North Conway, New Hampshire Climbing Destination Guide

The undisputed capital of New England rock
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
704
The undisputed capital of New England rock
North Conway New Hampshire Rock climbing Map

This little town has more routes within a couple hours’ drive than it has residents in the city limits. Mountain Project lists more than 3,500 routes in the vicinity, while the U.S. Census tallies 2,349 townies, and North Conway lies smack in the middle of the highest concentration of climbing in the state—if not all of New England. New Hampshire’s nickname is the Granite State, but its rock comes in many forms, from the rounded boulders of Pawtuckaway in the south to the clean, fractured granite of Cannon Cliff in the north. North Conway has two of the best trad cliffs in the country: Cathedral Ledge and Whitehorse Ledge, minutes from town. All of this packed inside a state that is small enough to fit inside some national parks out West.

Where to Eat & Drink

To satiate the three holy climber-cravings (coffee, pizza, and beer), you couldn’t be in a better place. Hit Frontside Grind your morning caffeine jolt (or if you need a partner—it’s usually packed with climbers). Shuffle to Flatbread Pizza Co. in the evening for an organic wood-fired pie—we like Mopsy’s Kalua Pork Pie. Then sample the best local craft beer at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. The Moat Iron Mike Pale Ale is crisp with a citrusy Cascade hop finish; more important, it’s canned in tallboys. Grab a sixer for camp!  

Where to Stay

Take NH 112 out of Conway (this stretch is known as the Kancamagus Highway) to find six state park campgrounds (fee; mostly first come, first served) and national forest land. You can camp for free off any hiking trail, or the “Kanc” as it winds through White Mountain National Forest. Prefer a roof? Head to the White Mountains Hostel. It has 10 rooms, 28 bunks, and five private rooms. ($27–$58) 

Where to Buy Gear

Founded in the 1970s and run by longtime locals Rick and Ceila Wilcox, International Mountain Equipment is a required stop, even if you don’t need anything. “We dispense climbing info all day long,” says employee and guide Max Lurie. “We’ve even had people call from the base of a route asking for beta. And we gladly oblige!” Still, we’d advise browsing their vast library of guidebooks or even taking a climbing lesson or joining a guided trip if you need to be pointed in the right direction (head upstairs to inquire). Already dialed? The consignment shop in the basement is worth a quick rummage—it’s loaded with used backcountry, climbing, mountaineering, and telemark gear. (603-356-7013)

Spend a Rest Day

Hammock-lounging in camp might sound sweet, but you’re a stone’s throw from the Presidential Range and thousands of dreamy swimming holes. Hike Mount Washington via a 7.6-mile loop, and then check out First Bridge or Davis Beach, both on the Saco River just outside of town.

Leslie Timms NH

Leslie Timms takes in the sweet view on Rapid Transit (5.10a/b), Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire. Photo: Andrew Burr

What to Climb: The Best 4-Star Routes

As ranked my Mountain Project users

Fun House (5.7)
Cathedral Ledge, 2 pitches
“So much fun! Is that how it got its name? The second pitch is just plain fantastic, with easy/enjoyable cracks and ledges, all with good protection. The rock is incredible, dry, and frictiony.”

Moby Grape (5.8)
Cannon Cliff, 6 pitches
“An eye-opening experience! Way different than any trad I’ve done. More harrowing. And hero-ing! It was a blast! I can’t wait for my next Cannon adventure. And that’s exactly what it was—an adventure!”

They Died Laughing (5.9)
Cathedral Ledge, 1 pitch
“I think they died laughing due to the ridiculous amount of gear you can place in this crack. 5.9 doesn’t come any safer!”

Underdog (5.10a)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“Underdog is the best rock I’ve ever climbed. The triangle hold is the coolest hold I have ever seen. The view and rock are excellent and surprisingly sustained. Absolute classic!”

Lonesome Dove (5.10a)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“A beautiful line to finish up a long Rumney day. The exposure is awesome. Climb it at sunset, and when you clip the chains, turn around. You’re guaranteed to be blown away by what you see!”

Millenium Falcon (5.10c)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more enjoyable 5.10. Incredibly fun and varied. But don’t underestimate the need for crack skills on this one. It’s awesome!”

Waimea (5.10d)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“Absolutely outstanding route. If you link it with All the Way-A, it makes for a decently long 5.10. Either way, the movement and rock quality are stellar. This is a very reasonable lead for those looking to break into 5.10+.”

Airation (5.11a)
Cathedral Ledge, 2 pitches
“The first pitch is only 37 feet, but given that I was finger jamming about every nine inches, I did more than 40 jams in that length. No wonder it seems taller!”

Flying Hawaiian (5.11b)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“This is, without question, the testpiece at the grade for Rumney. It is such a varied and well-defined line, with several cruxes that take power, finesse, and a willingness to go a little farther ‘out there.’ Flying Hawaiian definitely has a well-deserved aura about it.”

Apocalypse Later (5.11c/d)
Rumney, 1 pitch
“One of my favorite routes at Rumney. On chilly days the face is drenched in sunshine. The route is the best of both worlds, long moves up steep rock at the bottom, then you pull onto the face, and suddenly you’re scrambling for technique.”

Get route beta, photos, and topos for all of New Hampshire at Mountain Project.