A bouldering vacation should be on every climber’s wish list. For the trip of a lifetime, do it where everything comes together: high-quality stone, easy access, and stunning natural settings. The best spots are blessed with it all and have attracted climbers for decades—which means they’ve had decades to rack up top-notch routes. Today, each of these six epicenters is steeped in climbing lore and brimming with classic lines of all grades, making them perfect for boulderers of all experience levels.
1. Joe’s Valley, Orangeville, Utah
No matter your fitness level, time constraints, or your mood, you can’t go wrong with Joe’s. Short approaches, flat landings, finger-friendly holds, and wildly featured sandstone pretty much guarantee a good time. And with thousands of developed routes, climbers of all ability levels will find plenty to stay entertained. When you’re in town, be sure to give Orangeville some love, too: Cup of Joe’s serves up coffee and free Wi-Fi, and the Food Ranch offers groceries (and fresh doughnuts good enough to garner a cult following).
Camping: There are several primitive BLM campgrounds, as well as the paid Joes Valley Reservoir Campground.
Guidebook: An Insightful Guide to Joe’s Valley Bouldering by Isaac Caldiero
2. Hueco Tanks, El Paso, Texas
This is the original U.S. bouldering hot spot. The “V Scale” used to grade boulders started here. While climbers have flocked to Hueco’s rippling, featured stone (called syenite porphyry) since the 1950s, the place really started gaining international renown as a bouldering destination in the 1980s and 1990s, when legends like Fred Nicole and John “Vermin” Sherman (the inventor of the V Scale) brought American bouldering into the modern age. Today, the area is home to more than a thousand boulder problems. And the history here goes way farther back: Hueco’s rock walls feature precious Indigenous rock art that’s nearly a thousand years old. To protect these invaluable cultural resources—and the delicate desert environment—reservations and guides are required to access much of the park.
Season: Fall through spring
Camping: There are a few campsites within Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, but if you want the classic experience, grab digs at the famous Hueco Rock Ranch (open early November through mid-March.)
Guidebook: Hueco Tanks: The Essential Bouldering Guide by Jason Kehl and Matt Wilder
3. The Buttermilks, Bishop, California
Buttermilk Country lies at the feet of the mighty Sierra Nevada. From the air it must look like a game of bocce ball abandoned by giants. The boulders here, deposited by ancient glaciers, are enormous and feature hundreds of problems. The quartz monzonite blocks are now home to some of the most iconic lines in America. Nice perk: It’s only 8 miles from climber-friendly Bishop. Grab coffee at the Looney Bean or bargain sandwiches at Meat House before you head out.
Season: Fall and spring
Camping: There’s free dispersed camping on Forest Service land. (You’ll need a fire permit if you want a blaze in camp.)
Guidebook: Bishop Bouldering by Wills Young and Mick Ryan