Yosemite Valley is the place where slacklining was birthed by rock climbers some 40 years ago and a must-visit location for enthusiasts.
Slacklining—the sport of walking across a length of nylon webbing strung between two anchor points—is growing in popularity. Substyles include highlining (at least 50 feet above the ground) and waterlining (across bodies of water), but treading even a backyard line takes strength, endurance, and Zen-like concentration. Here are the best spots in the U.S. to test your slacklining skills.
Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California
Why You Should Go: Some 40 years after rock climbers invented slacklining in Yosemite, the Valley is still the sport’s cultural hub.
The Area: “Most people have probably seen photos of highliners on El Capitan, but there are routes on Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Upper Cathedral Spire, and pretty much every other piece of rock in Yosemite Valley,” says Mason Earle, a Black Diamond climber.
Notable Lines: The first successful slackline attempt took place in 1985, from the Yosemite massif to Lost Arrow Spire. Across El Capitan Meadow, the 177-foot-line at the top of Taft Point is a modern classic.
The Scene: Rock climbers began surfing Camp 4’s parking lot chains in the 1960s, and progressed to nylon a decade later. "The slacklining community’s roots go deep in Yosemite,” says Earle. “Rangers are upping highlining restrictions, but the Valley will always have the largest slacklining community in the country.”
When to Go: Spring through fall; some locations may close seasonally for raptor nesting.
Logistics: Snag a spot in Camp 4, or book a room at one of the hotels in the Valley.
Why You Should Go: Slacklining’s laboratory, Moab has more lines than any other area in the country.
The Scene: The local slacklining community hosts the notorious and informal GGBY festival every Thanksgiving. “Moab has fewer rules than Yosemite, which is half the reason people love it,” Lewis says.
When to go: Late fall and early spring
Logistics: Horsethief Campground is central, and there are dozens of hotels in town.
Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon
Why You Should Go: Short approaches, groomed trails, and friendly rangers make Smith Rock seem like a highline theme park.
The Area: The Crooked River cuts through the park, and 600-foot cliffs provide plenty of play space. All 30-plus highlines are bolted.
Notable Lines: “The five routes in the Smith Rock Group are incredible,” says Corbin Kunst, a local highliner. “All are over 400 feet high, and ‘The Bishop’ is 236 feet long.”
The Scene: “Ton of routes have been established since 2012,” Kunst says. “During peak season, there’ll be four or so lines up and a few dozen people hanging out at them.”
When to go: Spring and fall
Logistics: Smith’s bivouac (or “bivvy”) site has running water, and nearby Skull Hollow Campground allows bonfires.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Why You Should Go: Already an iconic wintertime highlining area, Joshua Tree’s massive boulder clusters are still largely undeveloped.
The Area: Hall of Horrors, Echo Rock, Real Hidden Valley, and Lost Horse are the most popular sectors in this stretch of the Mojave Desert. “There are about 19 highlines, and several have natural anchors,” says Dan Krauss, an adventure sports photographer. “Development has been slow because permits are required [in order to] bolt using a power drill.”
Notable Lines: The most popular highline route stretches from the Hemingway Boulders to the Freeway Wall, but the most famous traverses the gap between the Hall of Horrors’ south and north pinnacles.
The Scene: “Most highliners here are visitors,” says Seth Pettit, owner of Mojave Guides. “There are 30 slackliners, max, during busy weekends.”
When to Go: Late fall through early spring
Logistics: Sleep among the boulders at Hidden Valley Campground, or book a hotel room in Palm Desert.
Boulder Canyon and Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado
Why You Should Go: Boulder Canyon (near Boulder) and Clear Creek Canyon (near Golden) are the twin hubs of Colorado’s large highlining community.
The Areas: Both canyons follow creeks, are lined with sheer granite cliffs, and have similar route counts. Boulder’s Upper Dream and Elephant Buttresses are as popular as Clear Creek’s Stoked Bowl and Tunnel 1.
Notable Lines: “There are some lengthy routes in Boulder, but Clear Creek’s ‘Golden Standard’ is 1,000 feet long and 400 to 500 feet high,” says Mickey Wilson, a professional slackliner and Golden local.
The Scene: “Highliners have been developing those canyons for over a decade,” Wilson says. “The vibe is laid-back, and University of Colorado Boulder students are one of the main engines.”
When to Go: Early spring through late fall
Santa Monica Slackline Park, California
Why You Should Go: Learn how to backflip at the best outdoor tricklining park in the country.
Notable Lines: “The lines can be rigged up to 120 feet long,” says Wilson. “Tricklines are usually low to the ground, but they’re set with at least 500 pounds of tension, so it’s easier to get air for backflips and other tricks.”
The Scene: “Tricklining is a relatively new subset, but the slacklining community at OMB is already one of the strongest in the country,” Wilson says. “Most Sundays, more than 100 people share the park.”
When to Go: Year-round
Logistics: The HI Los Angeles Santa Monica Hostel is only two blocks northeast.
Why You Should Go: Ocean waterlines and aloha spirit.
The Area: Waterlining is crossing low routes over water. Several of Oahu’s best lines span the boulders at Cromwell’s Cove on the South Shore, and the rest connect a pair of outcroppings in Waimea Bay, on the North Shore. Longlines—routes longer than 100 feet and no higher than 50 feet—are popular at beachside barbecues.
Best Lines: Cromwell’s top two lines are a 50-footer and a 160-footer. At Waimea Bay, the 80-foot line is king.
The Scene: “My group began developing Oahu’s waterlines and highlines in 2013, but longlining has been popular in beachfront parks for almost a decade,” says Emu Singh, a local slackliner.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
When to Go: Cromwell’s Cove during winter; Waimea Bay in the summer
Cosumnes River Gorge in Placerville, California
Why You Should Go: This quiet, accessible gorge is one of the safest places to practice highlining long distances.
The Area: Cosumnes’ low-angle granite walls are only a four-minute walk from the road, and regulars bolted all 13 routes’ anchors for safety.
Notable Lines: In 2014, Jerry Miszewski crossed a 1,003-foot-long route at the gorge—then the world’s longest highline walk. His other record-breaking highline traverses in Cosumnes were on the 390-foot, 451-foot, and 704-foot routes.
The Scene: The regulars are “nerdy about gear and smart with numbers,” says Andy Lewis. Unlike Moab’s massive GGBY festival, Cosumnes’ annual gathering draws a hundred or so highline specialists.
When to Go: Year-round
Lake Tahoe Area, California
Why You Should Go: Remote alpine highlines, forest longlines, and cross-lake waterlines, all within an hour’s drive of Tahoe’s western shore.
The Area: Crossing to the space net that’s often rigged at Emerald Pools is straightforward, but getting to many of the area’s 20-plus alpine highlines requires long hikes. “There are 10 main slacklining sectors nearby,” says Nicholas Honnold, a coordinator for Slackline U.S. and a Tahoe local. “Jake’s Peak and D.L. Bliss State Park have tourist routes.”
The Scene: “Tahoe’s slacklining community is small and tight-knit,” said Honnold. “We’ve been putting up routes since 2014, but there’s been a development boom over the past six months; a lot of frustrated Yosemite highliners are showing up.”
When to Go: Late spring through early fall
Logistics: Try Eagle Point Campground in South Lake Tahoe or the Lake Forest Campground in Tahoe City to the north.
Seth Heller is a frequent contributor to Outside and Men's Journal, and a senior contributing editor to Rock and Ice.