ST. GEORGE, Utah — A permit is now required to hike Angels Landing at Zion National Park. Some of the first people to hike it Friday with the new system in place said it was less crowded and felt safer.
Susan McPartland, the park’s visitor use manager, said the reduced crowding and enhanced safety is exactly why the new pilot program was put into place — to improve people’s experience, as visitation has risen in recent years.
“We are trying to … make sure that folks have that time to go at their own pace, enjoy those beautiful views and really hope that we can improve how they feel safe,” she told KUER-FM.
There are two lotteries for Angels Landing. The seasonal one opens months in advance and the other can be entered the day before hiking it. McPartland emphasized that it’s a pilot program and may require some tweaks. But by the afternoon on day one, she said things were going smoothly.
There’s a thick metal chain to hold onto, as hikers scramble up steep rocks to the top of Angels Landing. During busy days in 2021, park officials say people had to wait multiple hours to make the trek.
The hike has been on Abbie Crowell’s bucket list for years. The Ohio resident wasn’t too excited about the new lottery system because she had to apply for a certain date months before her April 1 visit.
“But now having hiked it, I think it’s a good idea, I do. It would not have been the same hike if it had been crowded,” she said. “It was fantastic. It’s a wonderful hike. Everyone should do it. But I can’t imagine doing that with people, you know, crawling all over each other.”
Crowell heard from friends and families that have done the hike before about the crowds and said she would have turned around if she saw too many people.
When Tom and Connie Peter were planning a trip to the park from Florida they chose to go on the first day permits were required. They figured it would make it better.
“I think it helped control the number of people on the trail and made it a nice experience,” he said. “It was about the right number of people on the trail today.”
The ideal number of hikers a day is about 800, McPartland said. Those permit holders are then spread through different time frames throughout the day. The program could help inform a potential park-wide reservation system or other trail-specific lotteries, she noted.
Flavio Bonilla, who was visiting southern Utah from New Jersey with his dad, applied for a permit Thursday while hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park and got ahold of one. He said having the crowds under control made it worthwhile.
“It made it a lot safer, I totally feel like it did, especially when we got to the top and climbing back,” he said after finishing the hike. “(We didn’t have to) worry about bottlenecking or having to slow things down. It felt safer.”