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A Sacramento Rock Climber's Guide

Rock climbers in the greater Sacramento area have a fantastic climbing resource just to the east. The Sierra Nevada looms large in the climbing arena. Some of the best spots, and easiest to get to, are up Highway 50 and in the Tahoe Basin. The rocks and boulders strewn about are plentiful, beautiful and climbable. The climbs range from simple slopes to adrenaline-pulsing 5.13-rated climbs. All of the areas are relatively easily accessible and well documented. Short hikes through the forest are part of the draw. Grab your gear, get your climbing buddies on board and hit the rocks.


Lover's Leap
US Highway 50
Strawberry, CA 95720
(530) 318-2939

Travel Time: About 2 hours

Lover's Leap is an internationally recognized chunk of granite in the American River Canyon. It is climbed each year by enthusiasts from all over the world. Simply head to Strawberry on US 50. Just past the lodge will be a trailhead sign for the campground and parking area. Lover's Leap is a haven for trad climbers, with the added bonus of being right by the American River. Camp for the night at the Forest Service campground or stay at Strawberry Lodge. The face of Lover's Leap is awesome and the views from the top are extensive. It takes a bit of bouldering to get to the face. The climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.12b. Petch, owner of Lover's Leap Guides and certified AMGA rock instructor, is available for teaching beginners to experts. You'll need a standard rack to tackle this rock: your ropes, harness, nuts, slings, carabiners, helmet, shoes, cams and chalk. After-climb goodies are either at your campsite, Strawberry Lodge or South Lake Tahoe.

Sugar Loaf
US Highway 50
Kyburz, CA 95720

Travel Time: About 2 hours

The parking for this climb is a bit tricky, as it's not marked. It's just a wide shoulder on the highway, just before Kyburz. Parking is on the river side of the road. The trail to the climb is on the north side of the road and is relatively well marked. The trail is right behind the phone relay building. Stay on it as there are a lot of private properties and residences here. Sugar Loaf climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.13c. Sugar Loaf is an easy-to-get-to rock and is a very popular climbing spot. There are a lot of downed trees on the trail leading to the climbs. You'll need a standard rack an these trad climbs. Bring your camera too. Bragging rights need to be documented.

Related: Best Mountain Biking Escapes Around Sacramento

Phantom Spires
US Highway 50
Kyburz, CA 95720

Travel Time: About 2.5 hours

Not far from Kyburz and Strawberry, the Wrights Lake Road turnoff on US 50 is on the north side of the highway. Travel up this road. When you see the Spires, take the dirt road that will be on the right. It isn't maintained and is a bit rough. The parking area isn't far from the turn off. The Spires are rated from 5.5 to 5.12a. Trad and sport climbing can be enjoyed here. The Spires are great granite chunks that will earn your admiration. Trails to the Spires are well marked with ducks. Views from the top into the American River Canyon and Crystal Basin are absolutely breathtaking. You'll need your rack to include helmet, harness, ropes, shoes, chalk, nuts, slings, cams, carabiners, camera, and climbing buddy to go to the top. Also, food and water are on you for the day.


Ninety-Foot Wall
Eagle Falls
Above Emerald Bay
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96154

Travel Time: About 2.5 hours

This is a magical place that just happens to have great granite to climb. Drive to Emerald Bay on Highway 89 and park either just off the road or in the USFS parking lot for Eagle Falls. Climbs here are rated from 5.6 to 5.11d. There are at least 14 different faces to snap into. The hike to the Ninety-Foot Wall, which actually tops out at 70 feet, will take maybe 10 easy minutes from the parking lot. You'll come to a vista point on the trail that has a camera-ready view of Lake Tahoe. You can see the wall from just behind this point. Continue around it to the base. Trad and sport climbing for all levels of climber are here. Further up the trail at Eagle Lake, there is not only a very sweet little lake, but craggy climbing above the lake. Take your standard or sport rack with you. Pack your lunch along with your gear or head into town after your climb for goodies at Alpina Coffee Cafe.

Related: Getaway Guide: Weekend Trip to Lake Tahoe

Luther Spires
Big Meadow Trailhead
Luther Pass
Meyers, CA 96150

Travel Time: About 2.5 hours

Luther Spires is a bit short of Luther Pass on Highway 89. Take US Highway 50 to Meyers and turn onto Highway 89 towards Hope Valley. As you continue up this road, you'll come to the Big Meadows trailhead. Park here or in a turnout just north of the parking lot. You'll find 17 routes here, from 5.7 to 5.11c in difficulty. The search for the trail is somewhat strange, but if you are on the east side of Highway 89, you're in the right place. These granite spires are bolted and are very popular in the sport and trad climbing community. The approach can be a bit difficult, but the climbs are worth it. Bring water and food, as the nearest eateries are in Meyers and South Lake Tahoe.

Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. He retired from teaching after 36 years in 2010. He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at

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