While heavy snows are falling in Utah's snow country, in the southwestern corner of the state heavy rains have been soaking the region. In Zion National Park, those rains led to a washout that has closed the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway inside the park for an undetermined period.
Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth says the closure is expected to remain in effect until road crews are able to stabilize the damaged section of road. This could take a number of days to complete due to the forecast for more rain this week and the possibility of further road damage, he said today.
The closure means you can't currently drive into Zion from U.S. 89 on the east side of the park, but will have to find a detour. Alternate routes for travelers between U.S. Highway 89 and Zion Canyon are Utah SR 59 from Hurricane to Arizona SR 389 (1.5 hours—good for large vehicles); Utah SR 14 from Cedar City to Long Valley Junction (2 hours—steep grades/curves and possible winter conditions); or from I-15 to Utah SR 20 (2 hours—good for large vehicles).
According to a park release, the affected section of roadway is located about 2 miles west of the park's East Entrance, near Crazy Quilt Mesa. Almost 2 ½ inches of rain overnight caused runoff that eroded an approximately 300-foot-long area adjacent to and under the road. Large equipment, lack of turn-around areas, concerns about visitor safety, and the potential for other areas to have similar problems prompted the decision to close the road until it can be stabilized and thoroughly inspected, the statement said.
The closed section of the highway is from the East Entrance of the park to its junction with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The 6-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive remains open. People visiting Zion Canyon via the park's South Entrance (Springdale) who are camping, staying at the Zion Lodge or in the town of Springdale will not be in the closure area. Travelers and residents accessing Zion Canyon to or from Utah State Route 89 will need to use an alternate route during the closure.