Bouldering in the Bay Area

Less than an hour away from the Bay Area, you'll find more than 50 problems on the nut tree boulders in Vacaville.

Photo by @_nickandrew_ via Instagram.

Located about halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco, the bouldering in Vacaville is somewhat of a local secret but is worth a trip for any climber traveling through the area. In the hills above the town is a field of primo basalt boulders with more than 50 bouldering routes. Most of the climbing here is on the easy to moderate side, with the most difficult problems in the V7-V9 range. The boulders are easy to get to and on a clear day you can see the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.

TOP NOTCH BOULDERING NEAR SAN FRANCISCO

If you’re looking to spend a weekend in the Bay Area and want to get in some rock climbing or bouldering, head to Vacaville. The Nut Tree Boulders are easily accessible from either Highway 80 or the 505 and you’ll find more than 50 problems in the easy to moderate range. The rock here is basalt, which means the good holds are really good, but there can also be some loose stuff in there. It also means you can’t climb here after it rains, or the holds could break.

The Nut Tree Boulders are less busy than climbing gyms or other climbing areas and are split into three sections: Boxcar Woody Boulders, Hillcrest Boulders, and Woodcrest Boulders. The Boxcar Woody Boulders are a popular after-work spot because there is no approach - they are right next to the road. The Hillcrest Boulders are a little more spread out, but have the most problems, as well as the area classics. The hardest problem in Vacaville is found at Hillcrest (Scott’s Traverse, V9). The Woodcrest Boulders are more concentrated and is the most popular area in the Nut Boulders. It’s easy to run a circuit on the problems in this area and there’s also a short approach.

The area is still being developed, but most problems fall within V0-V5. The majority of the boulders are around 10-20 feet, but there’s the occasional 30-foot climb if you like exciting highballs. The best time to come is in the winter and on cooler spring or fall days.

WHO WILL LOVE THE NUT TREE BOULDERS

You aren’t going to be able to crush a ton of hard problems here, but if you want a weekend filled with fun bouldering, this is the place to go. The Nut Tree Boulders are easily accessible and have a short approach, so if you don’t like trekking into your climbing areas, this is a good place for you. Most of the boulders range from about 10-20 feet, but some do go up to as high as 30, so if you are looking for highballs, you’ll find them here as well.

DIRECTIONS FROM THE BAY AREA

From the Bay Area take the 80 East and Exit Allison Dr. and turn left (North). Follow Allison Dr. for approximately 2mi and Turn Left on Wrentham Dr. Please park along Wrentham Dr. Entrance is located at the top of Wrentham Dr.

There are no parking fees and there are several parking areas for the Browns Valley Open Space, so just look for the signs. For the Boxcar Woody Boulders, park along the road or near the church. You can get to the Hillcrest Boulders from Boxcar Woody or from Hillcrest Circle. The Woodcrest Boulders are off Woodcrest Drive, and you’ll park on the street next to a gate with a barbed wire fence behind it.

There are also cattle in the area (vaca does mean “cow” after all), and you shouldn’t approach them. Because of the animals in the area, be extra diligent about packing out whatever you take in.

There’s no camping in the area, but there are plenty of hotels in town.

Basalt can be very fragile when wet and easily break, so you should not climb here within 24 hours of a rain.

NUT TREE BOULDERS FAQS

HOW DIFFICULT ARE THE NUT TREE BOULDERS?

Most of the bouldering here is in the easy to moderate range (about a 2-star difficulty).

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE ALL THE NUT TREE BOULDER PROBLEMS?

There are definitely enough problems to come back again and again, but most people head out for a weekend. You can complete most of the problems in 2 days’ time.

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME FOR BOULDERING IN VACAVILLE?

The best time to climb here is in the winter when temperatures are cooler. You can climb on cooler days in the spring or fall, but June through September is usually too hot. You can’t climb here within 24 hours of rain or holds could break off.

ARE THE NUT TREE BOULDERS DOG-FRIENDLY?

Yes, the Browns Valley Open Space is pet friendly. Your dog must be on-leash or at least under voice control due to the cows roaming around the area.

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