Bolton Dome

Cliff Steward: 
Guidebook: Tough Schist
Mountain Project: 
Bolton Dome
Access Beta & Closures page

The Climbing: The Bolton Dome is a schist climbing area featuring dozens of high-quality crack and sport climbs. With a short approach and great variety of grades, this is probably the most popular cliff in Vermont. Beginner multi-pitch sport and trad climbing from 5.3-5.7, a wall full of 5.12 sport, and plenty of 5.10s and 11s all stacked up 5 minutes from the parking lot. South-facing and at a low elevation, The Bolton Dome is a wonderful early season choice, although by mid-summer it’s often far too warm outside of early mornings and late afternoons. 

Don’t Miss: Little Wolf (5.2), Country Doctor’s Ramble (5.3), Work Shoes (5.7), Crushdependence (5.8), Jagged Edge (5.9), Senderista (10a), Lichenology (10a), Turk Turk Mcgurk (10d), Joint Warfare (11a), Release the Hens (11c), The Awesomest (11d),  Of Mice and Zen (12a), Before the Dawn (12a), Crimes of Omission (12b), Be Gay Do Crime (13a)

Access Beta: 

  • Be sure to check our Access Beta & Closures page for COVID-19 advisory, current closures, reopening or changed operations.
  • The parking area is closed in the winter from December 15th to March 15th. If you wish to access the cliff during these months you can do so by parking at The Smilie School (outside of school hours, which are M-F 7:00am – 3:30pm) or at the pull-off on the Bolton Valley Access Road. 
  • Dogs are not allowed at the Bolton Dome

Access Story: Closed for decades, CRAG-VT purchased the Bolton Dome property in 2017 with the help of a $356,000 loan from the Access Fund. To date, this is CRAG’s biggest climbing area acquisition. The Dome is now protected for permanent conservation and recreation. CRAG-VT seasonally rents parking lot use on behalf of climbers from the neighboring landowner. 

Access Fund and CRAG-VT worked with leaders of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation to develop language that affords access to the greater Abenaki People (the Abenaki). The easement allows for certain recreational, cultural, and educational uses; the procurement of foods, materials, and medicines; and other traditional activities. Read more here. 

This is a complex project for CRAG-VT, and in addition to the cost of the property purchase, we have incurred an estimated $100,000 in additional expenses associated with property assessments, attorney fees and legal filings, and establishment of the conservation easement.  Thus, The Bolton Dome is an open project that will require years of stewardship, fundraising, and community involvement to reach its full potential as a climbing area.

Thank You to Our Partners: A big “thank you” to CRAG’s many partners and supporters. CRAG-VT was awarded generous grants from The Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Gear Exchange, and the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance , and CRAG-VT also raised an impressive amount of funds from individual donors invested in securing this local gem.

Historical Context: Historically known as Trailer Park Crag, Bolton Dome was the area’s most popular cliff in the 70s and 80s. However, it was closed to climbing in 1990 due to the private landowners’ concerns about public use of their property. This closure was a driving force in the formation of CRAG-VT, as it underscored the need to permanently protect climbing access. 

Over the years, local climbing advocate and CRAG-VT board member Richard Katzman stayed in contact with the landowners. In the summer of 2017, they agreed to consider an offer from CRAG-VT before listing the property on the open market. To save Bolton Dome, CRAG-VT purchased the entire 48-acre parcel, including the 2-acre house site that was later subdivided and resold.

Photography: Ted Schiele