ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah — Along with good equipment and plenty of water, hikers planning on visiting one of Zion National Park's most popular trails will also need to bring something else starting Friday: a permit.
Because of increasingly heavy crowds descending on the Angels Landing hike each and every year, the National Park Service instituted a reservation system pilot program to help ease the burden and increase safety where 13 hikers have fallen and died since 2000.
While permits have already been claimed through May, the next seasonal lottery to hike the trail between June 1 and August 31 also opens Friday. However, for those last-minute planners, a "day-before" lottery is held each day before a desired hiking date.
"So the pilot, permit program that we are managing now, only affects folks who want to go to Angels Landing," said Jonathan Shafer, Public Affairs Specialist at Zion. "It does not affect folks who need or want to come into the park, you don’t need a reservation to visit, it doesn’t affect riding the shuttle, you don’t need to get a ticket.”
The five-mile trail is a signature hike in the park, filled with majestic views. However, it is also known for a narrow and steep route — where hikers hang on to a chain handrail in order to not fall off the side.
“If it’s not the most dangerous trail in America, it’s one of the top five,” said Travis Heggie, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University.
Those who don't have a permit are still allowed to hike to Scout Lookout.
The permit program is currently only temporary as park officials monitor its effectiveness keeping the trails clear and increasing experiences for hikers.