Rock climbing is a popular sport available to climbers year-round. If you find yourself in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, as I have been many times over the years, you may be surprised to find that this area is full of amazing crags and boulder projects.
Before rock climbing in any area, always make sure you’re prepared with the appropriate gear and information. Study up on the local terrain and know what to expect or bring someone along who is knowledgeable.
5 Hottest Climbing Spots in Maryland
Let’s check out 5 of the best climbing spots Maryland has to offer.
1. Sugarloaf Mountain Park
South of Frederick, MD, this park is full of beginner to advanced trad climbing and bouldering and is a popular place in the climbing community. Sugarloaf Mountain is a 14 million-year-old mountain that still stands although the land around it has eroded. With many great beginner routes (5.4+), you’re bound to find a top rope or bouldering project that is a perfect fit.
Follow the approach trails to the climbing crags. Popular ones found here include Boy Scout Ledges, Middle Earth, Upper West View, and White Rocks. This area contains sharp white quartzite, so take extra precautions to protect your hands and ropes. During peak season, this area is popular for hikers and many climbers. Trees shade the mountain, which is useful during the hot summer months. After a rainfall, expect wet trails for a day or two.
Note: Sugarloaf Mountain is private property and is open all year from sunrise to sunset. No fees are required to enter, BUT no fires, alcoholic beverages, camping, or unleashed dogs are permitted. Be sure to park in designated areas. Since this is private land, there is NO use of bolts or pitons, but there are natural top-rope anchors available.
- From Washington, follow I-270 N. Exit at Hyattstown, circle under I-270, and follow 109 to Comus. Turn right on Comus Rd. and follow it to the entrance.
- From Rockville/Gaithersburg, MD, take 28 West to Dickerson. Pass under the railroad bridge and turn right on Mt. Ephraim Road. Drive 2.5 miles to the entrance.
Where to Stay
There is no overnight camping permitted. There are several campsites about 15-20 min outside of the private property. Camp in Calico Rocks or Bald Eagle Island campsites. Make reservations via their website. Hotel reservations are available in Fredericks, MD or Leesburg, VA. Either location will get you to Sugarloaf Mountain in around 30 minutes.
- Indiana Mark vs. The Weather God- This 5.4 trad route is great for beginners! Located at the Boy Scout Ledges, you’ll find this route at the left-most point before the roofs. It is ideal for any rookie.
- InoYormos (Advanced)- InoYormos is a tough 5.11+ located at the Sunset Wall. It is the right-most crack that looks like two consecutive bouldering problems. Make sure to use a top-rope anchor for safety.
Secondhand Smoke- This V2 boulder is located at the West View Parking Lot. Walk up the stairs in the middle of the lot and you’ll see a variety of boulders. Locate Secondhand Smoke at 2:00, you’ll see it peeking over a few boulders.
Check out the many bouldering problems in the forest just off of the West View Parking area. They range from V0 to V4+.
2. Seneca Rocks, West Virginia
Seneca Rocks, located in the Monongahela National Forest is known for its mild year-round temperatures. This area is located in southeast Maryland and has multi-pitch trad along with sport climbs. Its rocks face east and west and make it a great place to be sunrise to sunset. Grab the guidebook, Seneca: The Climber’s Guide, 4th Edition on Amazon, or at the Gendarme Climbing shop for more details.
To get to the visitor’s center, go south on 33 from Seneca Rock and park in the lower lot. From the building, you can reach the South Peak or South Pillar routes by hiking up the Roy Gap Road. Hike until you see a visible creek crossing and follow the trail.
Where to Stay
Camp at Seneca Shadows Campground, 1 mile east of Seneca Rocks, on 33. You can make a reservation at recreation.gov. Another option is Princess Snowbird Campground which offers cabins, teepees, and pavilions and can be reserved, day of, at Yokum’s Vacationland.
- Triple S– A 90 foot, 2 pitch trad, also called Shipley’s Shimmering Shimmy, is a 5.8+. It’s a large corner that is rated as one of the best routes in the area, you’ll find yourself stemming until you’re happily exhausted. A true Seneca classic.
- Predator– A short, advanced sport climb, Predator is a 5.12a and a great place for advanced rock climbers to warm up. Located on the furthest line near the back left of the cave, this route has four bolts with a two-bolt anchor.
3. Cunningham Falls State Park
Located in Catoctin Mountain Park, Cunningham Falls offers fishing, swimming, hiking, and climbing. There are two separate areas here: the William Houck Area on Route 77 and the Manor Area off Route 15. William Houck has a lake with falls, camping, and picnic areas.
The Manor has camping and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace. This area is perfect for family entertainment and includes picnicking, camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, and 100+ bouldering problems as well as top-rope climbs.
Wolf Rock is an alternate area within the park, which features Quartzite crack systems, scrambling, and bouldering galore. To get here, drive down Park Central Road about a mile past the visitor center and park in the small lot on the right. You can also park at the visitors center and hike 1.5 miles, following the sign to Wolf Rock.
Access the Manor Area via the Scenic Byway, or US 15. Follow 15 north from Frederick and turn off the exits just past Catoctin Furnace. There is a daily fee of $3 and a dropbox to pay.
Reach the William Houck Area via the Cunningham Falls parking lot. From 77 (Foxhill Road), turn left onto Catoctin Hollow Road then turn right on North Beach Circle. The parking lot is on the left side after passing South Beach Circle. There is an entrance fee of $3/vehicle.
Where to Stay
Camping is located in both areas of the park at the William Houck Area Campground or the Manor Area Campground. Rent a cabin at Olive Green PATC Cabin for a nightly rate of $30 or at the larger Catoctin Hollow lodge for $90/night. Reservations are required ahead of time and can be made through the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s website.
- Vasectomy – A V3 bouldering problem, this route is on the uphill face of Jonah Boulder. It is recommended to have 2-3 pads and a spotter. Be sure to clean off your chalk marks after climbing, as failure to do so could result in decreased public access.
- The Belly – This V5 boulder is located directly on the trail on the uphill, left corner of Jonah Boulder. Sit start low and climb out underneath the prow. There are some good jugs to top out.
- Quarantine Crack– This 5.7 is a great trad crack route for beginners. This climb has seven other climbs on the same wall. Start at the prominent crack on the left end of the wall and follow it to the top.
- Captive Corner– A 5.9+, Captive Corner is on the nose of the arete, where the seam of quartz spills onto the face. Follow the first roof on the right and the second on the left.
4. Rocks State Park
Rocks State Park is a 40-minute drive north of Baltimore. It is known for having the best trad routes in all of Maryland. It has three main climbing areas: King and Queen Seat, Strawberry Jam Pillar, and Smoke and Ash Crag. These areas include about 25 routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.12. Most routes can be top-roped. The main wall gets early sun, so it’s great for early morning climbers or shaded afternoon climbs.
Note: You can access the park from sunrise to sunset. All new fixed gear is banned throughout the park, except with the permission of a ranger. Be aware that this area has copperheads and wasp nests.
From Baltimore, Maryland, drive north on I-95 to Route 24. Take 24 north for about 10 miles where the road turns from a highway to a two-lane road and turns to Rock Road. A mile or so after passing Cherry Hill road, keep an eye out for parking lots on your left. Park in the second lot for access to the marked trail.
Where to Stay
There is no camping near Rocks State Park. The closest campgrounds are in Susquehannock State Park, PA. Make reservations online at Reserve America. Hotel accommodations can be booked near Baltimore, MD.
- Moby Dick– A V10 bouldering project, Moby Dick starts with a fun sit start. This boulder is located off the Purple Trail. Be sure to have pads and a spotter. This boulder also transforms to a V3-4 with a standing start using the aretes with both hands to the top.
- Breakaway Left– This 5.9 80-foot trad follows the left side corner of the wall. Follow the finger crack up to the roof and then left and around, finishing through a finger crack above.
5. Great Falls Park
Great Falls is a gorgeous climbing area in the Potomac River Gorge that is located northwest of the District of Columbia and on the border of Maryland and Virginia. The Maryland side is across the river, however, the climbing in this location is limited. The Virginia side is full of 60-foot cliffs and is busy with many climbers and hikers. The rock here is ideal for top-rope climbing with bolted anchors, although tree anchors are used. Access the climbs via hiking trails. Hand-curated trail maps are available at the visitor’s center and entrance.
The rock quality here can vary. There have been accidents with broken holds and gear, so be aware of the risks.
Note: Great Falls is open daily from 7 am to dark. There is a park entrance fee of $3 per individual or $5 per vehicle that is good for 3 days. An annual pass is $20. There is no bolting allowed and no climbing is permitted in the historic canal cut.
Great Falls Park is 20 minutes upstream from western DC. From DC, take the Georgetown Pike or VA 193 west following the Potomac River. Take a right on Old Dominion Drive and follow the sign to the entrance.
Where to Stay
There is no camping in the area, but there are hotels with accommodations in the Washington DC area.
- Sand Box Corner – A really fun beginner route in Great Falls. It’s easy but technical. Look for finger locks in the corner after climbing the dihedral. Excessive rain can flood this area, so beware of climbing after rainfall.
- Romeo’s Ladder – A 5.7 trad route, located 500 feet downstream from Juliet’s Balcony, is a popular route on weekends. This classic runs on the upstream face, up the center of the crack system with plenty of hand jams. Top rope is recommended.
Best Time to Rock Climb in Maryland
Maryland is a beautiful place to climb no matter what time of year it is. The climate is mild. During the summer, the climate is hot and humid while the winters tend to be cooler, with occasional snowfall. Outdoor enthusiasts alike enjoy Maryland year-round to camp, hike, and enjoy beautiful scenery.
- Many climbing areas have guidebooks with extensive information about the area. Grab Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland (State Rock Climbing Series) or Climb Maryland! for the best climbs in the area.
- For guided adventures, check out Go-Adventures for guided climbing for beginners to advanced climbers in the District of Columbia Metropolitan area. Team Link has guided rock climbing and rappeling for groups in the Potomac Highlands of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
- For an indoor climbing gym, check out Earth Treks, state-of-the-art facilities in several locations across Maryland.
- Harpers Ferry is another fun and notable climbing area in Maryland. This area contains over 300 routes of multi-pitch trad, sport, top-roping, and awesome bouldering! The rock here is hard quartzite, holds great crack systems, and the historic Appalachian Trail runs through the area.
Maryland may have the best rock climbing in the Mid Atlantic region. Grab your gear and a guidebook, invite a few climbers you know, and hop on some rock!
Looking for more climbing destinations? Check out all our guides.