Parks restrict climbing routes to protect wildlife

NPS restricts climbing
Climbers tackle the Three Penguins formation at Arches National Park at left. It is one of several climbing routes at the park – as well as others at Canyonlands – that will be closed each year in an effort to protect critical wildlife habitat. Photo courtesy of NPS

In order to protect critical wildlife habitat for raptors and desert bighorn sheep, a number of climbing routes in Canyonlands and Arches national parks will close for up to six months each year, according to a statement from the National Park Service.

This temporary closure affects the following routes:

Canyonlands National Park

Century Crack, Witness the Wilderness, Necronomicon (Book of the Dead), Army of Darkness, Chip and Dale Towers, and Candlestick Tower: closed March 1 – Aug. 31.

Charlie Horse Needle, Moses and Zeus, Airport Tower, Washer Woman, and Monster Tower: closed March 15 – Aug. 15.

Arches National Park

Harkonnen Castle (Dune), Canyonlands by Night, El Secondo, The Coup, Crohn’s Wall (Left Route, Crohn’s Odyssey, Project One, Project Two), Klondike Bluffs Crack, The Bouquet (Route One and Route Two), Cuddle Bunny Tower, False Start, North Marcher, Sand Hearse, Unknown Marching Men, Fun Ramp, The Hyena, Trail of the Navajo, Pop Tarts, and Escape Route: closed March 1 – Aug. 31.

The Three Penguins (all routes) and Tonka Tower: closed March 1 – Aug. 15.

The Pickle: closed April 1 – Aug. 31. Industrial Disease: closed Dec. 1 – Sept. 30.

During the closure period, park biologists will survey these areas and might reopen routes prior to the scheduled date. Climbers are advised to monitor route status on park websites or by contacting the backcountry office at [email protected] or 435-259-4351.

The new rules

Climbers should be aware of and abide by the following regulations and leave-no-trace practices while climbing in either park.

White chalk is prohibited. Chalk must be similar in color to the rock being climbed.

The physical altering of rock faces by chiseling, glue reinforcement of existing holds, gluing of new holds, and the intentional removal of lichen or plants from rock are prohibited.

Rock climbing should be mostly free climbing or clean aid climbing.

Any new installation of fixed gear requires a permit. If an existing item or fixed anchor is judged unsafe, it may be replaced, in kind, without a permit. Bolts, hangers and chains must be painted the color of the rock surface.

Protection cannot be placed with the use of a hammer except to replace existing belay and rappel anchors and bolts on existing routes, or for emergency self-rescue. The use of motorized power drills is prohibited.

If an existing software item (sling, etc.) is unsafe, it may be replaced. Software left in place must match the rock surface in color.

Leaving fixed ropes in place for more than 24 hours is prohibited, unless the park has been notified.

Slacklining (or “highlining”) and BASE jumping are prohibited.

Guided rock climbing services are prohibited.

All overnight backcountry use in either park requires a permit.

In addition, at Canyonlands National Park:

No camping is allowed at the trailhead to Zeus and Moses.

A day-use permit is required for all travel on the White Rim Road and backcountry roads in The Needles.

Information on permits can be found at

In addition, at Arches National Park, rock-climbing groups are limited to five persons per group. Bivying overnight is not allowed.

All persons planning to climb in Arches National Park are encouraged to register by obtaining a free permit online at, or self-register at the kiosk in front of the visitor center.

Information on canyoneering can be found at

The National Park Service thanks the climbing community for their efforts to help protect these areas, officials said in a statement.