1. MetroRock Climbing Center | Everett, MA
MetroRock, which was founded in 2004, has more than 27,000 square feet of climbing wall at its location in Everett, Mass. But the gym’s philosophy is that the indoor facility should be a way to help people with their outdoor adventures. As MetroRock’s Matt Yosca puts it, he sees the gym coming from a tradition of when the walls were “covered with climbers who had leaves in their rope bags, mud on their shoes and an outdoor project in mind as they trained indoors. The gym was a complement to real rock, not a substitute.”
MetroRock has some of the best route-setting in the region, engaging the mind as well as the body in a way that keeps things interesting and prepares you for just about anything you’ll see on real rock.
“The holds on the wall are like the food in a restaurant—the place can be clean, modern, and with great service, but if the food isn’t good, no one wants to go back,” says climber Josh Larson, a frequent visitor and a route setter himself earlier in his career. “That’s how I’ve always looked at the art of setting, and MetroRock does a fantastic job at keeping the routes gourmet.”
“People from all over the country get to see and climb on these routes every year during the Dark Horse bouldering series, which is known for it’s fun and creative problems,” says climber Lily Canavan, who makes MetroRock her home gym. “Dark Horse is also one of the most fun comps I climb at every year, not only because of the setting, but also the atmosphere.”
But the atmosphere at the gym is just as important to Canavan.
“There are so many cool people there who know so much about climbing,” she says. “Everybody there is really nice and friendly and I never feel like I am being judged if I fall. I always have so much fun whenever I go climbing there, even if I am not feeling very strong that day.”
In addition to the Boston-area location, MetroRock also has facilities in Newburyport, Mass., Essex, Vt., and Brooklyn, N.Y.
2. Boulderdash Indoor Rock Climbing | Thousand Oaks, CA
Boulderdash, with more than 10,000-square feet of indoor climbing surface in Thousand Oaks, Calif., offers challenging routes for climbers of all abilities. Roped climbing walls vary from 21 to 45 feet. The “prow” and “cave” climbing areas, which are 45 feet and 40 feet tall respectively, include slabs, arêtes, and roofs that are among the tallest in the U.S. Boulderdash features a dedicated rappel ledge for scouting events and instruction, plus 1,500 square feet of dedicated bouldering terrain.
“Boulderdash thrives on its atmosphere and the local community,” says climber Jesse Weiner, who’s also a coach and route-setter at the gym. “We are located in a really great northern Los Angeles area, and the members are a very friendly group of people who look forward to climbing everyday.
“We take a lot of pride in our route setting, and have a great holds selection, which has added to our success,” he says. The gym also has an excellent youth program, which sent nine climbers to nationals this past ABS bouldering season, with four making the final round and one making the U.S. national team.
“The location is amazing, nearby restaurants are delicious, and the routes stay fresh and are super fun,” Weiner says. “We are super-proud of our youth team. They are some of strongest kid climbers in California and are amazing to climb with.”
Boulderdash has a second location in San Fernando Valley, Calif., as well.
3. Movement Boulder Climbing + Fitness | Boulder, CO
You’d probably expect a world-class climbing facility in Boulder, Colo. You certainly get one with Movement Boulder, which in addition to its climbing facilities includes more than 50 fitness classes a week (yoga, Pilates, and Spinning among them) and top-notch weight and cardio rooms. Movement is also proud of its energy-efficient facility, which gets more than 80 percent of its energy from solar panels and solar thermal heaters.
But while all the amenities in the state-of-the-art facility are nice, Movement hasn’t skimped on creating an experience that appeals to serious climbers as well.
“I think the main reason they’re so successful is because Boulder has a huge climbing community,” says climber Brad Gobright, who lives in Boulder and does his indoor climbing at Movement. “It’s also a college town and young adults love the gym. Boulder is also a town where bad weather often times rolls in and everyone bails on their plans and goes to Movement.”
What does he like most about climbing there?
“I think Movement is unique in that they have world-class course setters and trainers—true professionals who do that stuff as a living,” Gobright says. “I like to climb there because it’s clean and spread out. They have a good variety of bouldering and sport and also have a large weight room. It’s a good place to get an all-around workout.”
4. Sender One Climbing + Yoga + Fitness | Santa Ana, CA
This massive rock climbing facility in southern California that opened in 2013 is owned—and was designed—by rock climber Chris Sharma. You’ll find plenty of options with more than 25,000 square feet of climbing space and several walls more than 50 feet tall. Entering the gym, you’re blown away by the colors, textures, and variety of walls that fill the space.
“It’s the largest gym in the SoCal area, a very cool place,” says Gobright, who grew up in the area. “It’s also super close to where my parents live so it’s a nice place to workout when I’m visiting. There’s a nice community of climbers that go there. Many of whom I grew up climbing with.”
In addition to all the top-roping and bouldering options, Sender One has a unique facility called Sender City, an interactive climbing area targeted at kids and beginning climbers, allowing them to take on buildings, towers, faces, and a variety of nontraditional structures If you’re looking to get a youngster started in climbing, this is the way to go.
5. Momentum Indoor Climbing | Sandy, UT
Momentum Indoor Climbing, which features three locations around Salt Lake City, offers something for every type of climber. The gym in Sandy, Utah, is the largest, with 20,000 square feet of climbing surface, including tons of very high top-roping, crack climbing, and a fitness center for additional strength and cardio training. You can also take yoga and Pilates classes in a studio in the Sandy facility.
“I think that we have three gyms that really complement each other,” says Steven Jeffery, the route-setting director and an instructor at Momentum. “Sandy offers bigger, steeper climbing than you’ll get anywhere else. Millcreek offers some very realistic rock climbing. And in Lehi you’ve got the largest bouldering gym in the state. So depending on the type of climbing you want to do, you’re covered.”
Momentum has its roots in sport climbing, but it welcomes people interested in any discipline. Jeffrey says that the gym prides itself on introducing newcomers to the sport.
“I think that anyone can come in off the street and learn the basics rather quickly,” he says. “We want to convey the joy in the sport, and get people really enjoying themselves.”
6. Central Rock Gym | Watertown, MA
Brothers Joe and Ed Hardy opened the Central Rock Gym in 2009, with the goal of building purpose-built facilities from the ground up, with lots of natural light, which would appeal to climbers of every ability. They’ve succeeded in their mission, with now five facilities in Massachusetts and another in Hartford, Conn.
Central Rock is also serious about competitions, hosting several each year, including the Ring of Fire Roped Comp Series in the Spring and the Heist, the nation’s first all-female competition, which is organized by women and set by women.
“I enjoy the high-quality training facilities, including the tall walls and the speed wall,” says climber Bimini Horstmann of her home gym. “It is great to be able to train on the same walls that I compete on. “
In addition to the climbing facilities, Central Rock offers free weights, cardio equipment, and yoga, Pilates, and other fitness classes at the gym. The number of gyms in the area is also an appeal.
“It is unique to have so many facilities, and I love having one membership that grants me access to six different gyms,” Horstmann said. “They clearly have a solid business plan because they are able to expose the sport of climbing to a wide range of people.”
7. Santa Fe Climbing Center | Santa Fe, NM
The Santa Fe Climbing Center may be northern New Mexico’s only indoor climbing gym, but those who live in the area know that they are lucky to have one of the country’s top gyms in their backyard.
“I think the reason that the gym has done so well is almost all credited to the owner Andre Wiltenburg,” says climber Ben Hanna, who trains at the climbing center. “(It) was opened as a co-op and had gone through many different owners before Andre came in possession of it. He has been the only person that could keep it afloat. He’s like an anchor for the community. Everything he does is for the gym and the community.”
While the facilities of the 20-plus-year-old gym may not be state-of-the-art, it does have a room for top-roping as well as a bouldering room. But the climbers and camaraderie more than make up for not having the latest equipment.
“I have climbed in a lot of gyms. I’ve been to all of the ‘biggest’ and ‘best,’ but I will always come back to the Santa Fe Climbing Center because of how it is run and the community,” Hanna says. “There is no other gym that has a more inviting and friendly community. There is never a prejudice against strong climbers from gumbies, or vice versa, that you will experience in other gyms. It doesn’t matter how hard you climb—we are all there to have fun.”
8. Planet Granite Portland | Portland, OR
A state-of-the-art climbing gym in Portland, Ore., Planet Granite Portland features more than 30,000 square feet of climbing space. You’ll find custom Walltopia designs for both roped climbing and bouldering, with more than 150 routes and 18 cracks—four of which are hydraulically adjustable. The route walls are more than 55-feet high, and the bouldering area includes 200-plus problems and a 40-foot ramp.
“The closest outdoor climbing destination to Portland is Smith Rock, so naturally people are going to appreciate being able to build endurance on walls taller than 40-feet,” says climber Lisa Chulich, who uses Planet Granite as her home gym. “The boulders and routes are extremely well-set. And the training space is versatile—I can get in my climbing training, as well as full -body opposition, weightlifting, and plyometrics (training) all in the same place.”
Most importantly, the atmosphere at Planet Granite invites people to stick around.
“I’d say PG’s environment and route quality keeps bringing me back,” Chulich says. “I spend a lot of time in the gym. Bouldering, roping up, training—campusing, fingerboard hangs, ring workouts, weight lifting, plyometrics, TRX, etc. Planet Granite is one of the few places where you can do it all, without feeling anxious or dirty after a few hours have passed. The gym is well-equipped, well-ventilated, set with mature routes, and staffed by setters and trainers I respect.
“All of the above make for a motivating place to push yourself and have fun sessions with friends late into the night,” Chulich says.
9. Stronghold Climbing Gym | Los Angeles, CA
You don’t find a lot of climbing gyms that are housed in a 112-year-old building, but the Stronghold Climbing Gym is one of them. The building that is now home to the gym started out as California Edison Company’s Los Angeles No. 3 Steam Power Plant. The boilers are long gone, and the space now contains 46-foot tall climbing walls with hundreds of routes and three cracks. There’s also dedicated bouldering terrain with hundreds of problems to challenge any level of climber. But the facility is only part of the equation of why Stronghold has become so successful.
“It’s mainly because of our community,” says head setter and climber Kyle McCoy. “The people who come here are awesome. I think we’ve attracted these people by having a beautiful space, with beautiful climbing walls, complete climbing training facilities, and, chiefly, great routes.”
McCoy takes pride in finding new ways to mix things up for everyone.
“Routes are constantly being refreshed, with new ones every week, and with fresh, clean, and very often new holds and volumes,” he says. “The walls climb really well with super fun terrain, and the people who climb there are really positive and encouraging, and really into climbing.”
What climber can ask for anything more?