Friday, October 4th, 2013
Indoor Climbing Spots in Bellingham
Todd Elsworth

With the weather upon us, we were looking for shelter from the storm and turned our eyes inside for some fun (and dry) recreation. Fortunately, there are a number of places to turn to for indoor climbing in Bellingham.

For starters, we headed into Backcountry Essentials. “Backcountry” is more than just a local store to buy gear. They provide a great knowledge base for getting OUT THERE and having some fun- whether it’s climbing, hiking, backcountry skiing or whatever else suits your fancy. We went in to test out the starter wall that they have hidden in the back. It’s a great place to try out climbing shoes (since they sell them there) and get the kids on a wall (for free). You just have to tell the folks at the front desk the secret password: “Start Small – Go BIG” to gain admission.

Backcountry Wall

Our next stop was the best known climbing gym in Bellingham- the downtown Whatcom YMCA. They have a complete range of routes for all abilities. Here you can see the short wall on the left, the bouldering section down in the pit and the BIG wall on the right. Check out the YMCA Climbing Wall.


“Back in the day” it was the highest climbing wall in the state of Washington- it starts in the basement and climbs 3 stories up into the sky (I’m checking my sources to see if they still claim the title). There are numerous routes to challenge you as you make your way to the top- and the staff changes them up to make it interesting. Take your pick and try and try again- it’s a great workout.

YMCA Big Wall

Check out the full set of YMCA Climbing programs, schedule and more. We enjoy going during the evenings for¬† Family Climb time. It’s a great way to get the family and friends out of the house and into some good clean fun. Starting kids at a young age is great for confidence building and strengthening practice. It also gives them better skills when they’re out there on the playground, hiking around in nature or even climbing around the house- as some kids are keen to do.


The latest gym to enter the Bellingham scene is Vital Gym. They took over an empty building and have transformed it into a huge fun zone.

Vital Climbing Gym 2

There are plenty of opportunities to hone your skills on different routes that they have set up. You’ll notice that there are no ropes at Vital- it’s all bouldering. In addition to the climbing walls, they also offer relaxing places to lounge and (do homework as many students were doing) have a snack and get ready for your next session.

Vital Climbing Gym 3

Another Bellingham location is the Wade King Student Recreation Center – Climbing Wall. It was built primarily for students, but Western Alumni and friends of the university may also get in and check out the series of routes, classes and competitions that are offered on campus. Here’s the great staff there to help you once you’re in:


The one thing that these indoor locations all have in common (besides being dry and comfortable) is that the staff are all great people who want to help you get hooked on climbing. Safety is #1 and the facilities and equipment are all well maintained. No matter if you’re a little kid or a hard-core crazy climber- there’s something for you (inside) in Bellingham to get your CLIMB ON!

Indoor Climbing Spots in Bellingham

Backcountry Essentials
214 W Holly St
Bellingham, WA 98225

Downtown Bellingham YMCA
1256 N State St
Bellingham, WA 98225

Wade King Student Recreation Center
1880 Bill McDonald Parkway
Bellingham, WA 98225

Vital Climbing Gym
1421 North State Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at

1 Comment »

  1. Nice blog. An indoor climbing wall really the best choice for kids. It keeps kids indoor and makes a home really rock.

    Comment by Marria — March 26, 2018 @ 8:38 am

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