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Best Climbing At New River Gorge For Beginners

Best Climbing areas for New River Gorge National Park & Preserve

New River Gorge is a national park encompassing over 70,000 acres of beautiful forest. The New River cuts right through the park, providing enchanting views of deep canyons and white water rapids. New River Gorge also provides some of the best climbing in West Virginia.

The best climbing at New River Gorge for beginners include Sandstonia, Beer Wall, Head Wall Left Side, and Cotton Club. These areas have multiple routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.9, making them an excellent choice for beginner climbers or a great warmup place for advanced climbers.

These areas have climbs for both sport and trad climbers and offer routes ranging from easy warmups to challenging projects.

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Here’s Why Climbing at New River Gorge Is A Good Place For Beginner!

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve View

Making a trip to a big climbing area like New River Gorge can be intimidating. You know it will be a bit more crowded than your local crag, and you’ll likely run into some good climbers.

Rest assured, New River Gorge is a fantastic place for beginners! Many locals and visitors agree that The New is rated pretty stout compared to Kentucky’s red river gorge. A 5.7 might feel like a 5.9, and a 5.9 might feel like the most challenging climb you’ve ever tried.

This makes the area an excellent practice ground to improve your climbing skills and maybe get humbled when you have trouble on a 5.6. Don’t get discouraged! We’ve all been there and the adventure is sooo worth it!

If you’re nervous about talking to experienced climbers, you can brush up on all the rock climbing terms and definitions here!

Before you head to the New, consider picking up a New River Gorge climbing guidebook and downloading the mountain project app on your phone. These will both help you navigate around the gorge. You can also check out the national park service website for some great information on the park!

Now, let’s get to the best areas for a new climber at West Virginia’s New River Gorge!

Bubba City Area

Best Climbing Areas For Beginners at the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve Bubba City access sign

Bubba City is one of the more popular climbing areas in New River Gorge and is perfect for beginners and intermediate climbers.

The three walls in this area that are more geared toward beginners include:

  • Sandstonia (also known as the Tattoo Wall)
  • Beer Wall
  • Head Wall Left Side

Get ready to do some walking to get to these walls! Oh, and maybe a little rope climbing too. The approaches to these walls are rather lengthy, and the terrain is not easy, so be prepared!

Sandstonia (Tattoo Wall)

If you want to hit the best routes on the tattoo wall, we recommend getting there early or going on a weekday. This wall is popular and fills up fast.

  • Where To Park: Park at the Good Luck Cemetery Parking Lot located at 1995 County Route 60/5, Victor, WV 25938. (GPS: N38.0966, W81.0868).
  • How To Get To The Wall: From the parking lot, head northwest along a well-worn path that follows the power lines. Once you pass four powerlines (and almost die hiking up and down the hills), hang a left. A sign will say ‘Sandstonia’ to let you know you’re going the right way.

From there, follow the trail. It will lead you to some switchbacks, and eventually, you’ll reach the wall. Expect a 25-30 minute hike to get to the wall. 

  • Rope: 60m
  • Quickdraws: 11

The Climbs At Sandstonia

Some of the best routes for beginners on the Tattoo Wall (Sandstonia) include:

RouteRating LevelLengthProtection
Celtic Sun5.950 feet5 bolts to anchors
Assman5.845 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
5.5 My Ass5.650 feet5 bolts, anchor
Bobby D’s Bunny5.670 feet9 bolts, bolted anchor
Geisha Girl5.895 feet11 bolts, bolted anchor
Mrs. Field’s Follies5.895 feet10 bolts, bolted anchor
Butterfly Flake5.740 feet3 bolts, bolted anchor
Shady Lady5.760 feet6 bolts, bolted anchor
Crescendo5.9+60 feet6 bolts, bolted anchor
Pay It Forward5.950 feet6 bolts, bolted anchor

Bobby D’s Bunny is a great warmup route, while Geisha Girl and Mrs. Field’s Follies are some of the favorites on this wall. Many locals call Butterfly Flake the most challenging 5.7 in the gorge. It’s a good, challenging lay-back route.

If you have to wait for a route to open up, we’ve found that having a small stool is super convenient. Eureka’s Camp Stool is lightweight, weighing just 1lb 8oz, and can hold up to 250 pounds. 

Climbing at New River Gorge National Park & Preserve

Beer Wall

The beer wall is a little less popular than Sandstonia but will still get busy on the weekends. It tends to ebb and flow with the day, so you may be the only one on the whole wall or have a few groups hanging around.

  • Where To Park: Park at the Good Luck Cemetery lot OR, if you arrive early enough, you can snag one of the Bubba City parking lot spots. This lot is located at 215 Co Rte 60/5, Lansing, WV 25862 (GPS N38.0936, W81.0838).

This parking lot may or may not be available, depending on construction.

  • How To Get To The Wall: From the good luck cemetery, walk south along Chestnutburg road until you see the bubba city parking lot on your left. To the right will be a trail. Follow this trail, eventually crossing a gravel road, and continue to a ladder.

Down the ladder and down a few hand ropes, and you’ll reach a rock wall that almost always has water running down it. Pass this and another climbing wall (Bubba buttress). Continue along until you find a rock wall with a DEEP crevice in the side that you can (and should because it’s like air conditioning in the summer) walk into. You’ve reached the beer wall!

  • Rope: 60m
  • Quickdraws: 7

The Routes At Beer Wall

The Beer Wall is shorter than Sandstonia but still packed with some great beginner climbs. The best routes for newbies at the Beer Wall include the following:

RouteRating LevelLengthProtection
RouteRating LevelLengthProtection
Doo-Wah Woof (Trad)5.460 feetStandard Rack – Achor will be built around tree
Micro Brew5.550 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
Near Beer5.650 feet4 bolts, bolted anchor
Gilded Otter5.750 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
Daisy Cutter5.760 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
Eating Bimbo Pie (Trad)5.750 feetUse last 2 bolts and anchor from Beer Wench. Standard rack
Thank God I’m Bubbafied! (Trad)5.860 feetStandard rack, two 5-inch pieces, 1 4-inch
A Pound of Prevention (Trad)5.855 feetStandard Rack. No anchor – must use tree
Cerveza Verde 5.945 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
Beer Wench5.950 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor

We recommend bringing at least 7 quickdraws and a 60m rope. The tallest climb is 60 feet, so a 40m rope might not make it if the route wanders. Most of these routes have 5 bolts or less, but 7 quickdraws allow you to use them for anchors.

If you think the route you will try will wander, consider getting some slings like the Black Diamond Nylon Sewn Runners. These will help your rope stay straight even on the windiest routes!

Daisy Cutter, Cerveza Verde, and Beer Wench are some of the favorite sport routes on this wall. For trad, don’t miss out on Eating Bimbo Pie, a crag favorite.

Best Climbing Areas For Beginners at New River Gorge

Head Wall Left Side

Head Wall is located pretty much right in the middle of the Beer Wall and Sandstonia. While there are only three beginner climbs on this wall, we included it because it has the best 5.9 in the entire Bubba City Area!

This wall is cast in the shade for most of the day, so be wary if it rained recently, as the rock may still be wet.

  • Where To Park: Park at the Good Luck Cemetary Lot (1995 County Route 60/5, Victor, WV 25938. (GPS: N38.0966, W81.0868)) or the Bubba City Parking Lot (215 Co Rte 60/5, Lansing, WV 25862 (GPS N38.0936, W81.0838)).
  • How To Get To The Wall: From the good luck cemetery, walk south along Chestnutburg road until you see the bubba city parking lot on your left. To the right will be the Canyon Rim Trail. Follow this trail until you hit the top of the cliffs. Hook a right (heading west).

Hike past the stone overlook for a few minutes and look for a trail that cuts down to the left. Once you are at the bottom, the Head Wall will be the first cliff on your right. Continue walking along the ridge until you pass a large roof and a small hill to reach the Left Side of the Head Wall.

  • Rope: 60m
  • Quick Draws: 7

Climbing At The Head Wall

The Head Wall is full of advanced climbs in the 5.11 and 5.12 range, but there is one reason to head to this wall if you are a beginner: Hubba bubba. Considered the best 5.9 in the Bubba City Area, it’s worth it to make the trek down!

While you’re there, you can check out Verde Suave and Sangre Verde, both of which are short routes that will make an excellent warmup for Hubba Bubba!

RouteRating LevelLengthProtection
Verde Suave5.750 feet5 bolts, bolted anchor
Hubba Bubba5.9+60 feet5 bolts, anchor
Sangre Verde5.840 feet4 bolts, bolted anchor

By the way, if you also plan to hike solo at The New, you can check out some tips for how to hike alone safely here! We highly recommend checking out the endless wall trail and of course the new river gorge bridge.

Cotton Hill Area

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve climbing

Cotton Hill climbing area is a little out of the way compared to other spots. However, it’s still within the new river gorge region and has plenty of climbing options for beginners! The best wall for beginners at Cotton Hill Area is Cotton Club. It is the most recently established wall in the area.

One thing to note about Cotton Hill is that it will stay wet for a few days after heavy rain, so make sure you hit this area when it’s been dry for a couple of days!

Cotton Club Wall

This wall is sometimes referred to as “Jonestown.” The wall stretches for about a mile, following the horseshoe bend in the river and eventually turning into the Land of the Lost wall.

  • Where To Park: Park at the Cotton Hill Fishing Access Area Parking Lot (38.1147366, -81.142589). The lot is relatively large, but if it fills up, you can continue driving on HWY 16 to one of the many roadside pull-offs and walk back.
  • How To Get To The Wall: From the parking lot, walk past the gate located on the northern side of the parking lot. Take the trail that leads left. It will hook back right and cross over a stream. Walk until you hit some steps, climb them, and head right to approach the wall.
  • Rope: 60m
  • Quickdraws: 13

The Climbs At Cotton Club Wall

The highest beginner route at Cotton Club Wall is 90 feet, so we recommend bringing at least a 60m rope. Some of these routes have 11 bolts, so bring a few extras if you plan to use them as an anchor.

Cotton Club has a great mix of beginner climbs. Some of the best include:

RouteRating LevelLenghtProtection
Ventilator Shaft (Trad)5.750 feetStandard rack, bolted anchor
Management Wore Masks5.880 feet9 bolts, bolted anchor
Diggie Diggie Doo5.860 feet7 bolts, bolted anchor
Right of His Crack (Trad)5.880 feetStandard rack, can use tree or neighbor bolted anchor
Hidie Hidie Ho5.8+65 feet8 bolts, bolted anchor
Mystery Hole5.980 feet9 bolts, anchor
House of Cards5.990 feet11 bolts, bolted anchor

The crag favorites include Management Wore Masks and House of Cards. Compared to the Beer Wall and Sandstonia, Cotton Club is a lower-quality rock, so wearing a helmet at this wall is a good idea! Black Diamond’s Half Dome Helmet is durable, lightweight, and comes from a company that’s been in the business for years!

Climbing at New River Gorge Recap!

Climbing at New River Gorge offers excellent climbing areas for beginners, intermediates, and advanced-level climbers. For beginners, going to a large climbing area like the New can be intimidating. Still, there are plenty of beginner routes that will challenge everything you know about climbing!

To recap, the best climbing areas for beginners include the following:

  • Bubba City Area:
    • Sandstonia (Tattoo Wall)
    • Beer Wall
    • Head Wall Left Side
  • Cotton Hill Area:
    • Cotton Club Wall

If you want to continue enjoying climbing at new river gorge, be sure to pack all your necessary supplies and pack out any trash. This keeps the park open to climbers so folks like me and you can keep climbing for years to come!

Want to know more about the specific gear we use? Check out The Dirtbag Climbing Gear!

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