Slacklining evolved in Yosemite in the 1970s as a way for climbers to keep having fun at camp, in parking lots, at the foot of the crag, and anywhere else they found themselves off the wall. Over the past few decades, however, the slackline sport (and its taller cousin, highlining), have stepped out from the rock climbing community’s shadow and has come into its own.
Since webbing and carabiners first became known as slacklines, they’ve gotten longer and higher, the tricks performed on them fancier and riskier, and the destinations more glam. “Slackers,” as they are affectionately known, have bagged high-profile projects from Moab to the Eiffel Tower to the 2012 Superbowl.
Where Can you Slackline?
Still, some locations ban or regulate the practice. Believe it or not, outdoorsy Portland, Oregon is on the list of cities that ban slacklines in the city limits. But there are plenty of other places you can take your webbing and have a ball. For examples, slacklines are popular enough in Bend, Oregon that the city’s Parks and Rec department has a whole page on their website dedicated to how to properly protect tree bark from hammock and slackline straps
It’s not just Oregon, either. From Boulder to Whistler to the Smokey Mountains to New England, slackline communities are growing, and towns are getting used to slacklines popping up in parks, at crags, and on the beach. If you’re wondering where to head with your slacklining shoes and webbing next, we’ve got you covered.
8 Exciting Slackline Destinations in the U.S. and Where To Camp Nearby
So where can you slackline without running into ranger danger? We rounded up some of the most exciting destinations in the U.S., and the best campgrounds nearby.
It makes sense that such a classic rock climbing destination would also make for prime slacklining. Fortunately, Joshua Tree has embraced that natural evolution of the scene, and has guidelines on their website for what you can and cannot affix anchors to and how to get the proper permits for bigger, sendier projects.
Joshua Tree Rangers even host coffee meetups with slackliners during peak season, and have developed a relationship with the organizers behind Slackline U.S. In turn, slackliners have been diligent about setting and maintaining quality bolts so the sport can continue to flourish safely in Joshua Tree. Crash at Hidden Valley Campground, where you’ll more than likely meet some other slackline enthusiasts to swap beta with.
Once again, where there are climbers, you’ll find slacklines. You’ll also find fewer regulations than in Yosemite, the birthplace of slacklining, rangers just as friendly and curious as at Joshua Tree, and a plethora of routes. There are over 35 lines set up in various parts of the park, including some strung between Smith’s famous spires.
In addition to the established highlines, there is even an annual highline festival to celebrate the sport and its place in the park. Just watch out for raptor nesting season— the one time slackliners have to slow their roll at Smith. Skip the Smith Rock Bivvy site and stay a little further out at Skull Hollow.
It’s still just a short hike from some of the best climbing in the park, but you’ll feel a little less crowded. Set up an outdoor cooking station in The Bivy, as the year-round walk-in camping area at Smith Rock is known. You can't bring smokers or charcoal grills to Smith Rock, but you'll be just fine with a Primus outdoor propane stove at the parking lot common area.
Hawaii has not only been attracting slackline enthusiasts in recent years, but also filmmakers fascinated by the sport. Check out Step Out by Andrew Agacoili, and footage of Alex Mason and Andy "Sketchy" Lewis's wild 2016 Redbull Slackladder creation. Or you can try Hawaiian slacklining for yourself on Oahu, where there’s even a slacklining school out of Honolulu called Climb Aloha if you want to build confidence.
If you’re already itching to get out there on the line, head to spots like Aweoweo Beach Park, Cromwell’s Cove, Kapiolani Park, or Waimea Bay. Honestly, any busy beach or climbing destination is bound to have a slackline crew or two.
If you camp at Mokuleia Beach, you’ll be sure to run into other climbers there to tackle the Mokuleia Crag. They can offer tips on where the best slackline possibilities are, since the Oahu scene is close knit and the options are endless, what will all the potential for beachy waterlines, jungle slacklines, pitches over waterfalls, and palm trees galore.
We’d be completely remiss to leave Moab off the list when it’s second only to Yellowstone in slackline history. It’s one of the most beautiful and iconic places to slack and highline, and there are possibilities for all skill levels, making it a real hub for slackers whether it’s their first big route or they’ve been planning a new project for over a year.
You might have seen pictures on the ‘gram of Ryan Jenks and Kimberly Weglin’s magical desert wedding that took place a highline spacenet suspended high over one of Moab’s canyons. That’s just one of many ways the slackline and highline communities have continued to celebrate together and honor this place. A big get together called the GGBY Gathering takes place every November, a kind of Thanksgiving for slackline lovers.
GGBY has been going on almost decade strong and the 2018 fest featured 12 lines of varying length and difficulty, a spacenet for chilling, and clinics and workshops to learn new skills. The GGBY team gives back to Moab, too, working to raise money for toilets in the popular Fruitbowl area where most of the participants stay and that climbers enjoy year round.
There is usually plenty of dispersed and primitive camping near the Mineral Canyon and Canyonlands, like Robber’s Roost for example, or Labyrinth Campground. Hard Scrabble Bottom also has gotten good reviews. It’s good that there are options, since this is Moab after all and prime spots can fill up in the on season. As long as you’ve got your webbing, carabiners, and anchors though, you can’t go wrong.
The dramatic landscape of the American West lends itself beautifully to slacklining, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your slack on back east. Asheville, Boone, and Murphy, North Carolina all have burgeoning slackline communities. Murphy even has a little slackline park within Konehete Park where people of all ages can practice.
While there are lots of routes to try out within the broader Western North Carolina region, one of the best is the chimneys of Linville Gorge. Camel, Devil’s Cellar, Double Flight and 5 O'clock Shadow are all popular routes. You’ll get a chance to try longer routes, sway in the wind, and see the gorgeous beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. The cherry on top is some fantastic camping just a ten minute drive away at Lake James State Park.
The only city to win Outside Magazine’s Best Town Ever designation twice, it’s no wonder you can find slacklining here, too, pretty much around every corner. You’ll surely see slackers balancing and trying tricks if you stroll through the UT Chattanooga campus, or local outdoor events like the annual Ocoee Fest. It’s even legal to slackline in the city’s popular Coolidge Park, a big open space between the Tennessee River and lots of little shops, restaurants, and gear outfitters.
Slack enthusiasts like Edward Yates, who picked up slackline in Boone, North Carolina during college, have even pulled off impressive feats like slacklining between the iconic triangular peaks of the Tennessee Aquarium roof. Locals have also string highlines at popular spots like Signal Point, where one slacker couple shot their engagement photos, Chester Frost Park, as well as near climbing crags like the ones on Lookout Mountain.
If you are test driving Chattanooga’s urban slackline spots, you might be tempted to see a show at Track 29 and grab dinner and drinks at The Flying Squirrel before catching some zzz’s at the very nice climber hostel next door, which is aptly named the Crash Pad. If the call of the wild is sticking with you though, it’s hard to beat Shellmound at Nickajack Lake for convenience without feeling like you’re too close to town. You’ll be in just the right spot to access Cloudland Canyon, another popular hiking and camping spot, as well as Sunset Rock and Prentice Cooper State Park.
There are lots of crags tucked away in the woods outside Burlington, Vermont, and Bolton is no exception. Upper West, Carcass Crag, Upper Upper West, 82 Crag, Bone Mountain, The Quarry, and Smuggler’s Notch are all options, each chock full of routes for bouldering, trad, sport, and more. There’s also a strong slackline community in its own right, and you’re likely to find slackers practicing their latest tricks or joining events like women’s only slackline clinics at North Beach, Oakledge Park, and Burlington Waterfront.
If you want to find a comfortable, lovely campground in the middle of all the action, check out Little River State Park. It’s just off the Waterbury Reservoir in the Mount Mansfield State Forest, and is super close to Camel’s Hump State Park and CC Putnam State Forest, too, as well as the Bolton Valley ski slopes. You’re even near a Ben and Jerry’s— this is Vermont, after all.
It’s not unusual to see fitness enthusiasts showing off on the pull-up bars on West Coast urban beaches, but sunny Santa Monica has something a little different. Namely, a beach-front slackline park where you can test your mettle on about 12 lines between dips in the ocean. There’s also gymnastic rings and other fitness installations, as well as a small friendly crowd of regulars who like to come to practice everything from acroyoga to hooping to their daily run. Sometimes cyclists and pedestrians will stop to check out the gnarly tricks that slackline masters can pull off.
You can camp just thirty minutes up the beach at Dockweiler Beach RV Park, which is kind of a best-of-both-worlds deal. You’ve got easy access to everything Santa Monica has to offer, but you can also have a peaceful beach bonfire experience facing the Pacific. They offer full hookups, a laundromat, and prime access for another sport beloved by locals— surf fishing.
There’s no tent camping allowed, however, so if you didn’t ride up in a rig, you’ll want to try another campground. Malibu Creek State Park is currently closed due to a police investigation, so head a little further up the coast to Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu. There you’ll find excellent access to bouldering, climbing, and opportunities to slackline over land and sea.