Portland Bouldering

All Portland Bouldering Areas

Author: Rob Holzman

Sept 2, 2021

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Beta is scarce on most bouldering areas near Portland and spotty for others. That’s why we put together a comprehensive list of Portland bouldering areas. I have seen to many really lousy areas overhyped so I decided to put together a comprehensive resource of every area with an honest opinion of the bouldering spot and recomendations for all areas.

We ranked the top areas by quality, popularity, and size. Many of Portlands crags and boulders are spread out over a 2 hour drive of the city. So when we refer to areas near PDX we mean that the individual areas are within a reasonable drive of the city, otherwise climbers would be limited to a handful of areas that are not as worthy of a visit.

Portland Bouldering Areas

Photo: Rob Holzman on the FA of Bugatti V7 back in 2011.

Bouldering Near Portland

Portland, Oregon is by no means a major destination for bouldering. Months of rain, tradgically small boulders, and abundant moss are what prevents NW Oregon from behiming as well known as Leavenworth bouldering. If you are planning a visit though, don’t le these things bother you. Portland does have dozens of areas and most are actually quite good. Many areas are even climbable in rainy months. We put together a huge resource for anyone interested in visiting. Since we wrote the only comprehensive guidebook to the region we thought it would be appropriate to provide no-hype beta on the better areas and leave the bad spots for locals who have already climbed everything else.

Area Rating

  • Lost Lake 100% 100%
  • Empire Boulders 95% 95%
  • Lost City/Boulder Mt 90% 90%
  • Carver 90% 90%
  • Upper Kueffler/Alpenglow Boulders 80% 80%

Portland Bouldering PDF

You can download this article on Portland bouldering areas as a PDF to use out at the crag. The PDF also has a Portland bouldering areas map.

1. Lost Lake 

Number of Problems: 300

Season: Mid spring to Mid Autumn

Lost Lake Bouldering area is one of Portlands most popular and highest quality areas. The area is one of the best spots you can boulder at within a 90 minute drive of Portland. I was fortunate enough to be the feollow who discovered the area in 2010 but neglected to develop much as I was more interested in developing at a nearby area I dubed Boulder Mountain and Lost City. When another local was looking on Google Earth for Lost City he stumbleed across Lost Lake, became obsessed with the area, and then told a handful of locals from one of the gyms in Portland and the rest is history.  Most of the area was developed around 2013.

Best bouldering area near Portland

Well….arguably the best area to boulder near Portland. This area should, for certain, make your list.  The area has atrocious landings. Bring as many pads as you can. The rock is excellent quality and the problems here have a nice steep nature which is why the area is so good for bouldering and so popular. Be mindful that in winter the area is covered in snow. The snow is usually here by late October and stays into mid spring.

Lost Lake Bouldering Area

Photo: Erik J. circa 2012 bouldering before most of Lost Lake was cleaned off.

2. Empire Boulders 

Number of Problems: 300

Season: Year Round

Empire Boulders is my choice for second best area nearish to Portland.  Massive boulders and a good selection for any level climber is what makes this area a really good option. I was a latecomer to this area but it has the largest boulders in the Portland area but also offers smaller boulders and grades from V0- to V11. The area is climbable all year but is wet for most of the winter.  You can find clean, dry rock at certain sectors here in winter however.

A secluded bouldering area

There are some “secret” sister areas near here if you waant to avoid other climbers. Empire Boulders should make your list though if you are a Portland or Northwest boulderer. The approach is really steep but short. You can be at the boulders in 13 minutes from the car. The landings are pretty good compared to nearly every else in the Columbia Gorge but some of the boulders are really tall so if you don’t like highballs you will be limited to a dozen boulders. Don’t let that bother you though there are plenty of shorties here and normal-sized boulders too.  There is pretty much somehting for everyone here and a good mix of grades.

Empire Boulders Near Portland

3. Lost City 

Number of Problems: 300

Season: Mid Spring to Mid Fall

Lost City is a sub area of the area called Boulder Mountain which has several sister areas that are just as good. I named the sub area Lost City as a throwback to the much more popular but just as elusive East Coast area with the same name. This area reminded me of a long-forgotten bouldering area and I could only locate a few climbers that had ever been here before Jess Holzman, John Cozens and myself had started cleaning and putting up the dozens of fun, and challenging lines here.

Visiting The Boulders

If you do visit this spot here is what you need to know:  the area is covered in snow throughought all of lare fall, winter, and some of spring.  The landings at several boulders are in a nice meadow but the main Lost City area has some talus but not much which is why a lot of climbers prefer here to Lost Lake. The rock is identical to Lost Lake and the landings are way better here.  There is more of a concentration of hard problems at Lost Lake though. Sof if you are looking for throwing down a lot of hard lines in one afternoon or projecting some stout lines; go to Lost Lake.  If you want a good diversity of really good problems in several easy-access areas come to Lost City.   At all the areas on Boulder Mountain you can pretty much drive to the boulders so access is not an issue if you want to dart around and explore it all.  I highly recomend fettering out an awesome V7 called Bugatti; it’s a worthy line.


This area is confusing and boulders are strewn across a mountain with many little areas so if you do come here I recomend picking up either our Next Ascent app guide which has GPS and offline maps and topos or our Portland Bouldering Guidebook.  It is important to not that our book and app are the only resources in print and online that list the grades and names of the problems here. So if your looking to just explore you are probably fine just referencing this page but if you need beta on the whole area and sub areas our guides are the best option. Sorry for the shameless plug, but it is true.

Lost City Boulders near Mount Hood

Photo: Rob Holzman on the FA of an area classic back in 2012

Get the guide

We have a comprehensive print guidebook available for Portland Bouldering. We have also split up the individual bouldering areas into seperate app guidebooks for Portland.

4. Carver Bouldering 

Number of Problems: 300

Season: Mid Spring to Mid Fall

Carver Bouldering area is on private land and you must join the Carver Climbing Club and sign a waiver to climb here. If you are a member this is a really good bouldering area.  The only downside of this place is moss.  The reason Carver is so pupular is that it is really close to Portland. The only bouldering closer to Portland is Rocky Butte which is very limited and Broughton Bouldering, Magma Zone and Phone Home Boulders.

One of Portland’s Top Bouldering Areas

Carver is a top pick for areas to visit (if you are a member and can legally boulder there) because it has a huge concentration of hard lines all in one small spot. And you can’t beat the short approaches. Another plus is abundant steep lines and unique features that tend to awesome slapping, tension problems, and short stout and powerful problems.


Carver Bouldering Area Just Outside Portland, OR

5. Eliot Creek 

Number of Problems: 100

Season: Mid Spring to Mid Fall

Eliot Creek Bouldering area is located about 90 minutes from Portland.  It is pretty close to Hood River and makes a good summer destination.  Mt Hood looms right behind you.  An interesting story about this area: A massive glacial dam broke in the late 2000s that created a massive flood that washed massive boulders down Eliot Creek.  This flood actually created the huge sand bar in the town of Hood River some miles below.

History of The Bouldering

When my wife Jess and I stumbled across this area in 2012 only two other climbers. Zach Larimore and Paul Waters had ever bouldered here.  Jess and I were thrilled to discover that most of the lines as of 2011 were completely undeveloped.  You can actually see the loose blocks on top of the boulders in the photo below that were still left from the flood.  We cleaned and developed this area and an adjhacent “sister area” we called The Sugar Cubes. Despite the fact that I wrote a guidebook for this area in 2013 called Pacific Northwest Bouldering that documented the correct names and grades of all the problems here nearly all the names and grades were changed in recent years by a very misinformed person who documents bouldering areas in the Portland area.

Bouldering Name Corrections

Luckily the correct names and grades here and for the Sugar Cubes have all been put into the Eliot Creek app guide and into our new Portland Bouldering Gudiebook. Honestly, if you just drive to this area, take the 4 minute approach to the boulders, and explore on your own sans guidebook you will have an awesome time and it is really easy to get around.  But if you are interested in our little history, the correct names of things, and grades the book or app is helpful. Especially for the adjacent Sugar Cubes area which is a fun little spot 10 minutes from the main Eliot Creek area. There is a Lost Lake esque area just west of here that requires a bit of a hike to get to. But with 19 foot high, perfect, round boulders and 5 minute approaches there is no need to feter out the nearby spots.

Boulder Grades

The problems here range from V0- to V9. There are not many really hard lines here with the exception of a blank V9 micro-crimpfest I put up left of Red Zinger which is a classic V4 you shouldn’t miss.  If you want a short mega-stout power line go to the southmost part of Sugar Cubes and another V9 awaits.



Eliot Creek Boulders

Photo: Jess Holzman on the FA of a fun line on one of the “smaller” boulders at Eliot Creek.

Other Areas

Some overlooked bouldering areas near Portland

Druden Forest

Also called the Annex, this area has a few dozen good problems. 

Located near Cascade Boulders, some of the bouldering is roadside; some requires a whopping 5 minute hike. I cleaned and developed this spot in 2011 but today it is an overlooked gem that is usually glanced over for nearby Cascade Boulders.

Sugar Cubes

Located A sub area of the Eliot Creek boulders, this area has a few dozen problems on round, polished river rock.  The lower down the boulder garden you go the more polished and higher quality the rock gets. 

Get the guide

We have a comprehensive print guidebook available for Portland Bouldering. We have also split up the individual bouldering areas into seperate app guidebooks for Portland.

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