Duluth offers a variety of seasonal climbing opportunities within the city limits.
Ice Climbing, Mixed
Casket Quarry is the informal name for an abandoned quarry located below Skyline Parkway in West Duluth. The land was originally owned and worked by the Duluth Crushed Stone Company throughout the early 20th century. By the time the company ceased operations it had quarried out a 1000-foot-long, 100-foot-high cliff of black gabbro.
By the 1970s, groundwater seeping down the rock face that froze into impressive icicles and pillars had attracted the attention of the local ice climbing community. In the ensuing decades, climbers from beyond Duluth became commonplace as word spread throughout the Midwest of this superb concentration of vertical ice. More recently, Casket Quarry’s reputation as a climbing location has been augmented with the focused development of equipped mixed (a combination of rock and ice) climbing routes.
Today, this is a premier site for ice and mixed climbing utilized by recreational climbers, university climbing programs, and guided groups. In 2015 Casket Quarry was included in a broad proposal for outdoor recreation projects in the St. Louis River Corridor. The proposal—unanimously supported by the Duluth City Council—has resulted in the acquisition and approved development of Casket Quarry into city-owned parkland with a West Duluth ice climbing park component.
Rock climbing, Bouldering, Mixed
Duluth’s premier rock climbing crag is Ely’s Peak, a prominent knob of archaic bedrock that looms fortress-like over the St. Louis River valley. The rock is firm basalt; vertical cracks and angular face holds dominate. Climbs are typically 40 to 60 feet in length, but there are exceptions nearly twice as long. There are two separate outcrops with climbing routes at Ely’s Peak: Tunnel Bluff, which is pierced by an abandoned railway tunnel, and the adjacent Northwestern Bluff, located across a forested drainage.
Boulderers are also in luck—there are a seemingly infinite number of fine bouldering rocks scattered throughout the forest and along the former railroad bed (now the DWP trail) on either side of the tunnel.
In winter, some of the most challenging mixed climbs established outside of the Rockies traverse the ceiling and icy portals of the old tunnel. These routes must be seen to be believed.
Smaller Outcrops and Boulders
Rock climbing, Bouldering
Duluth is peppered with small outcrops of glacially scoured basalt and gabbro that have long facilitated urban cragging. The rocks with the longest histories are Whoopee Wall and Point of Rocks, but with the development of places like First Street Boulder, Foxx Rocks, and others, climbers have cultivated an energetic local bouldering scene. More detailed information about these crags can be found at Climb Duluth!