Climbing

tall rock pinnacles and buttes with patchy clouds overhead
Pinnacles and towers along the White Rim Road attract the most rock climbers. Some routes close to climbing to protect wildlife habitat.

NPS/Scott Chandler

 

The sandstone towers at the Island in the Sky attract the most rock climbers. We do not see many climbers in the rest of the park due to the poor rock quality and a lack of established routes. You do not need a permit for technical rock climbing, but you must have permits for overnight backcountry travel and day-use trips on the White Rim Road and backcountry roads in The Needles. No camping is allowed at the trailhead to Zeus and Moses.

Regulations

  • 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 may not 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.
 

Climbing Safely

The National Park Service cannot guarantee the safety of park visitors. Safety remains the sole responsibility of the climber. Climbers should understand the inherent danger of the activity, have basic knowledge of self-rescue methods and plan accordingly. Climbers should not attempt routes that are not within their abilities or those within their group.

Check the weather first. Obtain forecast information before beginning your climb and observe changing weather conditions. Thunderstorms can develop quickly bringing lightning, hail, rain, slippery rock surfaces, and hypothermia. Summer days can reach a scorching 100°F.

Do your homework and know your route. Most climbing in Canyonlands is technical and requires advanced skills. Many websites, guide books, and local gear shops are available for specific route information.

Inspect all fixed gear. The NPS explicitly disclaims all responsibility for the safety of equipment, bolts, or anchor systems in the park. The NPS does not maintain anchors. If an existing item or fixed anchor is judged unsafe, it may be replaced to enable a safe rappel when no other means of descent is possible, to enable emergency retreat, and during self-rescue situations, in kind, without a permit. When existing anchors are deemed to be unsafe, a reasonable effort to remove the existing hardware will be made and existing drill holes will be used in the installation of replacement fixed anchors whenever possible.

Before placing fixed anchors on a route, think seriously about whether the route warrants them. Only place fixed anchors as a last resort. Please notify the NPS when replacing fixed gear to help keep an up to date inventory of the park's fixed gear.

Be prepared to self-rescue. Cell phone service is extremely limited in the park. Make plans for self-rescue or get assistance from other climbers should an unexpected incident arise. Clearly and loudly call out for help. If a phone is available, call 911. Be prepared to tell the dispatcher the rock formation, climbing route name, nearest landmark and meeting place so that you can direct rescuers to the accident site. Park staff, if available, will provide assistance to the limit of their abilities;however, help may not arrive on-scene for several hours.

Report significant hazards and any injuries to a ranger, even those that do not require assistance, so that future climbers can be warned of the situation. The closest medical facility is Moab Regional Hospital. Watch for snakes, spiny plants, poison ivy, biting insects, and falling rocks. Always wear a helmet!

Good Climbing Practices

Only by following a low-impact climbing ethic can climbers protect the park's outstanding natural features and biological diversity for future generations. To accomplish this goal, renew your commitment to leaving no trace and adopt this code of ethics for low impact climbing:

Tread Lightly. Practice "Leave No Trace" ethics. Pack out what you pack in. Don't mark on rocks; scratches and carvings are considered graffiti which is against the law. Use of a bag system for human waste is recommended. Supplies are available for a minimal charge at the visitor center.

Your steps matter! Help protect the park's sensitive desert soils. Travel to and from routes in sandy washes (where water flows when it rains), on rock, or on designated trails. Approach trails to some climbing routes will be established with labeled brown carsonite posts. Don't create multiple paths to the same cliff (known as "social trails"), even if it is the shortest distance to your climb. Short-cutting damages vegetation, increases soil erosion, destroys animal burrows, and promotes the spread of exotic plants.

Be considerate of other visitors. Do your part to maintain a low profile. During peak visitation, spring through fall, climbers are recommended to park in established pullouts and parking lots.

Consider leaving your pet at home. While pets are allowed in the park, they must be on a leash at all times and are only allowed in developed areas like campgrounds and paved areas. They are not allowed on or off trails. Desert heat can be deadly to your pet. Temperatures over 65°F can turn the inside of your car into an oven, and animals tied outside to your car can suffer just as much.

Experts use gear expertly. It is essential that fixed gear be of high quality and the installers be experienced and skilled in setting bolts to ensure not only the first ascent party's safety but ensure the safety of future climbers. Please keep the following best practices in mind regarding fixed gear:

  • We recommend hardware for new and replacement anchors be modern climbing-specific hardware and of a length adequate for rock conditions at the installation site. Quarter-inch bolts are highly discouraged.
  • Climbing-specific hangers are recommended.
  • Homemade hardware is prohibited.
  • It is always preferable to use the old bolt hole rather than adding a new scar. Only in a worst-case scenario should a new hole be added.
  • All old holes will be filled with epoxy and topped with sand to best camouflage the unused hole.
  • Software left in place is required to match the rock surface in color.
  • Bolts, hangers and chains must be painted the color of the rock surface or primered brown before installation.
 

Climbing Closures

It is your responsibility to know all route closures.

Permanent Closures

Technical rock climbing is prohibited:

  • in the entire Salt Creek Archeological District in The Needles, which includes Salt Creek, Horse and Lost canyons, and Upper Davis and Lavender canyons.
  • in Horseshoe Canyon
  • into any archeological site or cultural resource,
  • on any arch or natural bridge named on a USGS map in Canyonlands National Park or the Orange Cliffs Unit of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, except Washer Woman Arch at Island in the Sky.

Temporary Closures

Climbing routes close temporarily to protect wildlife habitat. Closures to climbing routes will remain in effect through the end of the termination date specified below, or until surveys determine the associated habitat to be unoccupied by nesting raptors and/or lambing desert bighorn sheep.

Park Area Feature Name Route Name(s) Closure Starts Closure Ends Status
Monument Basin Monument Basin Century Crack Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
NW Boundary Horsethief Point Charlie Horse Needle Mar 15 Aug 15 CLOSED
Shafer Canyon Witness the Wilderness Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
Taylor Canyon Moses and Zeus Moses and Zeus Mar 15 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Airport Tower Airport Tower Mar 15 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Little Bridge Canyon Rim Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Little Bridge Canyon Rim Army of Darkness Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Gray's Pasture Pt. Chip and Dale Towers Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Candlestick Tower Candlestick Tower Mar 1 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Washer Woman Washer Woman Mar 15 Aug 31 CLOSED
White Rim Washer Woman Monster Tower Mar 15 Aug 31 CLOSED

Last updated: April 3, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

2282 Resource Blvd.
Moab, UT 84532

Phone:

435-719-2313

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