Castlegar has quickly become the best city in the Kootenay region of British Columbia for rock climbing. People have been climbing here since the 1950s but in the past two decades popularity in the sport has skyrocketed thanks in part to indoor gyms such as the one at Selkirk College, as well as easily-accessible cliffs such as Kinnaird Bluffs and Waterline Walls, both an easy 10-minute drive from downtown. The annual Kootenay Climbing Festival, which takes place in September, is also responsible for introducing rock climbing to people of all age, from toddlers to grandparents, and the climbing season is one of the longest in the province (March to November).

There are dozens of areas in and near the city that boast hundreds of routes and many are perfect for family outings because they’re easy to access and they have a large area for kids to play. To experience them in their entirety, we recommend purchasing the West Kootenay Rock Guide at the Castlegar Visitors Centre and/or hiring a rock climbing guide such as David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides. For the purposes of this article, we’ve chosen three favourites where kids and adults alike can have fun rock climbing in Castlegar.

Waterline Walls


The Waterline area has always been popular with dog walkers, cyclists, and bird watchers but in 2006 visitors of a different sort began playing on the six different cliffs that line the trail here. For rock climbers, the Waterline Walls are amazing because they’re easy to access (it’s only a five minute walk from the car park), there are a variety of routes from easy to difficult, and the areas at the base of a lot of the walls are relatively flat so kids can scramble around and play. Then, in 2019, access to the walls, which were located on private property, was put in jeopardy because the owner wanted to sell. Suddenly no trespassing signs sprung up around the cliffs and climbing was no longer allowed. Thankfully, the community stepped in and eventually The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers (TAWKROC) purchased the 11 acres that the walls are located on and they are once again accessible to all.

Name: Waterline Walls

Number of climbs: 67 ranging from easy (5.6 trad) to hard (5.12 sport)

Directions: Drive west from Castlegar on Hwy 3 towards Grand Forks. Near the top of the hill out of town, turn left on 14th Ave. Drive past the cemetery and when the road veers left at the baseball field continue straight on the dirt road. Park near the gate (but don’t block it). Walk by the gate along the trail and in a few minutes you’ll spot the first cliff on your left. For more beta, refer to the West Kootenay Rock Guide and the updates at wonowmedia.com.

Best times to visit: Waterline Walls enjoy afternoon sun and the season starts on certain walls as early as May and lasts until November.

Why it’s family friendly: Access is a mellow, five-minute walk from the parking area on a smooth, wide trail. There is plenty of flat ground near the crags with seasonal streams, stands of birch trees, and grasses in which kids can play. It’s also relatively easy to access the top of the cliffs to set up top ropes, especially Raven’s Wall where a trail on the looker’s left side leads up. All the hardware in this area was updated by TAWKROC in the last few years so you need not worry about rusty chain anchors.

Pub Wall


We’ve written about the Pub Wall on this site before because it’s the only establishment in Canada with a natural rock climbing wall in its backyard and it’s the site of the annual Kootenay Climbing Festival. The pub has been around since the 1980s but Troy Pyett and and Carly Hadfield purchased it in 2009 and, because they’ve had experience with climbing, allowed developers to establish climbs on the wall in the backyard. There are now 11 climb that include everything from easy multi-pitch to hard slab and the average length of each route is about 20 metres. This is a great spot for families because the area located between the car park and the wall is flat and grassy and the business’s license allows children to be in the restaurant until 10pm.

Name: Pub Wall

Number of climbs: 11 ranging from 5.8 trad to 5.10d sport

Directions: Drive west from downtown over the Robson-Castlegar bridge and turn left onto Broadwater Road. The Lion’s Head Pub is located at 2629 Broadwater and you can park behind the building, right beside the cliff. For more beta, visit wonowmedia.com.

Best times to visit: Waterline Walls enjoy afternoon sun and the season starts on certain walls as early as May and lasts until November.

Why it’s family friendly: You park almost at the base of the cliff so access isn’t an issue. There’s a good-sized, flat, grassy area for the kids to hang out in and children are allowed in the restaurant with their parents until 10pm. The one thing to note about this area is the top of the routes are not easy to access via walking so it’s best to climb them and top rope of the anchors.


Grad Wall


Castlegar’s latest rock climbing destination offers outstanding views of the valley that take in the mighty Columbia and Kootenay river and it boasts a relatively easy approach that takes you to a large meadow near the base of the wall where kids and families can hang out and play. Plus its located near one of Castlegar’s most important cultural sites: Verigin’s Tomb. Aside from Waterline Walls and Pub Wall, the newly developed Grad Wall is one of the best in the city for families of all sizes. There are nine moderate routes that can all be ticked in an afternoon and it’s easy to access the top of the crag in order to set up top ropes. (There are multiple anchors from which to rappel in order to access the tops of the routes, most of which end three-quarters of the way up the cliff face.)

Name: Grad Wall

Number of climbs: Nine moderate routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.10b

Directions: From Castlegar, drive north on Highway 3A. After the Brilliant Bridge over the Kootenay River, turn right onto Robson Access Road. After a kilometre, turn right onto Terrace Road (Verigin Tomb Road) and park about 300m up the road on a wide shoulder. From the parking area, walk a faint trail up the middle of a bowl-shaped grassy slope and once it levels out, continue directly towards the walls, crossing a ditch, to a gas line. Walk west on this for about 50m then follow a faint trail up the hill toward the rock walls. After about five more minutes you’ll arrive at a beautiful open grassy bench below Grad Wall. The total approach takes about 15 minutes. For more beta, visit wonowmedia.com.

Best times to visit: Grad Wall is south-facing and so sees a lot of sunshine, especially in the afternoon. The season for climbing at it lasts from April to November.

Why it’s family friendly: The wide meadow near the base of the wall is perfect for children of all ages to play in. And the views of the valley from that perch are outstanding. Plus, it’s possible to access the climbs from above and set up top ropes.