[[ Preface: I hope to add individual sections for each of the boulders/areas under the "Climbing Routes" section, but I think this is enough work for one day! -TacoTurner ]]
Intro to the Boulderfields
Known by regulars and old-schoolers as the Shades Crest Boulderfields (because of its proximity to Shades Mountain), or, more affectionately, as just "The 'Fields", Moss Rock Preserve is a beautiful 250 acre park nestled just outside the heart of Birmingham, Alabama. More than just a city park, the Boulderfields are a suburban get-away with dozens of large sandstone boulders, streams, waterfalls, and other beautiful natural features. According to the City of Hoover website
, "currently Moss Rock Preserve is home to four rare species of plants and a rare variant of Little River Canyon Sandstone Glade - one of only 35 occurrences known around the world!" This neighborhood preserve guards a beautiful section of the rocky, rolling hills of Birmingham and the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains.
In addition to the largest attraction of easy access to climbable boulders, there are about 10 miles of trails, which are being developed and maintained by local agencies, such as Friends of Moss Rock Preserve and the Boy Scouts of America. Moss Rock is not much of a destination in itself, but rather a haven for the adventure junkies and weekend warriors of the Birmingham metro area. Still, it's probably worth a stop in on a Southeastern bouldering tour.
A Brief History
The Boulderfields were discovered during the "bouldering-as-practice-for-real-climbing" boom of the 1960s. Birmingham area climbers sought a place to work on friction technique along the cliffs of Shades Mountain in preparation for big climbs in North Carolina and other eastern sandstone seas. With housing development in the area, cliffs and boulders were closed to climbing, and climbers moved to the modern day Boulderfields, just down the hill from Shades Crest. The effects of this can be observed in the rusty button-head bolts and cold-shuts that still remain on top of some routes. When bouldering caught on as a "real sport" in the late seventies and eighties, the Boulderfields eventually became the main attraction in the Birmingham climbing scene.
The rumor goes that legend of bouldering John Gill was the one to initially discover the potential at the 'Fields and that he even put up some modern routes. There is even a classic V1 named "The Gill Problem". The Dixie Cragger's Atlas
says: "It is said by some that this was established by John Gill during his stay in Alabama. Unfortunately, John Gill told Lee Means in 2004 that he actually never climbed at The Boulderfields, only on the bluff along Shades Crest in '64-'65." Nonetheless, the influence of big names and giants of bouldering for the last forty years have made Moss Rock Preserve the highest concentration of difficult problems in the Southeast. But that's not to say that there's no place for the beginner. There are close to a hundred routes rated between V0 and V3.
In 2001, impending zoning changes and plans for developing the area spelled almost certain doom for the bouldering sanctity of the 'Fields. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition, brought into action by local climber Lee Means, helped pay the lease on the land, and the city of Hoover was convinced to secure what was once the Shades Crest Boulderfields as Moss Rock Preserve.
The expansion of the City of Hoover's development, The Preserve
, has opened up a significantly shorter and less complicated route to Moss Rock.
-From I-459, take exit 10.
-Turn South on Highway 150 / John Hawkins Pkwy. (toward the Hoover Met Stadium)
-At the first stoplight, turn left on Sulphur Springs Road.
-At a T-intersection, turn left to stay on Sulphur Springs Road.
-Turn right onto Preserve Parkway.
An obvious trail leads into the woods on your left from the large parking area.
There are several other entrances into the hiking trails in the Preserve, but the above directions take you to the main entrance and the boulder field.
Straight from the City of Hoover Municipal Code (Ordinance #03-1973)
"Please do your part to keep this area scenic and wild for all generations to enjoy…
1) No person shall deposit any trash or debris within the Preserve except in trash receptacles provided thereof.
2) It shall be unlawful for any person to destroy, deface, injure, remove or disturb any native or domesticated plant, tree, shrub or flower within the Preserve.
3) No vehicles shall be parked in any areas except those areas designated for parking and only during hours that the Preserve is open.
4) No bicycles; skateboards; or motorized vehicles shall be allowed on walking trails or in any area of the Preserve, except on roadways and parking areas. All public safety and emergency vehicles are exempt from this section.
5) No person shall possess or consume alcoholic beverages within the limits of the Preserve.
6) No person shall be on the Preserve premises except during posted times of sunrise to sunset.
7) No person shall possess or carry any weapons, fireworks, firearms or explosive devices within the Preserve.
8) No person shall camp upon any of the Preserve facilities.
9) It shall be unlawful of any person to gather firewood, build a campfire or burn any material within the Preserve.
10) Any pets brought within the Preserve shall be caged or on a leash not longer than 6 feet and under personal control at all times.
11) It shall be unlawful of any person to write, paint or print any letters, figures, signs, devices, pictures or any type of graffiti on any natural or man made matter within the Preserve.
12) No person shall act in a loud or unruly manner or exhibit behavior deemed unfit for public areas.
13) It shall be unlawful of any person to possess or use any containers which are subject to break, shatter, fracture or become fragmented, including but not limited to glass."
I think you'll find that rules 1 and 9 through 13 are especially disregarded (sadly). This is leading to more access battles, as the neighboring development takes more and more interest in the upkeep of city property.
Other than some scattered boulders with still unknown routes, the entirety of climbing is to be done in a very close proximity to the main trail head.
Named boulders/areas (relatively in the order that you come across them): The Heart Wall, Shape Shifter, The Fallen Boulder, The 45 Degree Wall, Jake Face, The Ledge Cave, Grass Man, Split Boulders, Bolt Boulder, Gill, Ozzy, The Hollywood Bowl, Detroit, Clark, and The Lost Roof.
The only easily accessable top-roping is to be done on the aptly-named "Bolt Boulder" which, coincidentally, has a couple of (three, actually) hangers placed a few feet back from the edge.
[[ note: I hope to add individual sections for each of the boulders/areas under the "Climbing Routes" section, but I think this is enough work for one day! -TacoTurner ]]
Camping is not allowed, and the park officially closes at dusk.
Nearest camping is about 15 minutes away in Oak Mountain State Park
Awesome free beta/maps/route descriptions from DrTopo.com
Dixie Cragger's Atlas
: the essential resource for Southeastern climbing
Videos of climbing at Moss Rock from Craghead
The Official City of Hoover Moss Rock webpage
The sprawling development
that surrounds Moss Rock
Southeastern Climbers Coalition