Bears Den Natural Area
The Bears Den climbing area is a series of 30’-60’ cliffs along a ridge in Bears Den Natural Area in Gilsum, NH, on New Hampshire state land. There are more than 40 climbs at the various crags, ranging from 5.5 to 5.11. About half the climbs are fully bolted, and half are trad or partially bolted with some trad gear placements.
Note: The rock is a primarily a schist and, while generally clean, it can be brittle and break off unexpectedly.
Directions and Parking
Parking is in a large lot at the entrance for the Bears Den Natural Area (N43.025490, W72.267967. The parking lot is located on the right (east) side of Route 10, 4.2 miles north of the intersection with Route 9.
The beginning of the climbing area is about ¾ to 1 miles from the parking lot on a gently rolling trail.
The trail to the cliff band leaves generally northwest from the parking lot. Follow the reasonably blazed trail (take left fork at the beginning) about 5 minutes until it reaches a larger trail. Turn left and follow this past large and obvious “pot holes” on your left. Drop downhill after this and turn right at the junction as it starts to get less steep. Follow this trail (again, reasonably blazed) for 10 minutes or so before scrambling up a steep, jumbled, vegetated talus field up to the base of the first crag.
Turning right here takes you along the base of the cliff band and you will come to a number of discrete sections of cliff with obvious bolted lines or cleaned sections of rock.
Turning left at the base of the cliff trail takes you along a short bit of the cliff until the trail turns right and climbs to the top of the ridge. This ridge trail can be followed until it drops down again toward the end of the climbing area. (Also note that the trail pictured below is extremely approximate.)
There is, in fact, an actual bear’s den just downhill from the cliff, in a sheltered area under a rock with a large hanging rock above. This is occasionally used, so please be respectful in early and late season.
Additionally, it should be noted that it is generally complicated and ill-advised to rig most of these climbs as top-ropes from the top. It is far better (and safer) to establish these climbs from the ground up.