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.
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