Rock climbing is a fantastic way to spend quality time outside—scaling breathtaking bluffs, discovering new places to climb and creating memories with friends. If you enjoy the outdoors and trying new things, Wisconsin offers a ton of opportunities to try your hand at this popular sport. Read on to find some great places offering rock-climbing routes for beginners.
Devil’s Lake State Park - Baraboo
Devil’s Lake State Park provides some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest, with “over 5,000 climbs varying from beginner to expert in difficulty,” says Jill Griffis, co-owner of Apex Adventure Alliance out of Baraboo. The park’s quartzite cliffs rise more than 100 feet above the lake and attract climbers from all over the country. Plan an adventure with Apex Adventure Alliance and they’ll provide the equipment and experienced guides to help you and your crew have an unforgettable time.
A perfect route for beginners is the ‘Boy Scout.’ “This long, low-angle slab transitioning to a fun three-dimensional challenge is a great first climb for anyone,” says Nick Wilkes, founder of Devil's Lake Climbing Guides. “The ‘Double Overhang’ is a really tall route, with lots of variety and an airy, spooky crux with fantastic views! Then there’s the ‘Pine Tree Step-Across.’ This is a great climb to widen a beginner’s horizons, plus the ‘step-across’ surprise leaves a lasting memory.” With rock climbing trips and courses for families, friends and larger groups, Devil’s Lake Climbing Guides is another expert outfitter that will ensure your experience is a memorable one.
Interstate State Park - St. Croix Falls
Interstate State Park along the St. Croix River is another popular rock climbing destination in Wisconsin. Seventeen rock climbing sections are located on the basalt bluffs along the river. Climbers can camp in the park, or stay in charming St. Croix Falls to discover tasty restaurants and other fun attractions.
“Although the park has several easy climbs, access can be a bit more difficult and the routes a little harder to find,” says Allen Wiberg, owner of Midwest Mountain Guides in Chippewa Falls. Take an introduction to rock climbing course with their experienced guides or even try ice climbing with them for a true one-of-a-kind winter adventure.
Bouldering is another way to get out on the rocks while staying closer to the ground. Governor Dodge State Park has many giant sandstone boulders, some of which are excellent for this type of climbing (avoid the ones that are crumbly and soft). If you and your crew are looking to test your skills, the area behind the Group B campsite on the northern end has some of the most challenging boulders in the park.
Meet other climbers and participate in challenges at the annual Boulder Bash held at Governor Dodge in September. This event welcomes climbers of all skill levels and is a great way to meet other people in the climbing community.
A beginner rock climber can typically start anywhere, as long as there is appropriate terrain. With rock climbing gyms throughout the state, there are plenty of places to start learning.
“No matter where you live, there is probably climbing within a few hours,” says Griffis. “Any location can be a good place to start, as long as you have a guide to help with the terrain and other logistics that might be foreign to a new climber.”
“It's important to seek out a professional guide service that can mitigate the risk and introduce you to the sport in a safe and fun environment,” adds Wiberg. From there, you can become an independent climber with the investment of your own equipment and additional training.
Working with an experienced guide reduces climbing fears and helps you believe in yourself as a climber. “Remember, you don't have to be a good climber to have a lot of fun rock climbing,” adds Wilkes. “We want you to have an authentic climbing experience where you gain real climbing skills you can use down the line. Once you get a taste of the climbing world, we bet you'll come back for more.”