UPDATED: Riverside Walk, Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway reopen; other trails that suffered ‘major damage’ remain closed

Damages to the trail in Refrigerator Canyon after an intense storm Wednesday, Zion National Park, July 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

SPRINGDALE — The Riverside Walk in Zion has been reopened as of Friday afternoon, while the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and several other popular trails remain closed after heavy rains Wednesday that caused flooding, mudslides and rockfalls.

Update 4:45 p.m., July 13: Zion National Park officials have announced that the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway has been reopened.

Crews work to clean up the mudslides that occured after a storm in Zion National Park, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

The Angels Landing, Kayenta, Upper Emerald Pools trails and the portion of the West Rim Trail from the Grotto to Cabin Spring are still closed.

According to a press release from park officials, the Riverside Walk was covered in sand, debris and small rockfalls, with 3 feet of sand covering the trail in one area. Trail crews worked Wednesday and Thursday morning to clear the trail for it to be reopened Friday.

Shuttles have also resumed their normal route now that the Riverside Walk is clear. Previously, there was no access to The Narrows from the Temple of Sinewava, and the shuttles had been turning around at Big Bend.

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway after mud and debris were cleared off from a storm Wednesday, Zion National Park, July 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

The rains resulted in 3- to 4-foot-deep mud covering the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway in several areas, which overwhelmed the road drainage culverts and made the road impassable. After the mudslide, dozens of vehicles were either stranded in the 1.1-mile tunnel or stuck in the mud. Road crews plowed a path so the vehicles could exit late Wednesday night.

Crews made significant progress clearing the road on Thursday and hope to complete the clearing of the road and culverts by late afternoon on Friday, according to the press release.

The West Rim between Cabin Springs and the Grotto is also still closed, including the popular Angels Landing Trail. A section of the retaining wall failed at the Refrigerator Canyon area of the West Rim Trail, creating an 5-by-8-foot gap in the trail. (See photo above)

Park officials are encouraging visitors to use Observation Point Trail or Hidden Canyon Trail as alternatives. The West Rim campsites are open, accessible from Lava Point.

“Both trails at the Grotto suffered major damage. It will be a while before they open,” said Aly Baltrus, chief of interpretation and visitor services, in the press release.

Damages to the trail at the Lower Emerald Pools after an intense storm Wednesday, Zion National Park, July 13, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

A significant portion of the Emerald Pools Trail is also closed. A 20-by-10-foot boulder that supported part of the Lower Emerald Pools Trail just past the alcove at the end of the trail fell, leaving a deep void. Two large retaining walls also fell.

Several large boulders fell and crushed approximately 50 feet of the Kayenta Trail. The Kayenta Trail, Upper Emerald Pools Trail and a small section of the Lower Emerald Pools Trail will not reopen until repairs have been made. The Lower Emerald Pools waterfall can be seen from the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, but visitors can not walk behind it. The park recommends the Watchman Trail, Weeping Rock and Riverside Walk as alternative hikes.

Other estimated trail reopening dates will not be released until further engineering assessments of the damaged areas can be completed.

“Where the trails are extensively damaged we are looking for safe, temporary pathways to hopefully reopen them soon, but some may not have re-route options given the terrain,” Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said.

Now that the shuttles are running normally, with the exception of the Grotto Shuttle Stop, the Watchman, South and Lava Point Campgrounds and the Zion Lodge are fully operational.

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Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

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