Climb the walls at these Inland Northwest indoor climbing gyms
Cover photo courtesy of Scott Martinez
The stretch of time between the New Year and spring can be a verrrry long slog. If your New Year’s Resolution had “stay active” or “get outside my comfort zone,” at the top, don’t let gloomy outdoor conditions get in the way. Our area’s climbing and bouldering gyms offer approachable indoor workouts for beginners and experts alike. Climbing builds strength and stamina, provides mental challenges, and is a social sport that organically leads to conversation with other climbers. Each of these local climbing gyms offer climbing features for beginners, options to rent gear if you’ll need it, and drop-in availability to chat with staff and check things out. Visit each gym’s website to learn about membership options and day rates before you go.
Bloc Yard Bouldering Gym
233 E. Lyons, Spokane
Bloc Yard is a bouldering-only facility that’s just under 10,000 square feet. The family-friendly gym has top-out boulders (where you climb up and stand on the top of the cliff when you reach the top—with a slide option to take down to the bottom) or a down climb area (where you climb up to the lip of the boulder, then climb back down). The shortest wall is about 7.5 feet; the highest is about 15 feet. The staff resets bouldering problems weekly; they estimate they set about 1,200 different problems every year. Two youth teams—a competitive team and a development team—are available.
New person experience: Visit the gym during any open hours. Staff will talk you through basic rules and safety and can guide climbers toward the routes that are right for their abilities. No equipment needed; climbing shoes and chalk bags available to rent.
Why try it? “It’s a great alternative to your traditional style of fitness and workouts with lifting weights and machines. It engages all of your body as well as your mind,” says owner Adam Healy. “The social aspect, the community aspect of it, is really cool. It’s a very welcoming environment. Everyone’s willing to help out, give pointers, cheer people on.”
As far as the different disciplines of climbing, bouldering is the easiest one for first timers to get started in Healy says. “You don’t need to worry about harnesses, belay classes, anything like that. It’s a very easy way for a first timer to experience what the sport of climbing is all about.”
202 W. 2nd Ave., Spokane
Wild Walls has about 12,000 square feet available for climbing, with about 8,000 of those for top-roping and lead climbing and 4,000 split between two bouldering areas. The top-roping and lead climbing walls are about 40 feet tall. For kids, a Beginner Club teaches kids how to tie knots and belay. For those who have completed Beginner Club or just want to boulder, Climbing Club is available weekly for kids ages 7-14 to advance their climbing skills.
New person experience: Beginners can drop in, rent shoes or any other equipment, and try bouldering or receive instruction in how to use the auto belays. Bouldering and auto belaying are “a low-stakes way to try things out,” says general manager Todd Mires. “The other route [for a beginner] would be to take our intro class to learn how to belay, tie the knots, everything you need to know to be self-sufficient with top-roping.”
Why try it? “If you’re bored of the traditional gym and you’re looking to try something different, it’s a really good, strenuous physical activity,” says Mires. “It’s definitely more community-focused than going to a traditional gym. You’re directly interacting with people often. It ends up being more social, more community-focused.”
Some people try climbing thinking it will be an entertaining way to pass an afternoon—but remember that it’s challenging and strenuous. “It’s not laser tag, it’s not an amusement ride—it’s just a more adventurous avenue to exercise,” says Mires.
764 Clearwater Loop Suite 101, Post Falls, Idaho
Coeur Climbing opened in Post Falls in June of 2023. The gym’s space is mostly devoted to bouldering, and also offers top-rope climbing, lead climbing, and auto belay climbing. There is also a designated kids’ area. Climbing walls generally range from 12 to 15 feet. A variety of classes are available including belay classes, intro to bouldering, and lead climbing. This all-ages gym offers youth teams and winter and summer camps for kids too.
New person experience: Drop in during open hours, sign a waiver, rent shoes if needed, and receive an orientation to the space, as well as guidance on how to use your hands and feet for bouldering and tips on how to fall safely. Introductory courses are available (check website for schedule); no previous experience needed.
Why try it? If you’ve got a fear of heights, that doesn’t need to be a deterrent, says owner Daniel Shaw. Climbers can self-select what’s right for their current comfort and abilities. “Even on those 15-foot walls, there’s no need to go to the top.”
During winter, climbing is a great way to stay healthy, says Shaw. With its emphasis on core strength and mobility, the sport builds endurance and fitness. There’s no limit to who can try climbing. “All kinds of body styles and shapes can do it,” Shaw says. “It’s just a ton of fun.”
Three Other Inland Northwest Climbing Gyms to Check Out
Sandpoint Rock Gym, is a 900-square-foot garage-style bouldering gym with 12-foot walls run entirely by volunteers (shoes available). The gym offers memberships set up with key card access. “For somebody who wants to learn movement and who wants a place to play around, I think it’s a great option, particularly for someone who doesn’t want an overwhelming place with a ton of people,” says Katie Luthy, president of the gym’s board. To visit the gym or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Climbing Center at the University of Idaho in Moscow has 6,000 square feet of climbing space and is set up for bouldering, top-roping, and lead climbing. All equipment can be rented, and the gym is open to the public as well as U of I students. Kids can climb during designated youth climbing hours, and all of the equipment you may need is available to rent. www.uidaho.edu/current-students/recwell/climbing-center
The Rock Shop in Richland is a bouldering gym for all ages with 16-foot walls. Bouldering routes/problems are set for all levels—beginners, experts, and children. The gym offers a series of classes for its junior program, as well as a youth climbing team. www.rockshopclimbing.com
Sarah Hauge is a long-time Out There contributor and writes Out There’s Run Wild column.
Rock Climbing: the sport of climbing rock faces (up, as well as down and sideways).
Bouldering: an increasingly popular category of rock climbing that requires no ropes, belays, or other equipment, taking place on rock formations outdoors or on a rock wall in gyms. Crash pads on the ground provide protection in case of falls.
Top-Rope Climbing: climbing using a single rope that is fed through an anchor at the top of the climbing wall or cliff; the climber is attached to one end of the rope, and a belayer on the ground holds the other end of the rope, pulling it taut as the climber ascends.
Lead Climbing: climbing with a rope (the lead) attached to the climber, who clips the rope into pre-set anchors on the rock face, moving the lead as they progress upward.
Belay: a rope that runs between the climber and another person (the belayer) who can stop the climber’s fall; auto belays don’t require another person.
Boulder Problem: a pre-set route to be completed by a climber engaged in bouldering; can be set to varying degrees of difficulty.