This Popular Hike in Zion National Park Will Require Permits Next Year — What to Know

The park hopes that the new system will help preserve one of its most popular sites.

One of the most popular hikes in the National Park Service (NPS) is about to become harder to access. In order to protect the Angels Landing trail at Zion National Park, park officials announced on Friday that they'll be implementing a limited number of permits available via lottery for access starting April 1, 2022.

Views of Zion Park mountains from Angel's Landing during summer.
Canvan Images/Getty Images

"Angels Landing is one of the most iconic destinations in Zion National Park and issuing permits will make going there fair for everyone." the park's superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a statement. "The system we've put in place will reduce crowding on the trail, address safety concerns, and make it easy for visitors to plan ahead."

Starting Jan. 3, 2022, visitors can enter the online lottery through recreation.gov for a chance to get a permit that will allow access to any part of the Angels Landing trail. There will be two kinds of lotteries — one that's offered seasonally and another "day-before" system for last-minute slots. A non-refundable $6 entry fee is required for both lotteries, and those who are successful will pay another $3 fee per person, with the funds going to help staff up and operate the new system. Billed as a pilot program, the park will make adjustments as needed.

The new policy is the result of feedback from nearly 1,000 members of the public and local stakeholders, as well as the successful lottery and permit systems that the NPS has been using throughout the pandemic as attendance in many national parks has skyrocketed. Visitors to Zion have been on a growth streak, rising from 2.8 million visitors in 2011 to about 4.5 million people before the pandemic in 2019.

Often considered a can't-miss experience, the 5.4-mile round-trip hike takes about four hours for most people and is in the park's "strenuous hikes" category with an elevation change of 1,488 feet. It was named in 1916 by Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher who said that "only an angel could land there." The NPS site notes, "Many who go there want to experience untamed adventure and get a classic photograph."

Safety and logistical information — including watching for weather conditions and wildlife, as well as staying hydrated — is available to make the experience as smooth as possible. But the biggest warning comes when going up the final half-mile ascent, which requires hanging onto a chain while on a knife-edge ridge. Without sugarcoating it, Zion notes that since 1930, most of the deadly accidents have taken place on this section.

For those without a permit, the West Rim trail is available from the Grotto to Scout Lookout.

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