Where to climb within two hours of Birmingham

Little River Canyon Climbing Where to climb within two hours of Birmingham
Sport climbing at Little River Canyon. Photo by Tim Foote

Now that spring has sprung in Birmingham, you may be thinking about getting active and enjoying the outdoors–have you considered climbing?

Climbing in Birmingham

Perhaps you’ve heard about local climbing gyms Birmingham Boulders, First Avenue Rocks and High Point Climbing and Fitness. What you may not know, though, is there are multiple locations where you can climb outside on an actual rock–all within two hours of Birmingham.

There are many types of climbing available, including bouldering, sport climbing and traditional (“trad”) climbing.

Bouldering at Horse Pens Where to climb within two hours of Birmingham
Bouldering at Horse Pens 40. Photo by Markham Tuck
  • Bouldering involves climbing on a smaller rock without a rope, usually with a crash pad (safety first!).
  • Sport climbers use a rope, which they attach to pre-placed bolts in the rock for protection.
  • In trad climbing, a climber places gear into the rock for protection that is removed (no bolts!) when the climb is complete.

There’s also climbing jargon to know before you go–because even if you’re not a pro, you might as well sound like one.

  • Crag: What climbers call a climbing area.
  • Route or Problem: The path up the rock to climb.
  • Jug: A large climbing hold on a rock.
  • Pumped: When you’re too tired to continue climbing.
  • Whipper: A fall!

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned climber, the spots below are worth checking out:

Moss Rock Preserve

Located just south of Birmingham, Moss Rock Preserve boasts over 300 acres of trails, creeks and boulders.

  • Type of climbing: Bouldering
  • Where: Hoover, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: None

Horse Pens 40

Horse Pens 40 Where to climb within two hours of Birmingham
Horse Pens 40. Photo by Markham Tuck

A forty-five-minute drive north of Birmingham, Horse Pens 40 is a privately-owned park on Chandler Mountain. It’s known among climbers as one of the top bouldering fields.

  • Type of climbing: Bouldering
  • Where: Steele, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: $8

Little River Canyon

For more experienced climbers, Little River Canyon has been a well-known climbing destination for decades.

  • Type of climbing: Sport climbing and bouldering
  • Where: Fort Payne, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: None

Palisades Park

Palisades offers sport climbing for climbers of all levels – if you’re just getting into the sport, it’s a great place to start.

  • Type of climbing: Sport and trad climbing
  • Where: Oneonta, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: $5

Sand Rock

With a variety of routes overlooking beautiful Lake Weiss, Sand Rock is another great option for beginners and experienced climbers alike.

  • Type of climbing: Sport and trad climbing
  • Where: Leesburg, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: $5 per car


A stone’s throw from Sand Rock and Little River Canyon, Jamestown is a preeminent trad climbing area.

  • Type of climbing: Trad climbing
  • Where: Northeast Alabama
  • Entrance fee: None

Hospital Boulders

Hospital Boulders is a newer climbing area owned by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. You need a gate code for access–more information can be found here.

  • Type of climbing: Bouldering
  • Where: Gadsden, Alabama
  • Entrance fee: None

But wait, there’s more! If you haven’t had your climbing fix in these areas, check out Steele, Yellow Bluff, Griffin Falls and Rocktown. For more information on these and other climbing areas near Birmingham, visit: https://www.mountainproject.com/area/105905173/alabama.

Taylor Babington
Taylor Babington
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