Days after Zion National Park announced it would stop issuing permits for a popular trail, the “top-down” hike through the Narrows has been reopened — at least for the rest of 2018.
The national park, located in Utah about 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas, announced Tuesday it would stop issuing permits for the hike after the owner of private land in the canyon barred access to a portion of the trail. The park said Friday that access through the public land had been granted through the end of 2018, with “discussions” taking place for a more permanent solution, according to a news release.
Park visitors are allowed to explore the lower 4-mile section, mostly wading in the Virgin River at the bottom of the slot canyon, without a permit. The entire 16-mile trail can be hiked “top-down” with a permit, and campsites allow some hikers to make an overnight trip.
The route will reopen Saturday morning, according to the release. Permits for the backcountry trail can be picked up at the park’s visitor center.
Washington County, which Zion is located in, was granted a temporary recreational access license through the end of 2018, but “discussions are ongoing” to keep the trail open for longer, the release said.
The trail, one of the park’s most popular backcountry hikes, starts on Bureau of Land Management property north of Zion and follows the Virgin River downstream, entering the park boundary after crossing several miles of private land. Due to the steep terrain surrounding the trail, the canyon cannot be accessed on foot without crossing private land, Cindy Purcell, management assistant for Zion, said Tuesday.
Purcell said the owners of the land on the trail have had a verbal agreement with the National Park Service and BLM to allow hiker access. The park said on Tuesday that it hadn’t received complaints about the arrangement.
The permits were halted Tuesday after a ranger on patrol over the weekend noticed no-trespassing signs on the edge of the private property.
The park service allows no more than 90 people on the backcountry trail at a time — 40 day hikers and 50 overnight campers — with half of the permits available up to three months in advance and the rest on a first-come, first-served basis.