Capitol Reef National Park

Rock Climbing
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Rock face in Capitol Reef National Park
Rock face in Capitol Reef National Park (National Park Service)

Traditionally, the cliff walls at Capitol Reef National Park have experienced minimal usage by the technical rock climbing community. However, the past few years have seen an increase in climbing in the Capitol Reef area. This page articulates the park's policy on technical climbing.

Rock Type: The rock at Capitol Reef is comprised predominantly of sandstone. It varies in density from the soft, crumbly Entrada to the relatively hard Wingate. The Wingate formations are the most popular for climbing as the natural fracturing has created many climbable crack systems. In addition, the density of the Wingate lends itself more readily to the successful use of chocks, nuts, and camming devices. Yet, even at best, Wingate does flake off easily and can be very unpredictable.

Route Descriptions: There are no published guides to climbing at Capitol Reef. If you have climbed a route and wish to record a description for others to use, contact one of the park rangers in the Visitor Center. Good usable descriptions will be made available to other climbers.

Climbing Aids: Capitol Reef National Park is a "clean climbing" area. Minimum impact climbing techniques that don't destroy the rock or leave a visual trail are encouraged. The use of hammer driven aids such as pitons and bolts is strongly discouraged; they should be used only as a last resort. Do not leave fixed slings.

Restricted Climbing Areas: Capitol Reef is the home of many rock art panels left by the former Indian residents of the area. Many are unique and of considerable archaeological value.

Due to the abundance of these panels and their importance, the section of the rock wall north of Utah Hwy 24 between the Fruita Schoolhouse (Mile 80.6) and the east end of the fenced Lower Kreuger Orchard (Mile 81.4) is closed to climbing.

In other areas where petroglyphs or pictographs are found, no climbing is allowed within 25 feet of either side of the panel.

No climbing is allowed on Hickman Natural Bridge.

Safety: Climbing during the summer can be very hot as temperatures at times reach 100 degrees. Carry plenty of water if you plan to climb in the heat. Afternoon thundershowers are common in July and August. Sandstone is weak when wet, so avoid climbing in damp areas or right after rain.

The Capitol Reef staff does not have the expertise to perform technical rescues. To organize a rescue and get qualified climbers into an area will require considerable time and expense. Please climb safely. Many falls have been taken on relatively easy routes because experienced climbers became careless.

Please contact a park ranger at the Visitor Center, or send us an e-mail message at care_interpretation@nps.gov, if you have any questions.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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