How to Get a Ladder in Animal Crossing

Prior to 2020, I had never played an Animal Crossing game, but now Animal Crossing: New Horizons is my most-played game. I just can’t get enough of it! I remember first watching the trailer during a Nintendo Direct and being absolutely enthralled by it. The cute graphics, the wide range of items, the eclectic cast of characters. All of it was perfect.

Of course, being able to design my very own island is a key part of why I love this game so much. But I wouldn’t be able to explore my island nearly as effectively without the assistance of Ladders. You’re able to design your island on 3 levels, as having everything completely flat would look a little boring. And although you can add inclines here and there for a price, there are still going to be a lot of steep cliff edges. Ladders allow you to climb up and down levels wherever you like, and are a super handy tool to carry with you at all times.

In this brief guide, we’ll take a look at how to get and use Ladders in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as explore the alternatives.

Ladders at a Glance

You can unlock the recipe for Ladders by completing a series of initial quests for Tom Nook. You’ll then be able to craft them using 4 each of Wood, Softwood, and Hardwood. Ladders never break, but you may wish to craft multiple so you can use them as a material for the Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kit.

Animal Crossing Ladder recipe
You can purchase the Ladder recipe for 500 Bells from the cabinet in Nook’s Cranny / Image by Melika Jeddi

How to Unlock Ladders

Ladders aren’t immediately available in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and to unlock them, you’ll need to first accomplish some tasks for Tom Nook. When you first arrive on the island, it’s just you and two random villagers. That’s not enough people for an island to flourish, and so Tom Nook wants to start encouraging new people to live there, and because he’s a lazy, money-hungry raccoon, that’s apparently your job.

Firstly, you’ll need to save up enough Nook Miles to buy three Nook Miles tickets (2,000 each, so a total of 6,000 Nook Miles). These will take you to a Mystery Island, upon which you can find a new villager to invite to your island. Don’t worry if you’re not keen on the character you get, you’ll be able to replace them later in the game, so invite them for now. You can only do this once per day, so you’ll have to be patient to invite all three.

After they’ve been invited, Tom Nook will want to make the island more appealing for the new guests (because apparently you and the first two villagers just aren’t worth the effort). The first step is building a bridge, and you’ll need to gather up the required materials before crafting a wooden bridge kit. Once the kit is ready, you’ll be able to choose a spot on your island where you can place it. Later on in the game, you’ll be able to do landscaping to change the location of rivers, but for now, try to pick somewhere that’s blocked by a long stretch of water.

Once the bridge is built, Tom Nook will contact you again to ask you to build the plots for the new residents. You’ll get to choose where to place them, so try to pick locations you’re happy with. You will be able to move these later in the game, but it costs a lot of money, so don’t rush this step. After they’re set up, he’ll want you to decorate them, and this is when you’ll finally unlock Ladders. You’ll need to be able to climb the cliffs to get some of the crafting materials, so Tom Nook makes the crafting recipe for Ladders available to you.

If you’re sharing an island with someone else, don’t worry about not having done the quest for Tom Nook. Other players on the island will be able to buy the crafting recipe from Nook’s Cranny once it has been unlocked. It’s available for 500 Bells, and can be found in the cabinet.

You can quickly climb up and down cliffs by using your Ladder
You can quickly climb up and down cliffs by using your Ladder / Image by Melika Jeddi

Let’s Get Crafty

As with most items in this game, you’re not actually given the Ladder itself. Instead, it’s up to you to craft one using the recipe you were provided with. It’s a relatively simple one that does not require any special materials. Instead, all you need is:

  • 4 x Wood
  • 4 x Softwood
  • 4 x Hardwood

You can then craft it at any workbench. I’d recommend having a workbench of your own within easy distance of your house, but no worries if you don’t. There’s one freely available to use in Resident Services, so you can build the Ladder here if necessary.

Theoretically, you should only need to craft the Ladder once, as unlike most tools, Ladders will never break no matter how much you use them. However, you may wish to craft extra ones to gift to players who have not yet unlocked the recipe, or can’t afford to buy it. Similarly, you may wish to build several Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kits, which require a regular Ladder as one of the materials. Let’s talk more about those!

Animal Crossing Ladder
You can find the Ladder in your crafting recipes at a Workbench / Image by Melika Jeddi

If You’re Too Cool to Use a Ladder

Don’t fancy carrying a Ladder with you and whipping it out every time you want to climb a cliff? Not a problem. Animal Crossing: New Horizons gives you the option to place pre-built Ladders on your cliff edges so you can climb up/ down anytime. You do this using an item called the Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kit.

You can get the recipe for the Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kit from Nook’s Cranny for a total of 2,000 Bells. You don’t need to do anything further to unlock this recipe, as it was included as part of the 2.0 update for the game. This can be bought multiple times, so you can gift the recipe to other players if they’re unable to afford it themselves. To craft this item, you will need:

  • 1 x Ladder
  • 5 x Wood
Animal Crossing Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kit
Not sure why they specify ‘Wooden Ladder’ here, seeing as the regular one is also made of wood! / Image by Melika Jeddi

You’ll then be able to select the item in your inventory when standing facing a cliff, and place it directly onto the surface. Once there, you can climb it using A. These aren’t permanent structures, so if you wish to move it to a new location, simply press Y to put it back in your inventory. You can place an unlimited number of these around your island.

If Ladders aren’t your thing, you can also place Vines. These are items found exclusively on other islands, and cannot be crafted using materials you own. There are two types of islands that contains Vines. The first can be found by sailing with Kapp’n (he has a boat next to your pier). Not all Kapp’n islands will contain vines, but some of them will, and you can grab them to place in your inventory. However, if you own the Happy Home Paradise DLC, then you can also find Vines by searching around the archipelago, and these will respawn in a day or so. I personally prefer the aesthetic of Vines as they change appearance with the season.

Animal Crossing Vines against a cliff
I really like this autumnal look for the Vines! / Image by Melika Jeddi

Before You Go

There you have it! Hopefully, this guide has given you all the insight you need to make the most of Ladders in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It’s an essential tool, and new players may be concerned about not having access to it. So, rest assured if you’ve only just started, you will be able to unlock Ladders in due time. Soon you’ll be climbing up and down cliffs to your heart’s content!

If you’re interested in learning more about the early game DIY recipes, we have some great articles for you! Check out the Wildest Dreams DIY guide or the Test Your Skills DIY Guide.


Question: What day do you get a Ladder in Animal Crossing?

Answer: Whilst there’s not a specific day as it’s based on tasks, not time, there is a minimum. You will need a minimum of 5 days to account for changing your tent into a house, finding three new residents, and completing the other tasks set for you.

Question: How do you get permanent ladders in Animal Crossing?

Answer: You will need to craft an item called the Wooden Ladder Set-Up Kit. This requires a Ladder and 5 Wood. You will then be able to build it up against any of the cliff edges on your island, and it will stay there unless you move it.

Question: How do Ladders work in Animal Crossing?

Answer: Ladders count as a tool, and so can be added to the tool wheel. That way you can quick-select it rather than having to manually find it in your inventory every time you wish to use it. Simply walk up to a cliff edge whilst holding your Ladder and press A, and you will climb up/ down.

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