Rock Climbing and Bouldering

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Traditionally, Capitol Reef National Park has experienced minimal use by technical rock climbers and boulderers. However, recent years have seen an increase in climbing in Utah's canyon country. Included here are the park regulations and concerns regarding technical climbing and bouldering.

Rock Type

The rock at Capitol Reef is comprised predominately of sandstone. It varies in hardness from the soft crumbly Entrada to the relatively hard Wingate. The Wingate cliff walls are the most popular for climbing, as natural fracturing has created many climbable crack systems. In addition, the hardness of the Wingate lends itself more readily to the successful use of chocks, nuts, and camming devices; however it can flake off easily and be very unpredictable. Climbing in canyon country is not something to be taken lightly.

 
A rock climber on red sandstone
A rock climber on red sandstone

Edward Gianelloni

Permits

As of January 1, 2020, permits are required for climbing and bouldering. Free day-use permits can be obtained in person at the visitor center or via email. Please review all rules and regulations prior to filling out or requesting a permit. A separate permit is required for each climbing zone and for each day.

Email care_permits@nps.gov for a climbing or bouldering permit. If climbing for multiple days, submit a separate email for each day. Use the following format:

Subject: Name of climbing zone and date you will be climbing.
Email Body:

  • Date of visit (single day only):
  • Climbing zone:
  • Number of people:
  • Vehicle location:
  • Number of motorized vehicles:
  • Vehicle description(s):


If you plan to camp overnight on a climb, you are required to obtain a free backcountry use permit, available at the visitor center.

Climbing Zones

Zone Information and Restrictions
Capitol Gorge Subject to flash flood closures.
Chimney Rock Canyon The vertical surfaces of Chimney Rock are closed.
Cohab Canyon
Grand Wash Subject to flash flood closures.
Highway 24 The section of cliffs and talus slopes north of Utah Highway 24 between the Fruita Schoolhouse (mile 80.1) and the east end of the Petroglyph Panel is closed to entry.
Scenic Drive Zone includes: Basketball wall, Fracture Zone, Ephraim Hanks Tower
Bouldering Day-use permit is valid for general bouldering within Capitol Reef National Park. Climbing on boulders with historic inscriptions or rock markings is prohibited.
Any other area

Restrictions and Concerns

Capitol Reef National Park is a clean climbing area. Minimum impact techniques that don't destroy the rock or leave a visual trail are required:

  • The use of white chalk is prohibited. Climbers and boulderers using chalk must use chalk that closely matches the color of the surrounding rock.
  • The use of power drills is prohibited.
  • No new climbing hardware may be installed and/or left in a fixed location. Bolts may only be used to replace existing unsafe bolts.
  • If an existing software item (sling, runner, etc.) is unsafe, it may be replaced.
  • Where it is necessary to leave or replace existing webbing, the webbing should be black or closely match the color of the surrounding rock.
  • Protection may not be plaved with the use of a hammer except to replace existing belay and rappel anchors and olts on existing routes, or for emergency self-rescue.
  • Physical alteration of rock faces is prohibited, such as chiseling, glue reinforcement of existing holds, trundling rocks, and gluing of new holds.
  • The intentional removal of lichen or plants from rocks is prohibited.
  • Roped may not be left in place unattended for more than 24 hours, and these ropes must be out of reach from the ground or other points accessible without technical climbing.

These areas are closed to climbing and bouldering:

  • The section of cliffs north of highway 24 between the Fruita Schoolhouse and the east end of the petroglyph boardwalk.
  • Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon
  • Chimney Rock
  • It is prohibited to wrap webbing, or rappel off any arch with an opening greater than three feet.
  • Within 300 feet (91m) of an archeological site.
  • Within 1/4 mile (402m) of nesting eagles, hawks, or falcons.

Safety

Climbing during the summer is very hot as temperatures frequently reach the upper 90sºF (30s°C). Carry plenty of water. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in July and August. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after a rain. Please climb safely! Many falls have been taken on relatively easy routes because experienced climbers became careless. Please report all accidents or injuries at the visitor center.

Last updated: May 19, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

HC 70, Box 15
Torrey, UT 84775

Phone:

435-425-3791
Recorded park information available 24 hours a day. Phones are answered when staff is available. If no one answers, please leave a message, your call will be returned. Questions may also be sent to care_information@nps.gov.

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