Little River Canyon

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Summary

Two hours from Birmingham and one hour from Chattanooga, Little River Canyon is the Deep South's hidden gem for hard sport climbing.

Written by

Sarah Anne Perry

Distance

0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

138.4 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

The climbing at Little River Canyon is not easy, with few routes graded below 5.11. Approaches to some areas involve sketchy scrambles. This is not a crag for beginning climbers.

Time To Complete

0 hours

Seasonality

All Seasons

The Canyon is climbable year-round, but heat and humidity make summer projecting unrealistic.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Land Website

Little River Canyon

Review

Intro

The Dixie Cragger’s Atlas for Alabama and Georgia has an interesting “FYI” in its section on Little River Canyon National Preserve: “One seemingly popular pastime,” it says of previous decades, was for local hooligans to drive stolen cars off of Lynn Overlook. Notable finds among the debris in a ‘90s cleanup were an 18-wheeler and a tombstone.

These days the Canyon is clear of the cars, fridges, and washing machines that once marred its beauty. It is instead one of the most pristine nature preserves in the Southeast, known for its hiking trails and whitewater rapids. Equally impressive, however, are its striking sandstone cliffs.

What Makes It Great

The Canyon is home to miles of sport climbing and a handful of bouldering options. Approaches vary from easy hiking to Class 3 scrambling, and few routes are graded below 5.11. The combination of awkward approaches and stout climbing keeps the Canyon quiet year-round, as many climbers prefer the accessibility of nearby Sand Rock. But if you’ve got the psych and strength to trek in and rope up, you’ll find hundreds of stellar routes.

Steepness reigns throughout the Canyon. You won’t find anything burlier than the Concave, home to a host of 5.13s and the 5.14 classic Southern Comfort. Fortunately, things ease up on the slab to the left. Lizard Wall stays magically dry when the rest of the Canyon is drowning in rain, and its slightly overhanging routes are worth the sketchy fixed-line descent. You can even find a bit of slab to the left of Unshackled Wall, and boulderers can get in on the fun by the river and elsewhere.

Who is Going to Love It

Experienced climbers. It’s hard to find anything below a mid-5.11, and even 10s are scarce. Toomsuba may boast the Canyon’s only 5.9, a fun-filled blockfest called Cheesecake. This is not the crag for beginning climbers, who might have a better time at Sand Rock.

Boulderers can also scour the area for pebbles to wrestle. The Mushroom Boulders are the most easily accessed, impossible to miss as you drive into the preserve. The Suicide Boulders require more of an approach, as they sit right on the Little River. Under the parking lot for Lizard Wall and near Martha’s Falls, even more boulders await the psych of beanie-clad youths.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The trailheads to the Canyon’s 11 climbing areas begin off of Canyon Rim Road. To access Delicious, Unshackled Wall, or Ninja Wall, approach Canyon Rim Road from the south via Highway 273. For other areas, it’s best to turn onto Canyon Rim off Highway 35 to the north. More detailed information about specific approaches can be found in the latest edition of the Dixie Cragger’s Atlas for Alabama and Georgia. This book is your best resource for information on climbing at Little River Canyon.

Many crags require roadside parking. There is no fee to climb, just an expectation of stewardship.

You can’t camp in the Canyon, but True Adventure Sports offers camping and lodgings nearby. Slightly farther away are sites at DeSoto State Park and Adams Outdoors.

The approaches to some areas, such as Lizard Wall and Grace’s Falls, are too sketchy for your dog. That said, there are no rules against bringing him to the Canyon, provided he stays on a leash and does his business where you can pick it up.

Remember to do all you can to minimize your impact at the Canyon—stay on the trails, keep noise levels low, and pack out any trash you see.

Location

Little River Canyon

4322 Little River Canyon Parkway
Fort Wayne, AL, 35967
34.380718, -85.631554

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