Pullouts where people park to rock climb at the Hoback Shield are closing, but officials say connecting a nearby parking area to the crag should make up for any lost spaces.
Volunteers from the local Teton Climbers’ Coalition will help build a new trail to connect the rock wall to the new parking area.
The Shield is a sport climbing area along Highway 191 between Hoback Junction and Bondurant. Climbers frequently access it by parking at one of two pullouts on the southwest side of the highway and crossing the road before hiking up to the slabby, roof-strewn limestone walls above.
But those parking areas are set to be closed in coming months. That’s the result, officials said, of a Wyoming Department of Transportation initiative to replace guardrails along the highway.
To maintain public access to the Shield, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Climbers’ Coalition are working together to develop a parking area and pathway just to the northeast of the current pullouts. Christian Beckwith, who organizes the Climbers’ Coalition, and Linda Merigliano, the recreation program manager for the Bridger-Teton’s Jackson District, both said they thought the change might benefit climbers in the long run. WYDOT representatives could not be reached by press time.
“It seems like it would be positive,” Beckwith said of the change. “You won’t have traffic to contend with and nobody’s going to clip your car.”
Merigliano said there “shouldn’t be any loss of access” due to WYDOT’s guardrail project.
“It should be seamless,” she said. “You’ve just got to park in a different spot.”
The new parking area will be in a pullout along Granite Creek Road where people typically park to snowmobile and access Granite Hot Springs in the winter.
While that area is busy in the cooler months, Merigliano said it’s relatively clear in the summer.
“It’s not being used at all really in the summertime,” she said. “It’s perfectly capable right now of accommodating people that want to park there.”
Plus, she said, “it’s pretty darn close to the Hoback Shield.”
Climbers who end up parking there will have a slightly longer walk: about a half mile to the base of the trail. That’s on par with approaches for other crags in the area. It might be a bit longer than the approach to Rodeo Wall, but it should be shorter than walking to the upper walls at Blacktail Butte in Grand Teton National Park.
The Hoback Shield area already has a trail that the Climbers’ Coalition and Bridger-Teton will work to improve and connect to the existing trail below the cliff on Aug. 26, closing the lower three switchbacks of the existing trail as part of the work. Merigliano said that Chris Owen, who is heading up stewardship for the Climbers’ Coalition, and Tim Farris, Trails and Wilderness Supervisor for the forest, have already marked where the new trail will go.
Merigliano said the Forest Service shouldn’t incur any cost to build the new trail since the Climber’s Coalition will be organizing volunteers for the trail work.
Slab aficionados and others who want to get involved with the project can email the Climbers’ Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merigliano said she wasn’t sure when the new guardrails would be installed in the canyon but thought it would probably be “more towards fall.”
In the meantime, she said people are welcome to continue parking in the old parking areas. But come late August, climbers will have a new way to access the popular crag.