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5 Best Climbing Gyms Near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Climbing gyms are an excellent way to introduce yourself to rock climbing. Pittsburgh isn’t exactly known for being a fantastic climbing location. Still, the climbing community in the Iron City is quickly growing! Whether you want to start bouldering or hit the big walls, there’s a gym out there that fits your needs.

The 5 best climbing gyms near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, include Ascend South Side, Ascend Point Breeze, Iron City Boulders, FA Climbing Station Square, and Climb North. Some of these gyms are bouldering only, while others have both bouldering and top roping.

If you’re considering joining a climbing gym, keep reading as we review the five best climbing gyms near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Or get outside and check out the best bouldering areas at McConnells Mill State Park.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

Why Go To A Climbing Gym?

Climbing holds at a climbing gym.

When it comes to fitness, there are endless possibilities out there—yoga, CrossFit, running, and weight-lifting. Heck, carrying around your 2-year-old is a workout! So, why choose an indoor climbing gym?

Rock climbing has impressive benefits for the body and mind. A study published in the National Library of Medicine found significant improvements in the following areas for people who rock climb:

  • Handgrip strength
  • Lower limb pedaling power
  • Vertical jump
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Sit-and reach
  • VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise).

In addition to improving your physical fitness, rock climbing has positive effects on your mood and stress levels too! 

According to Virginia’s Liberty University, rock climbing increases the levels of norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that helps release stress in our bodies.

Pretty cool, right? Who doesn’t want less stress?!

Indoor rock climbing gyms allow you to work out your entire body and mind! It’s no surprise that many folks are turning to rock climbing gyms for their new workout routine.

Here Are The 5 Best Climbing Gyms Near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

Now to the meat and potatoes of this article! If you’re thinking about joining a rock climbing gym, there are a few things to review before pinpointing your location. 

Consider these five key questions:

  • How far are you willing to drive?
  • Do you want the option to boulder and top rope, or just boulder? 
  • What kind of benefits would you like your gym to have?
  • Do you want your gym to offer more than just rock climbing?
  • What time do you need the gym to be open?

Don’t worry. We’ll review all the details of each gym so you can be sure you’re picking the right one! After all, memberships can be pricy, so this decision is important.

Here’s an overview of the five best rock climbing gyms we’ve chosen in the Pittsburgh Area:

GymMonthly RateDay Pass RateHours Of OperationFree Parking?Top Roping or Bouldering?
Ascend South Side$70$18M-F 6am-11pm Sat & Sun 8am-8pmBoth
Ascend Point Breeze$70$18M-F 6am-11pm Sat & Sun 8am-8pmBoth
Iron City Boulders$68$20M-F 6am-10pm Sat & Sun 9am-9pmBouldering
First Ascent$69$19M-F 9am-9pm Sat & Sun 10am-8pmXBouldering
Climb North$65$15M-F 5pm-9pm Sat & Sun 12pm-6pmBoth

By the way – if you hit the gym for a while and decide to start climbing outdoors, our article on the best beginner crash pads can help you choose the best outdoor bouldering pad!

Now, let’s get into the details!

Ascend – South Side & Point Breeze Locations

Ascend Pointbreeze in Pittsburgh PA climbing gym

Ascend has three rock climbing facilities, two of which are in Pittsburgh. Ascend is known for having a friendly atmosphere and offering a ton of amenities, member perks, and extras that will make your rock climbing experience memorable and worthwhile.

Pittsburgh’s ascend locations include Ascend South Side and Ascend Point Breeze. Both of these locations offer similar amenities and benefits. 

The major difference between South Side and Point Breeze is that South Side focuses more on bouldering. In contrast, Point Breeze focuses more on top roping. If you’re unsure what bouldering and top roping mean, check out our rock climbing terms and definitions article here!

Let’s check out some of the best aspects of Ascend:

Rates

Let’s be honest, the price of things is nearly as important as the benefits you get from them. You want a climbing gym that’s a nice balance between affordable, practical, and valuable. 

Ascend offers a few different options for you at their gyms.

  • Day Pass – $18: If you’re not ready to commit to a full membership, Ascend offers day passes so you can test out their facilities for a day before making a decision. Their day passes allow you to use the climbing walls, fitness equipment, and a yoga or fitness class. If you’re a student or a senior, you get a discount down to $15.
  • Punch Pass – $180: Punch passes give you 12 days of access to the gym, including its climbing walls and fitness equipment. This is the logical next step after getting a day pass if you’re still not ready to commit to a full membership.
  • Membership – $70/month: A membership will give you access to any Ascend facility, including yoga and fitness classes. You can bring one new guest per day and get 10% off of most concession items and gear in the retail store. 
  • Household membership – $120/month: If you live with someone who climbs at Ascend, you can sign up for a household membership instead of the standard one. For two people, you’ll pay $120 per month.

As a member, you’ll also get access to monthly member perks, event discounts, and workshops. If you’re new to the climbing world and need to rent gear, you can add an unlimited gear rental fee of $30/month and a storage locker for $20/month.

Hours

When the climbing gym is open is another critical factor in deciding which Pittsburgh climbing gym is right for you.

Ascend South Side and Point Breeze have the same hours of operation:

  • Monday through Friday – 6am to 11pm
  • Saturday and Sunday – 8am to 8pm

This gives you a wide window of time to make it to the gym based on your scheduling needs.

Parking

For most city dwellers, parking is no big deal. However, for the folks driving from outside the big city, parking can be a serious cause of stress!

Both Ascend South Side and Point Breeze offer parking lots for their guests. However, the South Side location has a small lot that fills up quickly during busy hours. When this happens, there is plenty of nearby free street parking with just a minute’s walk between your parking spot and the gym.

Bouldering

Ascend South Side is highly focused on bouldering. The gym offers three different bouldering walls up to 16 feet high with various angles, climbing levels, and styles. Ascend South Side features a top-out boulder and a section with an overhang tunnel.

Ascend Point Breeze offers two bouldering walls, but the bouldering section is smaller than South Side. The bouldering walls are of a similar height to the South Side location and feature all different levels of climbing. 

A bonus top-out boulder at Point Breeze in the top-roping section is dedicated to kids. No more children running under you while you’re bouldering!

All boulder problems are color-coded to make it easier to find your route.

Top Roping

Top roping at Ascend Climbing Gym in Pittsburgh Pa

Despite being known for its bouldering, Ascend South Side still has some great top roping. The gym features a 24-foot top-roping wall with 20 rope stations. There are also auto belays available to those who are climbing solo.

Top roping is where the Point Breeze Location really shines. The walls range from 13’ to 42’ high and contain a mix of climbing styles such as lead, auto-belay, and top-roping.

We suggest bringing a chalk bag if you plan to go top roping. Black Diamond’s Mojo Chalk Bag is one of the best in the business! You can grab some Black Diamond Black Gold Loose Chalk to go with it to make sure your hands are as dry as possible on the wall!

If you’re planning to do some top roping, it’s best to bring your own rope for a more consistent climbing routine. Check out A Comprehensive Guide To Choosing The RIght Rock Climbing Rope to learn more about choosing the best climbing rope for you.

Fitness Equipment

Rock climbing is a great way to work the body, but it doesn’t work everything! On your off days from climbing, training other muscle groups to balance out your body is essential.

This is called antagonistic training. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal found that antagonistic training can help prevent injuries such as tendonitis.

Some of the fitness equipment offered at Ascend includes:

  • Free weights
  • Bench and squat racks
  • Cardio machines such as treadmills and stationary bikes
  • Pull-up bar
  • Kettlebells

If it is a climbing day for you, plenty of climbing-related fitness equipment is available such as a moon board, slackline, hang boards, and campus walls.

Classes

Ascend offers several classes to beginners and long-time climbers who want to improve.

Some of the classes they offer include:

  • Boulder basics
  • Intro to Top Roping – Belay Class
  • Climbing 101 for beginners
  • Climbing 201 – Boulder Beta for intermediates
  • Sport Climbing 1 Indoor Sport Climbing for intermediates
  • Sport Climbing 2 Indoors to Crag for intermediates
  • Climbing Training
  • Outdoor sessions (Cooper’s Rock, Seneca, McConnel’s Mills)
  • Yoga
  • Private Coaching & Personal Training
  • Boot Camp
  • Cross Training
  • Core
  • Youth Classes & Summer Camps

Class availability, capacity, and time will vary between the South Side and Point Breeze locations.

Amenities

Amenities may not be why you go to the gym, but they do help once you’re there! Ascend offers several goodies at both the South Side and Point Breeze locations:

  • Bathrooms with showers for all pre-and-post-climbing needs.
  • Small kitchen area and lounge.
  • Refill station for your water bottles.
  • Food and drink are available for purchase.
  • Climbing gear and books are available for sale.

These things come in handy when you forget to pack a water bottle or snack. It’s also great if you have to head to work after the gym and need to shower.

Iron City Boulders

Iron City Boulders is located in Lawrenceville and is a bouldering-only gym. It is a 27,000-square-foot warehouse-style gym that opened in 2021. While it may be newer to the game than other gyms, it still offers all the classic climbing gym needs.

Many of the same amenities and member perks are available at Iron City as they were at Ascend, but there are a few key differences.

Rates

Iron City offers two types of memberships: Individual plans and family plans. As with Ascend, your membership includes yoga classes and fitness training. It also includes a discount on fitness classes, coaching, and a 15% discount on their retail store.

  • Day Pass – $20: For $20, you get a day pass to Iron City Boulders gym. Students pay $18. The day pass includes access to the climbing wall and fitness area.
  • Punch Pass – $170: A punch pass gives you a pass for ten days at Iron City Boulders. Like the day passes, it gives you access to the climbing walls and fitness area.
  • Individual membership – $68/month: The individual membership comes with a $50 initiation fee. Iron City offers a $10 discount to military and students.
  • Family membership – $126/month: You must show proof of family status to receive the family discount. This comes with the $50 initiation fee as well. Unlike Ascend, Iron City does not require the two members to live in the same house, only that they be family.

You can also add members to your family plan for $58/month. If they are 17 and younger, it is only $28 extra per month.

Hours

Iron City Boulders offers a large window of time for members and guests to make it to the gym. 

  • Monday through Friday – 6am to 10pm
  • Saturday and Sunday – 9am to 9pm

There are certain days and times when the gym is busier. If you’d rather go when the crowds are lower, call the gym and ask about their busy times!

Parking

Lawrenceville isn’t the most accessible place to get around in Pittsburgh. Thankfully, Iron City Boulders offers free parking to its members and guests. They have over 150 parking spaces available in their lot, so you can find somewhere to park your vehicle even on busy days!

Bouldering

Iron City Boulders offers over 250 boulder problems ranging from beginner to pro and everything between! Like Ascend, all of Iron City’s bouldering problems are color-coded to make life easy while finding and planning your route.

Being a bouldering-only gym, Iron City Boulders has a huge 11,000-square-foot area of bouldering walls with all different angles, terrain, and styles.

It’s never fun dealing with greasy holds or ones caked with chalk. Consider bringing a brush to clean off the grips before you make a send! Evolv’s Bouldering Brush is an excellent choice.

Fitness Equipment

On your day off from climbing, it’s never a bad idea to work out some different muscle groups and maintain a strong core. Iron City Boulders has a full gym area with free weights, cardio machines, squat racks, a pull-up bar, and benches.

Iron City Boulders also offers a climbing-specific training area:

  • Hangboard
  • Splatter wall
  • Campus board

Iron City Boulders has the answer no matter what you want to work out!

Classes

Gyms are great and all, but every once in a while, you may need some more targeted training and guidance. That’s where Iron City Boulders’ classes come in! 

Like Ascend, Iron City offers a variety of classes to help you maximize your climbing potential.

  • Yoga 
  • Bouldering 101 for beginners
  • Technique 101 for beginners and intermediates
  • Training 101 for intermediates
  • Private coaching
  • Fitness classes
  • Youth classes

You can find a class schedule on the Iron City Boulders website. Yoga classes are free to members.

Amenities

Now, on to the extras! We all want some goodies sprinkled in with our climbing session, and Iron City Boulders offers quite a few!

  •  KLVN coffee and Rishi tea are available 
  • Locker rooms with showers
  • Free WIFI
  • Working space lounge
  • Retail store with climbing gear, food, and drink

The building offers a wide-open viewing area with a lovely airy feel, giving you all the space and comfort you need to rock out on the rock wall.

FA Climbing

FA, which stands for First Ascent, debuted in the Chicago area. They opened several gyms in the city from 2013 onward. In 2022, they decided to expand even further and came to Pittsburgh!

FA Pittsburgh is located in Station Square. You’ll recognize it as you pass by in the summer, as they typically have their large garage doors open so you can view inside from the sidewalk.

First Ascent is a bouldering-only gym, so you won’t find top-roping here. If you’re looking for a boulder-only gym with tons of exciting angles and fun projects, FA might be your gym!

Rates

As always, let’s start with the price. FA offers a few options to pay for a day at their gym. Unlike the other gyms on our list so far, FA does not seem to provide a punch pass. Instead, they offer day passes and memberships.

  • Day Pass – $19: A day pass at FA will get you access to the entire building, including the bouldering wall, fitness equipment, and a yoga class!
  • Monthly Individual Membership – $69/month: There is a $49 enrollment fee to get a monthly membership. However, this is waived for teachers, first responders, and active military, or if two or more people sign up together.
  • Annual Individual Membership – $699: If you know you’ll be sticking with FA for a while, you can do an annual membership. This saves you in the long run, but just be aware this must be paid upfront and is non-refundable.
  • Student Monthly & Annual – $59/month or $599/year: If you’re a student, FA offers a hefty discount on their monthly and annual membership fees.
  • Family Memberships – $149/month: A family membership includes up to two adults and all kids that live in the same house, as long as they are under 18.

Hours

Our lives revolve around our family schedule and our work schedule. The gym you choose must have hours that work with your schedule.

FA has standard gym hours that give you a wide window of time to make it for your workout.

  • Weekdays (M-F): 9am to 9pm
  • Weekends (Sat & Sun): 10am to 8pm

The gym is closed on the 4th of July, Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, and New Year’s day.

Parking

If you’ve ever driven to Station Square, then you’re probably not surprised to hear that FA does not offer any free parking. This area of Pittsburgh just doesn’t have any free lots available!

If you decide to take your personal vehicle, we recommend parking at the Station Square parking garage. FA will validate your parking, giving you $5 off your total parking fee. This means the first 2 hours are free!

However, if you plan to be a regular member at FA, it’s recommended to get there by bicycle or public transit to save some cash on parking fees.

Bouldering

FA is a bouldering-only gym, which is great if you’re not interested in top-roping. The gym includes 10,000 square feet of bouldering surface with walls up to 15 feet high. FA boasts over 200 boulder problems in their gym.

You can find just about every climbing style there is on the bouldering walls at FA. There is a section with an overhanging tunnel and plenty of different angles and climbing styles for all climbing levels.

Fitness Equipment

The fitness equipment at FA comes with all the bells and whistles. They have 15 cardio machines, tons of free weights, and everything you need to work out on your off days or after a climbing session.

In addition to cross-training, FA also has a training area with climbing-specific equipment. This includes a campus board, hang boards, and a decoy board.

Classes

Whether you’re looking to try something new or improve on what you already know, FA offers a ton of classes you can take to improve your climbing game! One thing to note is that when you sign up for your first monthly membership, you can access one free intro to bouldering class!

Here are some of the classes offered by FA to get you in tip-top shape:

  • Learning to boulder
  • Intro to climbing packages
  • UpGrade series for intermediate climbers
  • Workshops
  • Private Instruction
  • Variety of yoga classes
  • Personal fitness training

Prices will vary depending on the class. Some classes, such as yoga, are on a regular schedule. Others, like private instruction, can work around your schedule.

Amenities

Like the other gyms on our list, FA offers a variety of amenities to make your visit as comfortable and approachable as possible. Some of their amenities include:

  • Locker rooms with showers
  • Keypad lockers for day use
  • Lounge area
  • Free WiFi
  • Retail store for climbing gear
  • Food and beverages available to purchase

FA’s very open layout makes climbing comfortable even when the gym gets a little busy. When the weather is warm, the garage doors come up, bringing in a fresh breeze to clear the air of the typical gym scent we’re all too familiar with!

Climb North

The final gym on our list is Climb North. While the gyms on our list so far have been located somewhat centrally in Pittsburgh, Climb North is a bit out of the way, located in Wildwood, PA, near the northern boundary of Allegheny County.

Climb North has both bouldering and top-roping. It’s great for folks living in northern Pittsburgh who would rather not travel into the busy city. It’s not such a great choice for those living in downtown Pittsburgh.

Climb North is one of the oldest walls in the country, having been built way back in 1993! Despite its age, this gym offers some of the most unique climbing.

Let’s dive into the details of Climb North!

Rates

Like other gyms on our list, Climb North offers a variety of packages to fit your needs. Climb North’s memberships are more unique, offering memberships based on monthly intervals instead of recurring payments.

  • Day Pass – $15: If you want to test out Climb North, consider getting a day pass. The price drops to $12 for children 6-14 and $10 for college and high school students.
  • 10X pass – $120: Similar to a punch pass, the 10x pass gives you 10 days of entry to the gym. If you up it to $140, you’ll also get rentals with the pass. College and high school students only pay $80.
  • 1-Month Pass – $65: Ready to step up to the next level? A monthly pass will give you access to the gym all month. For $80, you will get rentals with your pass. College and high school students pay $50.
  • 3-Month Pass – $150: Climb North offers a unique 3-month pass. For $180, it will include rentals.
  • 6-Month Pass – $250: If you want a longer commitment, try the 6-month pass. Make it $280, and you’ll get rentals with the pass.
  • Year membership – $400: It’s a pretty sweet deal. For $400, you get access to the gym for a year. For $460, you can get rentals all year too!

Speaking of rentals, you can rent shoes for $4 and a harness for $4 if you don’t have your own gear.

Hours

Climb North is open for the shortest amount of hours compared to the other gyms on our list. 

  • Monday through Friday: 5pm to 9pm
  • Saturday & Sunday: 12pm to 6pm

This is something to be aware of if you need to work around an odd-hour work schedule or on the weekends.

Parking

Climb North has a free parking lot, but you may be sharing it with folks going to gymnastics class. At certain times, the lot may get pretty full!

Bouldering

Climb North is a smaller gym when compared to some of the others on our list. It contains 5,000 square feet of bouldering wall, offering over 100 boulder problems.

Projects range from beginner to advanced, with multiple styles and angles mixed in. Cracks, laybacks, and roof climbing are just some of the techniques you’ll find at the gym.

Top Roping

The top-roping wall at Climb North offers over 40 different climbing routes. This ‘little’ wall is an excellent way for beginners to get into top-roping. There are still plenty of challenging problems for advanced climbers as well!

Like Ascend, Climb North offers harness and shoe rentals if you don’t have your own gear.

Fitness Equipment

As we mentioned previously, Climb North is connected to a gymnastics studio which is located in the same room as some of the bouldering walls. This equipment is available, but there is not much else in the way of fitness equipment.

Classes

Climb North offers a few classes for climbers that will introduce you to the world of climbing or help improve the skills you already have.

  • Beginner class – kids (ages 6-11)
  • Beginner class – adults
  • Intermediate class
  • Teams class (competition training)

Amenities

Climb North doesn’t have many of the amenities that gym-goers are used to. They offer gear that you can rent and refreshments, but little else.

Wrapping Up!

Choosing the right climbing gym is a big decision! To help you make that decision, we’ve compiled a list of the best gyms in Pittsburgh.

To recap, the five best climbing gyms in Pittsburgh include:

If you’re looking for the best gym with top-roping and bouldering, we’d suggest Ascend. Check out Iron City Boulders or First Ascent for the best bouldering-only gyms. If you choose First Ascent, just be prepared to pay for parking if you stay longer than two hours. Finally, if you’re looking for a cut-and-dry gym with bouldering and top-roping, Climb North is your gym.

Not sure what the difference is between bouldering and top roping? No problem! You can read more about the differences between bouldering, sport climbing, and trad climbing here.

Hopefully, this article helped you narrow down which rock climbing gym is best for you in the Pittsburgh area! For more information on climbing, head on over to the dirtbags blog!

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