Harness? Check. Safety knot? Check. On belay? Belay on. Climbing. Climb on. Once you’re strapped in, it’s time to scale the rock walls of George Washington National Forest as you take in the beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley. When you’re done on the rock, pack up your equipment and head into Downtown Harrisonburg, Va., for local craft brews and stacked burgers that will hit the spot every time.
Climb Like a Local
Want to find the best spots around for climbing? Look no further than Lester Zook of WILD GUYde Adventures. Zook has been leading climbing, hiking, canoeing, and caving adventures in the area for more than three decades. As the author of Climbing ROCKingham County, he’s put in the work to detail all the climbing spots in the area and direct visitors out to the local crags. You can pick up a copy of the guidebook for yourself at Walkabout Outfitter in Harrisonburg, Lexington, or Richmond.
Less than 30 minutes from town, George Washington National Forest offers a myriad of recreation opportunities, from trails and streams to epic crags. For the climbers of the group, park at the Hidden Rocks Trailhead and follow the gentle trail out to the climbing area. Once you reach the Hidden Rocks wall, you can expect shaded toprope and lead routes, some challenging bouldering problems, and a campsite with views of Hone Quarry. Continue walking the trail for the waterfall and pool, and don’t forget sturdy shoes for stream crossings. The round trip out to the climbing area is 1.8 miles while the full loop is 2.5 miles. Nearby, Dictum Ridge Trail offers some additional bouldering opportunities.
Since this is largely a top roping and bouldering area, Zook recommends packing rope padding and carpet for edges, a bouldering crash-pad, lots of locking carabiners, and a helmet. “There are abundant opportunities for natural protection for the aspiring lead climber, and easy walk-ups for top-rope rigging for the rest of us, so please leave your pitons and bolt drills at home when you climb in Rockingham County,” Zook writes in his guidebook.
If you’re a new climber or want a local to show you the lay of the land, Zook offers half-day and full-day trips out to Hidden Rocks, Waterfall Mountain, and Little Stoney Man in the valley. Or book a caving trip with him and head beneath the surface for climbing and crawling in a unique limestone geological area.
For climbers who like “places to enjoy camaraderie and commentary from other nearby parties, and then places to go solo bouldering where, for a whole day, only the quiet beauty of the National Forest will accompany you,” Zook recommends a trip out to Rockingham County and the surrounding crags.
Make your way back into Downtown Harrisonburg for 40 blocks of charming shops, six craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, public art, live entertainment at The Golden Pony, and more. Fill up on mouthwatering burgers at local eateries like the Jalapeño Popper from Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, El Jefe from Cuban Burger, or the Mushroom French Dip Burger from Capital Ale House. With everything so close together, it’s easy to park your car, stroll past shop windows, and uncover the unexpected.
At the end of a long day, you’re not going to want to drive home. Instead, spend the night at one of the area’s fine accommodations, like Hotel Madison, DoubleTree by Hilton, or Comfort Inn and Suites, for convenient access to downtown and Interstate 81 for travelers near and far. Climb new crags, experience beautiful vistas, and discover unique eateries in Harrisonburg, Va.