The view from the top is always unbeatable, but why not enjoy every pitch and approach along the way?
Here are six climbing spots that send the charts for unforgettable scenery.
Costa Blanca, Alicante, Spain
More than 120 miles of Mediterranean coastline have it all: endless sands, the bluest water, and swaying palm fronds are the name of the game here in Spain’s Alicante province. A revelry of crags, towers, and sea cliffs offer a seemingly endless number of routes that range from single-pitch sport lines in Xalo Valley to complex, multi-pitch trad climbs at Puig Campana, which at 4,613 feet is the second-highest peak in the province.
Leavenworth, Washington, USA
Tourists come for the kitschy German Bavaria experience, climbers come for the clean alpine granite featuring all the best of the Pacific Northwest, with views of the Cascades and orchards that go for miles. Castle Rock, featuring the state’s first multi-pitch technical climb, and Snow Creek Wall’s 800-foot granite face, both offer superb traditional climbs. Although with more than 50 crags just begging for attention within an easy drive of town, including Midnight Rock and Givler’s Dome—not to mention bouldering at Icicle Creek or the sport climbs in Tumwater Canyon—climbers will have a smorgasbord of routes from which to choose.
Queenstown, New Zealand
With a reputation like “The Adventure Capital of the World” to protect, Queenstown delivers on all fronts: Wye Creek and Kingston both serve up a mix of trad and sport lines across a handful of walls, and bouldering can be found a little further afield at Lakeside Boulder and Luggate Boulders in Wanaka. And if you’ve brought along fearless non-climbers, try them on Queenstown’s very own Via Ferrata, a series of iron rungs bolted into the exposed, overhanging cliffs of Queenstown Hill.
A tropical paradise of white-sand beaches, flowering jungles, and over 700 routes over, under, around, and through the upthrust karst limestone towering along the sea, Railay (also spelled Rai Leh) and neighboring Ton Sai are a climber’s dream come true. The majority of the routes here are bolted sport climbs, but Railay also offers world-class deep-water soloing. Check the tides, then take a raft out to the nearest jut of karst and climb until you’re ready to let go and get wet!
Red River Gorge, Kentucky, USA
A lushly forested canyon system in the heart of bluegrass country featuring more than 100 natural sandstone arches and bridges, “the Red” is home to over 1,500 climbing routes. Sport lines dominate the region’s pocketed and overhanging sandstone cliffs, although there are a few trad lines at places like Fortress Wall. Routes can be as unthinking or as problematic as you please, with about 100 beginner-friendly 5.6s like Eureka, all the way up to a beast like Southern Smoke, a blistering 5.14c line only a few dozen climbers have ever sent. Even single crags like Gallery can offer routes at any difficulty level you like, so there’s really no excuse to miss this one.
Yosemite, California, USA
The beauty of the Sierra Nevada is impossible to overstate, and attempts to do so invariably trend toward the cliché, but not without good reason. The soaring granite walls, the deep scent of pinewoods, the pounding thunder of Yosemite Falls: it’s no wonder that this scenic miracle became the birthplace of American climbing. Infamous big wall climbs like El Capitan and Half Dome continue to draw climbers from around the world, but Yosemite’s generosity goes beyond famed big walls. Climbers can find face climbs, slabs, crags, cracks, boulders and domes galore just a stone’s throw from Camp 4.