Obed Wild & Scenic River Climbing
Wartburg, TN 37887
According to geologists, the sandstone at the Obed Wild and Scenic River was carved and formed by the tumbling water of the Obed River and its tributary river systems nearly 200 million years ago. All of that pressure, erosion and friction has resulted in miles of sandstone cliff-line up 300 feet tall; the cliffs are covered in beautiful orange, blue, and gray streaks and seem to have been custom-made for climbers. The rock is bullet hard, with every imaginable feature from solution pockets and crack systems to gigantic ledges and tiered roofs. It is largely these roof systems that make this place so special to climbers. They provide shade and keep many of the routes dry, allowing for climbing in every season. Many of the roofs overhang as much as or more than they ascend, and it is here that many climbers test their abilities, push their limits and have a whole lot of fun with friends. But the Obed is not limited to wildly gymnastic, overhanging endurance climbs. There is an excellent mix of intermediate and advanced routes that are great for learning new techniques, practicing skill sets and finding a perfect challenge. Introductory routes can be found for newer climbers who are versed in the basic techniques of roped lead climbing, and beginning climbers can hire a professional guide to give them a tour and help ensure a safe and enjoyable outing.
Lilly Bridge Buttress: Lilly is very popular during the warmer months of the year. The majority of the cliff remains in the shade all day, and the short (less than 5 minute) approach makes it easy to access and a popular meeting place. The Lilly buttress hosts climbs that are typically shorter than other areas in the Obed, but contains a long list of classic face climbs, overhangs, and even some 20+ foot jug infested horizontal roof routes. The swimming hole below the bridge offers climbers a great place to hang after a hard day climbing.
Lilly Boulder Field: Accessed via a small well-marked trail from the overlook, the boulder field provides the highest concentration of bouldering in the Obed. With mostly flat landings and a great trail system, it is easy to find your way around. The problems range from entry-level V0’s to micro-crimping V12 madness. There are even some unfinished problems waiting for a first ascent. While a pad is not absolutely necessary on all of the problems, they are recommended for some of the highballs and corridor climbs.
Little Clear Creek: This small, hidden cliff lies on the north side of Little Clear, which is a small side creek that flows into Clear Creek. There is a small collection of short, high quality 11's and 12's.
North Clear Creek: North Clear is far less trafficked than its southern counterpart. This is largely due to the lack of moderate routes. The majority of the bolted climbs at North Clear are of the harder variety and quite a few of them are amazing! This area also holds the largest collection of classic traditional climbs in the Obed. So, if you’re looking to escape the crowds or plug some gear, but don’t want a long approach, North Clear is probably your best bet. A seventy-meter rope is required to reach the ground on some of the routes, and is highly recommended.
South Clear Creek: Probably the most popular climbing area at the Obed, South Clear Creek is lined from end to end with classic climbs that will have you begging for more. This area includes many great walls, including the Stephen King Library with its 40-foot horizontal roof, the Solstice Cave, the Image Wall and the Outer Circle. While some of the routes may have lines on a busy weekend, after you see them, you’ll understand why. Please be sure to donate $1 per person at the parking lot; our hike in would be much longer with out the generosity of the land-owner.
The Obed and the Tieranny Wall: Tierrany wall is directly South-facing and receives sun all day. Because of this, you can often climb in a T-shirt in the middle of winter. On the flip side of that, this crag often become a blazing hot-box in the summer and should not be explored with out plenty of water (bring twice what you’re thinking). The Tierrany wall is largely what put the Obed on the map and is home to many of the Obed’s first bolted hard routes. The routes here stay dry even during massive storms, and range from 5.10a to 13+. While there is not a concentration of great moderates in this sector, fun can be had for solid 5.10+ leaders. The majority of the routes ascend long just-off-vertical faces to the base of the roof system. From here, they bust out the amazing 45-degree tiered roof system on horizontals and edges to the lip of this massive cave. The savvy climber will be on constant look out for hand-jams, heel and toe hooks and knee bars to fend off the pump on the way to the chains. Stick clips and a minimum 60 meter rope are recommended. Travelling to climbers left (upstream) from Tierrany, climbers will find another mile of incredible sunny climbing. The Jones Buttress, Psycho Wall, Underground, many Ledges, Fort Sandstone and West Obed afford an opportunity to escape the crowds and climb in a beautiful peaceful atmosphere. In these areas, you will definitely see and experience the “wild and scenic” nature of the Obed. With pristine views across the river into Catoosa, amazing rock quality and many super classic, yet rarely travelled routes, you will find a new definition of Shangri-La.
Y-12: Named for one of Oak Ridge's nuclear reactors, the routes at Y-12 will have your forearms going into meltdown. This crag goes into the shade after 12:00 noon in the summer, giving you just enough time for a traditional southern “alpine start.” Don’t miss out on the routes just right of the down-climb, or the 5.11 warm-ups past the tapeworm ledge. The main wall holds an excellent selection of 5.12’s and one of the best and longest 5.13’s at the Obed, “Born on the 4th of July."
Park Size: 500+ acres
Natural Trails: 27 miles
River Miles: 45 miles
Entrance: Visitors Center
208 Maiden St, Wartburg
Directions: Take I-40 to Pellissippi Parkway exit #376 towards Oak Ridge. After 6.4 miles continue on TN-62/Oak Ridge Hwy. Go another 11.8 miles and turn right to remain on TN-62. Travel 15.6 miles and turn right on US-27 N into Wartburg. After 0.6 mile, make a left onto Kingston Street, then follow the brown Obed road signs to the Visitor Center on N Maiden Street.