When it’s not 110 degrees outside, Austin has some of the best bouldering and sport climbing spots for rock climbing enthusiasts. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, these hidden gems provide great climbing for all levels.
When it comes to bouldering difficulty levels, the common standard is the V scale where the lower the number, the easier the climb. With sport climbing, grades fall into a rudimentary scale, with 5.0 to 5.7 being easy, 5.8 to 5.10 being intermediate, and 5.11 to 5.14 being extremely hard.
Here are some of my favorite spots for outdoor climbing in Austin.
This spot along the Greenbelt provides both sport climbing and bouldering. Starting from the trailhead in the Barton Hills neighborhood, you can walk to the crag (the rock climbing area) in less than 10 minutes. There are several areas to enjoy lead climbing and bouldering without waiting for someone to finish. A hiking trail runs between the two climbing areas, so a lot of admirers stop and watch. The area is easy to find, and parking is free within the neighborhood. This is also a pet-friendly area, so bring your pups! I rate this place 4.5 out of 5 for beginners in sport climbing and intermediate climbers in bouldering.
Unlike Gus Fruh, Bull Creek only has bouldering. The walk to the crag is only a few minutes, and parking is free with on-site restrooms. There are a few sections to boulder with the first slab wall being visible as soon as you enter. It’s about 15 inches high and has lots of small pockets to hold. The landing zone where you place crashpads is convenient, and once the boulder is topped, you can find your way down easily. Bull Creek offers many activities for both humans and pets. With great swimming holes, it’s definitely one of my favorite spots to climb, swim and watch doggos. I rate this place 4 out of 5 for beginners in bouldering.
Like Bull Creek, McKinney Falls only has bouldering. The park office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with gates open until 10 p.m, and the day-use fee is $6 per person. McKinney Falls has lower and upper falls, but bouldering is only found near the lower falls. The crag is a vertical slab with a slight overhung area that varies in difficulty. With limestone, every climb feels a grade higher so if you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend this area. The bouldering area can be busy when the weather is cool, but it’s big enough to accommodate your climbing needs. Another great pet-friendly area, McKinney Falls has easy parking, restrooms and campsites. I rate this place 4.7 out of 5 for advanced bouldering.
If you’re heading toward Hamilton Pool, you’ll pass Reimers Ranch in Dripping Springs. After parking by the trailhead, it’s about a 7-minute walk to the nearest crag, with easy-to-find trails and markings. Reimers Ranch has sport climbing only and requires lead climbing skills or a guide, and day use is $5 per person. At Reimers Ranch, you can find many climbing sites that suit your level — from areas like Serpent Wall which is highly recommended for beginners to Prototype Wall which is most popular for intermediate to advanced climbers. If you’re a pro, House of Pain has everything from 5.11 to 5.13 in difficulty. I rate this place 4.9 out of 5 for sport climbing only.
One of my all-time favorite areas for bouldering is located 70 miles north of downtown Austin. Rogers Park in Belton has walls ranging from 12 to 30 feet in height and have unlimited opportunities for pocketed climbing. The rock is limestone, which provides a variety of grades for all levels. The lake is also a good place to cool off on warm days. There are no signs of a trailhead when looking for directions to the crag, but it’s about a 7-minute walk if you park at Mourning Dove Trail at the end of the street. Abase Wall is the first climbing section that everyone usually approaches. Bouldering grades vary from V3 to V9 here. Further down, Billiard Wall provides a variety of levels from V2 to V9. There are no restrooms at this park, and the closest gas station is 10 minutes away. If you boulder here, just make sure to bring enough crash pads as the fall zone can be a little rough. I rate this place 4.8 out of 5 for all levels of climbing in bouldering.
The last on my list is the all-mighty Enchanted Rock, the jack of all trades — you can literally do anything here! The area consists of 1,600 acres on the Big Sandy Creek north of Fredericksburg. The actual rock is a large, pink granite dome that covers over 640 acres. Enchanted Rock provides all types of climbing, from bouldering to trad to lead climbing. People from across the country make a weekend getaway to camp, hike and climb this granite rock. It’s $8 per person to enter, and parking and restrooms are convenient to locate. Little Dome is where most bouldering takes place, but it involves lots of hiking. I recommend downloading “Mountain Project” on your phone which has all the climbs and their locations. Lots of preparation is required to climb Enchanted Rock. I rate this place 3.7 out of 5 for intermediate to advanced level in bouldering.
Remember, climbing is dangerous and everyone climbs at their own risk. If bouldering, make sure you have enough crash pads and a buddy to spot you when falling. For lead climbing, ensure your belayer has enough experience to catch you when you fall. The vast majority of rock climbers are extremely supportive, and the community is close — one of the many reasons to love Austin!
About the Author
Damir Okanovic is a local rock climber and slackliner as well as a personal trainer. He also made it to the finals of American Ninja Warrior during seasons 9 and 11 and was on Team Europe in USA vs. The World in January 2020. You can check out his Instagram for updates on his life.