Trying to sum up rock climbing in Canada is a near-impossible task. Canada is massive. 9,985 million square kilometers of landmass to be exact, and 24 percent of it is covered in mountainous terrain. From the Appalachian Mountains to the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west, Canada is littered with breathtaking climbs that draw excited rock climbers from across the globe.
Rock climbing has become a popular sport in Canada with the number of climbing gyms tripling since 2010. The country recently rallied behind British Columbia’s own Alannah Yip as she made history as the first Canadian woman to compete in the Olympic Climbing Events debut.
With Canada’s immense size comes great variety, almost every type of climbing can be found here, from high altitude bouldering to urban crags and spectacular sea cliffs, Canada offers fantastic climbing for novices and pros alike.
Top 5 Best Rock Climbing Places in Canada
Located in British Columbia, Squamish is a forestry town known as the Recreational Capital of Canada. Squamish features endless, perfect granite climbing, much of it as easily accessible as pulling your vehicle over for a quick roadside climb. Smack between Vancouver and Whistler on the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway, the town has breathtaking natural surroundings and a backdrop of fading evergreen tree-covered mountains that is cut by the majestic granite walls of Stawamus Chief towering over Squamish.
Climbing in Squamish
Squamish has a lot of everything, bouldering grades ranging from V0 – V14, sports grades from 5.2 – 5.14d, and a huge range of trad grades from single to multi-pitches. This world-class climbing destination has over 3000 boulder problems spread across 6 main areas: Murrin Park, Grand Wall, Apron Boulders, North Wall, Smoke Bluffs, and Paradise Valley, 5 regions with over 700 sports routes and countless trap pitches.
Climbing accessibility makes it a fan favorite, with bouldering reachable by no more than a short 15 minute approach. Surrounding areas such as Paradise Valley and Cheakamus Canyon have all the offerings of Squamish for those who want to venture outside of the town.
Places to Stay in Squamish
Vehicle dwelling is strictly prohibited within the limit of Squamish, but if you head north of the town, there are several pullouts along Squamish Valley Road and plenty of overnight parking farther up in the Cheakamus Canyon.
For those looking for somewhere with a little more comfort and closer proximity to the best climbing, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park Campground offers 18 drive-in sites and 57 walk-in tent sites for $20 per night.
Squamish Adventure Inn offers accommodation from $14 – $50 per night and gear rentals for those looking for activities to do outside of climbing.
2. The Bugaboos
Located in the Percell mountains of southeast British Columbia, The Bugaboo Provincial Park’s awe-inspiring glacier-sculpted granite spires attract climbers from around the world.
Climbing in The Bugaboos
Considered to be one of the greatest Alpine playgrounds in the world, the Bugaboos boasts quality alpine granite throughout its many routes which offer multi-day walls, hard test pieces, ridge scrambles, and moderate free climbs. The Bugaboos is remotely located and most of the climbing requires a glacial approach. This adds logistical difficulties, so extensive planning and sufficient supplies are vital.
Places to stay in the Bugaboos
The Applebees Campground is a popular and cost-effective option for a stay over at The Bugaboo Provincial Park. $10 per night (Canadian) gets you a spot for your tent on a large area of flat rocks and access to a toilet, racks for hanging gear, and food. The spectacular view comes included.
If you are willing to dish out more cash for comfort, The Kain Hut will cost you $25 per night (Canadian). It’s a great place to ruff it out during foul weather and comes with a kitchen with running water and lights for late-night activities.
Canmore is one of Canada’s finest climbing towns and claims the picturesque 3 Sisters mountains as its background. Canmore is the home of hard sport, ice, and alpine climbing in Canada and is where the Alpine Club of Canada placed its headquarters.
Climbing in Canmore
The spectacle that is Canmore needs to be seen first hand. 10,000-foot mountains with thousand-foot steep cliffs stand tall as far as the eye can see and are home to countless classics such as the 5.8 Eeyore’s tail with 10 pitches and The Shining on Mt. Lewis with a 5.14 grade and a 15- pitch bolted route. The climbing opportunities are endless.
4. Skaha Bluffs
Skaha Bluffs are located in a region that seems alien to Canada’s vast mountains and forest geography. Looking like it was plucked out of Utah, Skaha is located in the interior desert outside of Penticton, British Colombia.
Climbing in the Skaha Bluffs
Skaha’s rock type is gneiss, a metamorphic form of granite that is made for quality climbing, add to that a long warm climbing season and 66 crags with over 1000 climbs, Skaha is a great place for beginners to develop skills and pros to “warm their feet” for the climbing season.
Places to stay in the Skaha Bluffs
There are several options for accommodation in Skaha, 10 minutes from the Skaha Bluffs you can find the resort-like Banbury Green Campground whose prices range from $10 to $65 per night depending on the season.
For those looking for something more luxurious, The Apple Tree Inn Motel features a pool, kitchen, and sleeper units with barbeque areas and even a casino.
5. Niagara Escarpment
This magical place has the oldest forest ecosystem and trees in North America. Encompassed by the Great Lakes and cut in half by cliffs that run 700 km long, this escarpment has now become a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Climbing in the Niagra Escarpment
The Niagra escarpment has the advantage of being close to Toronto, just over 11 hours drive. Making this a great weekend destination for climbers. The lengthy limestone rock cliffs ensure plenty of climbing and variety as well.
Places to stay in the Niagra Escarpment
The Niagra Escarpment’s close proximity to urban areas makes finding accommodation quite easy, a quick search will show anything hotels and BnB’s to campgrounds in your area, the Niagra Escarpment has it all.
Tips for Canadian Climbing Trips
- Always plan your trip adequately, reaching your climb is often just as hard as the climb itself.
- Bring enough supplies. Prepare for shortages of essentials such as water and toilet paper.
- Pace yourself on long climbs, slow and steady with enough stops for rest.
- Bring first aid and extra rope in case of emergencies.
- Never climb alone.
- Be mindful to preserve the nature around you.
Canada ETA Tips
Electronic Travel Authorization is a system aimed at pre-screening all visitors to Canada who enter the country by air for transit, business, or tourism. The online system allows eligible citizens to avoid complicated and time-consuming procedures of a traditional visa application.
Applying for ETA is not only an easier alternative but will also help to save money. All applicants need to cover the fee of only 49 Euro. Most applications are processed within minutes, while the standard processing time on average takes 72 business hours. Visit Visa Canada and obtain your ETA on time!
Canada is perfect proof that you can have both quality and quantity. The quality of rock you find in Canada is second to none, and the variety of styles available there are rewarding to any climber’s taste. Climbing season runs from around May till the end of September, with Fall and Spring bringing in the most ideal conditions for climbing. Friendly locals, an adventurer’s dream, Canada is a destination every serious climber should put on the climbing bucket list.