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These Are the 5 Best Places to Live for People Passionate About Rock Climbing

These five cities are close to some of the best outdoor climbing in the country — and have a lot more to offer than access to crag.

By Mariko Zapf on June 10, 2019

Chattanooga TN
Chattanooga / iStock/gnagel

Due to climbing’s soaring popularity, gyms have popped up in most metros with impressive facilities and loads of regular members. As fun as indoor climbing is, there is no substitute for getting out on real rock. Most cities, however, don’t offer easy access to outdoor climbing spots.

Fortunately, there are a handful of charming, affordable locales in close proximity to enticing walls that have a whole lot more to offer in the way of culture and community. You just might find one of them the perfect next place to hang your rack…

1. El Paso, TX

This gem of a city on the Mexican border is home to Hueco Tanks, known for its world-class bouldering. The volume of routes and quality of the rock are second to none. If you prefer to dabble in various types, Franklin Mountain State Park offers terrific trad and sport climbing, as well top roping. Yes, it is even possible to climb in nearby Chihuahua, Mexico.

For most of us, however, climbing doesn’t pay the bills. Quality jobs are plentiful in El Paso in a variety of sectors, including construction, military and education. In addition, local government has put the infrastructure in place to help small businesses thrive. Beyond climbing, the city boasts a number of other wonderful reasons to live there, including rich cultural activities, hiking, delicious food, excellent healthcare and a bunch of hip neighborhoods. Could El Paso be your ideal city to put down roots – and climb to new heights?

2. Las Vegas, NV

There is a reason Alex Honnold calls Las Vegas home, and it definitely isn’t the slot machines. With over 2,000 climbing routes at Red Rock alone, there is an adventure here for every type of climber. For the more ambitious sport climbers, Mount Charleston has impressive overhangs and relief from the intense desert – just an hour away from the Strip. A terrific way to access the tight-knit community is through the Red Rock Climbing Center.

With many of Nevada’s top employers located in the city, combined with median home prices well below $300,000, Las Vegas is also a terrific city to make a fresh start.

Beyond the solid employment opportunities, there is so much to enjoy about Vegas that only the locals know about. No wonder it grabbed a spot on Livability’s Top 100 Best Places Places to Live list for 2019. 

The biggest challenge when considering a move to Las Vegas is figuring out where to live. What outsiders may not realize is that there are a number of cities and towns surrounding Las Vegas with comparable access to Red Rock that might just strike your fancy, including HendersonParadiseSummerlin SouthSpring Valley and Boulder City.

Yucca Valley CA
Yucca Valley / iStock/robertcicchetti

3. Yucca Valley, CA

Yucca Valley borders one of the most sought-after climbing destinations on the West Coast, Joshua Tree. With over 5,000 routes set amid an incredibly unique landscape, it’s no wonder climbers flock here from all over the globe. You’ll also find superb bouldering at The Tramway in Palm Springs, just half an hour from Yucca Valley. Daily rates are pricey, but affordable season passes are available.

Business and employment opportunities in Yucca Valley are comparable to what you might expect of a small city. Palm Springs offers more work options (particularly to millennials) and might have all the cachet, but with wonderful restaurants, art and music, Yucca Valley is the more affordable and cooler place to live. Without question, you will be welcomed into the community with open arms and enjoy the laid back vibe a climber expects from life in Southern California.

Chattanooga TN
Chattanooga / iStock/gnagel

4. Chattanooga, TN

Chattanooga has so much to offer climbers, starting with Stone Fort. This bouldering site has over 300 climbs that challenge climbers – at every level – to practice a variety of technical skills from crimps to slopers. Just 30 minutes outside of the city, devotees can sneak in an hour or two after work.

Not only is Chattanooga home to incredible climbing, it is also one of a great place to live. Far from just being an outdoor adventure hotspot, Chattanooga is also home to a number of tech startups and entrepreneurs. A multitude of craft breweries, outdoor adventure and affordable cost of living certainly add to the appeal of this bustling city.

A wonderful way to access the climbing community and outdoorsy types in Chattanooga is outfitter and hostel, The Crash Pad. Before you walk through their doors, study this quick guide on how to sound like a local.

Lexington KY
Lexington / iStock/jctabb

5. Lexington, KY

Climbers are smart to flock to Lexington for its easy access to the stunning Red River Gorge, just an hour outside of the city. The Red has evolved quite a bit over the many decades that pros and enthusiasts have been scrambling its walls. Sport climbing took off in the 90s and comprises more than half of the 2,000 routes open today. But climbers aren’t the only reason for the Red’s rich history.

Aggressive shoes, crash pads and all the required gear do not pay for themselves. Luckily, living in Lexington also means access to a whole lot of high-quality employers and jobs in a wide range of industries. Between the affordability, walkability, restaurants and general livability of this great city, it is no wonder Lexington shows up year after year on Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list.

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