Let's face it — we live in Dallas. This is certainly no climbing mecca, or even a great spot for anyone relatively outdoorsy. You can make an active lifestyle in Dallas work if you're creative / a little crazy, but this city definitely won't hand it to you. Boulderites have it easy — they can basically walk out their front door and a five-star crag awaits them. They probably walk their dogs by climbing pros screaming on their 5.trillion project, and sip fair-trade coffee while trail running at 6,000 feet above sea level. Or something like that. But it takes a lot to maintain an active climbing life in Dallas, and we deserve all the bonus points in the world for making it work. I've compiled a list of the best options we Dallasites have as far as touching real (or sometimes manufactured .. hey, we take what we can get) rock in the somewhat near vicinity. A lot of these spots are super great, but it's a testament to our resilience as rock climbers. If you're willing to put in weekend after weekend at this mediocre spots and still get ultra-psyched every time, then you really, truly, genuinely love it. You love to rock climb in all its forms, even when the rock is chossy and/or seeping and/or set into the side of a building. Climbing in these spots makes you a better climber, a better person, and keeps you humble. So those times when you do get to venture out, put in the miles and visit one of this country's numerous world class climbing spots, you'll be impressed and spoiled, but still ready to put up with your hometown crag's deficiencies. I mean hey, Ashima Shiraishi started climbing at Central Park — so the presence of excellent rock does not beget a great rock climber — it's the attitude that makes you great. SO KEEP BEING GREAT DALLAS. While this post is meant as a guide to let you know what areas are most commonly visited by Dallas climbers, please do your research before going to a new area! Access issues are changing every day, so definitely make sure you know what you're getting into, and whether or not a waiver is required, before climbing at any of these areas.
Reimer's Ranch is probably one of the most-recommended spots for climbing outside of Dallas. It is definitely a rite of passage as a Dallas climber to scramble-slip your feet on the greased-over footholds of the Sex Cave classic Spider Grind, or patiently waiting for Yertle the Turtle to stop seeping long enough to take a run on it. About 45 minutes outside of Austin (3.5 hours away from Dallas), Reimer's is actually pretty great for Texas. Yes, it's all limestone that tends toward greasy, and some routes will seep for weeks after a rain. But it's really close to a very cool city, and it's one of the most diverse areas in central Texas. There literally is something for everyone, whether you like roof climbs, vertical, short, or shorter (haha), Reimer's also covers a great span of grade ranges, so climbers of all levels can find something to grease off of. There are some pretty unique features to be found here — when you're not plugging endless limestone pockets, there are some really cool tufa and stalactite formations to monkey around on that pretty much satisfy every climber's urge to climb on ridiculous looking stuff. And with the relatively recent addition of the North Shore area, the climbing at Reimer's has expanded even more, and newer routes means less polished footholds. There are plenty of options as far as staying the night goes — if you're more of a nightlife person you can find a cheap hotel just outside of Austin. Or, if you're a true dirtbag, there are several camping options outside of the park, including the climber's hang Rock Dog Campground.
E-Rock is a little bit of an anomaly as far as North Texas climbing areas go, because it's granite. You'll see lots and lots of limestone spots, and maybe some bits of sandstone, but climbing on granite, especially granite as pink as E-Rock's, is a real treat for the Lone Star State. The majority of the routes at E-Rock are trad, but there is also a pretty good selection of sport and bouldering, too. E-Rock has a higher distribution of easier climbs, so it's a good area for beginner climbers, or those just learning to plug gear. E-Rock is about 4 hours south of Dallas, and two hours west of Austin in Fredericksburg, TX. Camping is a cinch because you can camp on-site, and the campground is really nice.
Eisenhower State Park:
Eisenhower State Park, or "ESP" as all the cool kids call it, is a pretty chossy little bouldering spot about an hour and a half north of Dallas, in Denison, TX. It's a crazy mix of sandstone and limestone, but the rock is very brittle and prone to breakage, so climb at your own risk! An arsenal of crash pads is a must for climbing at Eisenhower, because the landing tend to be very uneven and chock full of fallen chunks of rock. Guard your ankles with your life. But once you get the hang of the landing, ESP is pretty cool. It's right on Lake Texoma, so if the heat gets to you, you have the option of just jumping right in to cool off. With 150 problems at a range from V0 to V10, with the highest distribution of problems at V4, ESP is definitely worth a day-trip when the itch to touch real rock becomes too much. Bonus, our very own Team Texas coach and routesetter Matt Dendy wrote the guidebook on the area, and we sell it in our gear shops! Word to the wise: because of all the recent rain, the climbing is closed right now (aka underwater), so wait for the weather to die down until you head out to ESP ... unless you're a mermaid.
The first spot on my list actually outside of Texas, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is another rare southern granite spot. About 4 hours north of Dallas in Indiahoma, OK, the Wichitas are known for their stout grading. Most everything is trad, with some sport, toprope, and even some boulders sprinkled in. But the Wichitas truly shines as a trad spot, and is a great place to cut your teeth plugging gear. There are a lot of really quality routes here, distributed over a pretty large area — but don't expect any of them to be gimmes. A 5.10 in the gym is waaaaayyyy different than a 5.10 at the Wichitas, so leave your ego in the car. The approaches for areas vary a lot here — climbing at Upper Mount Scott is basically in the parking lot, but attempt to venture out to the pristine Elk Slabs and your stoutest send of the day will definitely be the hike in. A beautiful spot, definitely worth the trip for the budding to experienced trad climber.
A secluded, quiet little bouldering spot about two hours south of Dallas in Crawford, TX, Tonkawa is a limestone area with a decent amount of problems to its name. The climbing is right by Tonkawa Creek, a swimming hole with the gorgeous (when we're not in a drought) waterfall from which the area gets its name. The area is mostly easier problems, but there are a few harder things to project. There is even a V11! Expect roofs, ledges, and pockets. Definitely worth a day trip, especially since the Czech Stop is on the way, and that place is basically worth its own day trip. Worst case scenario, you walk away with a V Kolache send, and there are definitely worse things in this world.
Ahhhhhh, Mineral Wells. Basically everyone's first outdoor area. Before they knew better. (I kid, I kid!) About an hour and a half west of Dallas, Lake Mineral Wells State Park is honestly, probably the closest climbing area to Dallas. Its home to one small area of climbable sandstone bluffs, called Penitentiary Hollow. It's primarily easy to moderate routes, with the hardest grade topping out at 5.11. With less than 30 routes to choose from, it's definitely no bonanza, but hey, it's rock. Sport climbers, boulderers and trad daddies — stay home. Because of the rock quality, Mineral Wells is top-rope only — definitely make sure you're totally pro at your anchor setting, because there are no set anchors. So setting up climbs there, while time consuming, can be good learning experience. And seriously, everyone needs to have gone at least once to Mineral Wells. You just have to.
More of what Texas is good at: limestone bouldering! About 2 and a half hours south of Dallas and one hour north of Austin, it's got less problems than Tonkawa, but hey, at least it's close to Austin! The area is pretty secluded, and right off of Lake Belton. Expect pockets and some highballs. It's home to mostly moderates, with a couple harder problems sprinkled in.
For more limestone bouldering that's a bit burlier than Roger's, head to McKinney Falls State Park. It's just south of Austin, so about 3 hours from Dallas. Powerful and pockety, the bouldering here is steep! McKinney has bigger distribution of harder problems, like V5 and above, and so go when you're feeling fit. Especially since you'll be bouldering around Austinites ... you better make sure you look good.
Lake Whitney is the perfect mix of fun and danger, and all close to home! If you're looking to dip your toes into deep-water soloing but not wanting to stray too far, then check out Lake Whitney. An hour and a half south of Dallas, the climbing consists of limestone cliffs surrounding the lake, so having a boat is pretty clutch. But there are boat rental companies on the lake, so no worries if you can't bring your own rig. There is a Mountain Project for the area, but feel free to drive your boat up to whatever looks good and monkey around on it until you fall — or something breaks off. This area is not incredibly popular, so the rock quality can tend towards poor in certain areas. It definitely adds to the excitement — one moment you're climbing, and the next you're careening towards the lake with a fistful of limestone in each hand. As long as you check the depth before climbing, though, the landings are totally solid. Route difficulties differ with water depth, so take all grades with a grain of salt. If the water levels are right, there are also some pretty cool boulder problems sprinkled around the lake, so keep your eye out for them! Make sure you have an idea where you want to go, though, or you could spend all day boating on the lake and finding only choss.
Another limestone Austin area, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a primarily sport area just south of Austin city proper. It's definitely a cool spot for its proximity to the city, so if an overnight is your thing, you won't feel obligated to dirtbag it and camp. If not dirtbagging is your thing ... The rock quality is good, and access is easy, so this area can tend to get crowded on the weekends, but hey, what climbing areas don't? It has a greater distribution of moderate to hard routes, so you won't see as many of the UT weekend warrior types that swarm Reimer's on the weekend. The Greenbelt area is also home to numerous swimming holes, so it's definitely a cool spot to climb and hang.
Nolan is a limestone bouldering spot about an hour and a half south of D-town. I'd really only recommend the spot for harder boulderers, since the area is really known for its several cool V10 and up problems. It's a little spread out, so there are definitely some easier climbs if you are willing to find them. Because the problems are pretty scattered, I would definitely recommend bringing someone who knows the area. It is not a popular area so if you do go, you'll most likely have the spot to yourselves.
Just an hour and a half west of the Wichitas and 4 hours north of Dallas, Quartz Mountain State Park is some more of that Oklahoma granite that brings people to the Wichitas. Also known as Baldy Point, Quartz is very similar to the Wichitas grading and route styles, but has a higher percentage of sport climbs, for those who wanna get on granite but don't have a rack of cams. There are some trad lines here, and they are tough! I would recommend getting a feel for things for at the Wichitas, and then moving on to Quartz. This area has a much higher distribution of tough stuff than at the Wichitas, so get tough or get out! And be prepared to get scared!
Some more deep-water soloing for your thrill-seeking pleasure! Pace Bend is a pretty popular spot just outside of Austin for soloing around on good quality limestone cliffs. Many climbs are accessible from the shore, so a boat is not a necessity. There is not a lot of info online about Pace Bend Park, so go with a local to get the low-down on the climbs. Be careful though — the water levels of Lake Travis can vary drastically, so always make sure the water isn't too low before falling in and bottoming out. There is definitely the potential to do some pretty crazy stuff out at Pace Bend, so definitely go if you're feeling bold.
This is not what it sounds like. I am not recommending you climb at a hospital, but maybe if it's brick and it's cool and no one is watching ... but anyways. Georgetown Hospital Riverside Sanctuary is a new limestone crag half an hour north of Austin. It gets its name from St. David's Georgetown Hospital, the building which the area is literally just sitting behind. So if any injuries happen to occur while climbing, you're covered! Sweet! Mostly sport, Georgetown's got some pebble wrasslin' and trad climbing, too. Decent quality moderates are the name of the game at Georgetown, so it's a good spot if you want a chill day away from the more crowded areas of Austin.
And last but not least, Monster Rock is a small, privately-owned limestone spot near Austin. Primarily sport, the area has a pretty good difficulty range, from 5.6 to 5.13 and the routes are good quality. The area is known for its long traverse routes. Located in a shaded canyon, this area stays cool, while not being very popular. Because it's so small it can only accommodate a few climbers at a time, so be sure to email the owners before swinging by, to make sure it's a good time.
And apparently, there are a couple builder problems listed on Mountain Project — If there's a will, there's a way people, and I applaud you for your ingenuity. But don't get arrested!
Welp, there you have it. All the climbing areas within a four hour radius of Dallas, that I thought to mention. Did I forget any? At any rate, try them all out, cuz what else can you do when you're a Dallasite? You can fill up your North Texas climbing bingo card, and win the grand prize of being a truly great Dallas climber! DO IT!