Rock Climbing Regulations

In West Virginia, the environment around most rock climbing areas is delicate. Thin soil atop rocks is easily eroded, and plantlife is easily destroyed. By following regulations, many of which are enforced as law on public lands, climbers can minimize inevitable impact along routes. Please research and be aware of specific regulations for climbing areas. Climbing guides and climbing shops may also be able to help provide regulatory information.

Limit group size. Litter, soil erosion, and damage to cultural and natural resources may be minimized by limiting the size of climbing groups. Larger groups should be broken up and spread out into smaller groups.

Use existing trails. Trails on public property in West Virginia are usually maintained by state or federal crews or by designated volunteers. Avoid creating new trails or cutting or trampling vegetation. Hike on durable surfaces and established trails to minimize erosion.

Park in designated areas. Avoid parking in vegetated or undeveloped areas or within six feet of a roadway. As parking is usually limited at climbing areas in West Virginia, climbers should consider carpooling when possible.

Respect private property. Most climbing areas in West Virginia are located on public property, though some may be found on private property. In the case of private property, access depends on the goodwill of individual landowners. Help maintain a mutually beneficial relationship by minimizing your impact. Always consult landowners before you establish a new route or access trails, and always respect “No Trespassing” signs.

Respect seasonal restrictions. Seasonal closures, which are often established to protect nesting raptors or preserve endangered ecosystems, are strictly enforced in most park areas in West Virginia. Park and forest rangers routinely patrol for violations.

Leash pets. Pets can quickly destroy climbing access areas and must be prevented from disturbing wildlife and other climbers and belayers. In most state and national park areas, pets must be leashed and attended. Animal waste must be packed out or buried at least 200 feet from trails, cliffs, parking areas, and bodies of water. To help minimize impact at water sources, make sure pets have access to fresh drinking water.

Leave no trace. If you pack it in, pack it out. Leave what you find. Minimize your use of fire. Most climbing areas are remote, so plan bowel movements for designated toilet facilities. Bury human waste in a six-inch hole at least 200 feet from water, trails, cliffs, and parking areas, and pack out toilet paper in plastic bags. Treat other users with respect by maintaining a low profile. Do not deface, damage, or alter rock surfaces. Deliberately damaging the rock is illegal in most state and national park areas.

Eschew motorized drilling. The use of motorized drills on state and national park areas is permitted only by authorized personnel and on a officially permitted case-by-case basis. For a drilling permit application, contact the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. National Park Service, or the the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

Practice low-impact camping. Most state and national parks and forests in West Virginia provide for designated camping near climbing areas. Camping is prohibited within 100 feet of all roads, trailheads, and parking areas. Always camp more than 300 feet from the top or bottom of cliffs and boulders and more than 100 feet from cultural or natural historic sites.

Study site-specific regulations. Most climbing areas in West Virginia are managed by agencies that publish climbing regulations online. Before you climb, familiarize yourself with the regulations that govern climbing.

Content sponsored by New River Climbing School

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