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Massive rockslide to keep part of Zion closed for now

Heavy traffic expected at Zion National Park over the Thanksgiving holidays.

(Ally O'Rullian | National Park Service) Dust is seen on the ground at Weeping Rock in Zion National Park after a rockfall on the cliff above on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.

A popular hiking trail and shuttle stop in Zion National Park will remain closed in the wake of last week’s rockslide that blanketed the area in dust until scientists and maintenance staff can assess the stability of the rock in the area.

The rockfall occurred midafternoon on Nov. 15 when a cloud of dust and debris cascaded down a cliff in Zion Canyon, covering the Weeping Rock trail area and the main road, which temporarily interrupted the park’s shuttle service.

Fortunately, park spokesperson Jonathan Shafer said, no one was injured in the slide. Unlike the August 2019 landslide that deposited 435,000 cubic feet of debris at Weeping Rock and resulted in the trail’s closure until last November, he explained, the most recent slide produced more dust than debris.

“There is some debris, but it fell relatively high on the trail above Weeping Rock and is slowly working its way down,” Shafer said. “Zion is a highly erosive landscape, and these slides are part of a normal canyon-forming activity. The rock that starts up high in Zion Canyon is going to work its way down, and any rock you see on the canyon floor started somewhere higher.”

While the shuttle bus service reopened a few hours after last week’s slide, the Weeping Rock trail, shuttle stop and parking area will remain closed to the public out of an abundance of caution until park scientists and staff can ensure the area is stable and safe.

Shafer said park officials have been working with the Utah Geological Survey to conduct surveys and gain a better understanding of how the Weeping Rock area’s landscape is changing over time.

“We want to have a good understanding of the geology of the area so that we can make informed choices about how to manage it going forward,” he said.

Another closure, albeit unrelated to last week’s rockslide, is the Zion Lodge trail bridge to Emerald Pools. Hikers can still access Emerald Pools from the Grotto shuttle stop on the Kayenta Trail, park officials stated in a news release.

The Big Bend area is also closed until next spring while construction continues to repair significant cracking to the cement on the edges of the paved area. In addition, Kolob Canyons Road in west Zion is closed beyond the Taylor Creek Trailhead while work continues to repave the road.

Visitors wanting to climb Angels Landing must apply for a permit the day before their planned hike and carry identification to present to rangers, according to the release. Hikers are also advised to arrive early so they don’t miss the start time on their permit.

Nearly 4.7 million visitors thronged Zion National Park last year. Heavy traffic is expected in Springdale, outside the park’s main entrance and throughout the park over the Thanksgiving holidays this weekend. Park officials are cautioning visitors to expect lengthy waits to board Zion shuttle buses and long lines at entrance stations, visitor centers, restrooms, trailheads and shuttle busses.