One of Zion National Park’s oldest, most renowned trails, the Canyon Overlook trail, will look quite different in the coming months. Park officials released a press statement outlining a host of improvements to the historic trail, like fresh tread, rehabilitated masonry, and new handrails.
Work is already underway each Monday through Thursday, which means park officials will routinely close the trail until completion. If you are one Zion National Park’s record five million expected guests this year and want to walk the Canyon Overlook trail, then either plan on a weekend visit between now and June. Or wait until summer to take your trip. Park officials expect to reopen the trail to full capacity usage in roughly two months.
“Work is underway, and the NPS anticipates completing the project in early-June. In order to keep the trail open for as many hikers as possible, the NPS is scheduling work Monday to Thursday each week. While we may need to close Canyon Overlook Trail at other times, the NPS plans to keep the trail open on most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays,” the statement said.
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a popular route for visitors of Zion National Park. It offers short, one-mile distance, mild elevations, and gorgeous views of the entire canyon.
When did Zion National Park designate the Canyon Overlook trail?
After federal officials designated Zion a national park in 1919, rangers began carving out the first trails and tunnels. The builds were meant to increase pedestrian access. The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel opened the park to a score of new visitors, and by 1932, the park needed an easy, accessible trail to give the most casual guests a reason to hike.
The then-newly formed Civilian Conservation Corps completed the Canyon Overlook trail in 1933. It immediately complemented the Angels Landing, Riverside Walk, Emerald Pools, Observation Point, and West Rim trails which predated it about a decade.
Now over 90 years old, the trail needs a little rehabilitation; especially considering the growth in popularity of national parks in recent years. Zion National Park currently ranks as the second-most visited park in the entire country, lagging well behind the first-place finisher: the Great Smoky Mountains. The Smokies run between the Tennessee and North Carolina borders.
The sudden rise in visitation across the entire park system has left some officials frustrated and others excited. Many parks breaking attendance records don’t have enough resources to handle the rush in popularity.
Pitt Grewe, director of Utah’s Outdoor Recreation, said in January that he appreciates the public’s desire to get outdoors. But he also added that parks need to completely re-envision their capacity plans. The new planning will preserve the parks from overcrowding, graffiti, and debris.
“We know of the benefits of getting outside, breathing the fresh air, getting a little exercise. They have physical and mental benefits, so it’s great to see people doing that,” he told KSL. “Now the steps that we need to take are proper planning to be able to manage that. But we also need education and stewardship.”