5 Best San Francisco Climbing Gyms + Bay Area » Local Adventurer


Looking for the best San Francisco climbing gyms? Start here.

San Francisco is one of our favorite cities, but it wasn’t until recently that we started adding climbing gyms as part of our travel itinerary. Luckily, some of our local friends pointed us toward the best climbing gyms in SF bay area. With so many options, we put together this list to help you decide which gym to go to whether you’re visiting or want to become a member.

We’ve been to over 25 gyms all over the US, and San Francisco has some of our favorite gyms in the nation. Here’s what we learned.

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Last Updated: January 17, 2023

Things to Keep in Mind

  • The climbing scene will continue to change. When we revisit, we’ll continually update this post. Over the pandemic, we noticed many gyms closing or getting bought out by larger gyms.
  • Corporate vs. Independent Gyms – If they hire a new setter, the setting can vary and is usually more drastic at smaller, independent gyms vs. corporate ones.
  • Gym climbing has evolved and has become its own sport. Some gyms cater toward training for outdoor climbing, while others want to create a climbing experience only for gym climbers. I’ve noticed my outdoor friends like gyms with lots of ‘tensiony’ moves that train them for the outdoors, but many of our indoor-only climbing friends are looking for something entirely different (i.e., comp-style).
  • Setting – The setting includes how fun the climbs are and the variety of holds. Although there are exceptions, typically, we’ve found that when they invest more in hold variety, they also invest in setters.
  • Grading – We’re primarily looking at interesting and fun movement over how they grade their problems. Some climbers prefer a grade range, while others prefer them broken up. Some gyms are stiffer than others, and some grades are all over the place, which can be frustrating, so we note it.
  • Community – This is always hard to compare on one-off visits. We got some insight from friends, but instead of rating the community, we included notes on whether a gym was beginner-friendly. Some gyms can feel more intimidating than others if you’re new.

The Best Rock Climbing Gyms in San Francisco Bay Area

1. Benchmark Climbing – Best Setting and Best Overallㅤ→

1414 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, CA 94109, map

Setting: 5/5
Facility: 4.5/5
Rates: $30 Day Pass | Memberships Starting at $107.54/month
Setting Routine: 1-3 Days Per Set. Resets start on Mondays.
Types of Climbing: Bouldering
Busiest Times: Weekdays after Work
Training Boards: Moon Board, Campus Board
Other Locations: North Berkeley

Walking into Benchmark Climbing, we immediately noticed all the natural light and wood tones. We appreciated their clean, modern aesthetics. But at the end of the day, the setting determines how long we want to climb or if we want to come back.

Our other climber friends also mentioned that this gym had the best setting. Once we started climbing, we saw how thoughtfully they set each problem. Even the lower grades were interesting and fun, which is often an afterthought for setters, especially at independent gyms that don’t have a huge budget. When we asked them how long they spend on a set, they told us 1-3 days per set. What a dream!

We had only planned to stay a couple of hours but stayed much longer. Since visiting, they opened a much larger gym in North Berkeley that we will be checking out on our next visit.

Room to Improve: They don’t have a huge workout section, and the area fits maybe 1-2 people comfortably.

Local Tip: Street parking is cheaper, but if you can’t find any, there are a few parking decks nearby. The setting can be a little stiff compared to the other gyms in the area but will get you stronger. And there’s ample seating and wifi if you want to work remotely – Paulina

See Related – The Ultimate SF Bucket List

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benchmark climbing gymPin

2. Pacific Pipe (Touchstone) – Best Facilitiesㅤ→

2140 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, CA 94607, map

Setting: 4/5
Facility: 4.5/5
Rates: $30 Day Pass | Memberships Starting at $87.08/month
Setting Routine: 5 Week Turn Around
Types of Climbing: Top Rope, Lead, and Bouldering
Square Footage of the Facilities: 46,000 sq ft
Square Footage of Climbing Walls: 33,000 sq ft (13,000 sq ft of bouldering)
Busiest Times: Weekdays after Work, Weekends
Training Boards: Moon Board, Tension Board, Kilter Board, Campus Board

Pacific Pipe, one of the newest Touchstone gyms, is the largest climbing gym in the US as of 2023. It is a massive facility with 55-foot-high lead walls and a huge bouldering area that spans two floors. It has almost everything you could ask for in a climbing gym. I haven’t seen any other gym with all three: Moon, Tension, and Kilter boards.

We visited after they had a citizens comp, so there were many more comp problems. The gym felt more inviting to new climbers compared to other gyms.

Room for Improvement: They lacked a hangboard area (it’s in the works). Also, if you don’t like busy gyms, you may want to consider another gym.

Local Tip: There is free parking around the building.

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3. Dogpatch Boulders (Touchstone) – The Largest Bouldering Gymㅤ→

2573 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107, map

Setting: 3.5/5
Facility: 3.5/5
Rates: $30 Day Pass | Memberships Starting at $107.54/month
Setting Routine: 1-2 Times a Week
Types of Climbing: Bouldering
Busiest Times: Weekdays after Work
Training Boards: Kilter Board, Spray Wall, Campus Board

This is another gym owned by Touchstone, so you can access it if you are a Touchstone member. It’s SF’s first bouldering-only gym and is huge (the largest in California). They have some tall walls and top-outs. The Touchstone gyms also share setters, so you’ll find a similar setting style here.

We went right when they opened, so there were few people there, but our friends told us during peak hours, it gets crowded.

Room to Improve: The gym is older, so it feels grungy, and the holds are gross. Grades are all over the board, and they keep raising membership prices without improving the facilities – Paulina.

Local Tip: It’s easy to access from CalTrain – Paulina

See Related – 25 Free Things to Do in San Francisco California

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bouldering dogpatchPin

4. Movement Sunnyvaleㅤ→

815 Stewart Dr, Sunnyvale, CA 94085, map

Setting: 4/5
Facility: 3/5
Rates: $30 Day Pass | Memberships Starting at $91/month
Types of Climbing: Bouldering, Top Rope, Lead
Square Footage of Climbing Walls: 28,000 sq ft
Number of Problems Up: 120+ Problems / 150+ Routes
Other Locations: Belmont + San Francisco

We went to the Sunnyvale Location in 2016 and had a lot of fun climbing back then, but had Paulina help us with how it has been since then. Although the facilities are older, they’ve been doing work to upgrade them. The staff is friendly.

Room to Improve: The wifi is bad, which makes it hard to work from – Paulina

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These were the four gyms we visited in the past, and we’ll let our friends, Paulina and Austin, give you insight into the other gyms below.

5. Mission Cliffs (Touchstone)ㅤ→

2295 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110, map

Setting: 3/5
Facility: 2/5
Rates: $30 Day Pass | Memberships Starting at $107.54/month
Types of Climbing: Top Rope, Lead, and Bouldering
Square Footage of the Facilities: 23,000 sq ft
Square Footage of Climbing Walls: 23,000 sq ft (2,000 sq ft of bouldering)
Number of Problems Up: 160+ Routes
Busiest Times: Weekdays after Work
Training Boards: Campus Board

Mission Cliffs is San Francisco’s oldest climbing gym, and although they’ve gone through renovations and updates, the age shows. The roped area is much bigger, with 50-foot lead walls, so it’s great for rope climbers. The bouldering area is small, but they have bouldering top-outs. Our friend Austin still goes here to work out, mainly out of convenience.

Room to Improve: Grades are all over the place, holds and walls are gross, it’s crowded during peak hours, and they have terrible customer service. Their employees take forever to acknowledge you exist. – Paulina

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OTHER Walls and Rock Climbing Gyms in San Francisco Bay Area

  • Berkeley Ironworks (Touchstone) – 45-foot-high lead walls and a big bouldering area. The facilities are older, though.
  • Bladium’s Rock Wall and Bouldering Gym
  • ClubSport Pleasanton
  • Diablo Rock Gym (Touchstone)
  • Glen Park Recreation Center – has a climbing wall.
  • Great Western Power Co (Touchstone) – 48-foot-high lead walls and 1,500 sq feet of bouldering. It’s located in Uptown Oakland and convenient if you live in the area.
  • Movement San Francisco – this location is right in the heart of the Presidio by the Golden Gate Bridge. They have 40-foot climbing walls, plenty of space, and beautiful views.
  • Movement Belmont – This was the original Planet Granite gym, now Movement Belmont. It’s small, and the wall angles aren’t great. It’s not a destination gym, and it’s only nice if you’ve climbed everywhere else or it’s the most convenient location. It also gets crowded, especially on bouldering league nights.
  • Session Climbing – There’s so much hype around Kevin Jorgensen’s new gym in Santa Rosa. It was much smaller than I expected, but the facilities were nice, with seating and eating spaces (5/5). The setting was all over the place (3.5/5), and the bouldering area was sparse.
  • The Studio Climbing, South Bay (Touchstone) – avoid at all costs. The facilities are a 1/5. Even Belmont is small, but this one feels even smaller. The setting is just okay, the bouldering area is not enjoyable, and some walls are set up in a little hallway. You feel like you can’t climb without falling on someone else.

In Conclusion

As visitors, we will most likely check out all the gyms we haven’t been to before returning to the ones above, but I know we’ll be back at Benchmark. If it were up to us and we lived in the Bay area, we would get a membership at Touchstone to enjoy the benefits across all the gyms in norcal (Mission Cliffs, Berkeley Ironworks, Diablo Rock Gym, Pacific Pipe, Dogpatch Boulders, Great Western Power Co) and SoCal and then get a punch pass at Benchmark.

Map of Climbing Gyms in San Francisco Bay Area

What to Pack – Climber’s Packing List

First Timer’s What to Bring

You can rent shoes, chalk, and a harness if it’s your first time. All you need to bring is the following:

Established Climbers Packing List

For those who already climb, don’t forget these items too! Check this post for our favorite of each.

Extras

Finally, here are some miscellaneous items you can bring for warming up, training, and more.

More About Our CLimbing Journey

  • We’ve climbed since 2013 and climb in the intermediate V4-6 range indoors and outdoors. Most climbers we’ve seen at gyms are either beginner or intermediate climbers. If you’re climbing in the advanced to the pro range, we assume you don’t need to google gyms and already have a network of climbing friends telling you where to climb (but who knows… we could be wrong).
  • I used to route-set at our old gym in Vegas, so I have a basic understanding of what the setting should be and have met many climbers looking for different types of setting styles.
  • We’ve climbed at over 25 gyms all over the US and have a good idea of what cities have decent climbing gyms. Most of these have been in major cities (ABQ, Atlanta, Austin, Bishop, Chattanooga, NY, Portland, San Diego, SF, Seattle, and Vegas). Our friends who van life and travel to climb outdoors year-round have told us that generally, climbing gyms have been worse at better outdoor climbing destinations, but that could also be because many are found in smaller communities.
  • Also, since we’re not pro climbers, double-digit climbers, or TikTok famous, people don’t give us special treatment. As an Asian male, Jacob can get a good read on whether the gym community is friendly.

Where to stay in San Francisco

Any other rock climbing gyms in San Francisco that we missed?? If you currently go to any of these gyms above, is there anything you disagree with or would like to add?

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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