The same cliffs that attract rock climbers to Rocky Mountain National Park are home to a diverse assembly of raptors, or birds of prey. Trails popular with the rock climbing community along Sheep Mountain and Lumpy Ridge are temporarily closed as of March 1 to insure protection of the raptors breeding and nesting there.
Since the1960’s raptor populations have severely declined in numbers both in the park and nationwide. RMNP has excellent habitat for Golden eagles, Cooper’s hawks, kestrels, peregrine falcons and turkey vultures, all of whom are especially suited to the Park’s craggy rock outcroppings. The presence of climbers negatively impacts the nesting success of raptors. Each year trail closures by Park rangers insure that the magnificent raptors remain undisturbed during their critical reproductive period.
Areas currently closed include Twin Owls, Sheep Mountain, Alligator Rock, Checkerboard Rock, Thunder Buttress- the Parish, Batman Rock and Pinnacle, Rock One and Lightening Rock.
The rock face, outcroppings, cliffs, all ascent/descent trails and the area surrounding the base of the formations within a 100 yard perimeter is closed to the public and within the protected space. At Alligator Rock restrictions apply to a 200 yard radius.
The temporary closure of these areas is tentatively slated to end July 31, but that could change according to the discretion of wildlife management officials. They will lift the ban when they feel public presence in the area will not stress the nesting raptors. Rock formations not listed are presumed to be open but checking with the Park prior to heading up is advised.
Notice of closures will be posted around RMNP. Entering closed areas is a violation of 36 CFR 1.5. Violators are subject to a fine of $5,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.
For more information go to the Rocky Mountain National Park website at: nps.gov/romo or call (970) 586-1206.