Access to Zion Narrows is restored and the land is protected from development in perpetuity

Zion National Park, Utah - The Narrows hike

Thomas J. Story

A dispute between the federal government and the owners of a beloved piece of private property adjoining Zion National Park almost resulted in the public losing access to one of the Southwest’s greatest hiking trails. Instead, the situation has been resolved in a way that guarantees public access to the 16-mile Zion Narrows trail forever.

The trail is an iconic Zion National Park attraction, but the first several miles of it are outside of park boundaries. One stretch, the mile-long Simon Gulch section, is on private property. Simmering tension over the value of the land led to the erection of “For Sale” signs and vague threats of trespassing fees from the owners but, amazingly, the situation has been settled. Hikers are now allowed back in, not just for now, but “in perpetuity,” according to Diane Regas, CEO of The Trust for Public Land, an organization that brokered the deal.

The land is also protected from development, meaning that future generations of hikers are guaranteed the current spectacular beauty of the Zion Narrows trail, which lies at the bottom of a 1,000-foot-deep canyon carved by the Virgin River.

The deal doesn’t change the need for permits—the trail has always been restricted to 90 visitors per day and that isn’t changing.  But those lucky 90 can now hike with a little more spring in their step knowing that the red-rock scenery will remain unspoiled forever.