Clamber over rocks and crazy water-worn edges, conquer the boulders of the Oregon coastline to declare yourself the “King of the Rock”—and enjoy the majestic views of the Pacific Ocean visible from your high vantage point!
You’ve heard about rock-climbing–but the equipment is intense and the climbs long. Or maybe you already boulder, but only in meadows or forests (don’t misunderstand: those are both beautiful locals too). Bouldering along a coastline adds a dynamism to the experience that is irreplaceable—the constant movement of nature is in full force here, from the waves rolling in, to the coastal winds picking up sands and hair (plan for that if you have long hair…), to the constant calls of seagulls and the occasional sea lion.
Coastline bouldering is related other exotic climbing experiences, like coasteering and deep water soloing.
The Oregon coastline is beautiful, and well-worth a visit in its own right. That said, the bouldering can be a bit sketchier because of the kind of rock: the coastline is largely considered choss rock, it does crumble easily. Nonetheless, there are a few places though if you know where to look…
Cannon Beach, with Arch Cape and Indian Beach to the immediate south, has several boulders & boulder-esque landscapes to explore. About 150 minutes south, the headlands above Road’s End at Lincoln Beach, along with further south around Depot Bay, present several more opportunities. The one caution: the biggest and most tempting boulder on the Oregon coast, Haystack Rock, is off-limits as a nature sanctuary for puffins that like to breed on the rock—so no climbing there!
A strong grip, flexibility and core control are all critical for a successful bouldering outing. A friend to spot you is also invaluable (preferably bring one with a similar level of tenacity and crazy as you).
If you’ve got those checked-off, you’ll need some crash pads (one or more, more is safer) and good climbing shoes. Seriously, bring shoes. Remember those “constant calls of seagulls”? They don’t respect your choice of boulder when doing their nature’s business, so wear some shoes.
The Oregon coastline is a temperate biome, with all the cold winds and saltwater spray you’d expect along an oceanic coastline. The temperatures are usually moderate, rarely higher than 80s.
This is technically a year-around sport, which isn’t to say there aren’t nicer times to have your adventure. Winter and early spring are especially stormy along the coastline with very cold winds and pelting rain, summer can have crowded beaches and sun bearing down on the sand. Late spring or early fall is a nice temperate time to visit with less crowding and more frequent cloud cover.
Specific locals within Oregon Coast that are good for bouldering include Cannon Beach, with Arch Cape and Indian Beach to the immediate south; as well as Road’s End at Lincoln City and Depot Bay.
This activity is a lot more about physical fitness than outdoor skills, there aren’t really any you’ll need … except remembering to pack out everything, including garbage, that you brought in.
Declaring “King of the Rock” and enjoying panoramic ocean views sounds lovely, but what does it really take? And what are the risks?
Upper-body and finger strength—as that’s, by and large, what you’re holding on to the rock with! Balance, body tension, core, and leg strength are also important though. Focus on developing fast-twitch muscles, as they’re more frequently used over slow-twitch alternatives.
There are specific muscles to focus on, but overall full-body training is highly important for this sport. It’s recommended to start with a basic full-body training routine, before starting bouldering 2-3 times a week at VB or V1 levels and working up from there.
Hangboard training is also an ideal way to train and build up to higher bouldering levels. Three specific exercises to help you build the critical muscle groups:
Crash pads and climbing shoes are usually bought items that you will bring with you to the bouldering site. For the Oregon coastline especially, the gear will need to be brought in as there really aren’t any rental sites nearby.
Crash pads run from $150-$400 depending on the type, there are varying sizes and thicknesses of pads.
Climbing shoes are specifically designed with minimal padding and sticky rubber soles to help your foot grip during climbing, they run from $70-$190—but an average of around $100 for a good set.
Bouldering is typically a one-day activity, depending on how long you want to spend at the boulders you’ll need 1-2 meals or smaller snacks.
A great pre-climb breakfast could include quick oats with dried fruits or bananas—easily digestible carbohydrates to get you started fast.
Replenish glycogen every 75-90 minutes during bouldering with slower digested carbs, a quinoa or wild rice dish that can be eaten cold would be great.
Post-climb, its time for protein (but limit the fat to avoid slowing protein absorption). Greek yogurt is an easily transportable solution; but on the coast, some seafood like white fish or shrimp is also viable.
Seaside Hostel is a cheap option you can easily book on Airbnb.com, the prices average to about $15-33 a night, depending on what room you book into. (They also run a bus daily that can pick you up or drop you off at PDX.) Cannon Beach and Indian Beach are about a half-hour south of here.
The Lincoln City/Depot Bay area is far more expensive to book into, you’d be better off planning a camping trip here. It’s possible to book a campsite or RV pull-in for around $30-50 a night here (pro tip: check out HipCamp.com to find your spot!)
There’s not much in the way of public transportation along the Oregon Coast, so hoping an easy bus isn’t going to be an option often. Where there are visitors, Uber can usually be found as well. In this instance, a half-hour ride from Seaside Hostel to Indian Beach at 4:15 pm is $29.99, or a trip to downtown Cannon Beach is $25.
Bouldering isn’t regulated (currently) so there are no permits or registration required, and depending on where you’re visiting from, the outing is a viable day or weekend trip so time off is optional. It is worth noting that some Oregon businesses are beginning to require proof of Covid vaccination, so plan accordingly!
Bring your own food! There are few grocery stores (especially if you’re in the northern Cannon/Indian beach area), prices are high because of the tourist destination vibe—so pack in your own supplies to help keep your costs down.
Bring hand sanitizer. Between the seagulls and the seaweed, you may appreciate being able to sanitize after your climb.
Sure, even if they’re not into bouldering, there is plenty to see and explore along the Oregon coastline.
There are public bathrooms available at many state park parking lots, or else the downtown areas all have businesses with bathrooms available (albeit to paying customers).
See Notes on transportation in the Finances & Budget section.
See notes in the “Where and When to Go?” section.
No, while bouldering along the Oregon Coast is accessible and in the lower ranges of bouldering challenges but it’s still a hidden gem with not much bouldering traffic … and no guided tours.