Rocky Mountain Extends Closure for Lumpy Ridge to Protect National Park’s Nesting Raptors

by Amy Myers

Starting in mid-February, Rocky Mountain National Park pays close attention to its aviary residents, specifically its golden eagles. While these raptors aren’t in danger of extinction, they are an essential part of the national park’s ecosystem. They tend to build their nests along the ledges and crevices of flat rockfaces, giving them a great vantage point for hunting and finding food for their young. Unfortunately, their favorite spots for growing their families are also perfect hand and footholds for outdoor climbers.

Rocky Mountain is in no shortage of routes to climb throughout its nearly 266,000 acres. Those steep cliffs have made for exhilarating climbs unlike any other in Colorado. However, when mating season rolls around and eagle pairs begin searching for a new homestead, it becomes challenging to share the highly sought-after space.

Each year, to avoid any destruction to potential raptor nesting grounds, Rocky Mountain National Park temporarily closes routes and climbing areas based on what officials observe from the birds’ activity.

This year, the park has even had to extend some of its closures in the Lumpy Ridge area as nesting season continues past its usual threshold.

“To ensure that these birds of prey can nest undisturbed, specific areas within the park are closed temporarily to public use during nesting season and monitored by wildlife managers,” Rocky Mountain explained in a recent release. “The closures began this year on February 15. Closures may be extended past July 31 or rescinded at an earlier date depending on nesting activity.”

While the park extends some of its closures, it also opened a few routes early in mid-June.

Rocky Mountain National Park Closures and Alternative Rockfaces

Currently, closures remain in effect until August 15, but this may change depending on how quickly the raptor fledglings leave the nest.

Here are the areas of Lumpy Ridge that Rocky Mountain has closed:

  • Thunder Buttress
  • The Parish
  • Sundance Buttress
  • The Needle Summit and access trail

“Closures include all climbing, approach, and descent routes for the indicated formation on all sides of those formations,” the park explained on its Raptor Closures page.

The news of the extended closures may be for avid Rocky Mountain climbers. But the good news is that there are plenty of alternatives to choose from if your intended route still has a few lingering raptors.

Among the many climber-friendly areas in Rocky Mountain National Park, some of the most popular (and open) ones are:

  • The Sharkstooth
  • The Spearhead
  • Long’s Peak
  • Hallett Peak
  • Fern Canyon Rocks
  • and many others

Choosing to stay away from the closures not only saves you from a hefty fine but also helps ensure the survival of the next generation of Rocky Mountain golden eagles.