If you’re looking for a fun activity that challenges both the mind and the body, rock climbing might be for you! The sport is fun for all ages (in fact, small children tend to excel due to their fearlessness and agility), so it’s a perfect hobby to get into as a family. The challenge can easily transform it into a lifelong passion. In fact, many frequent climbers will work on a route for weeks until they finally find a way to complete it — and the satisfaction at the top is second to none!
The sport of rock climbing has been around since the 1880s, but has experienced an intense spike in popularity over the past few decades. In recent years, we have seen more dedicated rock climbing gyms opening their doors and more designated outdoor climbing spots becoming available for outdoor climbing enthusiasts. We rounded up the best gyms, outdoor climbing areas and tours to get your climbing journey started in Cincinnati and the surrounding area. Have fun out there!
INDOOR CLIMBING GYMS
Facebook | Instagram | 3475 East Kemper Road, Cincinnati
RockQuest is the oldest climbing facility in Cincinnati (created in 1995). It had a fundamental role in spurring passion for the sport in the Queen City! The gym features more than 15,000 square feet of climbing space and caters to beginners and experts alike. The staff make you feel like part of the family — and indeed, many Cincinnati climbers consider the gym a home away from home! Get an introductory belay class and an entire week of climbing (with gear rentals) for just $35!
Facebook | Instagram | 10898 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati
Reach new heights in your climbing game at Climb Time! This climbing gym is located just outside Cincinnati in Blue Ash and is one of the most highly regarded facilities in the region. The 7,000-square foot space features mostly bouldering routes, but there is also a good selection of top rope options. The gym caters to beginners and advanced climbers alike and all of your gear can be purchased (or rented) at the shop on site. If this is one of your first times climbing, you can take a one hour introductory belay class for just $10. Family memberships are also just $90 per month with one or two kids.
Facebook | Instagram | 2820 Bearcat Way, Cincinnati
The Campus Recreation Center’s climbing wall at the University of Cincinnati offers six different top rope climbing areas and a bouldering area — each with endless routes and possibilities to get to the top. Climbers of all levels will love challenging themselves in the 2,000 square feet of climbing space! It’s a great way to build confidence and foster teamwork while getting a great workout at the same time. You can rent the entire wall for a company outing, team-building event or birthday party, and all the harness and shoe rentals are completely free.
Facebook | Instagram | 1700 Blue Rock Street, Cincinnati
Photo of the Climb Nulu Facility (Climb Cincy’s sister gym) courtesy of Climb Nulu
Climb Cincy will join the local climbing community in the coming weeks, offering quality routes and challenges, access for all ages and skill levels, and convenient, affordable services to the Northside community. The staff at Climb Cincy is passionate about the art of climbing, and the route setters will make it their goal to create new, inventive and challenging routes regularly
Facebook | Instagram | 9501 Union Cemetery Road, Loveland
Mosaic Climbing (coming this fall to Loveland) will offer a modern take on rock climbing, emphasizing the gym’s social aspect and designing their routes for functional training. The gym is being designed for climbers by climbers with tons of routes and variation to encourage what they call experimental movement. After all, how would you learn if you just climb the same routes over and over again?
OUTDOOR CLIMBING OPTIONS
Distance from Cincinnati: Located in downtown Cincinnati
Eden Park boasts a 25 foot tall, 400 foot long reservoir wall that is perfect for climbing practice. You can set up top ropes along the length of the wall, so it’s a great place for beginners to learn what outdoor climbing is all about! If you’re more of the bouldering type, you’ll find several routes ranging from V0 to V5.
Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour, 25 minutes
The steep limestone cliffs at John Bryan State Park make it a desirable spot for climbing enthusiasts to come and test their skills. The designated rock climbing sites in the park were identified in 1992 and offer a variety of challenges as well as views of the picturesque landscape. In fact, John Bryan State Park is known as one of the most stunning parks in the state, especially when it comes to viewing fall foliage! Only top rope climbing and rappelling is allowed in this area — neither lead climbing nor bouldering is permitted. As with all outdoor climbing, you should make sure to bring your own safety equipment. You can find more information about climbing at John Bryan State Park here.
It’s also one of the 15 best places to go camping in Ohio, so why not make a weekend out of it?
Distance from Cincinnati: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Photo courtesy of Courtney Curtner via the Ohio Climbers Coalition
Located just west of Springfield, Ohio, the Mad River Gorge is one of western Ohio’s newest outdoor climbing havens, as it just opened in May of 2017 by the Ohio Climbers Coalition. It’s a fantastic option for outdoor climbing within driving distance from the Queen City, and is still expanding through efforts of volunteers and the Clark County Park District. Routes and bolting have been done by the MRG Climbing Committee, and they maintain a database to make sure that the routes are well-maintained and safe for climbers!
If you would like to volunteer to help clean up and trail development efforts in the Mad River Gorge area, contact the Ohio Climbers Coalition.
Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours, 20 minutes
It might be a bit of a trek from Cincinnati, but the two hour drive to Red River Gorge is well worth it for experienced climbers. Spread across a wide expanse of national forest land, the park features spectacular sandstone cliffs and breathtaking vistas — making it one of the most popular climbing areas in the Midwest. Anyone looking to get a taste of true outdoor climbing will love the 5.9 rated route, Send Me on My Way. But you should also make sure to check out Chimney Top Rock, Caver’s Route and Tower Deck. After tackling your route, stop by the legendary Miguel’s Pizza to refuel — you’ll find a climbing gear store attached to the restaurant.
Use this guide from Mountain Project to find the best routes for your skill level.
Distance from Cincinnati: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Photo courtesy of the Ohio Climbers Coalition
Hocking Hills is one of the most popular summer vacation destinations in Ohio, and with such spectacular scenery and hiking opportunities available throughout the park, we aren’t the least bit surprised. Rock climbers will also love the several designated climbing areas, including Amazing Grace (a popular top climbing route that can be accessed by the Buckeye Trail) and Workout Wall (best for bouldering). Climbing on Hocking Hills landmarks that have not been designated (like Old Man’s Cave) is prohibited, so make sure to check out this page before planning your trip.
If you’re looking to learn the ropes of climbing outside, but aren’t ready to go solo quite yet, reach out to the Trek Network! The local guides are experts at both indoor and outdoor climbing and can guide you on a complete outdoor climbing and rappelling adventure in Ohio’s spectacular outdoors. Near Cincinnati, the company offers tours in John Bryan State Park, the Mad River Gorge and Hocking Hills.