There's been a lot of comment on the Traveler this year about the safety of the Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park, so don't jump to conclusions if you visit the park on September 1 and find the trail has been closed. It's only temporary, and it's not for a reason most of us might expect.
A lot of stuff goes on behind the scenes to keep parks running smoothly and safely, and some of it has to do with reducing the impacts of people on heavily-used areas. Let's face it, lots of visitors can put a strain on facilities and the natural environment, but we tend to take things like trails, visitor centers and other conveniences for granted.
Maintaining park facilities is especially challenging in areas that can't be reached by vehicles, and that includes the Angels Landing Trail at Zion. It will be closed on Tuesday, September 1 from 6 a.m. to 12 noon. Here's an explanation from the park:
The closure will be from the Grotto Trailhead in Zion Canyon to the area just west of Scout Lookout. This portion of the trail is also the southern end of the 14-mile West Rim Trail, which begins near Lava Point in the northern portion of the park.
This closure is to provide for the safety of the public and park employees during helicopter operations to remove barrels of human waste from the composting toilets at Scout Lookout. In addition, the Big Bend Scenic Viewpoint along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will also be closed during the same time period to facilitate helicopter operations.
Periodically the park has to perform maintenance as well as remove the waste from the composting toilets at Scout Lookout in order for them to function properly. The composting toilets were installed in 2004 to replace the pre-existing vault toilets which had to be emptied every year to keep up with the amount of use from visitors along the very popular Angels Landing Trail.
Zion National Park apologizes for any inconvenience that visitors may experience during this temporary closure.
There are certainly plenty of other great hikes in Zion that can fill up half a day, so just plan ahead of you'll be in the park on Tuesday. This maintenance activity was planned for a weekday morning after the summer rush was over and before winter weather precludes the work.
Just one more reminder that there's a lot more to running a park than meets the eye.