Lake Tahoe is simply one of the most tranquil and aesthetic climbing areas on the planet. Granite cliffs dominate the clear Sierra skyline and massive boulders dot the landscape of nearly every cove and shoreline of the lakes circumference, making a climber’s paradise only 3.5 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area. A plethora of modern bouldering, sport dragging, and granite domes and crags with killer trad lines are commonplace around the Tahoe interior. We’ve selected a few must-see areas around the lake that make for the best road tripping or side trips if you are in the neighborhood skiing, gambling, hiking, or planning a trip to the region. Below are some of Lake Tahoe’s Best Climbing Areas.
Lake Tahoe is located 3.5 hours from the San Francisco vicinity and the Bay Area. After passing through the climbers-ville of Placerville you can reach the outer crags of Tahoe starting with Lover’s Leap near strawberry and Pie Shop shortly after. Many crags are found all around the lake and have easy access off I-80 near Donner Summit. Craps are located at the North, South, East and West shores of the lake with a good concentration of the I-80 corridor and a very good concentration near South Lake.
Climbers have been active here for decades. Some notable ascents were done in the 70s and 80s with an influx of Yosemite climbers visiting and passing through. As of 2010 an explosion of development is taking place in the bouldering scene around the Lake giving way to older areas like the Pie Shop and finding boulderers hunting the interiors of the lake to find new projects and lines above V13!
1. Emerald Bay
Nooked in a deep cove with pristine emerald blue waters. This little alcove possesses some of the most scenic bouldering areas in North America. You might not find the sickest rigs you would expect to crank under that you would find at nearby Bishop but you have decent bouldering and one of the most aesthetic areas to boulder on Earth. This is a quick hit if you are driving around the lake or looking for a quick session.
Finding the rock is easy. Drive North from South Lake Tahoe and look for signs for Emerald Bay on your right as you drive up the California side of the lake. There are boulders in the parking lot as well as down along the bay itself.
2. Lover’s Leap
Some of the tallest and best multi-pitch climbing is found at Lover’s Leap. Many 4 pitch routes can be had as well as some of the most dynamically textured granite in the universe. Large horizontal dikes ride the back of the granite walls like tiger stripes. These long ribbons of rock make wavy ribs all along the cliff’s faces. Equally as dramatic are the tall corners. Corrugation Corner is a must-do, classic corner that is only 5.7 but is well worth the hike up to and even more worth the time invested into it’s several pitches of exposed crack climbing. Most climbers prefer to visit Lover’s Leap instead due to it being one of the Largest and more popular spots outside Yosemite and for its alpine-esque feel and demeanor. This cliff gives you the ability of climbing easy, moderate, or hard routes ranging from one to 4 pitches. The cliff is climbable year round but can be difficult and iced up in winter. It’s not uncommon to be able to climb a few pitches in the middle of winter but it can get cold and burly. The Phantom Spires are right across the highway from Lover’s Leap and also offer a unique climbing experience with a large concentration of routes scattered about the large hillside that opposes Lover’s massive face.
This climbing area has a long history of development and is home to some mega-classics like Corrugation Corner and several other must -do routes. This area offers a great alternative to Yosemite with a similar and uniquely different feel as well. Many famous climbers have cut their teeth climbing at this destination area.
Heading up from the Bay Area drive 30 to Strawberry. You will start to see the large expanse of Lover’s leap to your right. Drive the road near the campground and park. You can walk to several parts of the cliff within a 20 minute hike.