The Keystone State is home to a variety of cragging, whatever your style. But it's the bouldering on diabase, gritstone and sandstone that are world class. While the diabase areas are well documented (mainly because they are in the eastern part of the state where all the people are) - the gritstone bouldering in western PA is somewhat unknown and OUT OF THIS WORLD! Think Coopers Rock is a good gritstone area? There are at least 3 gritstone areas in PA that beat Coopers in terms of concentration, number of problems and quality of climbs. One area near Johnstown is more concentrated than the Happy Boulders with far better rock. Haven't climbed on gritstone? Well there is a reason it's called "God's own rock." Climb a bunch on gritstone and it will ruin you for all other rock types. Yosemite granite? Piece of crap. The unreal friction for your feet and hands and beautiful classic shapes on gritstone yield the most amazing fun (or frustrating) sequences you will ever climb on rock. PA probably has more gritstone than bloody England. Why doesn't anyone know about it? Well no one lives in west central PA and for the lucky few of us who have discovered this stuff we've been too busy putting up climbs and finding new gems to bother documenting.
For roped climbing, there are many worthwhile local areas tucked into Penn's Woods.
The largest sport crags in eastern Pennsylvania are Birdsboro Quarry and Safe Harbor, both bolted on man-made post-industrial rock cuts. In the western half of the state, the Lost Crag offers the most clip-and-climbs.
Toprope and trad tends to be single pitch, on cliffs eroded on the sides of rivers. Some of the tallest routes in the state are on Mount Minsi in the Delaware Water Gap.
Ice climbing can be found, often on waterfalls, mostly scattered through the northern half of the state. The number and quality of ice climbs is highly dependent on the weather that year. Some predictable ice forms every year at the Narrows and Ricketts Glen (nobody has written up RG ice on Mountain Project yet, but hikebikeclimb offers ice beta).
The rock varies from sticky gritstone and conglomerate, exquisite sandstone, and crisp quartzite, to some overused polished choss and looose machine-cut walls.
When neighborhood crags get old, PA is close enough for weekend road trips to the Gunks, the New and the Red.
As a Mid Atlantic state, Pennsylvania gets hot and muggy summers and somewhat cold winters. Despite the cities' stereotypes, Pennsylvania gets more rain on average than Seattle. Luckily Pennsylvania sees far more sunny days than the Pacific Northwest, so things dry out pretty fast after a downpour.
All the rain grows lush forests and undergrowth, including poison ivy - some of it ridiculously large by late summer. Remember, "leaves or three, let it be."
The only poison snakes are Timber Rattlesnakes, who usually have the good manners to warn before striking, and Copperheads, who don't. Both are common but not frequently seen throughout the state.
Many crags here are on or near State Game Lands. Find out when hunting season is before you go there, and wear orange during deer season (or find another place to climb).
Discuss Pennsylvania climbing, or post partner calls, in the Eastern States forum.
The ongoing discussion of PA crack!
Via major highways.
1,219 Total Routes
['4 Stars',83],['3 Stars',416],['2 Stars',431],['1 Star',177],['Bomb',6]
Browse More Classics in Pennsylvania
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Pennsylvania:
Featured Route For Pennsylvania
|By Brian Adzima|
From: the Paris of Appalachia
May 19, 2007
Not exactly a destination, but if you find yourself living here there is enough to keep oneself entertained between weekly trips out of state.
|By Chris Duca|
From: Havertown, PA
Dec 19, 2007
As someone who grew up in the greater Delaware Valley (suburb of Philly), I can attest to the diversity, quality, AND quantity of rock in PA. Granted, the random bridge is bolted to hell(long live the Henry Ave. Bridge!!), but there exists some extremely great rock (Diabase) west of Philadelphia on Haycock Mt. and Mt. Gretna. I'd liken this rock type to gritstone--very grainy and full of friction. Not necessarily a destination, but if you are traveling through the area and have a day to kill, both areas are a must to check out.
Apr 9, 2009
Western Pennsylvania has numerous excellent areas, although none are well known to outsiders. Breakneck, Lost Crag, McConnell's Mills State Park, and Coll's Cove are but a few.
Coopers Rock State Park is a huge area of excellent rock, just over the state line near Morgantown, West Virginia.
From: Mesa AZ
Jul 7, 2009
Is there any climbing in King of Prussia Area ... Im going for a job and wanted to see if there was anything I might want to check out while IM there...
email me at email@example.com
Sep 19, 2011
Not sure what is meant by the last comment as MP.com has very little info on PA at all. Sure there are a few listed areas for PA on this site but there are hardly any topos and sketchy or no directions for a lot of areas. For example www.mountainproject.com/v/the-pinnacle-area/106957079
I think this site is a great site, don't get me wrong, but it really only has brief descriptions of Pennsylvania's areas.
|By Justin Johnsen|
From: Sacramento, CA
Sep 20, 2011
Hey Brad, the Pinnacle's page isn't the best example, as I just created it to keep on my to do list, and I'm still collecting info to expand it. But many areas in PA (here on MP) are indeed skeletons.
Like you, I like the MP interface, and wish it had more local content (like rockclimbing.com, which has been documenting PA areas for many years). I volunteered to be the PA admin to help organize what's here, but I also contribute content for places I climb that have no access questions. I encourage you, and other local climbers that like MP's usability, to do the same!
I have no problem with guidebooks, and use the few I get my hands on to develop content here - especially for places I haven't climbed yet. I'm also collecting all the history I can, written or verbal. There are bound to be some errors, but as we discuss these things here in the public record, we can correct them.
MP is a guide to climbing areas above all else. If it helps me find a new crag to climb, that's valuable, even if I don't know the name or consensus grade of a route when I'm on it. There's such a thing as too much beta too! But I'm doing my best to flesh out areas in PA with coords and basic directions, even if they have no route specifics yet.
Looking forward to working with PA's contributing climbers!
Sep 20, 2011
Wasn't trying to nock the Pinnacle area it was just what I happened on. Keep up the good work.
|By scott m|
Jan 5, 2012
Thank you Rob for all your time researching all these areas. This guide is a great way to explore PA. It might not be complete for some but it is great for exploring some of the great crags in our state. This guide makes it easy for many to go explore some new areas beside spending everyday climbing the same old crags. Great job Rob. Buy the book if you want to travel. If your happy only climbing your local crag don't waste your time. Get out there with the guide book and explore. Thank you Rob.
|By Jim Bowers|
Dec 30, 2012
Well first off I'd like to respectively disagree that PA is not a "destination" area. The diabase, gritstone and sandstone bouldering areas in PA are definitely world class. While the Diabase areas are well documented (mainly because they are in the eastern part of the state where all the people are) - the gritstone bouldering in Western PA is somewhat unknown and OUT OF THIS WORLD! Think Coopers rock is a good gritstone area? There are at least 3 gritstone areas in PA that beat Coopers in terms of concentration, number of problems and quality of climbs. One area near Johnstown is more concentrated than the Happy boulders with far better rock. Haven't climbed on gritstone? Well there is a reason it's called "God's own rock." Climb a bunch on gritstone and it will ruin you for all other rock types. Yosemite granite? Piece of crap. The unreal friction for your feet and hands and beautiful classic shapes on gritstone yield the most amazing fun (or frustrating) sequences you will ever climb on rock. PA probably has more gritstone than bloody England. Why doesn't anyone know about it? Well no one lives in west central PA and for the lucky few of us who have discovered this stuff we've been too busy putting up climbs and finding new gems to bother documenting.
So my advice for someone contemplating PA climbing? Talk to a local. PA has the best bouldering in the Northeast - by far.
Jim Bowers - who has been climbing in PA for 40 years.
|By Adam Pudliner|
Jan 3, 2013
I love PA and have been climbing here for a while now. Where are the angry dragon and the brain boulder problems in johnstown? Also, where are the Standard Bowers Arete and Two Top problems? Great posts, I love learning new places to climb in PA.
|By Justin Johnsen|
From: Sacramento, CA
Feb 4, 2013
Thanks Jim, I included some of your write up in the main description for PA.
|By Kevin Martin|
May 16, 2013
In the description, a bouldering area near Johnstown is mentioned - which specific area is being referred to??
|By Nick Penatzer|
May 20, 2013
Yeah, would someone please post how to get to the boulders in Johnstown and also how I can get the area where the "brain" boulder is located because I can't find out where they are at.
|By Joe L 82|
Aug 9, 2013
Just moved back to the Johnstown area from MD and looking for some people to climb with. I am primarily bouldering right now as I don't have much cash to spend on gear and rope.
I try and climb early almost every Saturday morning at some local rocks in my "back yard" PM me if anyone is ever interested in joining me or if you want to just go check out the rocks yourself I can help you out.
Will eventually add them to the areas with photo's ect... when I get time.
Never been to the "Brain" nor do I know where it is, but will do some research, definitely interested in checking it out.