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5 Cool Missouri Spots to Hang Out and Climb
Missouri’s landscape provides ample opportunities for rock climbing, but many places are off limits to the casual climber. While climbing sites on private land are often unavailable to the avid rock climber, there are places to get a toehold and ascend. Here are our top five picks for legal and open to the public places to rock climb.
Routes here rate from 5.7 to 5.12 in difficulty, based on the Yosemite Decimal System class. Cliff Drive contains routes that ascend more than sixty feet up the limestone cliffs that offer twenty sport and natural leads by the river. Sport climbing involves placing anchors prior to climbing, and as the climber ascends, he or she attaches the rope to the rock by use of the anchors. The Book, a 5.7 route, can be muddy after a rain, but enjoyable for an easier climb. For a harder climb of around 5.12, try The Overhang, which has thin cruxes and thin holds, making it more difficult.
Directions from Kansas City: Take Highway 24 west. Take a right at the Paseo. The Paseo will become Cliff Drive, and the cliffs will be on the right as the road starts to wind.
Elephant Rocks State Park
Elephant Rocks State Park is made up of huge granite boulders that stand end-to-end, resembling circus elephants. The site provides myriad opportunities for bouldering with grades of V0 to V10; however, Elephant Rocks does not allow rope climbing or camping. It might be helpful to rub your hands with magnesium carbonate chalk, or gymnastics chalk, to help with grip because the granite may be uncomfortable.
Directions from St. Louis: Take Interstate 55 south out of St. Louis to Highway 67. Turn right at Exit 174 onto southbound Highway 67 and drive past Bonne Terre, Park Hills, Leadington, and into Farmington. On the south side of Farmington, exit onto State Road 221 and travel nine miles. At the Route NN intersection, go straight onto Route NN. Continue for eight miles to a three-way stop. Turn right onto northbound Highway 21 and travel two miles. The park entrance is on the right.
This park has a cliff around seventy feet along the creek and a steep bouldering traverse near the parking lot. The park is great for overhang climbing and moderate crack climbing. There are rumored secret bouldering routes in the forest and creek bed in the park. There are ten boulder problems, or short very difficult routes, that may take many attempts, and twenty-five to thirty routes rating 5.6 to 5.11 and V0 to V4. Due to the fact that the bolts are not close to the cliff, you should bring a lot of webbing. Loose rock is also a concern when climbing.
Directions from Columbia: Take Highway 63 south to Stadium Boulevard. Go west on Stadium to Rock Quarry Road and south on Rock Quarry Road to Capen Drive. Take Capen Drive to Capen Park. The parking lot is on the left.
Trappers Camp gives climbers a variety of routes from which to choose. Climbs range in difficulty anywhere from 5.5 to 5.11. Climbers on rockclimbing.com rate the Pontoon Wall around a 5.10 for its steepness and number of jugs, or holds. The Halloween Wall, around 5.7, is perfect for beginners because even though it is a steeper, more vertical climb, it has good holds and is easily protected. After you park, walk down the steep hillside just north of the first pull out.
Directions from Sedalia: Take the Route 83 south ramp toward White Branch. Turn left onto Route 83/ Wildcat Drive. Turn right onto Route 83. Turn right onto Route 82. There should be two pullouts atop bluffs. Hike south to the rap station, where climbers descend approximately three hundred yards and then hike west through woods.
Truman Lake provides many sport climbs without top-rope accessibility. The Washboard is a prime example of a very challenging and fun sport climb. Rockclimbing.com users recommend bringing a fifty-meter rope and protection devices because many of the sport climbs lack top rope accessibility. Make sure to park at the golf course.
Directions from Warsaw: Go west on Highway 7. Cross the Osage River, and look out for SW 621 Road, which is also called West Dam Access Road; make a right. Take the first left, and park off the road near the gate. From the gate, follow the gravel road on the left to the trail. Follow the trail to the cliffs.
By Jennifer Gerling
Originally published in February 2009.