With much of the state covered in mountains, it is no surprise that rock climbing is an incredibly popular activity with both locals and visitors. Some of the most extreme climbing routes in the United States are located in Montana, but it is also easy to find beginner-friendly routes.
We will take a look at the best rock climbing locations in Montana as well as what skill level is required:
Where to Find the Best Rock Climbing Locations in Montana
Montana is a great place to climb. With plenty of great locations and routes that range from easy to challenging, it’s not a wonder that so many climbers travel here to climb.
1. Blodgett Canyon
This area is best left to the experts. Blodgett Canyon has some fairly aggressive routes, many of which have 8 to 10 pitches, and extend for more than 1,000 feet.
This climbing area is located near the town of Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley. The tall granite cliffs that make up Blodgett Canyon are 1,500 feet tall, and while great for climbing, are also quite breathtaking.
You’ll find that this area has a little something for everyone. While many of the routes are quite challenging, you’ll also find some good beginner and intermediate routes. The canyon offers spires, walls, and buttresses for climbing.
Blodgett Canyon is accessible year-round and in the early part of the winter, you may be able to enjoy a fun mix of rock and ice climbing on some of the routes.
2. Kootenai Canyon
Another great climbing area in the Bitterroot Valley is Kootenai Canyon. You’ll find a variety of routes in Kootenai Canyon. This area is great for novice and experienced climbers, and there is a great variety of sloped and steep routes.
Kootenai Canyon is a popular spot with climbing guides and instructors since the canyon provides a large number of short pitch routes that offer new climbers the opportunity to learn and experience a variety of climbing techniques.
Kootenai Canyon is accessed from Highway 93 near the town of Stevensville. There are numerous climbing outfitters in the Bitterroot Valley that can provide guided climbs and rock climbing instruction.
3. Lolo Pass
Lolo Pass is located along Highway 12 near the Montana – Idaho border. The best landmark for finding the best climbing area on Lolo Pass is the Lolo Hot Springs. The area is a good climbing location for beginners to expert climbers.
There are approximately 11 established climbing routes on Lolo Pass. The most popular are the Heap, Elk Rock, Crystal Theater/Babcock Spires, and Tor Rock. Each of these routes has a number of lines that can be utilized depending on preference and skill level.
4. Lost Horse
Another great climb in the Bitterroot Valley can be found south of Hamilton at Lost Horse. This climbing area offers climbers plenty of options for climbing thanks to diverse terrain and solid rock that make for a secure and comfortable climb.
Lost Horse is a very small area, but it has 10 described routes. The routes offer easy 2-pitch climbs for beginners and climbers that want a fun fast climb.
For the experienced climbers that want to push their skills, you can enjoy some of the longer climbs. Some with as many as six distinct pitches.
5. Berne Park Boulders – Badrock Canyon
Badrock Canyon is a very popular location for climbers that prefer to do more free climbing and bouldering. Berne Park Boulders is one of the most popular bouldering locations in Montana.
This climbing area is located between Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse, along Highway 2. The great thing about Berne Park is that the climbs are all very easily accessible, with minimal to no hiking necessary to get to great easy climbs. Most of the routes on Berne Park are short, making this an ideal location for beginner climbers.
If you are coming from Hungry Horse on Highway 2, you’ll see the pull-off just 1.2 miles from the bridge that leaves town.
6. Kila Crags
This area has a great name and some great climbing. An easy 8-mile drive from Kalispell on US-2 gets you to Kila Crags. This area is very popular for sports climbers, and many of the routes are perfect for beginner and intermediate climbers.
Being that this area is so close to Kalispel, expect to share the walls with plenty of other climbers. For a more relaxed and quiet climbing experience, visit the Kila Crags during the week when there are fewer climbers.
The other draw to this climbing area is that the routes are all south-facing so it is a great place to climb in the spring and fall when air temperatures might be cooler.
7. Stone Hill
Stone Hill is the largest climbing area in Montana. This area is tucked into the northwest corner of the state, as close to the Canadian border as you can get. The quartzite cliffs in this area are fairly steep and make for great intermediate and expert level climbs.
Many of the routes on Stone Hill will provide you with great views of Lake Koocanusa, a beautiful lake located near the Stone Hill climbing area. Stone Hill is more challenging to get to than many other climbing areas.
The approach hikes to most of the routes are substantial. Starting early will give you plenty of time to reach your route and enjoy at least a couple of lines.
8. Point of Rocks
Point of Rocks is located just a half hour from Whitefish near the town of Olney. Like Stone Hill, this area offers hundreds of described climbing routes.
Point of Rocks is very popular with all types of climbers. The area provides great traditional, sports and even bouldering opportunities.
Point of Rocks is a great climbing area for novice climbers as most routes are low-rated, and are single-pitch.
9. Stryker/Stillwater Canyon
Located near Stryker, Stillwater River has carved a deep canyon through the argillite rock, to form Stillwater Canyon. It’s in Stillwater Canyon that you’ll enjoy some of the most amazing top rope, traditional, and sports climbing routes.
Stillwater Canyon is sometimes combined with Point of Rocks in guide books, so you’ll need to look for the climbing routes that are located further north on Highway 93.
This is a popular climbing area in the heat of the summer. The cool breezes from the canyon, and coming off the river make this a great spot to climb in July or August.
10. Blackleaf Canyon
Blackleaf Canyon is one of the few climbing areas that are located on the east front of the Rocky Mountains. This area is a great sport climbing area, and most climbs are multi-pitched.
Blackleaf Canyon is a relatively new climbing area, with the development of most routes starting in 1999. The rock base here is limestone, which is pretty solid, so there are not many cracks to place anchors.
Many of the routes in Blackleaf Canyon are permanently bolted, providing secure anchors for climbers.
11. Humbug Spires
Though this area doesn’t have a large number of routes and lines, it is perhaps one of the most popular and well-known climbing areas in Montana. The Spires are formed from clean, solid granite that makes for a perfect climbing base.
There are 50 individual spires to be climbed in this area, but the largest, and most prominent is The Wedge. This spire is 450 to 600 feet tall on the western and southern walls.
The Wedge is a great climb, but you’ll find the approach to this spire a bit of a challenge. You’ll hike up quite a bit of elevation to reach the base of The Wedge, before you even start up a rope.
Other spires are located closer to the road and offer a shorter approach, making them more accessible to intermediate climbers.
12. Hellgate Gulch
Hellgate gulch is located just 8 miles past the Canyon Ferry Dam. This beautiful climbing area is one of the most peaceful climbing areas in Montana.
The climbs in Hellgate Gulch are nice crags and fins. Most of the fins run toward the road and have nice climbing routes on both faces.
While this area is peaceful, the climbs are not easy. The rock in the gulch is limestone, so most of the pitches are bolted for easier climbing. Hellgate Gulch is best for intermediate and expert level climbers.
13. Gallatin Canyon
If you are in the Bozeman area, Gallatin Canyon is the local’s favorite for rock climbing adventures. Gallatin Canyon is also one of the oldest climbing areas in Montana and the routes are well documented and established. Gallatin Canyon is just 30 miles south of Bozeman.
Though the routes are well established and Gallatin Canyon is a popular climbing area, most of the routes and pitches are quite difficult, and climbing here is best for intermediate or expert climbers.
If you are up for the challenge, enjoy the views of kayakers in the Gallatin River negotiating the House Rock rapids that run below many of the routes.
14. Spire Rock
The Spire Rock climbing area is located just north of I-90 near Whitehall. This is a classic crag in the Boulder Batholith. This geological formation is distinct as it looks like oddly shaped boulders.
The formation is easily seen from Butte along I-90. Spire Rock is a great climbing area for all experience levels.
Spire Rock has two separate formations. One is The King and the other is The Queen. The King is the larger of the two formations and the routes are multi-pitch climbs.
The Queen formation has numerous traditional climbing routes, most of which are shorter and single-pitched.
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