National parks like the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon often top the list of most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. You’ll find them alongside attractions like Disneyland and Disney World, Times Square, and Central Park.
But while our national parks are certainly a must-see for U.S. citizens and tourists to this country alike, it can be easy to forget that they aren’t theme parks. The landscapes and scenery that you can enjoy in destinations like Zion are natural and wild. With that comes inherent dangers that many tourists forget about in their rush to snap as many photos as they can. It also means that, unlike fixing a roller coaster, damage often isn’t a quick fix. This can leave popular parts of the park closed for months or even longer when disaster strikes.
Zion National Park has seen its share of damage this year, and with it, trail closures. And this past weekend, rockfall added one more closure to that list, leaving several hikers injured.
Rockfall on Cable Mountain Injures Three, Strands Others
On Saturday evening, three hikers were injured and several more were stranded while hiking Cable Mountain. A large rock slid down the side of Cable Mountain around 5:50 p.m. Saturday, not far from the popular Weeping Rock Shuttle Stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle loop.
The rock broke loose more than 3,000 feet above Weeping Rock, with rocks landing on the East Rim Trail. Luckily, the East Rim Trail was already closed. But hikers and sightseers near the area were showered by smaller rocks breaking loose, as well as branches, dust, and sand that rained down during the slide. One visitor was taken from the park by ambulance, while two others were treated at the scene. The stranded visitors did not require emergency rescue and instead were able to escape the blocked Weeping Rock Trail on their own.
The Zion Shuttle Loop was closed for 90 minutes following the rock slide. While it reopened after that, the Weeping Rock Shuttle Stop, which is shuttle stop #7, does remain closed at this time. The Weeping Rock Trail is also closed, joining a list of several other popular trails that have been closed most of the summer season as a result of storm damage and rockslides.
Last Month, a Summer Storm Closed Several Trails
From rockfalls to storm damage, there have been a variety of reasons why some of Zion’s most popular hiking trails have remained closed through the busy summer months.
On July 11, 2019, a severe thunderstorm caused damage throughout Zion National Park. The wind and water caused rockslides, downed trees, and more, and closed trails, roads, and other areas in the park. Repairing the damage required much more than simply clearing trails. Park officials, with the help of engineers, have been working to repair and in some cases rebuild many trails so that they can safely reopen to the public.
Trails that were closed following the storm included:
- Angels Landing
- Kayenta Trail
- West Rim Trail (from the Grotto Trailhead to Canyon Spring)
- Lower Emerald Pools Trail (the far end)
- Upper Emerald Pools Trail
Some of the areas of damage were worse than others. On the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, a massive boulder, over 20 feet by 10 feet, broke loose. It had been supporting a section of trail, which fell away as a result. On Kayenta Trail, boulders falling from far above the trail destroyed a section that was over 50 feet long. A section of retaining wall fell on the trail to Angels Landing, which left a hole in the trail that was 5 feet deep.
Trails Remain Closed Through the End of the Summer
Following the July 11th storm, many trails and damaged areas of the park reopened. But several remain closed today. That includes Upper Emerald Pools Trail and Hidden Canyon. Kayenta Trail is closed, though you can still hike the first 0.8 miles and then return to Grotto. The trail to Observation Point, East Rim Trail, remained closed from Weeping Rock. This closure will likely last much longer following the damage from the storm last weekend.
Other trails have experienced closures this year, but have since reopened. The Narrows, for instance, was closed during parts of this past spring due to high water levels. Melting snow from a late winter storm, as well as plenty of rain, are to blame. Any time water flow rates surpass 150 cubic feet per second, park officials close the trail, which requires hikers to trek through the Virgin River. Flash flood warnings also cause the trail to be temporarily closed.
Staying Safe in Zion National Park
While accidents do happen, millions of people hike Zion’s trails every year without incident. But visitors to the park do have a responsibility to do what they can to keep themselves and their fellow visitors safe. Check out these seven safety tips to learn how to do your part to create a fun and safe experience for yourself and those around you during your next visit.