There’s no better crag for leading your first big effort than Lover’s Leap. Located in California’s Eldorado National Forest, near the town of Strawberry, the 500-foot granite outcropping is lined with dozens of easy and moderate routes, so newbies can get a taste of Yosemite-style climbing without the bloody knuckles. Pack a double rack of cams and a set of nuts and base yourself at the Pony Express-era Strawberry Lodge, five minutes from the trailhead. Ask for a room on the river side, with views of the American and the Leap (doubles, $69). Hone your anchor placement with a lead-climbing class from Lovers Leap Guides ($125 for a half-day lesson). When you’re feeling ready, strike out on one of the Leap’s well-protected routes, like the three-pitch, 5.6 Deception or the three-pitch, 5.7 Corrugation Corner. Afterward, toast yourself with a beer on the lodge’s deck or cool off with a swim at Lester Beach, a sandy cove in D. L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe’s western shore.
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