Rock Climbing at New York’s Powerlinez

Find quality stone and plentiful top-rope routes just an hour’s drive from New York City.

Long Island climbers often make the mistake of assuming that it’s impossible to find quality stone any closer than the Gunks. The truth is that there’s a far more convenient option just a short drive from the city. Located in Harriman State Park, right on the Jersey border, the Powerlinez are a collection of gneissic walls and scattered boulders that provide some 700 developed climbs—making this the largest climbing area within an hour of NYC.

Interestingly enough, it’s only been legal to climb at the Powerlinez for a decade. Before 2013, rock climbing in any form was prohibited in Harriman State Park, as has long been the case in many N.Y. state parks due to recreational management policy. Thanks to the ongoing work of the Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition, the park is now open to climbing (albeit only within the Powerlinez area). 

Today, the area’s 30- to 60-foot cliffs are ideal for top-roping (there’s also some trad climbing), and numerous scattered boulders make the Powerlinez an equally convenient bouldering destination. Combine that with the short commute, and you’ve got a perfect spot for weekend trips and summer after-work missions alike.

Must-Do Routes

As with most woodland crags, finding your way around Powerlinez can be tricky. The interactive climbing map on the Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition site is a great tool for navigating the area.

Recommended Boulder

The aptly named Welcome Boulders are the best place to make your introduction to Powerlinez bouldering. Start with Flight From Doom, a classic V3 problem on a boulder of the same name. It makes a fun and challenging project for newer climbers and a solid warm-up for seasoned boulderers

To reach the Flight From Doom boulder, take the access trail from the Saltbox Parking Lot. Head south for about a quarter-mile. The first intersection you reach will be the junction with the original access trail. Continue straight through this intersection, and you’ll see the Welcome Boulders almost immediately on the hillside on your right. Flight From Doom is the somewhat egg-shaped rock about 10 feet high. The Flight From Doom problem starts on the bottom right-facing side of the boulder and goes up diagonally to the left on crimps to the top-out.

Recommended Top-Rope Route

Top-ropers will want to continue up the Saltbox access trail past the Welcome Boulders and to the walls beyond. There are plenty of options for top-roping, but at the upper boundary of the Powerlinez is the 60-foot Good Book Wall. Whalehunter (5.9) is one of the more classic lines on the left-hand side of the wall. It’s characterized by a protruding arete bisected by a small roof. 

There are a couple options for top-rope anchor access for Whalehunter. One common way is to take the Top-Bottom Access route at the center of the Good Book Wall. This route (mostly Class-3 and Class-4 terrain) traces a gully that diagonals up and left to the top of the cliff. 

Another option is to take a longer, scrambly hike around the escarpment. This hike starts at the climber’s right (looker’s left) of the Good Book Wall and adjacent Fairy Tales area. 

Before You Go

Considering that the hard-fought access to the Powerlinez could still be jeopardized if abused, it’s imperative that visiting climbers follow local rules. A few of the big ones:

  1. Every climber must fill out a waiver each year before heading to the crag. Waivers are available from the Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition.
  2. The Powerlinez do not allow bolts or pitons. There are a handful of bolted routes that predate the area’s opening to legal climbing, though these routes are not inspected or vouched for by the TVCC.

  3. Avoid climbing anywhere outside the boundaries of the Powerlinez area. (This is the only area of Harriman State Park open to climbing.) To ensure you are within the boundaries, visit the map available from the Torne Valley Climbers’ Coalition.

Getting There

The Powerlinez trailhead is located in Harriman State Park, about 45 minutes north of New York City by car. Here’s how to get there.  

Driving Directions 

From New York City, take Interstate 287 north toward I-87 north. Follow I-87 north, and take Exit 15A. At the end of the exit ramp turn right onto Orange Turnpike. In 0.7 miles, make a left onto Torne Valley Road. Follow Torne Valley Road north for 1.5 miles. The parking area, called the Saltbox, will be on your left. You’ll find the access trail to the Powerlinez on the southwest side of the lot.

The Saltbox parking area is by far your best bet. If it’s full, however, you can find overflow parking by heading back south on Torne Valley Road. There are limited spaces at the intersection of Torne Valley and Torne Brook Road. You’ll find a few additional spaces beginning 100 yards farther south on this road. Please be aware these overflow parking areas are subject to a few restrictions:

  • On weekdays, parking here is not permitted before 4 p.m. 
  • Never block the gates for the city’s water pump station. 
  • Obey any additional signage. 

Public Transit Directions 

If public transit is your mode of transportation, take the Main-Bergen County N.J. Transit Train Line from Hoboken Terminal to Suffern, N.Y. The Suffern train station will get you within 2.5 miles of the access trail.

Added Bonus

There are 200 miles of hiking trails throughout Harriman State Park, including a section of the Appalachian Trail. Climbers looking for a rest-day activity should check out the Lemon Squeezer, a notoriously rugged section of the AT where hikers must navigate through a tight rock crevice. 

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.