Climbing Management in Grand Canyon National Park

Climbers have been exploring Grand Canyon National Park for decades. The desert alpine climbing area provides many classic summits such as Zoroaster Temple and Mount Hayden. Much of Grand Canyon National Park is classified as “proposed Wilderness,” and as such it is managed under the same set of guidelines as a designated Wilderness area. The Park recently issued a DRAFT Backcountry Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement, which proposes fixed anchor regulations, day-use and overnight permits, climber use monitoring, climbing impact assessment, climber education, and the development of a standalone climbing management plan.

The Access Fund policy team is participating in the development of the management plan to ensure that Wilderness climbing regulations are fair, balanced, and supported by guidelines outlined in DO#41 – the NPS national-level policy issued in 2013. So far, there are only a few national parks that have developed Wilderness plans based on DO#41 guidelines, and each park has the potential to set a precedent for how climbing is managed. That makes the Grand Canyon National Park’s interpretation of DO#41 guidelines extremely important in the national policy landscape. Learn more about how climbing is faring in other Wilderness plans.

Access Fund is sending our policy director and senior policy advisor to the Grand Canyon in early February to meet with the park’s Wilderness administrators to discuss the DRAFT Backcountry Management Plan and share best practices for managing climbing in Wilderness areas. Stay tuned for Access Fund’s official comments (due by March 3, 2016) on the Grand Canyon National Park DRAFT Backcountry Management Plan, available on our website next month.

Photo courtesy of Bruce LaCroix