A man carries a bouldering pad

North Georgia’s Best Under-the-Radar Bouldering

Find solitude and adventure at these 5 underrated bouldering zones.

Bouldering is one of the most accessible ways to kickstart your outdoor climbing career in Georgia. The good news for Metro-Atlanta residents is that North Georgia has no shortage of bouldering. That said, some of the more popular spots—like Rocktown and Boat Rock—can get pretty crowded on the weekends. If you’re looking to explore new areas, experiment with different styles, and nab a quiet session for you and your crew, try one of these oft-overlooked bouldering spots instead.

Shaking Rock 

Similar in style to Boat Rock, the Shaking Rock zone offers dozens of short, engaging problems on high-quality granite. It’s located close to Athens, on land that once belonged to the Creek and Cherokee peoples. Because most of the boulders are very close to one another, this is a great spot to bring a group with varied interests, as you’ll never have to wander far to find something new. Another bonus: The guidebook for this area is currently free online

Local Classics

  • Hairy Hold (V2)
  • Snake Eyes (V3)
  • The Spoon (V5)

Red Tape

Shaking Rock is managed by Oglethorpe County Parks and Rec, which means it’s free to visit, but dogs must be kept on a leash and camping isn’t permitted. Be sure to pick up after yourself and stay on established trails whenever possible.  

Zahnd Wildlife Management Area

Home to several dozen problems on unique conglomerate stone, Zahnd Wildlife Management Area is a swath of Cherokee/Yuchi land located about a 90-minute drive northwest of Kennesaw, near the Alabama border. A short approach and a wide variety of climbing grades make this one a popular spot among beginners and local pros alike. Other bonuses: It’s usually way less crowded than nearby Rocktown, and it’s not subject to the same hunting closures. 

Local Classics

  • The Turret (V4)
  • Razor’s Edge (V6)
  • Harvest Moon (V8)

Red Tape

You’ll need a Georgia hunting or fishing license to visit the WMA, even just for climbing. Be careful to park only in designated areas and pack out all trash and food waste.

Panola Mountain 

Located just southeast of Greater Atlanta, Panola is a granitic dome similar to Stone Mountain. A mix of crack, slab, and steeps will keep boulderers of all persuasions entertained, and a large number of beginner-friendly grades makes this an ideal spot for newer climbers to cut their teeth on real rock. Part of the ancestral homeland of the Muscogee/Creek people, Panola Mountain State Park is highly protected due to its sensitive flora and fauna. The good news: The strict regulations pretty much guarantee solitude. The bad news: If you want to climb here, you’ll have to book a reservation with the ranger station first (see “Red Tape” below). 

Local Classics

  • Ms. Pac-Man is Always Right (V2)
  • Brush Your Teeth (V3)
  • The Granite Rose 2.0 (V7)

Red Tape

Only part of Panola Mountain is open for bouldering, and you’ll need to stop by the ranger station to get a climbing permit and/or book a reservation before you head out (call ahead of time for updated requirements). Stay on trails and within established landing zones to avoid damaging rare plant life. Parking is $5. 

The Riverside/Buford Dam Boulders

One of Georgia’s newest climbing areas, the Riverside—located on Yuchi and Muscogee/Creek territory just downstream of Buford Dam—sports more than 100 problems on a collection of boulders and granite outcroppings. While the quality isn’t quite level with that of more popular areas like Boat Rock, the texture is good and the bouldering is further from the road, and therefore much quieter. Another perk is that there’s plenty of beta, including recent topos, available online.

Local Classics

  • Mindwarp (V3)
  • Wax Off (V5)
  • Marty (V7)

Red Tape

The Riverside/Buford Dam boulders are located within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. It’s open from dawn to dusk. Camping isn’t allowed, though swimming is; check Chattahoochee water levels and the Buford Dam release schedule before taking a dip. 

Oconee Boulders

Scattered among the rolling hills and hardwood forests of the Oconee Wildlife Management Area you’ll find granite boulders with all manner of problems, from crack lines to textured slab. The area is south of Athens, within ancestral Muscogee/Creek territory, just a few miles from Greensboro, Ga. While the woods here keep most of the rock fairly shaded, the proximity to Lake Oconee does mean humidity is an issue on warmer days. The good news? When it gets too hot to climb, it’s easy to head to the lake for a swim.

Local Classics

Bouldering development in the Oconee area is fairly recent, so there’s less consensus on grade and star power among the boulders here. Go with a local or contact the Southeastern Climbers Coalition for appropriate beta.

Red Tape

The Oconee WMA closes for hunting during the season. Be sure to check the latest closure dates before you visit. Camping is allowed here, but only in designated areas. Avoid walking or tenting on vegetation, and be sure to pack out all trash, food waste, and pet waste. 

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.