Rock On!

The best climbing spots in Washington state.


Washington’s mountainous and rocky terrain offers some of the best rock climbing in the whole country, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Even for experienced climbers, the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. So here’s a guide to some of the best climbing locations in Washington state.
The Index Town Walls are a favorite for many Washington climbers, including Katie Griffith, a climbing guide who used to coach Seattle Bouldering Project’s climbing team. “…I love the variety of movement,” said Griffith. “In one pitch you’ll find splitter crack climbing, cryptic face climbing, and improbable slab cruxes.” In other words, there’s a vast diversity of climbing styles packed into just one wall at Index.
Index is also well known for having some of the best slab climbing in Washington. Most of the rock at Index is high-quality granite, which creates strong friction with the rubber on climbing shoes. The lack of footholds lends the routes to climbers more willing to trust their toes and use their balance. And if slab isn’t really your style, there are plenty of other options.
For beginners and climbers new to the outdoors, Leavenworth is a great place to start. Many of its rock formations are shorter and better suited for bouldering, but there are still some high-rising trad and sport routes mixed in. While most of the routes are graded on the easier side, places like Icicle Creek Canyon have bouldering routes spanning from the easiest level, V0, to V12, toward the top of the scale. The time and difficulty of getting to the routes (also known as the approach) is on the easier side, making them very beginner friendly and lower commitment.
Exit 38 in Snoqualmie Valley is another great spot for beginner sport climbing. It’s very accessible, just off I-90, and the routes are generally bolted well. Sometimes there’s a bit of a crowd, as it’s a popular spot, but if you hike farther out, you might be able to avoid it.
According to Jen Dotrong, an instructor at Edgeworks climbing gym, Mazama is one of the best spots for easier to mid-level climbing. “The approaches are super short, and they have different rock than what’s on the west side, so [it’s] cool to climb on,” says Dotrong. In Mazama, routes are formed from metamorphic rock. The difference in rock texture from the granite that covers much of Washington and the gorgeous views from the top of the routes make it a fun place to climb. Most of the set routes are sport climbs, meaning the routes have bolts drilled into the walls that- with the proper gear- a climber can clip into, enabling them to stay safe when climbing high off the ground. Still, more bouldering routes are being developed to meet the growing demand of new climbers as Mazama becomes more popular.
No matter the destination for a Washington climber, it’s sure to be an incredible experience. So pack some snacks, smear some chalk on those hands, pull on a harness, and rock on!