Ohio is home to a small but passionate and rapidly growing climbing community. Over the past few years, a number of new climbing gyms have opened in bigger cities like Columbus and Cincinnati (with more on the way), and local advocacy groups like the Ohio Climber’s Coalition have worked to expand climbing access to new areas. While you’ll find a handful of taller cliffs scattered throughout the state, Ohio really shines for its bouldering: There are over 1,000 boulder problems in Ohio, or nearly 70 percent of the state’s recorded routes. Much of the rock is on well-featured sandstone, shaded, and climbable year-round.
Next time you’re on the hunt for weekend plans, check out these top five destinations for bouldering in Ohio.
1. Mad River Gorge
One of Ohio’s greatest recreation-access success stories, the Mad River Gorge was officially opened for legal climbing in 2017, thanks to a partnership between the Access Fund, the Ohio Climbing Coalition, and the Clark County Parks District. Cleanup and development work is still ongoing, but the 91-acre nature preserve currently features over 150 recorded bouldering problems on solid dolomite. The main hiking trail follows an old railroad, and native wildflowers abound. (Check out the area guidebook for more information.)
- Feather Star (V1)
- Lukewarm Sausage (V3)
- Shark Week (V4)
- Fresh-Squeezed (V5-6)
2. Hocking Hills State Forest
Nestled within lush forest just outside Logan, Hocking Hills is one of Southeast Ohio’s premier bouldering destinations. There are numerous camping opportunities in the state forest and over 50 bouldering routes within the designated climbing and rappelling area. The rock here is Black Hand sandstone, which is known for eroding into unique features like horizontal edges, slots, and pocketed “honeycomb.” It should be noted that the same qualities that create these amazing holds can also cause the rock to break when it’s wet. As such, it’s critical to avoid climbing sandstone any time after rain—even slightly damp holds have been known to tear off. Give the rock two or three days to dry after any wet weather.
- Stand Up Double (V0-V1)
- Sunshine Arete (V3)
- Cascade Traverse (V3)
- Unnamed Crack at the Workout Wall (V4)