Rock climbing and ice climbing

Ancient volcanic action followed by glacial activity has blessed Ontario’s vast landscape with a variety of different terrains and geological wonders such as the Canadian Shield and the Niagara Escarpment - good news for avid rock-climbers. Scale a gnarly wall with your most trusted belayer or go spelunking, bouldering or caving. And from beginner to advanced, all levels of instruction, guiding and outfitting are available. Ontario’s got the goods to get you hooked on rock climbing.

The adventure doesn’t end there, our winter season elevates the climbing experience to new heights. Ice climbing is up there as one of the most brag-worthy outdoor exploits, and thanks to Ontario being a four season destination, you can check scaling a frozen waterfall off your adventure bucket list.

Quick guide to rock climbing and ice climbing in Ontario

Rock climbing and bouldering spots in Southern Ontario

The Niagara Escarpment is a 700 km long stretch of limestone formation that stretches from Niagara Falls up to Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula. The escarpment offers several key rock climbing and bouldering sites including Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo in Milton all the way up to Lion’s Head in Bruce County. The three cliff faces at Rattlesnake (Rattlesnake Point, Bottle Glass and Buffalo Crag) total a few hundred climbs with fixed and maintained bolts that are great for beginners. Climb rock walls that rise straight up from the water in Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Rock climbing and bouldering spots in Northern Ontario

The trad climbing and multi-pitch routes on the Canadian Shield don’t disappoint either. The terrain around Sault Ste. Marie, Montreal River and Nipigon offer some challenging climbing faces. Reach for the sky from the top of Dorion Tower, an awesome 5.6 trad pinnacle near Ouimet Canyon in Northwestern Ontario.

Where to go caving and spelunking

Explore Ontario natural underground attractions on a cave tour at Bonnechere Caves in Eganville or Ontario’s oldest cavern at Tyendinaga Caves outside of Belleville. Formed thousands of years ago by glacier activity, the Warsaw Caves are a series of seven caves located in a conservation area east of Peterborough. Discover Greig’s Caves, limestone caves in the Bruce Peninsula or Scenic Caves in Blue Mountain.

Where to ice climb

From Thunder Bay and Red Rock to Marathon and Orient Bay on Lake Nipigon, northern Ontario is ultimate ice-climbing country. Dozens of ice-clad routes reach heights of over 130 metres and the waterfalls freeze so thick that the ice can stay until early spring.

Fortunately, adventure seekers can also find ice climbing sites in select southern Ontario locations, like Eagles Nest in Bancroft, the waterfall rich region around Hamilton and Elora Gorge. Local instructors and guiding services are available to show you the ropes.

Know before you go

Climbing equipment

Climbing shoes, chalk, harnesses, carabiners and belay devices are most commonly used in rock climbing, however different types of climbing may require additional equipment. To successfully (and safely) ice climb you will need specific equipment, including mountaineering boots, a harness, ice screws, helmet, crampons, ice axes, a belay device and carabiners. Join a local outfitting company to gear you up and guide you to adventure.

Indoor rock climbing gyms

Indoor rock climbing gyms cater to a variety of different skill levels and are a perfect place to learn the basics and practice techniques all year round. Find an indoor climbing facility near you. Learn about responsible outdoor climbing practices and how to transition from gym to crag from the Ontario Alliance of Climbers.

Ice climbing season and conditions

Ice climbing is only available when the weather is cold enough to form sturdy ice. It is extremely dangerous to climb when the ice is not sturdy enough. Always check in with your guide or outfitter on the ice climbing conditions in advance. The ice climbing season runs much longer in Northern Ontario as the icefalls freeze much thicker creating a safe climbing environment well into spring.

Last updated: April 28, 2023

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