Arches National Park Climbing

The rock at Arches offers excellent climbing opportunities, despite its sandy nature. Most climbing routes in the park require advanced techniques. Permits are not required, unless the trip involves an overnight stay in the backcountry. It the responsibility of all climbers to know and obey park regulations and route closures. Rock climbing guides to Arches and the surrounding area are available at the visitor center and through the bookstore.

Regulations

  • Rock climbing groups are limited to five persons per group.
  • Rock climbing must be free climbing or clean aid climbing. The installation of pitons is prohibited.
  • The physical altering of rock from its natural position such as chiseling, breaking rocks to reinforce crevices and pockets as anchors, glue reinforcement of existing holds, and gluing new holds is prohibited. The intentional removal or "gardening" of lichen or plants from rock is prohibited.
  • The use of white chalk is prohibited. Chalk or chalk substitutes used in the park are required to be similar in color to the rock that is being climbed.
  • Use of motorized drills within wilderness boundaries is prohibited. Use of motorized drills outside of wilderness boundaries requires a special use 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 or primered brown (see photo). Software left in place is required to 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.
  • Bivvying overnight requires a backcountry permit, and must abide by the same rules and regulations set forth for backcountry camping. Bivvying overnight will be at least one mile from any designated road and one-half mile from any designated trail.
  • Guided rock climbing services are prohibited.

Climber Registration

All persons planning to climb in Arches National Park are encouraged to register by obtaining a free permit. There are no daily limits on routes, so climbers can get their permits on the day of the climb. Registration is free, it increases climbers' safety, and helps the park maintain desired conditions in the backcountry zone. It is in your best interest to register.

Climbers have two options to obtain permits:

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 Arches is technical and requires advanced skills. Arches National Park offers sustained multi-pitch towers, easier one pitch towers, and hard cracks on amazing buttresses. Routes are typically sandy or in soft Entrada Sandstone. 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 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!

New Route Establishment

Establishment of new climbing routes is allowed. However, climbers must obtain a special use permit before establishing any new routes requiring the installation of new fixed gear. Travel to and from new routes must be on rock, within drainages or sandy washes, or on designated trails.

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. The majority of Arches' rock climbs are very close to the road or located in busy areas of the park. 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:

  • The park recommends 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

For climbing closures, please visit the NPS Climbing page for details.

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