Solar Power, Stained Glass, and Slacklines: These Are the Coolest Climbing Gyms
These climbing gyms aren’t just the best of the best—they also feature extra perks like solar power, slacklines, kids bouldering and acroyoga.
These climbing gyms are superlative—they’re the tallest, the oldest, the most environmental. Sure, they have the best facilities and the best conditioning, but they also feature choice perks like huge kids’ bouldering areas, summer camps, saunas and acroyoga. Plus, being in them just feels fun, with beautifully-designed walls, industrial sculptures, and even stained glass. Whether you’re hanging out in a former California Edison power plant or a 19th-century church, you’ll feel the good vibes and propel yourself to the top at these spots.
Base Camp, Reno, NV
On the side of the Whitney Peak Hotel, this epic spot boasts the Guinness Book of World Records’ largest artificial climbing wall in the world at 164 feet, and it can be climbed in two lead pitches or all at once by top roping. The full climbing gym features 70 and 35-foot rope walls and a 7,000-square-foot bordering area. It also has a dedicated kids’ room with 8’6″ to 12’6″ Baltic birch. There’s also a slackline that can be hung in different parts of the gym for tightrope practice, should you need to practice your own Philippe Petit moves.
Brimstone Boulders, Hood River, OR
If you ever fancied climbing in your own little Notre Dame above gorgeous stained glass windows, then Brimstone Boulders is your dream come true. Imagine bouldering in a 19th-century building complete with a restored interior, a church pipe organ from 1913, and brilliantly-colored stained glass windows by Portland’s famous Povey Bros. Built in 1896, this sanctuary opened in January 2020 could be your home for bouldering on 15-foot walls, yoga, and fitness.
Momentum Indoor Climbing, Salt Lake City, UT
Momentum Climbing‘s routesetters satisfy demanding climbers with new routes every day that are challenging and creative. Not only that, but it’s a family-friendly gym, with a Kids Canyon as well as kids’ summer camps and classes. A speed wall allows you to try to beat your record every time you visit. Top roping, lead climbing, bouldering—this gym has it all. In the training area, you’ll find more than the average conditioning section of a rock gym: free weights and cardio, sure, but more hangboards, a training wall, a kilter board, and Rogue Fitness equipment.
Movement Climbing + Fitness, Boulder, CO
Climbing gyms can often face stiff utility bills for electricity, water, air conditioning, and heating, especially with their size. Movement Climbing in Boulder, measuring 22,000 square feet, is knocking out some of its costs with solar panels featuring super-efficient photovoltaics and evacuated tube solar thermal collectors by Lumos. In fact, 80% of its power is supplied by solar panels. The water is heated with a 90-square-foot evacuated tube solar thermal system. The Grey Wall—literally, a gray wall that you can’t help but run into as it takes center stage at the gym—offers some decently long routes. With 66 independent anchors, over 100 bouldering problems, and 30- to 40-foot walls, this is a treat for locals and a must-visit for tourists.
Planet Granite, Portland, OR
This Pearl District gem is 30,500 square feet of custom Walltopia designs up to 55 feet high, featuring both top roping and bouldering. With 200 routes and 18 cracks, four of which are hydraulically adjustable, this is a fun spot you can hang out at all afternoon. The bouldering section boasts over 200 problems, an 18-foot-high ball boulder, and a 40-foot ramp. The three-floor format allows for plenty of stretching and exercise areas, plus cardio machines on multiple floors, so you’ll rarely wait in line for a machine. On the third floor, you’ll be able to take a variety of yoga and pilates classes. And if you’d rather not get grungy, the gym and its locker rooms are noticeably clean. With a relaxing sauna, a local climbing literature section, and gear by La Sportiva, Black Diamond, Scarpa, and Five Ten, this spot is a go-to in Portland.
Sender One, Los Angeles, CA
Widely considered one of the best climbing gyms in the world, Sender One in Los Angeles is owned by Chris Sharma, one of the best climbers in the world. The site of high-level competitions, including the IFSC Pan American Championships, Sender One is a notch above in its challenging route setting. It also boasts the tallest walls in Los Angeles at 50 feet. The setting is colorful and artistic, and its signature swirls of orange and blue are instantly recognizable. Sender One employs five full-time routesetters, and also offers vinyasa, core yoga, acro yoga, and pilates.
Stronghold, Los Angeles, CA
Industrial sculptures, art installations, and a smokestack with a chandelier hanging from it? You must be at Stronghold, a climbing haven in the Brewery Arts Complex, a renowned arts center constructed from an old brewery that hosts a very popular twice-yearly arts walk. Designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1988, this former California Edison steam power plant dates back to 1904, when it was designed by John Parkison, who also designed Union Station and City Hall. It was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1988, giving a nod to its history as the steam power for street lamps and the Red Car electric railroad system. Maybe it’s all that vibrant energy, but Stronghold’s climbing scene is never dim. With 45-foot walls plus bouldering and yoga (acro, kundalini, and ashtanga are just a few of the special options), there’s always a buzz here. True to Stronghold’s storied past, the former brewery houses a comfort food spot with great craft beers called Barbara’s that’s literally a few steps from the front door.
Vertical World, Seattle, WA
Vertical World in Seattle is the oldest climbing gym in North America, with a funny story: its first iteration in 1987 was merely rocks glued to painted plywood walls! It’s come a long way, and now features 50-foot top rope walls, 75-foot lead walls, a 4,000-square-foot bouldering area, and kids’ boulders to boot (the kids’ area will look like the most fun treehouse in the world to your little ones). The gym’s extensive adult programming tends toward the highly technical, and kids’ summer camps start as young as age three. Vertical World also offers something many climbing gyms do not: personal training, with an eye toward conditioning for climbing.