BLM asks climbers to avoid these 11 rock climbing, hiking areas in southeast Utah

Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah protects one of most significant cultural landscapes in the United States, with thousands of archaeological sites and important areas of spiritual significance. Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial kivas, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record, all surrounded by a dramatic backdrop of deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and forested highlands and the monument’s namesake twin buttes. These lands are sacred to many Native American tribes today, who use the lands for ceremonies, collecting medicinal and edible plants, and gathering materials for crafting baskets and footwear. Their recommendations will ensure management decisions reflect tribal expertise and traditional and historical knowledge.

(Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management)

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MONTICELLO, San Juan County — The Bureau of Land Management is asking climbers to avoid close to a dozen rock climbing and hiking areas by the popular Indian Creek climbing area starting Monday due to raptor nesting season.

The areas that climbers are asked to avoid are named:

  • Broken Tooth
  • Cat Wall
  • Cliffs of Insanity
  • Disappointment Cliffs
  • Far Side
  • Fin Wall
  • The Meat Walls
  • Reservoir Wall
  • Public Service Wall
  • Slug Wall
  • The Wall

They added the 11 named locations may go by other names and ask climbs to review a map posted online to ensure they aren't climbing in an "avoidance area." Notices will also be posted throughout the Indian Creek corridor, according to the agency.

The BLM and other state or federal agencies sometimes close off hiking or climbing areas throughout Utah due to nesting activity. The Indian Creek area features many cliffs that are popular for rock climbing but is also where eagles, falcons and other migratory birds sometime set up nests during the spring.

Once birds set up a nest, it becomes a "critical nesting period" through most of the summer. It's why the avoidance timeline sometimes continues through August.

Officials said the 11 places were specifically selected because they are locations with "high potential or historically known" to be used for bird nesting activity. Biologists with the agency are set to begin their annual raptor activity surveys in the area to check for active nesting sites in March.

By late April or early May, biologists may know the exact locations of nests. It means some "avoidance areas" may be cleared for recreational use around that time because there are no active nests in the area; some routes may be closed for the summer if there are active nests.

The agency noted that a few of the locations are off BLM land, but officials were working with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, as a part of the avoidance process.

Dave Cook, wildlife program lead for the Bureau of Land Management-Utah, explained that biologists usually don't receive pushback from climbers when avoidance guidelines or closures are issued

"Usually the climbers — they like to climb but they're pretty environmentally-minded," he said. "And so they're willing to (abide by avoidance areas). And it's a seasonal thing."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for


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