A section of Utah’s Zion National Park will open a reservation lottery system for those who want to hike a famous, particularly dangerous trail, according to The Associated Press.
Park officials announced Friday that because of the growing popularity of Angels Landing that makes the already precarious trail even more complicated and dangerous, starting April 1, 2022 they will be instituting a lottery system to award permits for people to hike the trail.
First announced in August, officials said the plan announced Friday is what they came up with following the over 1,000 comments they received from the public with advice for the plan.
The park’s popularity spiked in recent years, as the yearly visitor total grew from 2.8 million to 4.5 million from 2011 to 2019.
Officials said Angels Landing was hiked by over 300,000 people in 2019 and is one of the most popular trails because of the cliffside views and pictures that can be taken from the trail.
The crowds are a distinct concern on the Angels Landing trail because of cliffs over the edge of the trail enclosed by chains and metal stakes in the rock. It is an area where hikers have fallen and died in the past.
Following a 2019 fatality, National Parks System spokeswoman Eleanor Siebers told CNN it was estimated that nine hikers had died falling from the trail since 2004.
An estimated 14 hikers have died from the Angels Landing portion of the trail since 1987, though the real figure could be as high as 20, according to a compilation of news articles from hiking guide website DownTheTrail.
For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.
The lottery will be fairer to visitors and reduce crowding on the trail, said superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh.
There will be two lotteries, one seasonal and another for one day ahead of planned hikes. Each drawing costs $6 per person to enter and people who win must pay a $3 per person fee. That will cover the cost of running the lottery and rangers to check permits on the trail.
The permit system will apply specifically to the narrowest section of the trail, often called the “chain section” because it has metal handholds driven into the rock.
Park officials did not immediately say how many people will be allowed per day, but planning documents outlined a previous experiment that limited visitors over Memorial Day weekend to 120 people per hour on the trail.
The new system is considered a pilot project and could be adjusted as needed. Zion is located about 160 miles (250 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas and 300 miles (483 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.