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 2019. If you have any corrections, shoot me an email or leave a comment below.
An evening after work in Victoria
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.
Mt. Wells – South Cliffs
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.
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
It’s so exciting to have more moderate climbs so close to town. This year the developers added a second pitch to the Karate Kid wall which is super fun. The ground can be quite dusty, so bring a large rope tarp.
Nanaimo: Sunny Side
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
And there’s bouldering too!
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.)
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.
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.
- 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. I love their online instructional videos too.
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