ST. GEORGE — Several popular Zion National Park trails remain closed due to substantial damage from an intense thunderstorm July 11.
Update Friday, July 27, 8 a.m. According to a press release from Zion National Park, Hidden Canyon Trail has been reopened. However, the area has experienced several similar rockfalls over the past month, and according to a professional geologist who assessed the site, there is potential for sand and rock debris to continue falling in the area.
Update Saturday, July 21, 10 a.m. On Friday, a rockfall, mainly consisting of sand and small rocks, came down on Hidden Canyon Trail, adding it to the list of closed trails.
No one was injured, according to a press release sent Saturday from park officials. Two similar rockfalls occurred in the same area on July 2 and July 4, covering approximately 45 feet of trail in 1 1/2 feet of sand.
Hidden Canyon Trail will remain closed until a hazard geologist examines the situation and the trail can be safely cleared.
Angels Landing, Kayenta, Upper Emerald Pools, West Rim from the Grotto Trailhead to Cabin Spring, and the far end of Lower Emerald Pools Trail were closed as a result of the July 11 storms and will remain so until crews, with the help of engineers, can repair or reroute the trails, according to a statement Wednesday from park officials. In the meantime, the affected trails are unsafe and closed to visitors.
Engineers and trail staff have been assessing the damage on each of the trails over the past few days and further engineering assessments will continue next week. In most of the drainages within Zion Canyon they have found at least minor damage to trail surfaces, culverts and retaining walls.
In three sections, the damage was substantial and created safety issues due to extensive rockfalls, trail and wall failures and loss of structural integrity from undermining erosion. These three sections are Refrigerator Canyon on West Rim Trail, a large section of Kayenta Trail and the far end of Lower Emerald Pools Trail.
In Refrigerator Canyon, an area visitors must pass through on their way to and from Angels Landing, a section of retaining wall failed, causing an 18-foot gap in the trail that is over 5 feet deep.
As a result, the West Rim Trail between Cabin Spring near wilderness campsite No. 1 and the Grotto Trailhead in Zion Canyon is closed. This includes Angel’s Landing Trail. Visitors are encouraged to use Observation Point Trail as an alternative. Hidden Canyon Trail was also listed as an alternative but will not be available until damages from the recent slide can be remedied. West Rim campsites are open and accessible from the Lava Point Trailhead.
On Lower Emerald Pools Trail, a 20-foot-by-10-foot boulder that was supporting part of the trail fell, leaving a deep void in the trail. Two large retaining walls underlying and supporting the trail also failed. The Lower Emerald Pools waterfall is still visible from the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, but visitors can no longer walk behind the waterfall. Riverside Walk or the Pa’rus Trail are recommended as alternatives.
On the Kayenta Trail, numerous large boulders fell and crushed about 50 feet of trail, rendering it impassable. Upper Emerald Pools Trail is also closed because there is no way to access the trail without hiking either Lower Emerald Pools Trail or the Kayenta Trail, which are damaged and closed. Watchman Trail is suggested as an alternative for Upper Emerald Pools Trail and Kayenta Trail.
Park staff and engineers continue to identify strategies to fix or reroute the trails safely.
“While we are examining possible temporary reroutes to open trails, cliffs and steep terrain limit those opportunities,” park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in the statement. “Extensive repair work will be required before some trails can be opened.
“Given the engineering and extensive repairs required, it is too soon to estimate when each closed trail may again be open to visitor use. Trails will be opened as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we urgently request visitors adhere to the closures to avoid risk of injury.”
Closures are being enforced due to unstable and unreliable trail integrity. Violating a posted closure may result in a fine.