Setbacks where people park to rock at the Hoback Shield are closing, but officials say connecting a nearby parking lot to the rock should make up for the lost spaces.
Volunteers from the local Teton Climbers’ Coalition will help build a new trail to connect the rock face to the new parking lot.
The Shield is a sport climbing area along Route 191 between Hoback Junction and Bondurant. Climbers frequently access it by parking on one of the two setbacks on the southwest side of the highway and crossing the road before climbing up to the limestone walls covered with flagstones and roofs above.
But these parking lots are expected to be closed in the coming months. This is the result, officials said, of an initiative by the Wyoming Department of Transportation to replace guardrails along the highway.
To maintain public access to the Shield, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Climbers’ Coalition is working together to develop a parking area and trail just northeast of the current setbacks. Christian Beckwith, who organizes the Coalition of Climbers, and Linda Merigliano, recreation program manager for the Jackson District of Bridger-Teton, both said they believe the change could benefit climbers in the long run. Representatives of WYDOT could not be reached at press time.
âIt looks like it would be positive,â Beckwith said of the change. âYou won’t have to face traffic and no one will cut your car off. “
Merigliano said that “there should be no loss of access” due to the WYDOT railing project.
âIt should be seamless,â she said. âYou just have to park somewhere else. “
The new parking area will be located in a setback along Granite Creek Road, where people typically park to snowmobile and access Granite Hot Springs in the winter.
Although this area is busy during the colder months, Merigliano said it is relatively clear in the summer.
âIt’s not really used in summer at all,â she said. “It is perfectly capable at the moment of accommodating people who wish 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 800 meters to the foot of the trail. It’s on par with approaches for other cliffs in the area. It may be a bit longer than the approach to Rodeo Wall, but it should be shorter than walking to the upper walls of Blacktail Butte in Grand Teton National Park.
The Hoback Shield area already has a trail that the Coalition of Climbers and Bridger-Teton will work to improve and connect to the existing trail below the cliff on August 26, closing the lower three switchbacks of the existing trail as part of the works. Merigliano said Chris Owen, who heads the stewardship of the Climbers’ Coalition, and Tim Farris, trails and nature supervisor for the forest, have already indicated where the new trail will go.
Merigliano said the Forest Service should incur no cost to build the new trail as the Climber’s Coalition will be organizing volunteers for trail work.
Slab enthusiasts and others who want to get involved with the project can email the Climbers’ Coalition at [email protected]
Merigliano said she didn’t know when the new guardrails would be installed in the canyon, but thought it would likely be “more in the fall”.
In the meantime, she said people are encouraged to continue parking in the old parking lots. But at the end of August, climbers will have a new way to access the popular rock.