Climbing Management Plan

a climber with a rope graphic

Why is a climbing management plan needed?

  • The park's Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan (2000) guides climbing management, but it falls short when considering that visitation has more than doubled and many bolts and anchors currently need to be replaced or will need to be replaced soon.
  • Previous plans are not sufficient to protect sensitive park resources and respectfully consider sacred landscapes of traditionally associated tribal communities.
  • The official park trail system does not include trails to climbing and bouldering areas making it difficult for the park to fund trail improvements.
  • Current management practices are not consistent with new agency guidance on fixed anchors in wilderness.
  • Lack of delineated trails to rock formations and bouldering areas has negatively affected vegetation, cultural resources, and soil crusts. Open desert terrain makes it very challenging to manage trampling from foot traffic.
  • A transparent and repeatable process for evaluating the appropriateness of recreational climbing or related activities around cultural sites is needed to better inform management actions.
  • A Climbing Management Plan is needed to address the park’s unique resource challenges to find an appropriate balance between recreational use and the preservation of cultural and natural resources.
  • Bouldering, highlining and slacklining activities have not been evaluated for their appropriateness at the park. This is required by agency policy for any new forms of recreation in parks.
A belayer holding a rope at the top of a rock formation

Purpose of the Plan

The purpose of this plan is to guide the management of rock-based recreation activities for the protection of cultural resources, natural resources, and wilderness character, and to support the public’s desire to enjoy the park through climbing and related activities.


This plan would establish management actions related to rock climbing, bouldering, and related activities, in order to protect cultural and natural resources, comply with the Wilderness Act, and provide for a breadth of quality rock-based recreation experiences. Objectives include:

  • Identifying access routes for heavily used formations and ensure approaches to climbing formations avoid sensitive cultural sites and natural resources;

  • Ensuring fixed anchors in wilderness meet the provisions of Section 4(C) of the Wilderness Act;

  • Clarifying the process for installing, replacing, or removing fixed anchors, including issuance of permits when necessary;

  • Clarifying the roles and expectations of professional guides and special use permit holders, including a determination of necessity for their operation in Wilderness;

  • Establishing a framework for resource protection closures and specify where those initial areas may be; and

  • Developing strategies that improve incorporation of traditionally associated Native American community values.


StoryMap for the Climbing Management Plan

Learn more about the why the park is developing a climbing management plan, proposed actions, and more in this StoryMap.


Climbing Style Categories and Style Categorization by Treatment Area

Climbing style categories would inform decision making on the installation or replacement of fixed anchors on routes in wilderness. In the link below is a description of the climbing style categories and the proposed style categorizations for the North Astro Dome, South Astro Dome, and the Geo Tour treatment areas.
Climbing Categories by Treatment Area


Virtual Public Meetings

JTNP has held two virtual public meetings. Visit the links below to view the recordings from these meetings.


Public Scoping

On January 13, 2022, the park began a 45-day public scoping period requesting public input on potential management actions to improve the management of rock-based recreation at Joshua Tree National Park. The park held a virtual pubic meeting on February 8, 2022 where park staff explained the basis for management action and proposals being considered. The comment period ended on March 13, 2022. During the public scoping period the park received 4,184 correspondences. Click on the link below to view the Public Comment Scoping Report and the Scoping Newsletter that was provided to initiate public scoping.


Civic Engagement Summary

Joshua Tree National Park held a civic engagement period during Pre-NEPA activites for the climbing management plan. Learn more about the methods of engagement and summary of comments received from this period on the CMP Civic Engagement Summary webpage.


Last updated: June 6, 2023

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597


760 367-5500

Contact Us