Portland Bouldering

Portland bouldering is much better than it was a decade or even 5 years ago.  A new wave of development has taken place for climbers in Portland, Oregon, Southwest Washington, the Columbia River Gorge, and the Mount Hood and Hood River vicinity.  A few years ago rock climbers only knew about Carver, the Schwingus, Rocky Butte, and a few areas in Gresham and Canby.  Since 2010 that has all changed.  Now several dozen great areas can be found within a half hour to one hour of PDX and there is even a bouldering guidebook for Portland and the Northwest. Boulderers now have to choose where they should head out and not “should we go to the gym, or hit that spot outside”?

The boulders around portland are also surprisingly diverse.  High elivations let you find rock that resembles a granite-like volcanic rock, lower elivations have pocketed basalt, and mid-level areas smooth, polished blocks that range from a few feet to 10/15 foot high boulders.  The types of problkems vary too.  You can find steep overhangs, caves, crimpy faces, slabs, and grades that vary from V0- to V11 with possibilities for grades much harder.  If you are looking to get out and boulder there is no shortage of rock in this part of the Northwest.  Portland and the nearby mountains host a large quantity of stone that proves that the PDX area is not just for rock climbers anymore.

Larch Mountain

This gem located above Vancouver, Washington–this is not the Larch on the Oregon side–has 5 individual areas with smooth, large boulders.  Three areas are located very close to each other making this area great for an afternoon of sending.  The area is sometimes scary to navigate on fall when target shooting is “in season” but otherwise bouldering on Larch is pretty good.  Abide by posted signs for limited vehicle use where logging may be present and parts of the road near teh main area require a 4WD or good backroad car.  The lower areas are easy enough to get to but require travel on rough mountain roads.  The roads are not maintained in winter, not that you’re going to boulder in the snow, so be prepared for the road and enjoy the boulders.

Directions:  More information on Larch Mountian Bouldering can be found here……..

The Lost City

The Lost City is one of the Gems of the Northwest and near to Portland.  The rock is pocketed and high quality with a very large amount of boulders with great, grassy landings and forest shade.  The area has close to 100 boulders and some are as large as 20 feet high.  Problems range from V0- to V9 and potential for much harder.

The Lost City Area

Carver Bouldering Area

Carver has long been the popular destination for Portland climbers.  This area was where one of the scenes from Twilight was filmed so you can look at cheesy plackards about Bella and teen vampires while you send V7.  This are has the best concentrration of boulders in one small spot and some great circuts as well.  You have to be a memner of the Carver Climbing Club to boulder here so visit thier site and become a member because this are is on proivate land and the landowner has graciously allowed bouldering to current members.  Don’t jeapordize access become a member!  Click here for more info……

Cascade Boulders

This area has recently seen a new wave of development.  As of 2011 a surge of new problems were cleand and sent by a few groups of Portland climbers and climbers from nearby Hood river.  The area has problems ranging from V0- to V9 with problems on shorter boulders with very good landings at some fo teh area and talus landings at other parts.  The boulders have an interesting volcanic rock with finger pockets and grippy texture.  This is one of the best areas in Portland and can be reached in 30 minutes of the city limits.

The access to the rock is quicka nd takes only a few minutes, some are even roadside or very-near roadside walkups.  The season here is year round and typically gets less rain than PDX.  Winter climbing is also possible if rain is not present or is slightly drizling.  There are several groupings of boulders that cater to all abilities and level climber.  This spot is never crowded and lies within public lands and a deep forest canopy and grassy feilds with areas of speckeled talus.

Gentle breezes blow off the Columbia River Gorge and rustle teh layer of pine and your first experience here is of the quiet wooded landscape.  Boulders can be found here a few minutes after walking down the approach trail that starts off Herman Creel road near the east side of Cascade Locks.  The first group of boulders is located just below the large boulder that fell on the road during winter of 2012/2013 and yes there are a few easy boulder problems on this new addition to the boulders.  Several other areas can be found by walking west along the road and through a powerline where a few boulders are hidden in the grasses.  Talus slopes are above and below an old road walking west and boulders are hidden below for 30 minutes down this road.

Detailed information and directions: Visit the Cascade Boulders detailed page.

Bridge of the Gods

Not to be confused with the actual bridge itself Dome Mountain just above the bridge, upslope behind the resort lodge, has hiddeen boulders nestled within the forest.  An area that extends from the powerline and past to talus slopes and wooded boulders can be explored and host many possibilities for all level bouldering.  This has been one of the older Portland haunts and is a great summer location as it’s shaded, cooller, and provides refuge from the sun that warms this part of the gorge.  Winter can ge cool but less rainy than PDX so year-round bouldering is possible here.  The rock is a beautyful colored and pocketed basalt that when gazed at almost looks like boulder you would find on Colorado.  Problems can be found as hard as V11 that are established and many Portland classics are here.

Bridge of Gods boudlering

Bridge of Gods Boulders

Mount Hood Bouldering

Most climbers don’t view Hood as a bouldering destination but some of the best boudlering within an hour of Portlandia is on Hood.  Bouldering is found at several of the alpine lakes, deep within the forest, on top of sub peaks of the mountian and on Hood itself.  Several decent boulders are also located jsut off the roadways and hidden from view.  This reagion of the Northwest is one of the least developed and boulder rich areas.  The setting here is not to be missed and offers panoramic views of Adams, Hoods glaciers, and the Columbia Gorge.  Some of the areas of interest for bouldering on Hood are the Meadows, Big Bertha boulder, Roadside area, The Canyon, The Chute, LoLo boulders, Forestlands, and several other spots that lie within the vicinity of Hood like Bulo Point, West Fork Boulders, Boulder Mountain and many more.  If alpine exploration is your fix and these quick approach areas don’t please you, half a dozen high alpine areas exist with amazing quality and hard problems.

Hood Bouldering

Hood Rock

Beacon Rocks

Not always thought of when you think bouldering.  Beacon Rock state park is home to several bouldering areas.  The easiest to find are located below teh west side of the cliff and offer some of the oldest established boudlering in Portland.  These littel beauties were even part of an old Portland and Columbia river Gorge bouldering guidebook back in the day written by Portland Rock Gyms Greg Lyon.  Some of the problems here offer very quick access and some really nice problems.  The only downfall is that quality is not the best compared to other parts of the park and it’s often damp.  A core group from the Circut Boudlering gym has been involved since 2012 at a large land stewardship and maintianing another great area in the park.  This newly developed area is arguyably some fo the best bouldering in the Portland vicinity.

Beacon Boulders

Chesshead Boulder

Problems already established here range from V0- and climb to the high ends of the scale with already developed classics and free standing projects.  If you want wuick, good access, this is a great after-work spot, weekend playground or jsut a great spot to visit if you are tired of Carver for the 1,000-nth time.

A park pass, either daily or anually is needed for this parka nd its areas.  The proce as of 2013 is $10 daily and $30 dollars anually.

Portland Inner City Bouldering

Some interesting spots lie within the safe confinds of Portland.  If you don’t have time to get out of PDX or are one of those uber-sustainable types who only travel places by bike, lucky for you there is boudlering outside in Portland.

The Schwingus

The what? Yes, the Schwingus is one of the old haunts for climbers at Rockey Butte, homeless folk looking for a quiet spot for a fix, and sometimes boulderers who don’t know any better but to come here.  If you’re looking for a quiet escape to boulder, the wall under the Burnside bridge is a little quieter but gentle din of the freeway won’t bother you after a few minutes of cranking this steep, classic wall.  The problems are excellent and steep for a short wall in a rough area but if you dont mind a little turf war with some transients, this place is as good as it gets for a freeway-side bouldering destination.

Directions: Drive to Portland Bible college near the domes and park along the road at an obvious pulllout.  Walk on the freewayside and locate a good parth that leads south past a tunnel under the road to Rockey Butte and continue downhill going over the climbing area.  Walk to nearly the freeway and then head south and about 10 minutes will bring you to a bouldering wall near the freeway and around the trail heading towards Portland.  Don’t go here alone.

Rocky Butte

Near the Schwingus is a man made wall that surrounds the summit.  It’s great for traversing, stretching, and some short ‘big ups’.  This is a good spot for beginners looking ot test out new shoes or jsut get a feel for what real rock should feel like.

Directions: This is a quick hit after work or whenever you want and is easy to find by driving to thte top of Rocky Butte and parking at the obvious rock wall.

Saint Johns

Right at the south end of the Saint Johns bridge and near the long bouldering wall on the highway adjacent to the road coming down from the forest and park above is a long stone wall similar to Rocky Buttes fine buildering.  This area is a quick hit for locals and someone looking for traverses or quick wall eliminates.

Directions:  Find the obvious stone wall at the highway right off the Saint Johns bridge and near the road that goes up into the park and eventually the hills.

Magma Zone

Located a little hike past Broughtan Bluff climbing area, this spot is small cliff bouldering and actually fun problems if they ever remain clean.  Due to traffic at other better spots in Porltand this area is unlikely to be a clean and popualr spot but it’s only a 10 minute drive from the city and a longer walk in.

Directions:   The trail that takes you here starts at the far east end of the cliff and weaves through the woods on a faint overgrown trail to the rock.  Directions to the climbing area can be found in the link above.

Hood River

Hood river boulders

A boulder called Steep near Hood River

A lot of great bouldering can be found around Hood River.  Some great volcanic basalt that has steep lines and high quality problems is easy to find on the hillsides and in low forest near the town.   Talking to locals will yeild a wealth of opportunities for discovering new areas.

More Information

The Mazamas are a great local climbing orginazation.  Contact them for classes, courses, meet-ups and general beta….

If you need beta, directions, photos, or other areas to visit check out the new Pacific Northwest boudlering guidebook that is rumored to be available this year……..






Leave a Reply


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>