Rock Climbing in Massachusetts: Top Climbing Destinations
Massachusetts rock climbing has long been overshadowed by supremely popular neighboring climbing destinations such as Rumney, New Hampshire, and the Gunks near New Paltz, New York. But where to go for a more local outside climbing adventure? Well, Massachusetts is actually home to many rock climbing areas with quality climbing routes. Unfortunately, there is virtually no sport climbing here in MA, and some of the best climbing is on private property with tenuous relations between climbers and owners. The Western Massachusetts Climber’s Coalition has been working hard to open and maintain access to many climbing areas in Massachusetts, so please respect any guidelines they have set and double check their website for up to date access issues.
Top Climbing Areas Throughout the Commonwealth
Beta: information about a climb and/or how to climb it.
Quincy Quarries, Quincy
Quincy isn’t your typical idyllic wilderness crag. Graffitti artists have run rampant and, though I think it has its own charm, the spray paint makes the rock ridiculously smooth so that it is difficult to find footing on the beginning of many climbs. It is surprisingly quiet and peaceful within the walls of the quarry, but it can be quite jarring to come to top out and be accosted with the sounds and sights of a major highway and of course, the city skyline in all its glory.
So why is it on the list of top climbing destinations?
- For the amount and variety of climbs,
- its accessibility,
- and the rumors of decades old mob murders. The quarry was closed in 1963, and at times, climbing at Quincy was outlawed and presumably frequented by more sinister outcasts than climbers. Since then, a lot of the quarry has been filled with dirt, leaving only a few bodies of deep water (swimming is not allowed).
- Many of Quincy’s numerous walls are perfect for top-roping, and even offers some bouldering opportunities.
- Quincy offers routes from 5.5 to 5.12.
The quarry walls trap a lot of heat, making some walls unbearable in the summer. But often, Quincy is dry when everywhere else is wet! It’s also one of the few spots for off season climbing.
For route beta and directions, check out Boston Rocks 2nd Edition.
Update: Recently, someone poured paint all down the face of K-Wall, making some of the best routes unclimable.
Crow Hill, Leominster
Crow Hill features a
- variety of trad and top rope routes from 5.5 to 5.11, scattered throughout six different rock faces.
- The 10-15 minute approach to the main face is fairly steep and sustained from the main lot by the pond, but much more gentle and smooth, though a little longer, coming from the small dirt parking lot down the road (affectionately the “Climber’s Lot”).
- The rock is gneiss, and tends to seep for a day or more after a significant rain.
The bolts on top of Practice Face are pretty far back, so make sure that you have some webbing to extend your anchor. Don’t forget to relish the view from the top of Practice Face!
For more about specific routes and directions to Crow Hill, refer to Boston Rocks 2nd Edition.
Guide Book with Beta for Rose Ledges
Rose Ledges, Erving
Most people only see the Main Face of Rose Ledges, but the wall extends on for almost a mile. There are many hand cracks, and a few off-widths for the brave who have big enough pro.
- As Jeremy Rathfon says in his Rose Ledges guide, Rose Ledges is “a gneiss trad and top rope area, no pun intended.”
- Please respect that there are no dogs allowed.
- The approach to the Main Face is about 20 minutes of sustained uphill travel.
- Routes range from 5.2 to 5.13.
Rose Ledges is one of my favorite places to climb because of it's variety of routes and the easy access to the top of the ledge for top rope set-ups.
For more about the area and routes found in Rose Ledges, print out Jeremy Rathfon’s guide, or look in Stewart M. Green’s Rock Climbing in New England.
College Rock, Hopkinton
College Rock is perfect for an afternoon top rope session if you want to stay in the Metrowest area.
- The approach is practically non-existent,
- and the range of routes stretches from beginner bouldering to 5.11 face climbs.
- The crag reaches a height of 35 ft. and easy access to the top of the cliff makes anchors for top roping very accessible.
- There are also some cracks for trad climbers, and some very good boulder problems, both on the short sections of the wall and on separate boulders further down.
Be sure to bring some small to medium sized cams or hexes to set up gear anchors.
For beta on routes and directions, check out Boston Rocks 2nd Edition.
Sandbagged: climber slang for a route that is actually much harder than the grade assigned.
Lynn Woods, Lynn
While there is some roped climbing on Lantern Rock and a cave rumored to hold pirate’s treasure (and the pirates remains), most people visit Lynn Woods for its bouldering and mountain biking.
- It is the second largest municipal park in the U.S. and features a huge selection of wildlife.
- Lynn Woods is just beginning to gain popularity in the bouldering community, and has been compared to Lincoln Woods and Pawtuckaway.
- There are many established bouldering problems ranging from V0 to V9, but there are many opportunities for first ascents up to V12.
Don’t forget that the park is huge, so approaches to the scattered boulders can be short, or very long. Be sure to check out LynnWoodsBouldering.com and take a map with you!