside Hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Swan Falls

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

This is a boulderer’s dream. These basalt fields southwest of Boise on the banks of the Snake River are easy to find and perfect for boulderers of any ability. The Swan Falls boulders are accessible year-round.

Details

Areas: 13
Routes: 72
Rating: V2-3 to V-8-9

Types

Bouldering

How to get there

From the Boise airport, take I-84 west towards Nampa. Take the Kuna/Meridian exit and head south on Kuna-Meridian Road for about 8 miles. Take a left at Swan Falls Road and continue until you descend the gorge towards Swan Falls Dam.

Local’s Tip: You’re too close to Idaho wine country to not make a detour and grab a bottle or two. Check out Huston Vineyards or Hat Ranch Winery and treat yourself.

Gold Fork Pins & Needles

These secluded granite slopes and columns are one of the best-kept secrets in Idaho rock climbing. You’ll find them nestled in the mountains southeast of Donnelly. Bring camping gear and take advantage of the campsite at the base. The approach is about an hour’s hike in. The Pins are accessible from May through September.

Details

Areas: 2
Routes: 21
Rating: 5.7 to 5.11

Types

Trad, sport, and toprope

How to get there

From the Boise airport, head north on Highway 55 towards McCall. Just past Donnelly, take a right onto Davis Creek Road and then another right onto Gold Fork Road. Continue for 12 miles. Take Forest Service Road 402 east to 402C. Follow 402C to its end at the campsites.

Local’s Tip: On your way in, you’ll pass Gold Fork Hot Springs — and on your way out, you’ve gotta stop for a soak.

The Thinking Spot

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

It’s a small but mighty McCall area climb. You’ll find this huge granite formation just north of the tip of Payette Lake, and the lake view from the top is not to be missed. It’s accessible from May through September.

Details

Areas: 1
Routes: 23
Rating: 5.7 to 5.12

Types

Trad, sport

How to get there

From McCall, take Warren Wagon Road for 8 miles. Turn right on East Side Road, past the Northwest Passage Campground. Continue for half a mile, and you’ll see the formation on the right.

Local’s Tip: Treat yourself to a homey stay at downtown’s classic Hotel McCall, complete with lake views, spacious kitchens, and jetted tubs. Don’t forget to grab a slice at Hometown Pizza.

Riggins Limestone

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

Hidden at the feet of the Seven Devils Mountains, these pale limestone cliffs offer some of the best sport climbing in the West — and the most secluded. There’s a good chance you’ll be the only group climbing these crags. They are accessible from May through September.

Details

Areas: 2
Routes: 35
Rating: 5.9 to 5.13

Types

Sport

How to get there

From McCall, take US-95 north towards Riggins. Turn left onto Seven Devils Road/Forest Service Road 517. Continue to mile marker 9.

Local’s Tip: It’s a long drive to Riggins, so plan for an overnight and book a room at the cozy Salmon Rapids Lodge.

Keep your focus on adventure — not on annoying travel logistics. Check out our recommended accommodations to keep it simple and stay where you play.

Craving more heart-pounding adventure? Check out our guides to the best whitewater, hidden hikes, and mountain biking in Southwest Idaho.

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