Buckeye Knob and Denny Cove Paid Off and Permanently Protected

Access Fund is thrilled to celebrate two major wins in Southeast climbing conservation. Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) has made its final loan repayment on Buckeye Knob in North Carolina, and Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) has made its final loan repayment on Denny Cove in eastern Tennessee—permanently protecting these two stellar climbing areas for future generations.

Bouldering at Buckeye Knob, ancestral lands of Cherokee East and Yuchi. © Lynn Willis

In 2017, CCC and Access Fund teamed up to acquire the 55-acre Buckeye Knob property outside Boone from a private timber company, securing the property for permanent climbing access and conservation. After seeing climbers come forward to purchase Buckeye, the owners of the neighboring Barn Boulders offered to make climbing access official and protected through an access easement onto their property. The easement also provides official access to Buckeye Knob via parking and trails.

Together, these two properties represent some of the best granite bouldering in the Boone area, offering hundreds of granite boulders and problems from V1–V14, with perfectly flat landings. Since the initial purchase, CCC has worked alongside local volunteers and Access Fund’s Conservation Team to build a parking lot and climber access trails.

“Climbers purchasing Buckeye Knob shows the benefits of merging outdoor recreation with conservation,” says Mike Reardon, executive director of CCC. “The mountainside, watershed, and access to great boulders are now protected in perpetuity.”

CCC will maintain ownership and management of the property on behalf of the climbing community. Check out this video for information on this exceptional bouldering area.

SCC Executive Director, Andrea Hassler passes a giant check to Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie to signify the payoff of Denny Cove. Ancestral lands of Cherokee, Shawnee, and Yuchi. © Nathalie DuPre

In 2016, SCC and Access Fund teamed up to buy the 685-acre Denny Cove property, a brand-new climbing area just 30 minutes outside of Chattanooga, from a private timber company. The $1.3 million dollar acquisition was a significant, multiyear undertaking that preserved a wild and undeveloped piece of the Fiery Gizzard area in the South Cumberland Plateau. The project involved multiple conservation groups, Tennessee State Parks, and major funding support from Chattanooga foundations.

After completing the purchase, SCC and Access Fund mobilized a massive, summer-long series of trail days to build a 50-car parking lot and establish climbing access trails throughout the area. After temporarily holding the property while climbing access and trails were established, SCC transferred the property to Tennessee State Parks in 2017 for longterm climber-friendly management. Denny Cove is now a national sport-climbing destination, boasting miles of steep sandstone cliffline and 100+ routes. Hikers flock to the area’s trails, overlooks, and namesake waterfall, making it one of Tennessee's most frequently visited state parks.

“Denny Cove is an example of the profound role that climbers can play as conservationists,” says SCC Executive Director Andrea Hassler. “This exceptional climbing area brought the community together to preserve a large tract of land—not just for climbing access but to preserve habitat, protect watersheds and wildlife, and conserve an important climate-resilient landscape.”

Access Fund congratulates CCC and SCC on these milestones and celebrates their commitment to climbing conservation in the Southeast. Both organizations were early adopters of Access Fund’s Climbing Conservation Loan Program—a revolving loan fund to help local organizations quickly purchase at-risk climbing areas—using it to protect other climbing areas, like Hospital Boulders and Steele in Alabama and Rumbling Bald in North Carolina. Loan funds are used to secure threatened climbing areas and are repaid over time, allowing Access Fund to re-invest those dollars to save more climbing areas across the country.

“Acquisitions like these are huge undertakings that take years to finish, and we’re thrilled to see these two leading local climbing organizations complete these critical projects,” says Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “Denny Cove and Buckeye Knob are both amazing climbing areas that are now protected forever. If you haven’t visited them yet, go check them out!”