Outdoor rock climbing near Victoria, BC in 2022

Live on Vancouver Island and want to go rock climbing outdoors? There are a lot of places to discover, but this list should get you started climbing near Victoria, Nanaimo, Campbell River and beyond.

This post was last updated in July 2022. If you have any corrections or updates, leave a comment below.

An evening after work in Victoria

Fleming Beach

Fleming Beach climbing (Victoria BC)
Bernard bouldering while the muggles look on.

Known for: Top rope (easily accessible anchors); Bouldering (long traverses)
Location: 10 minutes – Macaulay Point Park (Esquimalt)
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

Heading to Fleming Beach with your first rope is a right of passage for new climbers.

When you only have an hour or so to kill, bouldering is a great option. It’s fun to grab some takeout, watch the spectacular sunsets over the ocean and see how many laps of the “Jane Fonda Traverse” you can pull off.

Saturday afternoon

Mt. Wells – South Cliffs

Erynne at the top of Mt. Wells. Mt MacDonald in the background. Photo by Perruzzo.

Known for: Mostly sport 5.6 – 5.10+
Location:  30 minutes – Goldstream / Langford
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

School Yard is a great place for beginner lead climbers. After you’ve got the basics down, there are some 5.9s and 5.10s over at Cosmic Lights. There is also a notably fun 5.8 finger crack that you can set up on top rope.

There is a ton of other climbing at Mt. Wells: mostly harder sport and trad. Check out the guidebook for info.

Mt. McDonald

Audrey climbing Vampire in the Sun (5.9) on Mt. McDonald. Photo by Rick Wood.

Known for: Sport (One 5.9, Mostly 5.10-5.11), Mixed (5.10s), Trad (5.7-5.10)
Location:  30 minutes – Goldstream / Langford
Guidebook: Climber’s Guide Vancouver Island South (MEC)

Once you’re leading 10s, many climbers cross the road and hike up to Mt. McDonald. In addition to enjoying some great climbs, you can watch all the crowds scrambling around on Mt. Wells.

Glen Lake Crag

Beginner climbing party at Dirt Stamp Wall

Known for: Sport (5.7-5.11)
Location: 25 minutes – Langford
Guidebook: Check the Glenn Lake Facebook group for the most recent guidebook (under files).

It’s so exciting to have more moderate climbs so close to town. The ground can be quite dusty, so bring a large rope tarp.

Day trip

Nanaimo: Sunny Side

Rhea climbing (what I think is) Dink Charmer (5.9)

Known for: Sport (5.7 – 5.12)
Location: 90 minutes – Just before Nanaimo
Guidebook: Nanaimo Crags – out of print

Sunny Side is just that — full of sun!  It is a  good place to climb in the spring before it gets too hot.  Or once summer hits, you can always cool down with a swim in the Nanaimo River.

The Dark Side is another popular area right across the river. It is a cool, shaded network of paths that weave between the rock walls, tall trees and handmade steps.


Salt Spring Island

Hannahbess climbing Why Go North (5.9)

Known for: Sport (Mostly 5.7-5.10)
Location:  2 hours (Requires a ferry from Sidney)
Guidebook:  Salt Spring Rockclimbs (MEC)

Conglomerate: the pebbly rock everyone loves to hate. But the views from Mt. Maxwell are fantastic. Beautiful camping at Ruckle Provincial Park. Delicious food at the Tree House Cafe.

And there’s bouldering too!

Bernard working on a project that I wish was a bit closer to the ground.

Long weekend

Quadra Island

Al climbing Two Crows Walked Into A Bar
Alois climbing Two Crows Walked Into A Bar (5.8)

Known for: Sport (Mostly 5.5-5.10)
Location:  4 hours (Requires a ferry from Campbell River)
Guidebook:  Quadra Island Rock Climbs (Online or at MEC)

Fantastic views and stellar climbs. Quadra was on the cover of Gripped a few years ago but it has managed to stay a hidden gem.

If heading straight to the pub after climbing is your thing, consider camping at Herriot Bay Inn. I prefer the much quieter We Wai Kai campground. If you’re going during shoulder season, check out Taku Resort. (They have a hot tub.)

Crest Creek

Bernard getting ready to climb Gypsy Eyes (5.8)

Known for: Mostly mixed, trad  (5.7-5.10). Almost everything can also be climbed on top rope.
Location:  4.5 hours — Near Gold River
: Crest Creek Rock Climbs. (MEC)

This is the most beautiful crag I’ve ever seen: handcrafted wooden steps, comfortable belay platforms and meticulously maintained trails.

The top of almost every route is easily accessible by clear paths and anchors set far back from the edge. When I was starting out, I learned to top rope here. Now I am becoming more comfortable with trad climbing as I test myself on mixed routes (“A BOLT! YAY!”).

Camping is available at Buttle Lake.  No cell phone coverage near camping or climbing.

Where else?

Phil Stone has a complete list of Vancouver Island & Gulf Island crags on his site. You can also check out Alpine Select if you want to venture out into the Island Alps.

Where do I learn to climb?

Here is where I learned! Feel free to add your favourite gyms / guides / companies in the comments.

  • Crag X — Lessons for top rope belay, lead belay and more. Love this gym and am very grateful for their ongoing support.
  • GOATS – If you are queer/trans, check out the lessons offered regularly by the Victoria-based non-profit for LGBTQ+ climbers. I started this organization a long time ago and it’s now run by a very capable crew!
  • Squamish Rock Guides — I’ve taken their lead, trad and multipitch courses. Excellent experiences each time.
  • Island Alpine Guides — I’ve never taken a course with them, but I know they are well-respected.

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3 thoughts on “Outdoor rock climbing near Victoria, BC in 2022

  1. Close to Maple Bay, the UVic Rock Scaling club extensively developed the nearby conglomerate cliffs at the area we referred to as Sansum Narrows in the early to mid 1970s. Although dozens of new traditionally protected routes were established there of difficulties from ranging from low class 5 to 5.11+, and of heights varying from about 30 to about 300 feet in length, for some reason, other climbers shunned this vast area, presumably because of misplaced fears about the safety of climbing conglomerate rock. Admittedly, the rock could be loose at times, but experienced climbers should be expected to have the required judgement to use this vast area in safety. The UVic Rock Scaling Club visited this area from 1971-75 without sustaining a single injury. As a footnote, the UVRSC faded into insignificance after this period when all of the active climbers resigned in protest against the appointment of non-climbers to executive positions in this organization.

  2. Once the weather warms a bit I can’t wait to try this. I just started indoor rock climbing in Victoria the other day and I love it so far. I think it’ll be good practice for this. Victoria BC has some great spots.

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