Franklin Gorge has West Virginia’s most impressive array of well-bolted, moderate sport climbs. Well-maintained by hard-working locals, this crag a favorite for university groups and local climbers, but there are enough routes and grades to keep much of it feeling empty, even on “crowded” days.
What Makes It Great
In a state that boasts such mega-classic destination crags like the New River Gorge and Seneca Rocks, Franklin Gorge rock climbing is a bit underrated. One reason may be that a lot of Franklin’s rock is limestone, which is exceedingly rare in the region, and can scare away East Coast climbers. But, when you spend the time to get familiar with it, you’ll come to love limestone’s unique mix of pockets, jugs, crimps, slick slopers, and bulgy roofs. If the relatively frictionless limestone isn’t your thing, there is a solid selection of moderate sandstone sport climbs only a short hike straight up from the parking lot.
Must-climb classics at Riverbend include Slush (5.9), Wish I Were a Fisherman (5.11a), and, if you’re up to it, Southside (5.12c) and Reflections (5.13a). For the Main Wall above the parking lot, be sure to check out Blood, Sweat, and Chalk (5.9+), The Bends (5.11), and Dynosaurus (5.12a).
Who is Going to Love It
Franklin Gorge is for sport climbers, especially beginners, who will find good quality, moderate routes perfect for honing lead skills.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
You’ll find the parking area for Franklin just off Route 33 about a mile east of the town of Franklin. Coming from there, cross the bridge over the river and make the next left. Drive that dirt road for about .5 mile to the obvious parking lot. There will be excellent climbing above the lot on the hillside, and within easy walking distance further downstream.
If there’s one climbing area in the mid-Atlantic region that you should try to leave better than you found it, it’s Franklin Gorge. This area doesn’t have a park service to police it. Instead, Franklin enjoys the efforts a tiny group of highly dedicated local climbers. So, please help keep it clean.