About an hour’s drive northwest from downtown Birmingham is a quarter-mile stretch of sixty-feet-tall sandstone cliffs known to locals as Palisades. The cliff-line sits atop Ebell Mountain in the Appalachian foothills, and at about 1300 feet, has a great view to the southeast. The park has been developing since 1973 and started as a small area for picnicking and evolved to the destination it is today, complete with a park office, lodges, playgrounds, historic cabins, and most importantly a reputation for fun climbing. Although the park, owned by Blount County, does not offer a wilderness experience by any means, it does have convenient amenities like paved parking in close proximity to the cliff, shady gazebos, picnic tables, tap water, and restrooms.
What Makes It Great
The 80-acre tract of land has about 100 climbing routes ranging in grade from first-timer friendly 5.5 to grunt-worthy 5.12. The crag offers something for everyone, and some of the features are great cracks, flakes, overhangs, roofs, and boulders. Palisades does not contain any sport climbing, so all routes must either be climbed traditionally or with a top-rope. Many of the more popular routes have bolted top-rope anchors, allowing quick and easy setup, and the top of the cliff-line has enough sizeable trees to create safe natural anchors, making Palisades a very popular place to take beginner and first-time climbers.
The approach from the parking lot is on top of the cliff, which makes anchor set-up simple, and there are easy hikes to the bottom on either end of the bluff, or there’s a quick scramble down a gully around the mid-way point. The base of the cliff is littered with boulders, and while Palisades is not generally considered a destination for bouldering, especially with Horse Pens 40 just down the road, it could easily be developed into one. All of the rock is the same high-quality sandstone found at other crags in the area, and the best time to visit is anytime but the summer, as the south-facing wall collects sun for most of the day. The best detailed route photos and information can be found in the Dixie Cragger’s Atlas: A Climber’s Guide to Alabama and Georgia, which is available at local outdoor retailers.
Who is Going to Love It
Beginner and intermediate climbers with a basic knowledge of safe climbing practices will enjoy the wide variety of moderate routes on the high-quality rock at Palisades. With parking so close to the cliff line, there is virtually no approach, and bolted top-rope anchors on many of the routes make it easy to get a lot of climbing done in a short amount of time.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
$5 buys a climbing permit good for two weeks, or if you plan on visiting regularly, an annual pass can be had for $35. Anyone under the age of 19 must have a parent or guardian present to obtain a permit. The large parking lot is only feet from the edge of the cliff-line and the central scramble to the bottom. Visit the park office adjacent to the parking lot to sign a liability waiver and pay the fee, restrooms and water are also located in this building. The closest place to camp is at Horse Pens 40, about 20 minutes away. The hours for the park are: January - March: 9:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M., and April - December: 9:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M.