5 of the Best Bouldering Areas in the Mid-Atlantic

Fernando Jimenez on Moby Dick, "the best" bouldering line of the Maryland/Pennsylvania area
Fernando Jimenez on Moby Dick, "the best" bouldering line of the Maryland/Pennsylvania area Robin Close
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While not every place in the US is blessed with the towering granite walls like those found in California, or the endless sandstone boulder fields of Tennessee and Alabama, it seems that nearly every state has at least some form of a local climbing area. It might be one wall with a few lines, or maybe even one boulder, but even the most modest outdoor climbable rock provides something that no gym can compete with: actual rock climbing.

Though the Mid-Atlantic may not be known for being a world-class climbing region, it does actually have a few under-the-radar bouldering areas that shouldn't be scoffed at. Here are a few of the best outdoor bouldering spots in the Maryland/Pennsylvania region.


An almost entirely flat state, except for some intermittent hills, Maryland first appears to be void of rock climbing altogether. But take a closer look and this mid-sized state—which houses arguably the best climbing gym chain in the country —also lends itself to a few decent outdoor climbing areas that are more than worth writing home about.

1. Rock’s State Park

Robin Close bouldering at Rocks State Park, Maryland
Robin Close bouldering at Rocks State Park, Maryland Robin Close

Typically known for its trad climbing and top roping ease, this small public park also hosts a few boulders with some classic lines, including arguably the most famous boulder problem in Maryland: "Moby Dick" V10. Although there are not many lines of difficulty in the park, the rock quality of the park is good and there are easy approaches with decent landings. This area is located in Northern Baltimore County, and the distance from major highways and cities keeps the crowds at bay and the scenery calming and pretty.

Useful Beta:
-Dog Friendly
-No Camping Available in Park
-Difficulty: climbs range from beginner to difficult
-Seasonality: all year long, however summers are quite humid. The park closes at sunset and opens at 9/10am
-Video beta
-Free PDF guidebook to the area

2. Northwest Branch

Because of its proximity to the main road, many boulders have been covered in graffiti, which have in turn prompted park officials to paint over the graffiti in a grey cement-like paint to make the rocks look more “natural” again. Unfortunately, this paint makes the rock underneath it un-climbable and some of the classic warm-ups have been destroyed because of this.

However, a great warm up in the beginning of the trail is “Crack Line,” V2. It's a little low and dabby, but the moves are fun, and the rock is good. Another boulder a few feet away that is considered to be one of the harder lines here is “Crimps” V9, which is fittingly comprised of moves on small, razor sharp crimps. These holds are typically in the sun and are quite condition dependent, so plan appropriately. Although the majority of the boulders line this trail, there are a handful of climbs across the river, including one of the best lines of the area, "Crimptastic Sit" V7. This boulder is taller than most of the others, stands alone, and provides interesting movement.

Useful Beta:
-Dog Friendly: leash encouraged because of river, crowds, and proximity to street
-No Camping Available
-Difficulty: climbs range from beginner to somewhat difficult
-Seasonality: all year long, however summers are quite humid and the majority of the climbs experience sun.
-Incomplete guide to the area
-Video beta
-Directions and additional information


Most people don't know it, but Pennsylvania is actually home to some of the best climbing in the country—especially in the Mid/Western part of the state where the sought-after gritstone (coarse, highly textured sandstone) is king. Three of the more well-known and developed bouldering areas in the Keystone State are Whiskey Springs, Governor’s Stable and Mt. Gretna. Like many of the mid-Atlantic areas, summers are hot and humid, but fall, winter, and early spring can provide some great outdoor climbing conditions close to home.

3. Whiskey Springs

Because of its location on the Appalachian Trail and because of a lack of publicity regarding the climbing, it's more likely that you'll run into hikers and backpackers rather than climbers at this boulder field. But for in-the-know climbers, it doesn't get much better than Whiskey Springs. The rock is a high quality, rough quartzite, and outcroppings are scattered throughout the area. Purchasing the guidebook or finding a local familiar with the area is wise, as it is not heavily trafficked and the area is somewhat difficult to navigate. Some noteworthy climbs include, "The Cranking" V9 and "Webber Seam" V4.

Useful Beta:
-Dog Friendly: leash encouraged because of Appalachian Trail
-Camping available
-Difficulty: climbs range from beginner to somewhat difficult
-Seasonality: winter and spring are best because rock is hot and slick in the summer and fall
-Directions and additional information

4. Governor’s Stable

Located on private land near Bainbridge, PA, this is an area with many sensitive access issues (which you can read more about at scpclimbers.org). The climbing season is limited to January 1 through August 31, and all climbers must carry proof of a membership card or day-use pass. But despite the rules, the climbs are condensed and thoroughly enjoyed by those who climb here. The guidebook to this area can also be purchased through the above mentioned website, and some of the highlight climbs include "King Cobra" V5, "Juggernaut" V5, and "Breadloaf Arete" V4.

Useful Beta:
-Not Dog Friendly
-Camping not permitted
-Difficulty: climbs range from beginner to somewhat difficult
-Seasonality: January 1 through August 31. Climbing from dawk to dusk- no night climbing

5. Mt. Gretna

Robin Close high up on the boulder, Feel My Pain, at Mt. Greta, Pennsylvania
Robin Close high up on the boulder, Feel My Pain, at Mt. Greta, Pennsylvania Robin Close

Considered by many climbers in the Mid-Atlantic to be the best in the area, Mt. Gretna shouldn't be missed. Located very close to Governor’s Stable, a combination of these two areas would make for a perfect weekend trip! The main trails are clearly marked, which is not the case with most of these spots, and there are specifically marked “bouldering trails,” which lead climbers to each climbing area. Although there is not currently a guidebook for this area, there is one in the works. The rock is high quality diabase and provides many classic boulder problems for all skill levels.

Useful Beta:
-Dog Friendly- yes
-Difficulty: climbs range from beginner to difficult
-Seasonality: winter, late fall, and early spring are best
-Additional information

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