Outdoor Climbing Walls

Climbing has become a new passion for my son in recent weeks. I signed him up for some classes at a local climbing gym this month, and, with only three lessons so far, I’m surprised at how much his climbing has improved. He would be ecstatic if we could go to the gym every day, but, well, that’s just not going to happen, at least not at this point in time. Besides, why pay to spend an hour inside a dark cave-like climbing gym when the weather outside is so warm and beautiful? The alternatives? One, go find a natural rock to climb. Or… go to the park!

In our area, the park with the best climbing wall for young kids is Kolb Park in Dublin, and that’s where we went this afternoon.

How is a climbing wall different from a normal climbing structure at the park? Perhaps I should start with a definition. Here’s a good one from Wikipedia… “A climbing wall is an artificially constructed wall with grips for hands and feet, usually used for indoor climbing, but sometimes located outdoors as well.” Rock gyms have the advantage of providing a rope belay system to safely allow climbing to greater heights (30 feet or higher). At the park, without ropes, these artificial walls are much smaller, but still super fun for kids. These structures are more like a simple version of the bouldering walls you’ll find at the rock gym. I think the photos speak for themselves.

Here are a some of the parks along the 680 corridor between Pleasanton and Walnut Creek that have fun climbing walls:

We would love to hear about other parks in the Bay Area with fun rock walls. Please reply with other suggestions, and we’ll check those out, too!


  1. Thanks for the idea. I used to climb and I loved it. I would like to share this activity with my daughters some day. I will look for parks with climbing walls in my area, San Mateo…


    1. Hm… maybe Studio Climbing? But that’s San Jose. I love climbing at their affiliate gyms, Ironworks in Berkeley and Diablo Rock in Concord. Let me know what you find!


    2. Ha! I shouldn’t try to respond to a comment while making dinner. I would be even more interested in what parks you find with climbing walls in the San Mateo area (when your daughters are ready for climbing).


      1. I found a great place to climb… The funny thing is that it has been there for a long time and I did not pay attention until I read your post last week. It is PJCC, it is a comunity center in foster city, we are member and they have 2 hours of supervised climbing every week… We are going to try it this weekend. I’ll keep you up to date!!


  2. Brings me back. When I was a kid there were giant real boulders on a local university campus. Flash forward 30 years and I’m still climbing. Kids are naturals!


    1. Yep, kids love to climb just about anything. And, I agree… I still love climbing today! But now I’m better about making sure I can get back down before I get into trouble.


  3. I should add that Rock city is not a playground so nervous moms (like me) will have cause for some caution here. But it can be enjoyed even without risky climbing, just wandering through the huge boulders with your family. 🙂


  4. I just showed my husband this post and right away he said “rock city” on mt diablo. Great place for learning how to maneuver on/through big rocks. Lee Anne, I get nervous, too. My son wore his bike helmet the last time he went climbing at rock city! ( my husband’s idea!)


    1. Rock City is a favorite of ours, but outside the theme of this post (artificial climbing walls in parks). I’ll cover that awesome spot another day! As well as Indian Rock Park in Berkeley and the cave rocks in Sunol. So many fun things to do around here!


  5. Great post! My son loves playground climbing walls. We are in Concord and have a few in our area to name…concord community park and heather farms park in walnut creek have larger/more interesting walls. We will have to visit the ones you mentioned. Thanks!


  6. Fabulous photos – especially LOVE the big top photo!!
    So I need some advice. How do I overcome being the nervous over protective mom who worries about the child falling? It’s something I’m working on, biting my tongue and hoping for the best. Any advice or suggestions?


    1. When C was younger, I would’ve been standing right there, ready to catch him. Just in case. But he wasn’t an adventurous climber- he’s more of a safety kid- he wanted me there with him. Some of his buddies were doing far more advanced stuff much earlier… capably. I simply knew when he was ready to do more by himself. You’ll know, too. Try little stuff first, like the little wall on the toddler structure at Alamo Creek Park. As she gets more competent, you’ll become less worried.


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