You are here

Arches National Park Taking Input on Proposed Climbing Management Plan


Officials at Arches National Park are working on developing a management plan to guide climbing and canyoneering in their park. NPS photo.

Arches National Park soon could have an official management plan to guide climbing and canyoneering in the park where the geology offers climbers a sprawling playground of options.

In the past, those options have proved too tempting for some. In 2006 noted climber Dean Potter climbed atop Delicate Arch early one morning. That stunt led park officials to revisit the rules for climbing in the park, rules that they had interpreted as stating that no climbing was allowed on named arches.

To eliminate any doubts, Arches officials last year embarked on an effort to formalize climbing regulations for their park.

Last week the park sent out a newsletter discussing these efforts, and pointed to four alternatives currently under consideration. They range from no changes from the current policy and a policy that would revolve around regular monitoring of climbing in the park to a set of specific regulations "to protect park resources and to control climbing and canyoneering activities. It will seek to mitigate climbing and canyoneering-related impacts to the resources by restricting specific climbing and canyoneering activities equally throughout the park."

Anyone who has visited Arches and walked any of its trails can see the enticing opportunities for climbing, bouldering, and canyoneering that abound. And that's the problem. There are so many enticements that some sort of management plan is needed so climbers know the ground rules, so the various arches, outcrops, and cliffs are not damaged by climbing, and so that views enjoyed by other visitors are not dotted with climbers.

Among the "common elements" to each of the three alternatives that would develop a management framework beyond the status quo are:

* All climbing in the park would be free climbing or "clean-aid" climbing in which no permanent aids are installed in the rock walls/faces.

* No pitons would be allowed.

* There would be a proactive education and outreach program for climbers.

* Balanced Rock would remain closed to climbing.

* Any arch or natural bridge named on the USGS 7.5 minute topographical map covering Arches National Park would be closed to climbing.

* Bouldering, slacklining, highlining, BASE jumping, Wingsuit flying, Paragliding, Zip lining, and pendulum swings would be prohibited.

The park's newsletter that addresses the ongoing effort can be found attached below.

Public comment on the proposal is being accepted through March 13 at this site.

If all goes as planned, a draft of the proposed management plan will be released this fall.


NO!!!!! Very bad idea! Sorry, shouldn't be allowed. I've seen parks like this absolutely destroyed because of climbing even with restrictions. Arches should be left pristine. It's sick to go somewhere to enjoy the primitive beauty like this only to have to look at bolts in the rocks, and climbers everywhere. There are many other places for climbers to climb.

I have never been to Arches, but it's on my list of must visit locations. I am not a climber, but am an avid Jeeper and Mountain Biker. I hate to say it but, I would think climbers would be the least of your worries as far as environmental impact. Any area with or without regulations can become abused by people that that just don't care, and act careless. Look at the Offroad/Ohv industries, they have been bombarded with these types of issues for years. Would someone really see a permanent anchor 40 to 50 ft off the ground and was rock colored? For those that can, free climbing can be a fantastic high, but anchors would seem to be the safer. Tuff call. Training, climbing license, enforcement, injury aid responsibility? I would guess it all depends on how intrusive the plan would be or needs to be. I'll say it again I'm not a climber but am an avid sportsman that loves the beauty nature has to offer, but I also understand the need for users to have there playgrounds. Whatever decision is made the rules will need to be followed or else access for everyone may be lost. The hindsight could be NPS just shuts an area down and claims funding/ budget issues and that would effect everyone.

As a climber and a lover of Arches National Park, I have to say that the park should be left pristine. I think the minute you open it up to climbing in certain areas of the park, people will think it is ALL open. There are so many responsible climbers out there, but it is the few (like Dean Potter) who feel the need to make their own rules. That will run, as it has in the past, for everyone else. The Moab area has tons of climbing opportunity. Let's just leave Arches sacred, please!

The NPS is not proposing that climbing becomes a new activity at Arches - climbing has been going on there for decades. The NPS is trying to find the best way to manage climbing to protect the overall park values and the visitor experience for thos visitors who are not climbers.

NO RESTRICTIONS!!! NONE! ZERO! There is absolutely nothing about climbing that can possibly be a problem. Stop turning our recreation areas into useless museums!

I personally think that once you pave roads, build campgrounds, dig pit toilets and dynamite paths on easy hikes to get to certain places (ie: Delicate Arch) you can't restrict only certain user groups. Basically once you install all of the numerous infrastructures needed to get people and their cars/RV's into every corner of the park there is ABSOLUTELY no reason to restrict non-destructive activity's such as climbing, BASE Jumping, and Slack-lining. That is just pure discrimination. Plain and simple. Furthermore, isn't BASE Jumping already banned in National Parks? Excuse me.. I mean "Illegal Aerial Delivery?" Does this mean that BASE Jumping will be officially spelled out as an illegal activity now? The parks are for everybody! Not just the fat, lazy, out-of-shape tourists. Give them their paths to enjoy and let us have ours. We all have equal rights to these "public lands."

I feel like this is a pretty simple issue, and my two cents essentially amount to leaving things as they are. You don't blame every hiker for the idiot that throws a beer can on the ground, you educate hikers about the leave no trace principles which probably 80-90% of us already live by. I feel like climbing should be treated just like hiking. Stick to the basics here: Stay On Trail, Leave No Trace, Don't Crunch Crypto, No Drilling New Holes In Rocks. And, of course, to avoid pissing off those who don't climb, but like taking pictures, and maybe didn't learn too much about sharing in kindergarden, Don't Climb Things You Can See From The Parking Lot Where The Postcard Picture Was Taken. Arches might be small by SW desert standards, but it's still a whole lot of sandstone, most of which is never seen by most people.

Chris, I think one of the main problems with your approach is the damage that unrestricted climbing can do to some areas of the park. If I recall correctly, Mr. Potter's foray with Delicate Arch left some grooves in the top of the arch from his ropes.

And really, what's wrong with a climbing plan that outlaws pitons or any other permanent anchors but allows clean climbing, and says these "named" arches and outcrops are off-limits but those thousands of others are fair game?

As for your "equal rights," not everything goes in national parks, which have a much different mandate for use than BLM or Forest Service lands.

As Tory points out, there are many, many opportunities in Arches for climbers, and in the tens of thousands of surrounding acres many, many, many more exist.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide