Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. Its rough terrain can be a playground for hikers. However, it’s home to a few trails that can be incredibly unforgiving for those who dare to challenge them.
Do your research before heading out for a hike. You don’t want to put yourself or a loved one in a dangerous situation. L
et’s look at a few dangerous hikes in Zion National Park that you might want to investigate before lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trail. Let’s get started!
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks. The park sits in the state’s southwest corner, just north of the Arizona-Utah border in the city of Springdale.
The park is 146,597 acres. Its highest point is Horse Ranch Mountain, which sits at an elevation of 8,726, while Coal Pits Wash is the lowest point at 3,666 feet elevation.
Attendance at the park has steadily increased over the years. The park had a record-breaking year in 2021, welcoming more than 5 million visitors. Visitors frequent the park to experience the red canyons, epic hiking trails, and one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country.
The scenic drive is a great way to experience this national park if you’re just passing through the area.
President William Howard Taft designated the land as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909. However, the National Park Service (NPS) director, Horace Albright, created a proposal to enlarge the national monument, upgrade its designation to a national park and change its name.
The name Zion was selected for its ease of pronunciation and popularity amongst the abundance of Mormons in the area.
What Is Zion National Park Known For?
From the moment you step foot in Zion National Park, it’s an experience unlike any other. The park is most known for its hiking, rock climbing, and bright red canyon walls.
The park is home to some incredible short and all-day hikes. Spaceshot, Moonlight Buttress, and Prodigal Son walls may be short, but they’re first-class climbing opportunities.
Visitors to Zion National Park often want to spend a few days exploring the park. They’ll either stay at Zion Lodge or one of the three campgrounds managed by the NPS. There are opportunities for overnight camping outside established campgrounds, but it requires a backcountry permit.
Pro Tip: If you want to visit Zion National Park, statistically this is The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park.
How Many Hiking Trails Are in Zion National Park?
Hundreds of miles of trails are waiting for exploration in Zion National Park. While the park lists 16 or so common trails, AllTrails records over 100 various trails within the park.
This park is great for those who enjoy hiking in rugged and difficult terrains. While the park has some challenging hikes, it also has flat and paved trails that are ADA compliant and easy for anyone to enjoy.
These Are the 3 Most Dangerous Hikes in Zion National Park
Zion National Park has some very dangerous hikes if you’re a thrill seeker and want to live a bit dangerous. Sadly, serious accidents, including fatalities, occur somewhat frequently. If you plan to do any of these hikes, do your research and take the entire experience seriously.
1. Angel’s Landing
Location: Northern section of the park (Bus stop #6 – The Grotto)
About: Angel’s Landing is not only one of the most popular hikes in the park but also one of the most dangerous. The trail gets its name from a Methodist minister’s initial thought that the spot in the canyon was the perfect place where only an angel could land. Unfortunately, the popularity of this hike has forced the park to institute a lottery permit program.
Hikers on this trail experience a 1,488 elevation gain over the 5.4-mile round-trip hike. The hike typically takes four hours to complete, but it can vary considerably based on your physical capabilities. Walter’s Wiggles is a challenging portion of the trail that includes a series of 21 very steep switchbacks.
Why It’s Dangerous: Angel’s Landing is extremely dangerous due to the massive cliffs and no guardrails in large sections of the hike. Guests have fallen to their death on this trail.
Depending on the time of year you visit, the extreme heat can make it even more challenging. Most of the hike is relatively manageable, but the last half mile is extremely dangerous, and hikers must take extreme caution.
2. The Narrows and Keyhole Canyon
Location: Many guests to Zion National Park dream of hiking The Narrows. Most hikers start the trail from the Temple of Sinawava by taking the Riverside Walk.
About: Hiking The Narrows is an opportunity to hike through the Virgin River as it cuts through canyon walls that stretch a thousand feet above the riverbed. Hikers have a couple of options for experiencing this one-of-a-kind experience.
Hiking from the bottom-up doesn’t require a wilderness permit and allows hikers to hike through the river and turn around when they’ve reached their limit. However, a through-hike from Chamberlain Ranch will require a wilderness permit as most hikers will find it too challenging to complete in a single day.
Why It’s Dangerous: Hiking The Narrows is incredibly dangerous because of the constantly changing water conditions and the risk of flash floods. The water conditions can change in seconds and create a deadly situation.
Deaths have occurred in the canyon due to flash flooding ripping through the canyon walls. Once hikers enter the canyon, there’s virtually no place to seek shelter as the flood waters and the various debris they bring with them smash their way through the canyon.
3. Observation Point
Location: Accessing the East Mesa Trail to hike to Observation Point will require a high-clearance and 4-wheel-drive vehicle. The roads can be challenging to navigate, and low-clearance vehicles could sustain serious damage or find themselves stuck.
About: This hike is a 6.8-mile round-trip hike. Hikers can experience forests filled with ponderosa and pinyon/juniper trees that add to the natural beauty of this area.
Many find the view from Observation Point to be better than that of Angel’s Landing. However, while there aren’t 21 switchbacks to get to Observation Point, the hike is twice as long as Angel’s Landing.
Why It’s Dangerous: Hiking to Observation Point can be extremely dangerous. The hike takes four to six hours to complete, including a more than 2,000 feet elevation gain. There have been two deaths along this trail – two too many.
There are areas where hikers will find themselves near cliffs that could become deadly should they slip or fall. Take your time and avoid stepping on any rocks that are unstable or loose.
What Is the Best Month to Visit Zion National Park?
Zion National Park is open year-round but typically welcomes 70% of its guests between April and September. Hiking during the summer can make it possible to hike The Narrows and up to Angel’s Landing.
However, you’ll likely be battling massive crowd levels and struggle to get permits or timed-entry passes to enter the park. We recommend visiting in late September and early October to enjoy minimal crowds and quiet trails.
Pro Tip: Use our Zion National Park Road Trip Guide to ensure you have an epic adventure!
Is Hiking in Zion National Park Worth It?
One of the best ways to experience any national park is hiking in it, especially Zion National Park. You can find trails for various hiking abilities, even if it means taking a very short stroll along the paved trail along the river.
Looking around the surrounding landscapes and seeing the natural beauty can help you appreciate the park’s beauty. Make sure you take your time and take the proper precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe while hiking.
Is hiking Zion National Park on your bucket list? Tell us what hike you want to do first in the comments!
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