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A Guide to Climbing and Bouldering near Gaston


The southeast-facing quartzite walls of Crowders Mountain offer something for every level of climber, with route ratings ranging from 5.5 to 5.13. While very hot in summer, sunny routes at about 1,625 feet in elevation are made for this time of year. Climbers are required to register at the Sparrow Springs Access Visitor Center. The park advises submitting the required special activity permit request, available online at, at least two weeks prior to your visit.

According to Park Office Assistant Rachael Carroll, weekends are jam-packed with large climbing groups so limited permits are available. “There’s a maximum of three groups of no more than 14 people allowed each day, and that’s everybody, including participants, instructors and bystanders,” Carroll says. “Most weekends we’re full with scout troops, churches, local colleges, and guided groups.” A mini-library of North Carolina climbing guidebooks are available at check-in to prep visitors on walls, routes, and difficulty levels, as well as gear and safety tips.

There’s no instruction offered at Crowders and climbers must bring their own gear. Helmets are advised as loose rock, especially at the ridgeline, can pose a danger. First-timers to the park should note that Crowders is known for jumbled buttresses at the ridge that can be disorienting during initial climbs.

To reach the park’s Main Walls, return to your car for a short drive to the Linwood Access parking lot and a .9-mile hike via the Backside Trail. The trail is an excellent warm-up, a wide gravel road with steep segments ending in a series of stairs to the summit ridge and access to the park’s main climbing area. The Main Walls offer moderate routes, most of which can be top-roped. Variety and accessibility make this area the most crowded on weekends, even in the winter months. More than 110 trad routes and 26 sport routes can be accessed from this point.

For more solitude, hike out from the visitor center on the Crowders Trail approximately one mile to Hidden Wall. With 13 trad routes and 20 sport routes, Hidden Wall offers a chance to test your limits and find peace away from the weekend crowds.

The Dixon School Road Boulders, also part of Crowders Mountain State Park but accessed off I-85 at exit 5/Dixon School Road, offers more than 200 bouldering problems. The majority of the Dixon School Road problems are graded V4 with some V8-V10. Permits are required here as well, so stop by the visitor center before making the trip.


Rock climbing at golden hour at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.  U.S. National Whitewater Center

For climbers wanting great food, craft brews, and, on many days, a live concert with their climb, the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) features 5,700 feet of climbing surface on a covered 30-foot climbing wall and 46-foot granite-like spire that make for some of the best all-weather climbing in the southeast. Experienced climbers with the proper certifications can climb independently while those new to the sport can tap into the expertise of experienced USNWC staff with private and group instruction in belaying, climbing, rappelling and bouldering. All gear is provided.

For little ones (or parents needing an activity for their little ones while they enjoy the climbing center), a kid’s bouldering area offers climbing holds on an approachable jumble of rocks adjacent to the climbing center. The area provides a safe and simple introduction to the sport for those too young to attempt the larger walls.

Free-climbers can challenge themselves with one of the walls over a deep pool.  U.S. National Whitewater Center

There’s tremendous buzz around several new attractions either recently opened or on the horizon at the USNWC. Rising above the lower pond is the impressive Deep Water Solo, a five-tower structure surrounding a pool 16 to 20 feet deep. The challenge is to free-climb the towers 25 to 45 feet in the air without ropes or harnesses. Every hold tests climbing ability and daring, weighing the desire to reach the top against the impending free-fall into the pool below. Two climbing routes per tower make for a total capacity of ten climbers at one time. Lifeguards make sure water is clear of participants before giving the go-ahead to climb on. Participants must be at least eight years old and know how to swim.

On the horizon for 2017, land has been cleared on Hawk Island for a new bouldering area overlooking the lower pond. Climbing competitions will be on the increase as well. Building on the success of November’s Dynomite Bouldering Competition, which had more than 60 competitors in USA Climbing and citizen categories, the center plans to include as many as 10 bouldering and top-rope competitions in 2017. Look for a USA Climbing youth competition at Tuckfest 2017, as well as the possibility of competitions on the new Deep Water Solo.

With amazing climbing opportunities for all levels and abilities so close to Charlotte, winter’s no excuse to stay inside. Instead, go ahead and try climbing in Gaston County.

Originally written by RootsRated for Gaston County Gov.



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