Get Your Fix: Rock Climbing in Milwaukee, WI
If you're stuck in the city and looking for rock climbing, Milwaukee offers some good opportunities to get a workout - or even a fun urban climbing adventure. Summer searchers are usually better off making time for a Devils Lake trip, but those pressed for time hit the gym or the quirky solace of the Lafayette Wall. During Wisconsin's snow & ice months, the Milwaukee rock climbing crowd mainly congregates in two area gyms, Turners Climbing Gym (downtown) and Adventure Rock (in the western suburb of Pewaukee). A number of small walls at various recreation venues in the area round out the Milwaukee rock climbing scene.
Outdoor Rock Climbing in Milwaukee, WI
Lafayette Wall | Milwaukee | Free | Map
On those perfect summer days when you really want to climb outdoors but can't escape Milwaukee, rock climbing opportunities at the urban Lafayette Wall at Lafayette and Summit (aka Lafayette Hill) can help. Find the Lafayette Wall under the north end of the bridge, along the Oak Leaf Trail rec path. This wall is made of big, rectangular limestone blocks and goes about 25' tall by 50' long. Rock quality is okay, if fairly regular/predictable, but can be dirty/crumbly in places. Bouldering, top-roping, and leading (small gear) is possible here, along with chance troll encounters. Brush (including stinging nettle) and water seepage can make things difficult. More Information
Indoor Rock Climbing Gyms in Milwaukee, WI
Turners Hall | Milwaukee | $9 Day Pass | Limited Hours | Map
Located downtown just off the Milwaukee River, Turners Hall is a beautiful, historic Milwaukee landmark that mainly features concerts, but also hosts a unique rock climbing gym. Part of a larger gymnastics facility, the gym has an old-school non-molded design that makes up in utility what it lacks in modernity. The facility features twenty 26′ top ropes, two bouldering areas, a 55′ slackline, locker rooms with showers, equipment rental/sales, and loose collection of climbing training equipment. In addition, the gym has a spacious and well-equipped weight training area, which is well stocked with free weights. Turners is well known for its super friendly staff who provide a welcoming environment for both new and tenured wall rats.
Local climber, Alli Hourigan, notes, "Being situated underneath the Turner Hall Ballroom, you can sometimes hear the artists performing and rehearsing on stage directly above the climbing walls on Thursday and Friday nights, which is pretty cool. Every Tuesday and Thursday at about 8pm, a staff member rings a bell and leads a group ab workout. It's multi-level (he gives a good intro every time and lots of options for all the exercises), non-committal (you don't have to sign-up ahead or even stay for the whole thing if you collapse mid-way through), and it's open to anyone in the gym with a climbing pass. It's one of my favorite things about going on those nights - really fun and really really challenging. Plus it builds a great sense of community."
The Turners climbing gym has limited hours (Tu/Thu/Fri 5pm - 10pm; Sat/Sun - Noon - 5pm) so check the schedule before you go. Check out Turners for convenient downtown access in support of a great and long-standing Milwaukee organization. 414.272.1733
Adventure Rock | Pewaukee | $15 Day Pass | Daily 9am - 10pm | Map
The most well-known of Milwaukee-area climbing gyms, Adventure Rock is a fully outfitted, professional gym with a pro shop, tons of regularly changing routes, and an active staff. Located off Capitol Drive just north of Brookfield, Ad Rock is convenient to many of Milwaukee's western suburbs, as long as you avoid the rush hour crunch that sucks on Capitol. This gym opened right after I left for college in the 90's so I haven't climbed there very much, but my brothers started their climbing careers there and loved it.
With walls up to 35' and over forty top ropes, Adventure Rock is the tallest and largest gym in the area, and most SE Wisconsin climbers visit regularly during the winter climbing doldrums. It's greatest drawback for Milwaukee-dwellers is its location... it takes 20 -30 minutes to get to Adventure Rock from downtown. (See below for new Milwaukee Ad Rock gym in 2015!) But it you're going to be there for more than an hour, it's probably worth the drive. 262.790.6800
New Milwaukee Climbing Gym to Open in 2015
Adventure Rock will be opening a second climbing gym at 2240 North Commerce Street in downtown Milwaukee early in 2015. The new gym will feature over 16,000 square feet of climbing terrain, with walls up to 42 feet high. Exciting! Check out the deets.
Other Milwaukee-Area Climbing Faciliites
I haven't been to any of these places, but if you are looking for a smaller gym for an intro to climbing for yourself or your kids, these might work. If you know something about them and care to share, please supplement the beta in the comments. Thanks!