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1. Red River Gorge in Stanton, Kentucky
Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, Red River Gorge is an awesome destination for sport climbing, which is all about permanent anchors and bolts that are close together. There's a variety of routes and always a wide variety of experience levels when it comes to the climbers who pack this place on the weekend during the on-season, making it a fun and social place where you can find new climbing buddies or friendly competition.
2. Otter Cliff in Acadia National Park, Maine
This 110-foot high cliff is one of the most gorgeous and well-known sea cliffs in the U.S., thanks partially to the variety of routes that make this a great destination for all levels. It's super accessible and fun right from the beginning, since you have to rappel down and climb back up. Keep your eyes peeled for the buoy that marks the "Spindle," a rock formation often hidden by waves that was the downfall of French explorer Samuel de Champlain way back in 1604.
3. Silver Mountain in Baraga, Michigan
This lone hunk of rock is a beautiful anomaly of Michigan's Upper Peninsula: not really a part of any range or formation, but a sturdy summit that is home to an abandoned mine shaft. There are even steps to the top if you've brought along non-climber pals. From the top, you can catch glimpse of impressive birds of prey, including hawks and kestrels, as they migrate or hunt.
4. Gibraltar Rock in Santa Barbara, California
This rock has about five awesome crags along the south face that are all single pitch (or short enough for one belay rope) but range from relatively easy to moderately challenging. The summit offers some incredible views, and while there are definitely more climbers on the weekend, it never gets too crowded for you to have a good time.
5. El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California
Probably the holy grail for any serious rock climber, El Capitan is popular for a reason. Aside from its imposing cliff face, the views from its 3,000-foot summit just can't be beat. While there's access and plenty of marked routes, climbing up this sheer granite face is pretty damn difficult for even the most seasoned climbers, so you'd better train up. In the meantime, watch this climb-along from Google Maps and pretend you're up there with the greats.
6. The Frankenjura in Bavaria, Germany
An expansive, dense forest packed with crags, cliffs, and free-standing towers, the Frankenjura area is a haven for climbers looking for a scenic challenge. There are over 8,000 established routes, and while it's known for its more strenuous climbs, there are about 300 routes rated easy/beginner (under 5.9). When you're done hitting the limestone, check out one of many local brewpubs in Nuremberg or Hallstadt and enjoy a German pint.
7. Boulder Canyon in Boulder, Colorado
While there are tons of climbing options across the great state of Colorado, Boulder Canyon is where the pros train alongside casual college students. This means that you get a decent mix of easier routes and more challenging ones, all extremely close to one another. Boulder Canyon even has almost 200 spots to set up a nice, secure top rope anchor, for anyone not yet comfortable with sport or traditional climbing. Afterward, quench your post-climbing thirst by taking advantage of Boulder's badass craft beer scene.
8. Railay Beach in Krabi, Thailand
Railay (aka Rei Lei) is a small peninsula between the cities of Krabi and Ao Nang that's accessible only by boat due to the sheer, craggy limestone cliffs that cut off mainland access. These dramatic cliffs over a sparkling blue sea make this place a climber's paradise. With thousands of routes to choose from, there's something for climbers and boulderers of all levels, including those who prefer the security of bolted routes. It certainly doesn't hurt to know you have the warm waves to catch your fall.
9. Kalymnos Island in the Dodecanese Islands, Greece
Kalymnos is hands down one of the greatest sport climbing destinations in the world. Closely bolted and safely routed, the cliff faces have a ton of variety, including pockets, vertical grips, and moderate angles. Climbers range in age and expertise, with plenty of veterans who are happy to help out newbies. There's even an annual Kalymnos Climbing Festival with a lineup of top male and female athletes showing off their stuff.
10. Skaha Bluffs in British Columbia, Canada
A favorite of Canadian sport climbers, Skaha Bluffs has TONS of crags. And tons of crags means tons of variety for your climbs. Most edges are offer super-crisp holds, and while most climbs are straight-up vertical, there are plenty of shifts in angle to suit everyone's tastes. Though the bluffs were once a bitch to get to, local climbers and businesses fundraised enough to finally get a paved road and some parking lots put in, so you'll no longer wear yourself out just getting to the climb.
11. El Potrero Chico in Nuevo León, Mexico
Potrero Chico is a Mexican National Park just outside the town of Hidalgo, and it's got some of the best climbing in the country. It's made up mostly of limestone cliffs and spires, with some as high as 2,000 feet. Routes range from steep overhanging face to easy slab, with pretty sharp rock that means easy holds — but watch out for nasty scrapes. Test your endurance on the longest sport route in North America, Timewave Zero.
12. Costa Blanca in Alicante, Spain
Spain is beloved by climbers all around the world because it just has so. much. rock. And Costa Blanca is a favorite for its gorgeous limestone cliffs over white sand beaches and the Mediterranean. You'll find every kind of climbing terrain, including sea cliffs, mountain ridges, sunny crags, and canyon walks. The variety makes for some of the most beautiful geological architecture you'll ever see.
13. Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
This classic alpine peak is so impressive, it got a whole dang park named after it. Climbers have been drawn to the challenge for over 100 years, thanks to the variety of angles, terrain, and routes — now with well over 35 routes and about 50 variations to each of them. While there are plenty of summits to the Teton Range, the Grand Teton summit is totally manageable for advanced and even intermediate climbers, so climbers with solid experience and skills shouldn't hesitate to go for it.
14. Shawangunks in New Paltz, New York
Aka "The Gunks," this destination is favored by climbers all over the world for its easy access to tough vertical cliffs that are as challenging as they look. There are plenty of overhangs and sharp angles to test your skills, scattered with quartz pebbles and deep fissures for a fun variety of holds. There are not many bolted sport climbs, but rather some of the best easy-to-moderate traditional routes in the country. If you go in the fall, you'll get some crisp weather and stunning views of the foliage.
15. Owens River Gorge in Bishop, California
The best sport climbing crag in all of California, Owens River Gorge is a perfectly cut 10-mile canyon that offers a fun alternative to the bouldering down in Bishop. The climbing here is all on volcanic tuff and features tons of edges, pockets, and cracks, with plenty of sport bolting to be found. It can get a little crowded, but if you hike a little further you should find some rock face to yourself. And hey, if you tire yourself out, the river has some great — and relaxing — year-round fishing.
16. Wharepapa South in North Island, New Zealand
What Wharepapa lacks in cell reception, malls, or even gas stations, it more than makes up for in badass rock climbing. And with gorgeous weather practically all year round, you can enjoy over 800 routes and some of the most incredible crags you've ever seen anytime you like. But keep in mind you'll be climbing on private farmland, so respectful consideration is the name of the game. Otherwise, get ready for a beautiful, quiet day of you and the rock.