Living in NYC as a person who loves the outdoors can sometimes be challenging, which is why I’m always on the lookout for activities that give this concrete jungle some semblance of the actual “jungle” part. I was insanely excited when I heard that the city’s first outdoor rock climbing facility was opening in Dumbo. A lot of people use the city’s indoor rock climbing gyms as a way to get their faux nature fix, and the arrival of The Cliffs’ new DUMBO Boulders facility may have brought our fair city one step closer to that illusion by letting us climb fake rocks outside. Progress!
Now, the only question remains: is this rock climbing spot actually worth your time? Bouldering gyms can be restrictive in their costs, questionable in their cleanliness, and crowded to the point of turning what was supposed to a quick workout into a half-day excursion. So, do the new bouldering walls Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass (Dumbo, duh) rise to the occasion? We got a chance to check them out this past weekend, and here’s what we think.
The location: Located at 99 Plymouth St. in Brooklyn Bridge Park, DUMBO Boulders is quite literally right under the Manhattan Bridge. If you’re not careful at the top of that tricky route, the rumblings from the Q train might make you lose your grip. The facility is closest to the F and A/C trains (York St. and High St. stops, respectively), but I found that it was only about a 10-15 minute walk from the Clark St. 2/3. It offers pretty stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Downtown Manhattan, which is a pretty sweet reward for finally getting to the top of that V4.
The facility: DUMBO Boulders is very cool. Bouldering outside with an amazing view of the city is an experience you won’t find at any other rock climbing gym. But it’s not a huge facility. This isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for the sprawling, 25,000 square feet of space that Brooklyn Boulders in Gowanus boasts (though that’s got its own issues at the moment). DUMBO Boulders only has bouldering available, so you’re out of luck if you were looking to do some belaying (the kind of climbing with ropes). It’s the biggest outdoor climbing wall in North America that isn’t made out of actual mountain rock.
Its grading system is color coded, so it’s super easy to follow your route (until of course the facility isn’t new anymore and the color fades off the rocks. Is that grey blob part of a V2 or a V8? The world will never know.) It’s open from 12-8pm on weekdays (which is great if you want to stop by after work) and 9am-8pm on the weekends. The staff is super friendly and the whole place gives off that cool climbing community vibe.
The crowds: I went on a weekday afternoon. It wasn’t insanely crowded, but there were a fair amount of people, especially as it got a little later and school was getting out (there were definitely some kiddos running around, so make sure you’re aware of any little ones below you when you’re climbing.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were long lines to even get on the wall on a sunny Saturday, especially at the low low price of $9 for a day pass. If you’re going on the weekend, I’d recommend an early morning climb (the facility opens at 9am on Saturday and Sunday) to avoid the after-brunch crowds.
The price: You really can’t beat it. Like I said earlier, it’s only $9 for a day pass, which includes a shoe rental. That’s unheard of at any of the rock climbing gyms around the city. A day pass at Brooklyn Boulders or The Cliffs in LIC will set you back at least $28, and that’s without the gear rental.
DUMBO Boulders even stamps your hand when you leave so you can re-enter at any time for the rest of the day. Go out, grab a coffee and come back! The locker room sitch: Non-existent. DUMBO Boulders doesn’t have any lockers on premises, so you’ll just have to carry your stuff with you and keep an eye on it. This ended up being a lot less annoying than I anticipated it would be, but might get trickier on a more crowded day.
Final verdict: Overall, the facility is pretty amazing for what it is: a spot to get a couple of hours of bouldering in with a great outdoor view. I wouldn’t throw your big climbing gym membership away just yet; you’ll still need it if you want to belay, get a bigger selection of bouldering walls, or take some fitness classes. But for the view, the experience, and the cool, friendly vibe, DUMBO Boulders is definitely worth the $9. Go play!