We’re Freeman and Melissa Dawson. Our love of the outdoors is one of the main reasons we sell vehicles that can get people out on adventures of their own. Climbing is an outdoor sport we enjoy as a family. We first climbed together on Thanksgiving Day in 2005, when we were in college. Over the years we’ve added four daughters to our family, and now we all love to get out there and experience different climbing locations together. If you’re looking for a fun family activity, we’ve listed three of our favorite climbing spots and included some inside info so you can plan ahead and get the most out of your first or next climbing adventure. Most indoor climbing gyms have equipment you can rent, but if you’re going climbing outdoors for the first time, renting ropes and harnesses isn’t really an option. To buy climbing gear locally, we recommend checking out Boise Gear Collective for new and used gear, or REI typically has decent prices for everything you’ll need.
Also, if you’re not familiar with the difficulty rating system climbers use, check out this helpful guide so you can try routes at your skill level.
Location: McCall // Difficulty: 5.7-5.11
We started climbing here about eight years ago when we were camping and saw some people climbing the cliffs alongside the North Fork of the Payette River. To get here, you take Warren Wagon Road north around the west side of Payette Lake, turn right on Eastside Drive, and you can’t miss the huge rock formation.There are short top rope routes that are easy to set up and there’s a variety of terrain here ranging from easy to difficult, so our kids are able to learn and then push themselves further. In total, there’s about 23 routes, most of which is sport climbing with some traditional routes as well. There’s also some fun bouldering if you don’t have any belaying equipment. The views of the lake, mountains, and forests make this a scenic place to climb.
Location: Southeast Boise // Difficulty: 5.7-5.12
This place is right on the outskirts of Boise. It’s located on the north side of Highway 21 on the stretch of the road right before Lucky Peak. This place has tons of routes, about 250 in all, so you could climb here for days exploring new options. There’s some easy top roping, really easy routes, and some pretty challenging stuff too. If you plan to climb here during the summer, go in the morning when the routes are shaded. The dark basalt gets quite hot in the afternoon and can actually be painful to climb. During spring and fall, afternoon is best since the rock warms up with the afternoon sun. This location is fun during the summer because you can climb in the morning and cool down at Lucky Peak in the afternoon, for a fun day of outdoor adventure.
City of Rocks
Location: Southern Idaho, above Utah Border // Difficulty: 5.7-5.12
This place is a climber’s paradise. To get here, drive east on I-84 to Burley, then head south on Highway 27 through Oakley. There’s plenty of traditional, sport, toprope, boulder, and aid climbing here (about 570 routes in total). Some of the routes are pretty long and you can spend plenty of time in a harness exploring the terrain. Before it was renowned by climbers, pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail passed through here. They wrote their names and dates with axle grease on some of the rock formations. Many of these names and dates can still be seen today. Since this is located south of Burley, we recommend planning ahead and reserving a camping spot if you want to climb here. You’re only allowed to camp in designated areas. If you’re planning to travel near the area, we recommend setting aside at least half a day to check it out.
We hope you found this article helpful and inspiring. There’s a wide variety of rock climbing options all over the Boise area and beyond, so get out there and explore some for yourself. If there’s a spot you like that The Dawson’s didn’t cover, let us know. Our community loves swapping stories and info with other adventurers and learning from each other.