SPRINGDALE, Utah — Zion National Park in southern Utah eclipsed five million visitors in 2021, just like Yellowstone, Zion had their most visitations in park history last year.
"We know going forward in order to sustain the level of visitation that we have right now and that we may have going forward it’s really important that we plan for the future," said Jonathan Shafer of Zion National Park.
Starting on April 1, the famous chain section on Angels Landing will require a permit that people can attain through two different lotteries, it's a new pilot permit program.
Angels Landing is a strenuous hike that takes people 5.4-mile round-trip journey that gains 1,488 feet in elevation.
The Trail to Angels Landing is open! NPS maintenance staff reinstalled a chain support rod. Plan all of your hikes in Zion by visiting: https://t.co/ib7XbWMEwS— Zion National Park (@ZionNPS) March 15, 2022
"Angels Landing is one of the most iconic destinations in the park and it is one of the most popular, we literally have thousands of people come here every year to go and see Angels Landing," said Shafer. "In response to visitors' comments about Angels Landing we’ve implemented a new permit system."
Hikers have two different choices for long-term planners the lottery system opens up two months in advance and lasts for almost a month. The lottery period people try to win is for a three-month period.
For example, if you want to hike Angels Landing from anytime June 1-August 31 you need to enter your selected dates in the lottery anytime between April 1 and April 20.
“We wanted to build a system that would be accessible, flexible and fair," said Shafer.
Zion also offers a lottery for people like me who aren't very good at planning, the day before lottery gives those types of people a chance to get a permit while visiting the park.
For this lottery, people can apply online from 12:01 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and the permit is awarded at four o'clock to hike the next day.
Angels Landing is a bucket list hike for many people, but it does come with some serious hazards, especially making your way up or down narrow passages well supported with chains.
People are responsible for their own safety in Zion and people have died hiking Angels Landing, although most of those have happened past the chain section on the very top where people like to hang out and take that special picture.
Poor weather conditions can make Angels Landing a really dangerous hike, but the popularity of this hike can also make this hike sketchy with people navigating up on down at the same time in some narrow places.
Even if hikers don't get a permit they can still hike to the top of Scouts Landing just below the chain sections, this area offers outstanding views and also includes a cool beginning section, hiking through Refrigerator Canyon and up Walter's Wiggles.
Zion National Park also features several other hikes including the narrows and other hikes that can accommodate any skill level.
"There is still plenty of things to do here in Zion whether that is hiking up to Scout Lookout or whether that is going on one of the other hikes around the park or just enjoying a ride on the park shuttle," said Shafer. "There isn’t a bad day in Zion."
When I was a kid my family was able to drive into Zion during the summer, people now need to take a shuttle spring, summer and fall because the canyon just isn't big enough to handle the traffic.
Zion National Park is working to find a sustainable balance moving forward that allows a good guest experience while also preserving the natural beauty that makes this place one of a kind.
"We are going to be planning over the next year for how we can accommodate people in the future and we are looking forward to sharing an update at the end of the year on our visitor use planning process, so stay tuned," said Shafer.
Zion National Park has been planning a new visitors center on the east side of the tunnel that might also help spread out the visitors in the park.