When you first start playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you’ll notice that you have limited access to your massive island. Only a small chunk of the landmass can be explored, the rest of it cut off by rivers and cliffs. Gaining the ability to fully explore the world is your top priority, and that means you’ll need to unlock a ladder to climb up those steep ledges. Here’s everything you need to do in New Horizons before you can use a ladder.
Invite villagers to your island
Unlocking the ladder will take at least three days, but it all begins by inviting a new villager to your island. Using a Nook Miles Ticket, head over to Dodo Airlines and book a flight to a new island. Once at your destination, you’ll find another villager wandering the shores. After talking with them a few times, you’ll have the option to invite them back to your town. Even if you don’t want that particular villager as a permanent resident, we’d recommend inviting them to live with you anyway — you’ll need them to start the process of unlocking the ladder. Plus, you can always evict them later.
Build a bridge for your island
Now that you’ve invited a few villagers back to your town, Tom Nook will eventually contact you with a proposition — he’d like you to build a new bridge for the town. Gather up the required materials — log stakes, clay, and stone — then craft your wooden bridge and place it over a stream. You’ll now have access to a brand new part of the island. Still, there’s no way to reach the areas of your town at high elevation…
Stakeout plots for your new residents
Once you’ve finished building your bridge, talk with Tom Nook and wait for him to assign you another task. This one is a bit more time-consuming — you’ll have to prepare three plots for new homes and craft a bunch of different furniture for the future homeowners.
Walk around your island and place all three plots. The exact location isn’t important, but make sure you like where you put them. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend thousands of Bells to move them later in the game. When the task is complete, you’ll get a call from Tom Nook. You’ll be informed that some of the items he wants you to craft rely on resources only available up in the cliffs — sort of a problem for anyone without a ladder. Tom Nook will realize the issue and pass along its recipe. For the final step, head on over to Resident Services, where you’ll be able to craft your very own ladder from four pieces of wood, hardwood, and softwood.
All told, this process will take around four days to complete. If you’re willing to time travel by modifying the date on your Switch, you can probably knock the whole process out in an afternoon. Unlike other tools in New Horizons, the ladder is unbreakable. This means you don’t have to worry about getting stranded in the wilderness after you’ve clambered up a cliff.