Photo: Visit Fairfield County

Best Bouldering in Ohio

Make the most of your weekends at these 6 bouldering hotspots.

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.)

Recommended Routes: 

  • 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.

Recommended Routes:

  • Stand Up Double (V0-V1)
  • Sunshine Arete (V3)
  • Cascade Traverse (V3)
  • Unnamed Crack at the Workout Wall (V4)

3. Salt Fork State Park

High-quality rock, a wide range of grades, and a short commute from both Columbus and Cleveland make Salt Fork State Park one of Ohio’s best bouldering destinations. Salt Fork, Ohio’s largest state park, mostly consists of rolling hills and deep forest. Here you’ll find more than 30 boulder problems on solid sandstone, plus plenty of untapped development potential. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find a more scenic setting: Some of the boulders are merely steps from the shore of Salt Fork Lake. (Note: Like in other sandstone areas, climbing after rain can damage the routes here; wait until the rock feels bone-dry before climbing.)  

Recommended Routes:  

  • Hive Face (V1)
  • Bite Me (V2)
  • Armada (V4-5)
  • Cloud Nine (V6)

4. Athens

Another sandstone hotspot, the forests around Athens, Ohio, are home to nearly 100 established routes. Much of the climbing is off State Route 50 or East State Street. Here, you’ll find lines varying from crimpy face climbs to striking aretes. Some of the rock is sandy in places, but the variety of climbing and easy access makes Athens worth a trip. You’ll also find easy camping in nearby Strouds Run State Park. Pro tip: Visit in fall for the best temperatures. And be sure to give the fragile sandstone at least three days to dry and regain its strength after any rain.   

Recommended Routes:

  • Keyhole Arete (V1)
  • Crack Face (V2)
  • Bird’s Nest (V4)
  • 50 Grit (V4)

5. Flat Rocks

One of Ohio’s newest climbing areas, Flat Rocks, in Lancaster, was officially opened to climbers in summer 2021. However, bouldering development has been ongoing here since the 1990s, leaving behind dozens of high-quality routes on good sandstone. Looking for a multi-sport weekend? Flat Rocks is located within Lancaster’s Keller-Kirn Park, a 76-acre expanse of wooded hiking trails (and one of the state’s best disc golf courses).

Recommended Routes:

  • Beer Road (V1, 25 feet)
  • Bat Crack (V3)
  • 3 on 3 (V4)
  • Exit Stage Left (V5)

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.

Photo: Visit Fairfield County

The Best Bouldering Destinations in Ohio