While the Midwest may not necessarily be a climbing mecca, you can still find some gnarly rock hidden among the cornfields and rolling hills. Here are five of the most strenuous climbs these states have to offer.
Petenwell Bluff, Necedah, WI
Necedah had offered some of Wisconsin’s finest sport climbing for the last few decades. Solid, bright sandstone cliffs and clean rock on a fifty-foot wall with a slight overhang mean some of the best climbing in the Midwest. Petenwell Bluff contains routes for every level, but the classic Y‑Crack brings the technical difficulties with pumpy jamming on one side and plenty of crimps on the other. There’s also Whiskey a Go Go, a 5.13a that’s widely considered the premier route in the state.
Robinson Park, MN
Just a quick hour and a half from the twin cities lies Minnesota’s best rock climbing region – Robinson Park. The landscape contains a varied range of rocks, mostly quarried sandstone, showcasing every area of the sport, from bouldering to traditional to ice climbing. It’s here you’ll find the famous 5.12 Sigma route along with whoppers like Nexus and Adoption. The Relationship Wall and Sax Wall are where you’ll find most of the action during the spring and fall, though in winter it becomes a fantastic place for climbers who love the ice.
Spearfish Canyon, SD
With over 700 designated routes Spearfish Canyon is easily the Midwest’s best climbing haven. The gorgeous canyon is lined with steep slopes of limestone divided into seven areas, beginning with the Skeletal Remains and winding up to The Shadowlands. The main area of Spearfish Canyon has over 500 climbs alone and houses beasts like Battlecry and The Sundance, both packed with overhanging pocketed walls and crimpy, technical climbs along with a few boulders dispersed throughout.
Muscatatuck Park, North Vernon, Indiana
Muscatatuck Park is one of only a handful of places in Indiana where you can climb. The park houses roughly 300 bouldering problems in dolomite limestone, most of which are unkempt and in need of some love. The routes tend to range predominately in the V1 – V5 range with a few V10 and up here and there. The Heinousness Wall remains the most popular region while the Tangerine Wall holds some more technical challenges like the V10 Ivy League. Nearby you can also find a few private climbing areas, like Nine and Three Quarters, if you’re willing to speak with the locals and beg a few people for access.
Mt. Rushmore, SD
Our country’s national monuments often provide ample opportunities to hit the rocks and, seeing as it’s made entirely of granite, Mt. Rushmore is second best in the Midwest. The national memorial holds over 600 climbs ranging from bouldering and sport to trad routes that are available in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s ensconced in the Black Hills regions that also holds the famed towering spires of The Chessman. Here you’ll find plenty of routes rated 5.8 to 5.13b for beginners and skilled climbers alike. Baba Cool, while only rated a 5.9, is one of the coolest routes in the region.
Holy Boulders, Pomona, IL
The Holy Boulders is the largest concentration of boulders in Illinois and possibly the entire Midwest. With over 200 developed bouldering problems with ratings between V0 and V13, you could spend a few days in here and never come close to testing them all. There’s arguably the chance to develop even a few hundred more. The region was purchased by the Illinois Climbers Association and Access Fund in 2012 and, thankfully, has some pretty great rules in place to keep the area safe and welcoming. Classic climbs in the area include the V5+ Tyler Durden and the V8 Jungle Book in the Illuminati Boulders area.