View from the top of Crow Hill in the summer.
One of the original 13 colonies of the US, Massachusetts (still a Commonwealth) is blessed with a smattering of small climbing opportunities for the local climber. While it is unlikely that any of the 60+ areas is likely to be considered a destination area, this has been a training area for plenty of New England climbers and may provide unexpected pleasures for the incidental visitor. The tallest climb is likely less than 150 feet in the state. Nonetheless, for rock climbers seeking the vertical and able to relish in small pleasures, there is climbing to be done here. There are even tidbits of ice for the knucklebasher.
Due to the compact nature of the rock in Massachusetts, many areas are top-rope primarily. Many of these areas necessitate long lengths of sling material. Due to the fickle nature of New England weather, some of these areas can be difficult to climb for extended periods of time; however, global warming might actually improve this issue. Some rock, like that of Crow Hill will require extended time to dry out after significant precipitation.
Climbing in Eastern Massachusetts has been going on since at least the 1910s. Frank Mason, once AMC president, climbed on cliffs in West Roxbury now consumed for human construction. Robert Underhill, Miriam O’Brien, & fellow AMCers climbed at areas like Crow Hill and Joe English Hill. Climbing at Hammond Pond dates back to the 1920s. Once, Hitchcock Quarries (now filled in) provided multi-pitch climbing. There are photos from the 1930s from climbs at Rattlesnake Rocks. More recently, climbers like Kevin Bein, John Yates, Steve Arsenault, Henry Barber, Ajax Greene, George Meyers, Paul Niland, David Breashears, and Geoff Tabin cut their climbing teeth in the area. As climbers began searching for more challenges, some of the human constructions attracted attention and buildering began to gain attention for the urban-based climbers. Climbing has been going on in Western Massachusetts since at least the 1960s. The Western Massachusetts climbers have organized a grass-roots organization which is actively involved in preserving access to climbing areas. Their website is WesternMACC.com.
One of the great challenges to the climbing community here is the preservation of access to these climbing areas. Over time, a number of areas have been closed or even destroyed here. Many a situation is delicate, and thus, a centralized location for information could benefit all. Hence, please check out the local access issue prior to climbing in an effort to maximize the climbing for all. For Farley Ledge, please check WesternMACC.com first before climbing.
I’ve been to 14 of the 36 areas listed in Tim Toula’s fine 1995 Rock ‘n Road. Some of these areas are buildering areas. Twenty-one areas (of which I’ve been to 17) are listed in the 1987 MIT Outing Club’s Boston Rocks which covers areas east of Worcester. Since, I understand Boston Rocks II has been updated to include more routes & areas. So, if you know the other areas, please fill in the details....
Special note: many of these route listings come from years ago when I once frequented these areas. Updates can obviously be made. This is a start for this website, since little else is obvious on the web.
AMC. Appalachian Mountain Club/Boston Office at 5 Joy Street, Boston, MA (617.523.0636) may be a good resource for climbers.
Western Massachusetts Climber's Coalition is a grass roots organization of climbers in Western MA.
MIT Outing Club is an organization at MIT.
Harvard Mountaineering Club is an organization at Harvard.
Rock areas in Massachusetts include: Atomics, Bates Boulder, Berlin Boulder, Black and White Rocks, Black Rock**, Borderland SP (Easton), Boylston Quarry, Bow Ridge Reservation (Kallenberg Quarry, Pizza & Beer Quarry), Bunyan Mountain, Cape Ann, Castle Hill (Breakheart Reservation), Castle Rock (Marblehead), Chapel Ledges, College Rock, Concord Street (Gloucester)**, Crow Hill, Denrock, Dell Ave. (Boston), Douglas State Forest, Echo Bridge**, Esoteric Boston Areas** (MIT Domes, John Hancock Tower**, Delle Ave, Northboro), Farley Ledge**, Ft. Ruckman** (Nahant), Forty Caves (Berlin), Freetown State Forest, Gilbert Hills State Park, Gloucester (Annisquam**, Arrowhead**, Bray St**, Canton**, Cavalry/Gymnasium, Dogtown, Driven Boulder**, Dykes Pond, Farm Creek Boulder, Good Harbor Beach**, Green Tavern Boulder**, Hardy Mountain, Junkey Boulder**, Klondike Reservoir**, Lost Ledges**, Meeting House Rock, Menotomy Rocks (Arlington), Mod Gripping Quarry/Atlantic Ave, Mt Ann, Mt Jacob Swamp**, Nelson Quarry**, Ravenswood, Wheeler St**), Great Barrington Area (Bung Hill**, East Mountain**, Greenwood Cliffs, Monument Mountain, & Reservoir Rocks**), Hammond Pond, Happy Valley, Hideaway, Hills State Forest, Hopkinton SP, House Rock (Weymouth), Jenkins' Boulder**, Joe’s Rock (Wrentham), Kenmore Walls aka Back Bay Fens, Langsford Pond** (Gloucester), Lookout Rock (Northbridge), Lynn Woods (Lantern Rock), Magnolia (Gloucester area), Doliver Point, Hesperus, Mussel Point, Rafe's Chasm), Manchester (various), Marblehead (various), Melrose (various), Milford Bouldering (Vietnam**), Mission Hill** (Boston), Mohawk Rock (Savoy), Monroe State Forest, Mormon Hollow, Mt. Madison, Nelson, Quarry** (Gloucester), Northboro Arches**, Peabody Boulders, Peter's Hill (Sherborn), Pine Cobble, Purgatory Chasm SP**, Quincy Quarries, Rattlesnake Gutter**, Rattlesnake Rocks, Redrock, Redrock North, Rockport (boulders & quarries, Pigeon & Folly Cove, Halibut Point), Rocky Woods Reservation, Rocky Woods Rd (Taunton), Rose Ledges**, Route 9 boulder, The Sanctuary, Savin Hill (Dorcester), Stage Fort Park, Stickney's Boulder , Upton State Forest, Waban Arches**, Waitts Mt (Malden), ?? (Montague), West Roxbury Ledges, Westford Quarry, Westport River, World's End (Hingham), Wrentham State Forest. (**known or possible access issues).
Boston Rocks II describes ice in the Boston area. New England Ice and NEClimbs describe ice in the New England area.
Auburn Ice Canyon – South of Worcester, with cold temps, this canyon offers a variety of ice. NEI3-4. Access a bit touchy.
Black and White Rocks / Fells – with cold temps, there is a cascade and gully near Crag 6.
Castle Hill – with cold temps, a bit of ice forms at Breakheart Reservation.
Crow Hill – moisture and cold temps create some ice here occasionally.
Zoar road cuts (check the legality first).
Boston Rocks II covers 50+ crags and 800+ routes in Eastern Massachusetts. Get it! Boston Rocks 1987 or 1995 editions are likely difficult to find. Boston Rolls, East, and assorted guides exist for the state. Rock Climbing New England may be useful.
You can potentially use the NOAA website for information. Humidity can be high, especially in eastern Massachusetts. Crisp, sunny, fall days in Massachusetts can be amazing.
Boston Rock Gym Woburn, MA.
Gravity Rock Gym Stow, MA.
Carabiner’s Rock Gym New Bedford, MA.
MetroRock Everett & Newburyport, MA.
Gordon College Rock Gym Wenham, MA.
Lighthouse Fitness climbing wall Plymouth, MA.
Sterling Gymnastics Sterling, MA.
Exxcel climbing & gymnastics Newton, MA.
MIT climbing wall Cambridge, MA.
The Rock Spot, 67 Sprague St., Dedham area of Boston, to be opening.
Central Rock Gym, 299 Barber St., Worcester, MA.
Rock On Adventure, Norwood, MA.
Ah, the ole days of climbing with Fires on the bricks lining the old theatre/former Boston Rock Gym....
Look way, way, way east.
Boston map. One of the weirdest things in Boston proper is that there are fewer legal parking spots than cars in this city. Go figure.
Photo samples from Boston Rocks II in the area Set 1, Set 2, Set 3.
There is even a bouldering website for bouldering in New England and specifically Massachusetts.
Browse More Classics in Massachusetts
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Massachusetts:
Featured Route For Massachusetts
Sending Spak (V4) at Great Barrington.
Stealth pudding stone in the pilgrim belt.
BETA PHOTO: A rough draft of a more comprehensive climbing map...
Redrocks-Main Wall. Gloucester, MA.
Top of crow's nest in the fall.
|Comments on Massachusetts
|By Leo Paik|
From: Westminster, Colorado
Feb 11, 2007
Jim, thanks! I never was very good at that his story stuff.
From: Eldorado Springs, CO
Jun 5, 2007
You guys should submit some photos of these areas.
|By Brian M. Smith|
From: Fitchburg, MA
Apr 20, 2010
Please add Central Rock Gym, Worcester, MA to you list of MA gyms.
Aug 5, 2010
New to the Northshore....
Is anyone involved with the Tuesday Night Climbing Club(ish)?
I was at Waitts this past Tuesday, but it was just me and the poison ivy.
|By Michael Rose|
Sep 7, 2010
I recently moved to Massachusetts, so I'm not extremely savvy on the local etiquette. I've noticed there are a lot of disclaimers about the wear on the trees being used as toprope anchors. Is there a reason that bolted toprope anchors haven't been added to some of the more popular areas? I'm from the west where it seems that bolts are a lot more common. It just seems to me that a few inconspicuous bolts would have far less impact on the local crags and a few trees would be saved. Thoughts?
From: The Shrew, MA
Sep 8, 2010
What specific areas are you talking about? I agree that there could be a few more inconspicuous anchors, but this just wouldn't fly in certain places without ruffling some local feathers. Perhaps bringing it up in the forums is a step in the right direction, though it would help to know what crag you're climbing at.
|By John Richardson|
From: Greenfield, Ma
Apr 29, 2011
Just wanted to share a website that I've created with the MountainProject community, so check out Beer and Climbing and feel free to let me know what you think!
Hope you enjoy - it's young, and there will be more content coming soon!
|By Rich Brereton|
From: Somerville, MA
Nov 9, 2011
I'm amazed with the awesome job the Western Mass Climbers' Coalition has done preserving access to and conserving areas like Farley, Mormon, Rose, etc.
In eastern Mass, the access problems and environmental issues are just as tough as they used to be out west. Why no organization that builds consensus and leads the way on access and conservation? Why the ongoing squabbles over bolts, retrobolting, and FA history? Surely we can all agree on a best course of action for taking care of the limited rock we all share in our backyard.
We need an EMCC for this half of the state!
|By Chris McNeil|
From: Essex, MA
Jan 23, 2012
There has been talk of creating a Cape Ann climbing association. This small little area of the North Shore has such an unbelievable amount of rock that is widely forgotten...even by locals! Check out the Redrock and the Cape Ann pages for developments in revived crags, bouldering areas, quarries, access issues and/or resolutions. Several of us have been very active at working towards getting this area restored to the real potential that's out here. Once the rock thaws, I highly suggest coming out for a day trip.
From: Hopkinton, MA
Jun 6, 2012
Anyone ever climb at Shining Rock in Northbridge?
From: Worcester, MA
Nov 2, 2012
Does anyone have any information about Forty Caves in Clinton/Berlin? Explored the area and found dozens of climbable boulders, some with chalk on the more obvious routes. There doesn't appear to be any access issues, as it is all on conservation land and boulders are as high as 30 feet in some places. Lots of potential here... anyone know of any existing routes? Any nearby trad routes?
|By Tim McGivern|
Dec 23, 2012
I've been exploring the Black and White rocks area as well as crags and boulders in Melrose recently. Just walking around the Middlesex Fells in the B&W vicinity, I'm finding numerous boulder problems and a short route here and there that aren't listed anywhere that I can tell. Also, on the other side of Fellsway East near Boojum Rock extending all the way over to the Flynn Rink area, I walked past at least a dozen decent looking problems. Also in the Melrose area are Hard Knox Rocks, Lebanon Street Playground, and Greenwood Cliffs. A little north and you have Breakheart Reservation and Powerline Boulders in Wakefield and Peabody. Lots of boulders around here for sure.
From: Hopkinton, MA
Jan 29, 2013
Tim, that stuff should be in the Boston Rocks book. At least Black and White Rocks.
From: boston, ma
Apr 18, 2013
Hey, all. I just moved from the west, where there are tons of sport routes. I have been exploring a new area in the Boston area on public land. It has never been climbed as far as I can tell. If I put up bolted routes, will I be roughing up someones feathers? A few bolts would make some really sketchy, highball (25 ft), 5.11 problems some fun, short leads....
From: North Kingstown, RI
Apr 19, 2013
"A 'new' area on public land that has never been climbed before." There is no such thing in the east. Also just because it is public land, bolting may not be legal.
>>>Hey all. I just moved from the west, where there are tons of sport routes. I have been exploring a new area in the Boston area on public land. It has never been climbed as far as I can tell. If I put up bolted routes, will I be roughing up someones feathers? A few bolts would make some really sketchy, highball (25 ft), 5.11 problems some fun, short leads....
Apr 19, 2013
Quote: "Hey all. I just moved from the west, where there are tons of sport routes. I have been exploring a new area in the Boston area on public land. It has never been climbed as far as I can tell. If I put up bolted routes, will I be roughing up someones feathers? A few bolts would make some really sketchy, highball (25 ft), 5.11 problems some fun, short leads....
Brian is right. Not to discourage your efforts, but it's highly unlikely that you would find an area in eastern MA that has never been climbed -- especially in the Boston area -- so please, please do some homework before bolting anything. In general, bolting is not encouraged in Eastern MA where the cliffs are pretty small and there is history of top-roping and bold lead ascents and solos. If you want to develop an area, start by posting it up here. Other climbers will enjoy hearing about it and may chime in with some history. There is a lot of cool, really helpful development that you can do for the climbing community without bolting. So please post it up!
From: boston, ma
May 4, 2013
Thanks for the info. Though not real excited about top-roping (in general), leading on thin pro/rock, or high-balling over sketchy ground. Definitely wish the East Coast didn't have the Puritan mentality. The rest of the US is more open to making rock accessible as far as I can tell....