Zion National Park begins lottery for Angels Landing hike permits

Zion National Park begins its new pilot program requiring tickets to hike the iconic Angels Landing Trail on Friday, and officials are asking prospective visitors for some flexibility as they enter the lottery set up to prevent overcrowding.

Amid record-breaking numbers of visitors in recent years — Zion saw more than 5 million people in 2021, making it the second-most-visited national park in the US — park officials implemented the new system to tamp down the crowds and maintain visitor safety along the sometimes-precarious clifftop trail.

On Friday, people who entered the initial lottery system that started in January will be taking their turns on the hike, just as officials open up another lottery for the much busier summer season that starts in June.

“Ultimately, the goal of this permit program is to improve visitor experience,” Susan McPartland, Zion’s Visitor Use manager, said during a call with local media on Thursday.

Past crowding on the trail, especially during holiday weekends and other peak visitation times, led many to complain that they couldn’t enjoy the tail. The iconic hike features a steep ascent to a rocky cliff face some 1,500 feet above the Virgin River canyon below ..

A crowded Angels Landing in Zion National Park, date unspecified.

Safety was a major concern as well, with large sections of the trail carrying hikers close to sheer cliffs, sometimes with chains bolted into the sandstone to help visitors feel safer. More than a dozen people have died on the trail since 2000.

The permit system should help control the crowds, with hikers scheduled to start the hike during different blocks of time. Permits are required at all times of the year and times of day, with park staff checking IDs at the trailhead and rangers assigned to walk the trail and patrol the Scout Lookout area, a spot part of the way up the hike that meets with other trails.

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