Taking photos on top of the chapel tower

Tower Climbs

Tower climbs are a great way to bring people together to experience a wonderfully different view of campus and the landscape of Durham. Tower climbs may be scheduled only during weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (with the last climb starting at 3:30 p.m.), and not on university holidays. 

All Tower Climbs are subject to weather restrictions. Reservations will be canceled in the event of rain and whenever temperatures are below 40F or above 85F. Every effort will be made to notify participants in advance.    

Rules and Policies

Only full-time Duke University employees, on university business, may schedule a Chapel tower climb.
By reserving a tower climb, the Duke University employee sponsor certifies that he or she is willing to follow the rules in the Individual Climber Liability Form.
To schedule a climb, please review the Tower Climb Policies and email dukechapel@duke.edu with the words “Tower Climb” in your subject line. The Responsible Party(ies) will report any damage or potentially unsafe conditions they notice to the Chapel Visitor Relations staff.


Who can reserve a tower climb?

Only full-time Duke University employees, on university business, may reserve a tower climb. By reserving a tower climb, the Duke employee agrees to supervise all participants in their climbing group.

Groups must have at least three (3) participants. No more than fifteen (15) people are allowed climb during a 30-minute slot.

When can tower climbs be scheduled?

Weekdays (excluding university holidays) in 30-minute increments between 10:30am and 4:00pm. The last climb begins at 3:30pm.

Since tower climbs are dependent on weather, our seasonal tower climb hours are as follows

  • Summer Hours (June 1 – August 1): 10:30am to 12:30pm
  • Winter Hours (December 1 – February 28): 1pm to 4pm

We request that tower climbs are scheduled at least ten (10) days in advance. All scheduling is at the discretion of the Chapel.

What if my group exceeds the maximum number of people for a 30-minute slot?

If you have between 16 and 30 people in a group, you may schedule two (2) consecutive tower climb slots (1- hour total).

Groups exceeding 30 participants will have to reserve three (3) or more consecutive tower climb slots. This reservation will be considered a Large Group Tower Climb.

Can minors participate in a tower climb?

Participants must be at least 16 years old. Children less than 16 years of age are not permitted to climb the tower.

How do I reserve a tower climb slot?

Request a tower climb reservation form by emailing dukechapel@duke.edu. By signing the reservation form, you agree to sponsor and supervise the climb and are responsible for ensuring that all participants follow the tower climb rules. 

On the form, you will provide 1) your Duke email and cell phone number, 2) the number of participants in your group, 3) a description of your group, 4) the date/time of your climb, and 5) your department’s fund code.

What is the cost of a tower climb?

There is no cost for a tower climb. However, we require a departmental fund code in case any damage is done during the climb that would incurs a charge for cleaning or repairs 

Do participants need to sign a waiver?

Yes. The tower staircase consists of 239 stairs that are circular, narrow, and steep, without handrails at certain parts. You may experience nausea, dizziness, fear of heights, and or claustrophobia while ascending the tower steps. Additionally, wasps will build nests on the tower roof during the warmer months of the year.

Participants climb the tower at their own risk and are encouraged to consider their well-being before they climb. We will send the tower climb sponsor a copy of the Individual Climber Liability form to share with all participants prior to the group’s reservation time.

How do we submit our signed waiver forms?

Tower Climb participants will sign the waiver as a group while checking in at the front desk on the day of the climb.
All participants for one 30-minute climb slot will sign a signature sheet indicating that they have read the Individual Climber Liability form and will follow the tower climb rules. If you are sponsoring two (2) or more consecutive tower climb groups, then each group will have their own signature sheet.

Do I need to wear a mask during the tower climb?

Per Duke University’s COVID protocols, you are required to wear a mask in the Chapel and during the tower climb if you are unvaccinated. If you are vaccinated, wearing a mask is optional. 

What is the inclement weather policy for tower climbs?

Tower climbs may be cancelled or rescheduled in cases of rain/snow, stormy weather, and extreme temperatures (less than 40 degrees or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit).

Is there a cancellation policy?

We request at least 24-hours notice for cancelling a tower climb reservation. 

Are there any fees or other penalties for late arrival?

The Chapel does not charge late fees for tower climb groups. However, we encourage groups to arrive at least 5 minutes before the start of their scheduled climb.

Arriving more than 10 minutes after the start of your climb slot may result in your reservation being cancelled. This is to ensure that your group will be able to climb the tower safely and to respect other tower climb reservations following yours.

How are Large Group Tower Climbs different from regular tower climb slots?

When a tower climb is reserved for 3 or more consecutive groups, it is considered a Large Group Tower Climb. Large Group Tower Climbs are run by the department sponsoring the climb, and require two (2) Duke Employees and one (1) volunteer to oversee the climb:

  • One Duke employee will supervise at the top of the staircase
  • One Duke employee will supervise at the bottom of the staircase
  • One volunteer will be seated outside to 1) have all participants sign the Individual Climber Liability

Form before the climb and 2) give participants a ‘239’ button at the end of the climb Large Group Tower Climbs must be scheduled at least two (2) weeks in advance.

After reserving a large group tower climb, the Duke employee sponsor(s) must schedule a 30-minute walk-thru at the Chapel to go over the event logistics. The walk-thru must be scheduled for a time at least one week in advance of the reservation date.