Climbers, like birds of prey, love high and airy places. Cliffs, crags, and mountains provide valuable and critical habitat for wildlife, including nesting raptors like owls, prairie falcons, peregrine falcons, hawks, and eagles. Climbers have an obligation and responsibility to avoid disrupting nesting birds, which can cause them to abandon their nests, eggs, and even fledgling youngsters or make them expend valuable energy to drive trespassing climbers away.
Closures Protect Nesting Birds
To prevent disturbances to nesting birds, many cliffs and areas around cliffs are closed by management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, to climbing during critical times of the year when raptors nest in the high rocks or when bighorn sheep have their spring lambs.
Closures are in Spring and Summer
Typically cliffs are closed from either February 1 or March 1 until around August 1. The closures can be extended longer if the birds haven’t fledged yet or they may be rescinded at an earlier date, particularly if the birds don’t nest in that locale. Closures usually include all cliffs, faces, rock outcrops, climbing routes, ascent and descent routes, climber access trails and other trails.
Notable Cliff Closures
Cliff closures for wildlife occur in every state with rock climbing. Notable closures are at The Garden of the Gods (CO), The Flatirons (CO), Rocky Mountain National Park (CO), Cochise Stronghold (AZ), Devil’s Tower (WY), Rumney (NH), Yosemite National Park (CA), Looking Glass Rock (NC), Smith Rock (OR), and Zion National Park (UT). Violators of cliff closures can face penalties up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, depending on the management agency.
The Access Fund Provides Closure Details
The Access Fund website provides up-to-date details for most seasonal wildlife closures at American climbing areas and current climbing restrictions and gives telephone and website contacts for management agencies so you can double-check before heading out to the cliffs.
Respect Wildlife Closures & Save Wildlife
Most climbing areas have closure information posted at the trailhead, along access trails, and sometimes at the base of closed cliffs. Follow and respect all wildlife closures and restrictions—it’s the right thing to do, it’s the law, and they protect our wildlife.