The Devil's Doorway at Devil's Lake State Park
The Devil's Doorway at Devil's Lake State Park (Wikimedia Commons)

Where’s the Best Midwestern Bouldering?

I live in Minneapolis and have begun to take up rock climbing. Where do you think are the best places to go bouldering in the Midwest?

The Devil's Doorway at Devil's Lake State Park
Greg Melville

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Most Midwesterners tend to stick to the gym or travel to climb, but if you’re motivated, you can find rocks to scale outside. Here are a few quiet bouldering destinations in Minnesota and Wisconsin that can rival what you’ll find in Texas, California, Utah or anywhere out East.

The Best Midwestern Bouldering: Robinson Park, Minnesota

Climbing high at Robinson Park
Climbing high at Robinson Park (Tony Vavricka)

You wouldn’t know that the town of Sandstone, 90 minutes north of Minneapolis, is a climbing hotspot until you set eyes upon the smooth old quarry walls within Robinson Park on the west bank of the Kettle River. This tiny preserve is famous in Minnesota as a sport- and ice-climbing destination, but there is a smattering of excellent bouldering problems as well, including the V12 The Raven.

STAY: Near the frothing Kettle River at one of the campsites at nearby Banning State Park ($12 a night).

The Best Midwestern Bouldering: Governor Dodge State Park, Wisconsin

Governor Dodge State Park
Governor Dodge State Park (Wonder Al)

Dodgeville, about 45 minutes west of Madison, is best known for being the home of the Lands End clothing company’s headquarters. But among climbers, it’s more famous for the collection of giant sandstone boulders within in the broad, 5,000-acre Governor Dodge State Park, which encircles two small lakes deposited at the bottom of a shallow valley. The area behind the Group B campsite on the northern end is the most densely packed with problems, but there are boulders scattered throughout the park, if you’re willing to look.

LUNCH: Grab a burger and a plate of deep-fried local Wisconsin cheese curds at Sam and Maddies.

The Best Midwestern Bouldering: Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Devil's Lake
Devil's Lake (Maria J. Aleman/Flickr)

The glacier that carved Devil’s Lake out of the Baraboo Hills in southern Wisconsin also left some quality climbing along the remaining quartzite bluffs, not to mention a treasure trove of excellent boulders. The lake and area surrounding it are protected by a giant, and popular, state park, which provides developed camping spots. Grades range from V0 up to the double digits, with the highest concentrations of problems located along the park’s East and West Bluffs.

STAY: At the Willowood Inn motor lodge, whose rooms are decorated with themes like “Gone Fishin’,” and “Americana Apple.” Rates start at $58.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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