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Asheboro Boulders Access Preserved

(Asheboro, NC) 

The Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC), Access Fund, The Conservation Fund, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR), and the North Carolina Zoo (Zoo) are pleased to announce that the Asheboro Boulders at Ridges Mountain have been permanently conserved, with climbing access preserved. As of December 2023, the 134-acre tract comprising the Asheboro Boulders is now owned by the State of North Carolina under management of the Zoo. 


Since the early 2000’s, CCC and Access Fund have negotiated temporary climbing access to the Asheboro Boulders at Ridges Mountain. This access was via an annual lease agreement with former landowner Ben Crotts, followed by a private conservation buyer, and most recently by The Conservation Fund. Long-term access was not guaranteed and a sale to less-climber-friendly owners was always a possibility. In the early 2000’s, there was a significant threat of the boulders being destroyed for their mineral value, potentially erasing the entire boulder field. Thanks to the work of many conservation and recreation-minded partners as well as the Crotts family, mining the boulders thankfully never came to fruition. The CCC’s relationship with Mr. Crotts helped set the stage for maintaining this climbing access through four property-owner transitions, finally leading to permanent land protections under state ownership. 


The Conservation Fund played an invaluable role in this process, leading the acquisition and transfer to the Zoo as well as partnering with climbers throughout the process. "I am thrilled that this project is now in public ownership and that climbers will continue to enjoy the boulders for decades to come,” says Erin Crouse of The Conservation Fund. “We are grateful to the Carolina Climbers Coalition and Access Fund for their partnership with The Fund and the State in working to ensure long-term climbing access." See more from the Conservation Fund here.


“Preserving climbing access at the Asheboro Boulders has been a decades-long exercise in the importance of relationship building between climber coalitions and land managers,” says CCC Executive Director, Mike Reardon. The North Carolina Zoo is the first known state zoo in the United States to provide and manage climbing on their lands. The Zoo and NCDNCR are leaders in a growing trend of agencies and landowners who see human-powered outdoor recreation as a key element to bolstering support for land protection and conservation. 


Mike Leonard of The Conservation Fund said, "The Conservation Fund worked with prior owners who sold the land to The Fund with the intent of protecting both this unique place in the Piedmont with its dramatic boulders and the climbing access that the Carolina Climbers Coalition has responsibly managed for several years. We are pleased to have been able to work with the North Carolina Zoo to protect both the place and the climbing access."


AJ Jackson, President of the CCC says, “The conservation of the Asheboro Boulders, on Ridges Mountain, is important for ecological and recreational purposes. Geographically, it's the largest concentration of climbable rock that's readily accessible to the Eastern North Carolina climbing community. For decades, climbers have been honing their skills on classic problems like Lightning Crack and Asheboro's Steepest. Now, we have protected access to ensure the area will remain intact for generations to come. We're lucky to have such incredible partners at the North Carolina Zoo who will play a crucial role in balancing conservation and recreation at Ridges Mountain."


North Carolina Zoo Director Patricia Simmons says, “We are incredibly grateful for the partnership between the Zoo, the Carolina Climbers Coalition, The Conservation Fund, and the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, which has led to the long-term protection of this important site. We are excited to take on stewardship of this land, adding it to our existing 284 acres of property on Ridges Mountain, and preserving it for recreation, research, education, and conservation."


“We applaud the NCDNCR and Zoo staff’s vision and creativity in permanently protecting and managing this special boulder field,” says Daniel Dunn, Access Fund’s Southeast Regional Manager. “Rock climbing plays an important role in the conservation movement and can be a powerful motivator by connecting folks to the land they recreate on. We look forward to partnering with the Zoo on long-term stewardship of the area and helping to foster the next generation of climber conservationists.”


The Asheboro Boulders are an anomaly of egg-shaped prehistoric rock formations over 586 million years old. The gabbro rock type is prone to splitter cracks and highly textured faces ideal for bouldering in the V0-V10 range. The imposing geologic formations standing sentinel atop Ridges Mountain create one of the only secured bouldering areas in the greater Uwharrie Mountain chain. Ridges Mountain is noted as a Great Indian Trading Path for the Keyauwee Indians, who lived near the base of the mountain at the time of European contact. Modern climbers began exploring the boulders in the mid-1980s and have established over 200 boulder problems, or specific routes, on the mountain, likely following in the footsteps of many Keyauwees. 


The long-term access solution has brought some minor changes in how climbers access the area. As of January 2024, climber access to the Asheboro Boulders at Ridges Mountain requires a daily reservation. Directions and a gate code will be sent to you once your reservation is complete. Details on how to access the Asheboro Boulders can be found here:


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Photo by Brian Taylor 

Photos: CCC volunteers + North Carolina Zoo staff marking the new property boundary of Asheboro Boulders