Australia’s Uluru closed to climbers on Friday after a decades-long battle by the Indigenous owners of the sacred site.
Thousands of people swarmed to Uluru this year before an official ban kicked in.
Anyone now caught climbing Uluru will be in breach of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act and could face heavy fines.
To commemorate the climbing ban, public celebrations will take place this weekend when the dismantling of the trail and its railing is also expected to begin.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of tourists clambered up the Unesco World Heritage-listed 348-metre (1,142-ft) monolith, formerly known as Ayers Rock.
Authorities opened the climb mid-morning amid clear skies, after blustery conditions delayed early trekkers.
Uluru is a top tourist draw in Australia despite its remote desert location near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
While most visitors don’t climb its steep, red-ochre flanks, the impending ban triggered a surge in people taking a final opportunity to make the trek.
Nearly 400,000 visitors flocked to the Australian landmark in the year to end-June, government data shows.
The Anangu people, the traditional owners of Uluru, have called for the climb to be closed since 1985, when the park was returned to indigenous control.
The Anangu say Uluru has deep spiritual significance as a route their ancestors took.
"This is our home," read a sign at the base of the rock. "Please don’t climb."
“People wanting to climb the rock before it closes shows how Uluru has been framed as some kind of fair-ground attraction rather than a cultural and spiritual treasure,” said Dr Phil Chilton of Curtin University. "When it comes to Aboriginal culture, it’s treated like an artefact, like a novelty on a postcard."
Dr Chilton added that hard-Right politician Pauline Hanson had contributed to a “frenzy” of people climbing Uluru by “setting it up as something that was somehow white Australia’s birthright being taken away”.
One of the last climbers, Jason Dudas from Las Vegas, said: "Well, I know there’s a big controversy on the hike, and I respect the First Nations here, but since it was an optional thing to do, I decided to do it and now that it’s officially closed, I won’t be hiking it anymore."
Elder Nelly Patterson said she was relieved at the ban coming into force. "Really good, I’m really happy," she said to cheers from the crowd.
The Oct. 26 closure marks 34 years since the land was given back to the Anangu people, an important moment in the struggle by indigenous groups to retrieve their homelands.
Local Anangu ranger Tjiangu Thomas told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation it had been an important day for the community and the region.
"It’s rather emotional, having Elders who picked up this long journey before I was born, to close the climb, and now they are no longer here but we are carrying on their legacy," he said.