Zion closes shuttle stops as search for hiker continues

Jetal Agnihotri, 29, was believed to be hiking The Narrows but didn’t meet up with other members of her party .

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Hikers are photographed in The Narrows, in Zion National Park, Wednesday May 6, 2015. The popular hike is prone to flash floods like the one that caught up several hikers Friday, Aug. 19, 2022. One hiker was still missing Sunday after that flood.

Zion National Park on Sunday halted shuttle access past The Grotto stop as search and rescue teams continue to look for a woman believed to have been swept up in a flash flood Friday.

Shuttle access to Weeping Rock and Big Bend, as well as to the Temple of Sinawava — the westernmost stop and the jumping-off point for hiking a popular slot canyon trail called The Narrows — has been temporarily suspended. In addition, permits for top-down hiking and camping in The Narrows have been suspended as the search for the missing hiker continues.

Jetal Agnihotri of Tucson, Ariz., was reported missing to park rangers Friday night after failing to rendezvous with other members of her hiking party. Agnihotri, 29, was believed to be hiking The Narrows around 2:15 p.m., when park officials received a report that several hikers had been swept off their feet by a flash flood in that area.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for The Narrows at 12:56 p.m., which the park posted on its website. However, much of the park does not have cell service and anyone already in the area may not have been aware of the warning.

At least one person who was caught up in the flood was found injured near the Temple of Sinawava and was transported by ambulance to an area hospital. Several others were stranded and told by park rangers to stay put until water levels receded. As hikers exited the area, rangers asked them if everyone in their party was accounted for.

“At that time, no hikers were reported missing,” said Jonathan Shafer, a spokesperson for the park. He noted that no hikers other than Agnihotri have since been reported missing.

Shafer said he did not know how many people were swept up in the flood.

Search and rescue officials do not have a timeline for when the rescue efforts will turn to recovery efforts.

“At this point, the search and rescue operation is ongoing,” Shafer said. “And our incident commander, the park superintendent and park rangers will have a conversation to determine the best way to proceed.”

Flash floods are common in Zion during monsoon season, which generally lasts from mid-July to mid-September. In 2015, seven canyoneers died after being swept up in one in Keyhole Canyon on the east end of the park. Their bodies were recovered nearly a week after the storm.

Other popular hikes in Zion, such as Angels Landing, remain open. The shuttle in Springdale is also unaffected.