Dismal Rock, Kentucky (KY)


Dismal Rock, Kentucky
United States
37° 16' 22.08" N, 86° 14' 58.92" W

Karst topography defines the climbing at Dismal Rock in Kentucky.  Many karst regions display distinctive surface features with caves and sinkholes being the most common. While standing on the Nolin River Dam, one can look south and see the sandstone wall that has come to be known as Dismal Rock.  Reaching up to 200 feet, the farther down river you go, the more difficult the climbs will be.  This is federal land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers (Nolin Dam). Currently, there are no problems to access for climbing.  The top of the cliff including the walk in on the cliff side (opposite the Park) is privately owned. Climbers may not park in the upper park, cross the road and walk in on the cliff-side of the rock. Instead, park in the upper lot and hike around the spillway to the other side of the river. 

Climbing Routes

Dismal Rock- 5.9-5.11c This wall sneaks out above the trees, begging for you to test your abilities.

  • Classic Crack- 5.9 This slimy wall makes for an interesting face climb that leads to an inviting chimney.  Natural anchors will lead you out. (Sport/Traditional)
  • Finger Jam Crack- 5.10b It looks like the little tree on top just split the rock right down the middle.  This crack leaves the opportunity for a variety of climbs, whether it be sport, top rope or traditional, make it your own and enjoy the air up there.
  • Flaring Crack- 5.9 A fun climb for the beginners that lies just east of the dam. (Traditional/Top Rope) 
  • Kentucky Arts & Crafts- 5.11c A bouldery start leads to a great sport climb to the top. (Traditional/Top Rope)

Turkey Foot Cliffs- 5.3-5.11c The natural arch is a scenic highlight in this sector, it has been blackened by many campfires and it is requested that climbers and campers do not add to it.  The cave found here is fun to explore, but beware, it is very easy to get lost in the limestone carved by underground waters.

  • Straight up crack- 5.6 Two cracks on a ledge meet forming this traditional route.
  • Angle Crack- 5.6 A beginners route with fixed anchors. (Traditional)
  • Approach Ramp- 5.3 One bolt makes this route a bit of a scramble. (Sport)
  • Exodus- 5.11c A great start consists of belaying over a huge overhang down to the anchors. (Sport)
  • Flying Squirrels- 5.9 This steep route lies next to a waterfall and ensures a pleasant climb. (Traditional)
  • Hand Crack- 5.9 This parallel crack in the middle of a blank face is very unique for this area. (Traditional)
  • Hidden Crack- 5.10c This route lays on top of a 5.3 approach.  Fun and thought provoking route. (Sport)
  • Mother Tree Left- 5.10a A beautiful and serene bolted climb. (Sport)
  • Mother Tree Right- 5.10b It is exciting to boulder out on this one.  It has a sturdy tree atop for anchor. (Sport)
  • Son of Mother Tree- 5.10a Short and sweet sport route.
  • Son of Oil Can- 5.8 You will actually find an oil can when you reach the top. (Sport)

Nolin State Park Campgrounds
2998 Briar Creek Road Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Phone- 270-286-4240
Rates- $10 per site  

Four Seasons Country Inn B&B
4107 Scottsville Road Glasgow, KY 42141
Phone- 270-678-1000
Rates- $79-$130 Per night  

From Brownsville, head north on 259 for about five miles. Look for the signs to Nolin Dam and turn right onto Hwy 728. Go about two miles and turn right into parking lot. Park at upper lot for Dismal. lower lot for downstream rock and Turkey Foot. Cross river below spillway and make your way to the base of the cliffs.

Latitude: 37.2728
Longitude: -86.2497