Fitness fans who travel for business discovered this phenomenon a while ago; it’s fun to check out new gyms and exercise facilities when you’re on the road. Somewhat complacent with the same layout and gym “culture” of the workout centers they frequent at home, these athletic enthusiasts have discovered seeing how other gyms operate is refreshing, and can even kick-start a workout routine that’s gotten, well… a little bit too routine.
Travel industry experts have pegged rock climbing – be it for bouldering or rope climbing – as an emerging travel trend, especially now that the sport has received publicity for its official inclusion at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Climbers are planning trips to visit specific walls and boulders, and others are also taking advantage of the proliferation of climbing gyms that are popping up everywhere – and some are actually planning trips just to visit new facilities.
What’s the allure? These gyms let them challenge themselves with a whole new set of boulder problems and rope courses, in a novel space, with trainers from different backgrounds and experience levels. Best of all, for solo travelers, is they’re able to practice in a controlled environment, which is comforting for those traveling on their own, short on time or just don’t want to risk climbing a new outside wall in an unknown environment.
Where should you start your gym tour? Well, here’s a list of five unique indoor rock climbing gyms, from around the US, that some climbers are seeking out while on the road. Check ‘em out…
Planet Granite San Francisco – San Francisco, CA
Talk about a room with a view! Planet Granite San Francisco is located in an old converted airplane hanger on the grounds of the Presidio, a former US military post that’s now a national park site. Climbers at this facility get gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and other iconic attractions, like Alcatraz Island. Offering over 25,000 square feet of climbing space, this full service gym, and its giant plate-glass windows, make San Francisco Bay the inspiring backdrop to your climb. Catwalks lead you up to a second story floor, which grants additional stunning views. Planet Granite SF also features full fitness and cardio areas, two yoga studios, and top-out bouldering, providing visitors to the Bay area plenty of workout options.
MemphisRox – Memphis, TN
As climbing gyms go, this one has a pretty unique business mode. For starters, MemphisRox takes it way beyond being a first-rate climbing facility; it’s partnered with a local metro-area non-profit, One Family Memphis, to bring rehabilitation, healing and a renewed sense of hope to the city’s challenged communities by providing a climbing facility and programs to foster relationships across cultural, racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Memphis Rox excludes no one for their inability to pay. And befitting of the Volunteer State, those without the monetary means to climb, have full access to the facility in exchange for donating their time at the gym, or at another approved local charity. Those who can pay are helping neighbors find new purpose and meaning. It’s a win/win. And it means you can travel, not only for fitness, but for a great cause that gives others a chance to discover the restorative power and confidence building rock climbing embodies.
The Cliffs at Dumbo – Brooklyn, NY
This is the sister site to one of NYC’s most popular climbing gyms, The Cliff’s LIC, and it comes with its own unique twist. Members (and visitors with guest passes) can literally practice on walls that are situated under the superstructure of the Manhattan Bridge. The Cliffs at Dumbo, just off the busy East River, and with terrific views of the Manhattan skyline, is a facility made for your climbing Instagram moments. Being outdoors, adjacent to a waterway and non-stop city buzz, fills this colorful park (and its climbers) with a great deal of excitement. And though located in a city known for being rough and cold, the comraderie among climbers here is especially invigorating. The only real drawback is the facility closes when it’s stormy or too cold to safely climb.
High Point Climbing Gym – Chattanooga, TN
Besides being located in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a city known for its local rock formations, High Point Climbing Gym has a number of other unique amenities that make it worth visiting. You don’t even have to step into the gym to see its most noteworthy feature: the building’s entire exterior façade is a giant, outdoor-use, transparent, climbing wall. It’s called The Block and on any given day, you’ll see rope climbers challenging themselves high above downtown Chattanooga. Whether you’re visiting on your own or with a few others, be sure to take advantage of their awesome “Gym to Craig” program. It takes enthusiasts from practice climbs on The Block out to ascending actual rock formations, at local sites like Sunset Rock on Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain. Inside the gym, there are climbing areas for all levels – from beginner auto-belay walls to a top-roping room, lead climbing pit, and two challenging bouldering areas.
Earth Treks Crystal City – Arlington, VA
What makes the DC area’s Earth Treks Crystal City the Pentagon of climbing gyms? First it comes in with an awe-inspiring 45,000 square feet of climbing and fitness space. Second, it’s located entirely underground, giving climbers, and especially those bouldering, a feel for the natural climbing environment they’ll find in the field. Earth Treks Crystal City offers over 400-roped routes and boulders that have been designed by industry-leading route-setters, over a canvas of diverse terrain such as slabs, overhangs, and top-outs. In a city known for leaks and whistleblowers, Crystal City is DC’s best kept secret.
Being away from home doesn’t mean sacrificing your climbing workout. Don’t settle for the lackluster offerings of the hotel’s underserved weight room. Launch a quick web search and find a new local climbing facility in your temporary home. It’s sure to switch up your routine and open your eyes to differing styles, spaces and activities to be found in the sport. And remember, most of these facilities offer rental gear and the guidance of professional staff and like-minded members who can assure you won’t be treated like a stranger in a strange land.
Article is written by Lianna Fisher (working mom, business traveler, and freelance boulder-problem solver)