Climbing Regulations

Climbing Above Frozen Lake in Glacier Gorge
A climber is standing above Frozen Lake above Glacier Gorge

NPS

Bolting and Route Development

The National Park Service does not inspect, maintain, or repair bolts and other climbing equipment anywhere in the park. Make sure your climb is adequately protected by visually inspecting any pre-existing bolts or fixed pins.
Your safety is your responsibility!

Rocky Mountain National Park is world renowned for traditional and alpine climbing. Most routes in the park offer adventurous climbing utilizing traditionally placed protection such as cams, nuts, etc. Bolted routes, also known as sport climbs, are rare in Rocky Mountain National Park and are prohibited in the Rocky Mountain Wilderness.

A fixed anchor is defined as any piece of climbing equipment that is left in place to facilitate a safe ascent or rappel. Examples include, but are not limited to bolts, pitons, and webbing. Only place fixed anchors as a last resort. All bolts must be placed using a hand drill only. Power drills are not allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“Fixed anchors should not be placed merely for convenience or to make an otherwise "unclimbable" route climbable...The infrequent placement of new fixed anchors is allowed when ascending a route to connect terrain that is otherwise protected by removable anchors (e.g., one crack system or other natural feature to another)...New, bolt intensive climbing routes (e.g., sport climbs, bolt ladders) are not appropriate in wilderness and should not be created.” - ROMO Wilderness Management Plan

"The establishment of bolt intensive face climbs is considered incompatible with wilderness preservation and management due to the concentration of human activity which they support, and the types and levels of impacts associated with such routes." - NPS Director's Order 41

Equipment, including but not limited to fixed ropes, may not be left unattended for longer than 24 hours or it will be considered abandoned property. Abandoned property may be removed by the NPS and is subject to the following regulations: CFR 2.22

If you are planning on establishing a new climbing route in Rocky Mountain National Park, please reference the wilderness map to determine if your proposed route is in wilderness.

If you have questions or would like to speak with a ranger, you can contact the Rocky Mountain Climbing Rangers at 970-586-1280.

 

Minimum Impact Climbing

Practice the following principels and help to minimize impacts to protect the fragile ecosystesm and climbing areas we all love.

  • Pack out all trash. Leave the area cleaner than you found it.
  • Pack out all human waste and toilet paper. Use wag bags.
  • Use existing access trails to approach climbs. Avoid short-cutting trails.
  • Know and respect historic and environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Be considerate of wildlife and other users.
  • Leave the rock and its environs in its natural condition. Avoid placing permanent protection. Chipping and drilling holds destroys the rock face. Avoid changing the rock to make the route easier. Accept nature on its terms.
  • Renew your commitment to leave no trace.
  • Respect other visitors and keep noise and visual disturbances to a minimum.
  • Know and abide by local regulations.

Only by following a low-impact climbing ethic can we protect our outstanding natural features and their biological diversity for future generations

All Around You

Climbing in parks and open spaces is a special experience. The sounds and beauty of nature surround the climber and create an environment which cannot be duplicated on urban climbing walls.

The mosaic of rock formations, vegetation and water which give us so much pleasure are critical ingredients of life for the wildlife which inhabits these areas. Bats and packrats are fascinating inhabitants of cliff crevices and can easily be located by the guano surrounding their roosts and nests. To avoid interactions with humans, black bears, mountain lions and bighorn sheep often haunt the rocky terrain sought by climbers. Canyon wrens, rock wrens and other birds are dependent on certain types of cliff habitat.

Wildlife species which are disturbed from their specialized habitat requirements often have no place to go. Competition for available habitat is intense because many areas have already been disturbed by human activities.

Beneath Your Feet

The approach to your climb can be considered an experience that must be endured, or an enjoyable part of the whole outdoor challenge. Whatever your attitude, it is critical that climbers understand the impact that human feet have on the ground and on the rock.

Because many climbing areas are remote from established trails and different routes on a rock may start anywhere along the base, climbers can have enormous effects on vegetation. A direct access route straight up or down a hillside may uproot plants which have taken centuries to become established. Once erosion has begun in remote areas, it is very difficult to control. Streamside vegetation is an extremely important and limited habitat type in many western states and is particularly vulnerable.

The access trails which we use to approach climbs, even if no formal trail exists, can be carefully chosen to avoid the heavy impact of the human foot. Rocky slopes will withstand foot traffic far better than delicate canyon bottoms and will not present erosion problems as quickly.

Where rock is not available, thoughtfully traversing slopes with minimum impact in mind can help protect natural areas. Often climbers can work with the local resource managers to develop access which is not damaging to the environment.

Your Presence

Wilderness and backcountry climbing areas often have an aura of primitive mystery and serenity, or a feeling that humans have rarely visited a particular area. As we have quietly enjoyed a rocky precipice or a shadowed canyon, we may have been rudely interrupted by the loud or annoying behavior of another park visitor.

As more people flock to these special places, the only way to avoid conflict with one another is to respect others as we respect the environment.

For climbers, this may mean dressing in earthtone colors, using voice signals only as needed for safe climbing, and recognizing that our human presence alone may impact other users and the environment.

Last updated: July 26, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park , CO 80517

Phone:

970 586-1206
The Information Office is open year-round: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily in summer; 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Mondays - Fridays and 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Saturdays - Sundays in winter. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

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