Over and over again I hear the question asked, “where are the BEST RAPPELLING PLACES.” I finally decided to put together a list of some of the best rappelling places and hope you find it useful. This is a work in progress and the idea is to continually add more locations to the list. Thanks for stopping by and checking it out.
Alabama isn’t the first place I think of when I think of rappelling, but it actually has a surprising amount of rocks to play on.
Palisades Park Reserve
Just an hour north of Birmingham, Palisades Park is a popular place for rock climbing and rappelling. In this park you will have to climb up and then you will be able to have a quick rappel down. The park offers more than 90 routes ranging in difficulty from 5.4 to 5.12. The cliffs are anywhere from 60-70 feet. This is perfect for a day trip as camping is prohibited at Palisades, or even just a morning or afternoon of rappelling if you get a hankering to rappel that you need to satisfy. Permits are required here that can be purchased at the park office ($5 for 3 days). Check park hours as they vary seasonally.
Steven’s Gap isn’t just any rappelling rock. It’s cave rappelling and should have a top spot on your rappelling bucket list. You rappel down 143 feet into the pit of the cave next to a waterfall. While this is a popular spot for many hikers, the bottom can only be reached by rappelling, so you must ascend your rope out of the cave. I would caution that this is an advanced rappel. Wear helmets and headlamps. Cell phone coverage in the area is limited and I would not count on being able to call for help inside the cave. There are no anchored bolts here. There are three different trees at the top that you can rig, and you will be asked to pad the tree. To access Steven’s Gap, you must cross private property (about 3/4 mile) and must have a permit from the Southeastern Cave Conservancy (no cost), so plan your trip accordingly.
Alaska offers a TON of opportunities for climbing and rappelling with its wide array of mountain ranges. As we all know this state is BIG so you must be willing to travel to your rock. And sometimes that doesn’t mean that you will be able to drive up and park. A lot of these require quite a bit of effort to. On the flip side, climbing in Alaska is unparalleled. June and July offers 24 hours of daylight, so the only thing stopping you from climbing is pure exhaustion and views of the northern lights. Do a lot of research before you go! The one place I will suggest is a pretty safe spot which is why I calling it one of the best places to rappel in Alaska.
This is one area that is extremely easy to get to. Its just a long a highway in Anchorage. There are more remote rocks in this area if you want to get off the road a little. Despite the noise of the highway, its a great place to climb up and rappel back down. Plus, you can see some fabulous wild life from bears to eagles. In the winter you will, undoubtedly, be dealing with ice, so if you’ve been wanting to try out ice climbing, this is a great, safe place to try it out.
Jack’s Canyon is a great location for the beginner or the seasoned climber and rappeller. There are many varied routes and the limestone and sandstone cliffs make for great texture. The camping here is free (although unimproved) if you want to stay overnight and try a few of the 300 routes here.
Like Alabama, Arkansas is not where I’d head to first to rock climb, but its actually has abundant rock climbing and rappelling in the northern regions in the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges. There are many great places to rappel along those ranges, although some are hidden. People work hard to maintain these areas by checking and replacing bolts and chains.
Glory Hole Waterfall
This is a rappel that is a little bit off the beaten path when it comes to climbing and rappelling in Arkansas. This is a pretty short rappel in a beautiful area with a lot to explore. You can rappel down the waterfall into the cave, or you can rappel down a cliff to the bottom to avoid getting wet. You’ll have to rig a tree at the top. The trail to the waterfall is all down hill, so the hike out is all up hill, out and back is about 1.8 miles. It’s best to hike here after the rainfall. A hidden gem in the Ozarks!
Another one in the Ozarks! This one is a bit long and another waterfall. In fact, most of the rappelling spots in Arkansas includes a waterfall. This is a gorgeous canyon, a bit narrow with some curves and a waterfall during the spring months. You will find the top of this rappel, Northeast of Jasper just off highway 74. Go down Orr Camp Road and take a left to Kyles Landing Camp. Park at the intersection of Buffalo River trail and the road to Kyle’s Landing. Hike up the road past a clearing, (you should see a field and a house and a big saddle) after the clearing, turn left and walk down to the creek. From there you can rappel using natural anchors. If you have dry conditions, you can bypass a couple of the rappels. If it is wet, it would be safer to rappel down. Once to the bottom, you can walk along the stream to Buffalo River Trail, take a left, and hike back to your car.
Where do I start with California?! Pinnacles National Park, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings?! Take your pick! For something that is family friendly, I really enjoy Joshua Tree. And for something challenging, I have found Yosemite to be my match, although you can find easy and challenging rappels at any of the places I mentioned.
Yosemite National Park
Middle Earth – This one is definitely off the beaten path and will get you out of the touristy parts of Yosemite. It is however a more advance rappel and all members of your group will need to work unanimously at critical points to ensure a safe trip. It will also take some planning as you will be rappelling down waterfalls. I’d suggest rappelling this route in the late summer or early fall when water flow is low. You can also check the Web cams from the Yosemite National Park services website.
The approach to Middle Earth is a little more difficult. Begin at the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail head. Follow the trail for two miles. You will gain about 1500 feet of elevation. You will hike three sets of switch bakes. Pay attention on the third set. After about 10 minutes, at about 5400 feet of elevation, the trail will make a left at the bottom of a granite wall. Here you will leave the trail. Staying with the wall, hop down the boulders to the granite slabs. You will also be able to find a small trail, but you must look closely for it. Next, will be a short hike up the canyon which has access to the upper falls.
There will be 8 rappels to reach the bottom, some with multiple anchor points, and at some points, you will have to swim to your next rappel. When you reach the bottom, you will have a short hike back to your car on a popular trail. My advice is to go with someone who has already rappelled this trail. It is an awesome, challenging route, that takes you away from it all, which is why it is one of the best places to rappel.
Tahoe, Royal Gorge (Upper North Fork of American River)
This rappel must be done in the fall when water flow is the slowest. During the spring in high water flow, this is a route for extreme kayaking, and probably not safe for rappelling. There is a long hike in and out so plan for a long day trip or an overnighter. But this gorgeous place makes it all worth it. Use the Palisades Creek trail and hike all the way down to the river. Then you back up 800 feet on the north side. This is one of the best places to rappel not only because it is beautiful, but there is a big natural, smooth slide you can play on. The rappels aren’t too long or technical if you are some what of a beginner and are looking for more of an adventure.
This is a great one for someone who doesn’t want to hike with all their gear. You can park road side! However, this may turn some knots in your stomach, so come with your game faces on. There are 4 rappels, and a jump here. The longest rappel is 120′. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours if you are needing a quick get away.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
This canyon is very deep and narrow and most courses require a very technical rock climb up to rappel back down, but it is exhilarating. This is not a place for a beginner, but that is what I like about it. It offers not only a physical, but a mental challenge. The park service here is just beginning to gather information on climbing routes, and you can access that information in the South Rim Visitor Center or North Rim Ranger Station. Permits are required in this area. Don’t let it daunt you! Make it a goal to go – this area is pristine!
Colorado National Monument – Lizard Canyon
This is one of the best places to rappel for a beginner looking to take it up a notch. You can leave a shuttle vehicle at Mirador Court. It is a street, 1/4 mile east of the West entrance to Colorado National Monument. It will make for an easy exit to plan this way. Go back to the entrance and drive to the campground entrance. There is a parking lot there. Walk to loop A of the campground and find the bathroom. To the north, there will be power lines. Walk to the power poles and you will find the canyon entrance. This is about a 15 minute hike. There are 4 rappels here, the longest being 190 feet. There are plenty of natural anchors, and be sure to bring a rope guard to protect your rope. To find your way back to your shuttle car, follow the canyon wash, about 1/4 mile and then walk North east. This will only be about a 25 minute walk from your last rappel. You may or may not have to cross a fence. 🙂
Sleeping Giant State Park
Sleeping Giant was closed for quite sometime after an accidental death, but now it is back open and booming. Located right next to Quinnipiac University, there are dozens of routes to climb and rappel. The chin is the most popular spot, but you can find rappelling places all over Sleeping Giant. Beware of loose rocks and poison ivy. Also don’t trust any fixed anchors here, they maybe from the 1950’s!
Wilmington State Park
This is Delaware at it’s finest. Gorgeous landscapes and views as you rappel make this one of the best places to rappel in the New England area This state park is very good about up keeping fixed anchors.
Okay, here is where I need your help! Florida is not known for its mountains. Does Florida even have mountains? But what it lacks in climbing, it makes up for in beaches and limestone rocks. If you happen to be in Florida, head on over to the Blowing Rock preserve in Hobe Sound and climb on the limestone. The rocks are no where near large enough to rappel, but you can explore all over them if you need to get some rock action in. Watch for high tides and high swells. This is best done in the summer when the swells tend to be lower.
Unlike Florida, there is an AMAZING spot to rappel in Georgia. With the Appalachian Mountain Range, there are many caves, but Ellison’s Cave is by far the most challenging. This cave is reserved for only the most experienced. The cave is over 12 miles long and over 1000 feet vertical. Ellison’s Cave has two of the deepest pits in the United Sates, and more than 7 rappels to reach the bottom, with one 500 feet long. But imagine how exhilarating it’ll be to reach the bottom! This is definitely one of the best places to rappel for the experienced caver. Ellison’s Cave is located in Walker County, on Pigeon Mountain in the Appalachian Plateaus of Northwest Georgia.
Located hear Hilo on the Big Island, the Kazaumra Cave system is the longest lava tube in the world. The system has multiple rappelling drops. If you are nervous about going alone, or don’t want to haul all your gear to Hawaii, there are commercial tours available, but you are able to go on your own. There is a skylight opening at the county park, west of the 4-mile marker on the Hilo side if Highway 200. Even visitors who don’t plan on rappelling will be fascinated exploring the openings to the caves. If you are looking for a little challenge, do your research, bring a map, and you will be able to find entrances to this cave along the ocean as well.
Lower Emerald Canyon
If you are wanting a break from the beach, this is a different way to experience Maui and an easy waterfall rappelling spot for beginners if water flow is low. This trip will spoil you in every way. The scenery will take your breath away, you’ll jump cliffs and swim and rappel down the canyon and absolutely one of the best places to rappel. There are 4 rappels to reach the bottom. The last is the longest, about 90 feet.
If you are heading from the west side of Maui, take East Hana Highway, there is a small turn off on the south-west side of the road (GPS coordinates 20.822012, -156.114658). Walk up the steep trail and around the gate. The road follows an irrigation canal. When you approach a fork, there is a bridge. Go to the bridge and there is a lava tube on the left hand side. Use extreme caution NOT to fall into the lava tube. Rappel through the lava tube to start your rappel.
Leave any fixed lines you find as these are used by locals to reach swimming holes and jumps in the canyon. And as a side note, don’t leave any valuables in your car! After the last rappel, there will be about a mile hike back to your car. This is honestly one of the most fun days of rappelling you can find.
Ferne Clyffe State Park
Ferne Clyffe offers tons of different rock climbing routes that you can climb and rappel back down. Fixed anchors are not permitted at Ferne Clyffe. Find strong, live trees to build your anchor from. Even though there are no fixed anchors, there are plenty of routes in the gorgeous forest.
Giant City State Park
Another park full of sand stone cliffs. You’ll be begging to rappel down these beautiful rocks. Rappelling is allowed in two areas of the park. The Devil’s Standtable and the bluff at the Makanda entrance. No permit or check in is required. As with Ferne Clyffe there are no permanent anchors allowed in the park, so find a good strong tree to anchor from. Don’t worry, trees are in abundance at Giant City. Two words of warning, stand stone is very slippery when wet, and copperhead snakes can be found sun bathing on the warm sunny ledgers. They are venomous and protected. Watch for those! Otherwise an absolutely beautiful place to explore and rappel.
Here is something tragic – Rock climbing and rappelling is illegal at the state parks in Indiana where most of the beautiful rocks and cliffs are located. Seriously Hoosiers, write your congressmen and get that changed! Even with resistance from The Man, there are a couple of places to rappel here if you look for one and I’ll mention one.
This is a great area for rappellers to explore a wide variety of routes on choosy stone. This place looks like it is out of a movie. So many shades of green with plants growing everywhere. Word of warning, don’t filter water from the streams. Hemlock trees release a chemical into the water that is poisonous to humans. Best to bring a water bottle. Don’t just find the obviously places to rappel here, try to look around off the beaten path and you’re sure to find an unforgettable rappel.
To get there, take the English Exit off of I-64 and drive North, 2 miles. Turn right on the paved road and continue 2 miles. Turn right onto the gravel road. You will see a sign for Hemlock Cliff sign after about a mile. Follow the sign and it will take you to the parking lot.
City of Rocks
Just southeast of Twin Falls, is City of Rocks, a world renowned climbing and rappelling spot. There are over 600 routes on beautiful granite rock. Routes vary from 30-600 feet and range from easy to difficult. This place has something for everyone. Camping is also permitted here, and trust me, you’ll want to stay at City of Rocks awhile.
Back Bone State Park
Iowa has a ton to offer the outdoor enthusiast. Like Back Bone State Park in Dundee. The park offers incredible, challenging limestone cliffs. If you’re up for a challenge, this place will deliver. Camping is also permitted here if you’d like to stay a while. Climbers and rappellers must register.
Elephant Rock Southwest
The climbing scene in Kansas is just starting to pick up and there are a lot of complaints that there is no where to climb in Kansas. There is, however, one place that people are getting excited about. In Traer, Oberlin, Elephant Rock is also known as “Ride The Beast.” You will need lots of pads and don’t forget your helmet! The rock is SHARP here. The land is also privately owned and you will need to obtain permission to climb before hand from the Oberlin Economic Development Office at [email protected] Maybe if enough people are interested in the area, they will open it up to the public, so be sure to check this place out!
Red River Gorge Geological Area
The Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest is home to gorgeous sand stone cliffs, just begging to come and play. This is a great place to rappel for beginners. Most rappels are less than 200 feet. The climbing world is usually a pretty respectful, and environmentally friendly group of people, but the Red River Gorge Geological Area has a few extra rules about where you can and can not climb. But as I said, a great place for a beginning to practice. A great place to start is the Pendegrass-Murray Recreational Preseve. This is own and maintained by the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition, so you know everything will be well maintained, and there will be no questions if you can climb there or not.
Another place to check out is Muir Valley. It is a 400 acre piece of land that was donated. You have to fill out a waiver on their website before you climb there.
My Louisiana-ans. I’m sorry. Your state is flat. I have looked high and low for a good place to rappel there, and dang it… I can not find one. I did hear of a muddy, 30 foot cave, but I don’t know. Doesn’t sound worth it. There are, however, plenty of indoor gyms, so the climbing community is alive and well. The good news is, you can head north to the Ozarks and find some of the best places to rappel in Arkansas.
Arcadia National Park is beyond stunning, and is also the place that the sun shines touches first in the United States. Very cool. Wake up and watch the sunrise, then go for a climb and rappel. There is a new guide book with descriptions for 300 climbs! Arcadia National Park will not disappoint.
Head west to Maryland Heights for a day of fun rappelling. This place isn’t huge, but it has something for the beginner and the more advanced rappeller. For the beginners, go to Sugarloaf Mountain, specifically Devil’s Kitchen. Demon Breath and Seven wishes are for the more advanced rappeller. Check out “The Complete Great Falls Climbing Guide” by Marida Brinkworth if you are interested in this area. If you want to stay over night, there are a few campsites along the Potomac River and climbers must register with the National Park Service.
The climbing and rappelling in Massachusetts may not be for the destination seeker, but it is a great place to train. There are rocks and small cliffs scattered all over Massachusetts, and the tallest cliff in the entire state is only about 150 feet. Great for the beginner.
One of the best places to rappel is the Auburn Ice Caves. Since it is very close to Boston, it can be very busy on the weekends, so go early, or try to go on a weekday. Bring extra webbing for anchors. Careful on that icey floor at the bottom!
You’ll forget you’re in Michigan at Pictured Rock National Lakeshore. I mean, really. How is this in Michigan? It looks like it should be a tropical island. Pictured rocks is full of sandstone cliffs and plenty of waterfalls. This is your playground. Bring lots of webbing, as you’ll have to hitch anchors from trees. You can camp too, and I’d suggest spending some time here!
Montana is one of those states that I don’t even know where to begin! I’ve learned that the climbing scene in Montana is pretty secretive and they like to keep it that way. They are afraid their favorite places will turn into Red Rocks, NV. You’ll have to find the right person to talk to if you want to find the “off-the-beaten-path” areas. I will say that Glacier National Park is one of the best places to rappel and has something for everyone. That’s not a secret at all! There are plenty of routes for someone looking for just sport climbing and great routes for the mountaineer, looking for a real rappelling experience. Since this is such a huge area, with so many options, I would suggest finding a guide book for your adventure.
Land of the Ozarks. I have only been to Missouri once. I always pictured farms for days, so I was shocked when I saw real mountains. Rock climbing and rappelling is permitted at 5 of the state parks in Missouri and you must have a permit. I will mention Meamec State Park because at this park you can only rappel, no climbing allowed! There are short, but somewhat steep hikes up to the top, and fantastic rappels to the bottom.
Minnesota is a fairly flat state but it is also full of bluffs. The small town of Red Wing, MN is a beautiful little city in eastern Minnesota that sits right on the Mississippi. My mother-in-law grew up in this little town and we wish we could visit more often. So Barn Bluff is about 300 feet of limestone rock. There are bolted anchors and a few different spots you can either climb up or rappel down. Beautiful views from the top. If you’re in eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin, make a day trip out to Red Wing.
Mississippi is one of those states where the climbing sports are still growing. The landscape of the state itself is relatively flat, but I am sure there are places yet to be discovered in Mississippi. One place you might check out is Tishomingo State Park in NE Mississippi. There are over 100 routes to climb and rappel. The tallest route is 60 feet. So, hey, its better than nothing, Mississippi! There is also plenty of bouldering spots at Tishomingo. One of the bonuses is that the routes are in a wooded area with plenty of shade from the heat. You must get a permit which requires you to leave an I.D. and show you have a helmet. $3.00 per vehicle to enter the park.
New Hampshire has so much to explore. One of the best places to rappel and explore in New Hampshire is Cloudland Falls. The water is beautiful and refreshing. It has about an 80′ rappel. Unfortunately a lot of the waterfall rappelling in New Hampshire is lead by a guide, which makes me believe these waterfalls may be on private land. After researching a bit to find out if this was true or not, I came up empty, so proceed with caution.
As a child, all I saw was the flat desert areas of Nevada, so naturally, that is what I think of when I think of Nevada, but there is so much more. There is obviously Red Rocks which has something for everyone. But I am going to say something different, just to be different. One of the best places to rappel in Nevada is Lone Rock at the Valley of Fire State Park. The cliff is about 150′. It has a pretty flat face and a natural anchors at the top. Its a great place for beginners and an easy hike up!
There are plenty of places to rappel in New York, and one of the best places to rappel is Stony Clove Notch. It is a narrow pass in Hunter, NY in the Catskill mountains. This is a very popular place to ice climb in the winter, and there are a few places to drop a rope in summer.
Bonito Lake has been closed since 2012 because of a fire. It should be open in the Summer 0f 2018. You can hike and bike around the lake. There is a large, rock wall, you really can’t miss it. Hike up to the top of that bad boy and rappel on down. There are natural rock anchors at the top, so bring extra webbing.
South West of Rapid city is Moonlight Ridge between Custer State Park and Black Hills National Forest. This is a very popular place for tourists. To avoid the crowds, take the trail on the north-western corner of the needle’s eye parking lot. This will lead you to one of the best places to rappel in North Dakota and at Moodlight Ridge. Moonlight ridge has three sections, and this will this path will lead you to the best area for rappelling.
Big Bradly Falls. This can be slippery and dangerous, but this one is fun, because it is off the beaten path. Don’t bring kids to this one. Each member of your group will definitely need to be able to hold their own. To get there, Drive on I-26 towards Hendersonville. Take sext 59, and turn left on Holbert Cove Rd. Drive 3 miles and park in the big parking area just before Cove Creek. The trail head to Big Bradly Falls is on the parking lot side of the road.
The trail head is at the back of the parking lot. Although it is not marked, it should be obvious. Cross the small creek, and then you will enter a field. Soon the trail will fork. Take the left trail and you will be on a wide dirt path. The trail continues and Cove Creek will run along side on the right. You will cross the creek, and you will have to wade in the water, about to your shins in early summer. From here the trial will go up hill, and continue to follow the blue markings on the trees. This land is owned by NC Wildlife Resources Commission if you need more information. Bring webbing to hitch some natural anchors. Its beautiful hike and the water feels great in the summer!
Fort Falls, Valentine
East from Valentine, Nebraska, to the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refugee. Then enter the show pasture, and exit on the north to the falls. The falls are just east of the road loop. You walk down besdie the falls on wooden steps. We rappel beyond. north and east of the falls, on the cliffs above the Niobrara river. This is a clay cliff, which is muddy when it rains. A pleasant 40 – 50 foot drop.
Four miles north from Battle Creek, Nebraska (10 miles west of NOrfolk) go west 1 miles, follow the road south, west, north, and west again. The cliffs are both south from the first and second parking lots on the Elkhorn Rivers. These are yellow clay cliffs. The bottom is frequently muddy, and in times of high water, very muddy. The climb back to the top is difficult, but it is only 30 minutes from Norfolk, and fairly easily accessable. Good fror training.
Cliff Area, Chadron National Forest
In the Nebraska National Forest (yes, we do have a national forest) south of Chadron, Nebraska. South from the old Fur Trade Museum on the next road south from Highway 20, then in 2 miles on four wheel drive NFS road, poorly marked. This is a clay and concretion , nearly sandsstone, 300 foot cliff with a good ledge at 100 feet. There is a hugh overhang to the wouth of the cliff proper, which has some natural anchors. The area is beautiful. No establsihed camping nearby, although Chadron State Park is about 10 miles west on NFS 4WD roads and a group can camp by National Forest Rules in the forests. This is sometimes a party area for the Chadron State College.
Allamuchy Mountain State Park up to 100′.
The Rock Climbing area is located near Waterloo Village on Waterloo Road A waiver is Required. Contact park office for specific information.
The 9,238-acre Hocking State Forest offers the only public facility to allow rappelling and climbing in Ohio. Ninety-nine acres are designated exclusively for climbing and rappelling, with almost a mile of cliffs drawing climbers and rappellers to the area. You’ll also find slump blocks, gigantic rock formation, chimneys and overhangs on which to practice your skills. The rappelling area is near Big Pine Road, one mile east of Spring Hollow. A short hike takes you to the rock climbing area.
Red Rock Canyon, Quartz Mountain
Obed Wild and Scenic River
Zion’s National Park
Arches National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Old Rag Mountain – Shenandoah National Park
Old Rag Mountain, located west of Washington D.C. and its suburbs in Shenandoah National Park in Northern Virginia, is, despite its proximity to a major metropolitan area, an off-the-beaten-path climbing area that offers great face and crack climbing on granite crags, cliffs, and slabs. The 3,268-foot-high mountain, a popular hiking destination, is dotted with rocky outcrops and is the only major granite climbing area in the mid-Atlantic region. Old Rag Mountain, with more than 100 established routes, offers lots of varied climbing including crack climbs, delicate slab routes and thin bolt-protected face climbs. It is best known for its excellent crack climbing, some of the best on the East Coast.
North Cascades National Park
New River Gorge National River
Monogahela Tuscarora Rocks
Devil’s Lake Major Mass (under Devils Doorway) and Minor Mass (between Devils Doorway and the Potholes trail) might be fun areas for rappeling. Be sure to check down below before you throw a rope. Major Mass especially has multiple levels for you to explore, and might be about as good a simulation of a canyoneering problem as you’ll find at the Lake. Use a rope sheath.
Grand Teton National Park
Devils Tower National Monument
For when you go:
As you plan your trip, please follow these guidelines to ensure you are respecting yourself as well as the lands you visit:
- Please follow all site regulations and obtain permits/registration if appropriate.
- Be aware of local hazards like rockfall, storms or avalanches.
- Some routes are rated below their difficulty, so start with climbs below your level.
- Observe practices that minimize erosion. Avoid disturbing vegetation and wildlife.
- Bring appropriate equipment and pack out everything (including your waste).
- Do not use white chalk, remove fixed pins, place bolts or camp overnight, unless you know it is allowed.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan on returning.