The sandstone towers at the Island in the Sky attract the most rock climbers. We do not see many climbers in the rest of the park due to the poor rock quality and a lack of established routes. You do not need a permit for technical rock climbing, but you must have permits for overnight backcountry travel and day-use trips on the White Rim Road and backcountry roads in The Needles. No camping is allowed at the trailhead to Zeus and Moses.
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 Canyonlands is technical and requires advanced skills. 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 extremely 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!
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. 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:
It is your responsibility to know all route closures.
Technical rock climbing is prohibited:
Climbing routes close temporarily to protect wildlife habitat. Closures to climbing routes will remain in effect through the end of the termination date specified below, or until surveys determine the associated habitat to be unoccupied by nesting raptors and/or lambing desert bighorn sheep.
Last updated: March 15, 2023