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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools Trail System Reopens After 10 Years

A photo of a woman cutting ribbon at Emerald Pools Trail.
Lexi Peery
Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh, George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation President Lisa Eccles and Zion Forever Project Director Mark Preiss open the Emerald Pools trail system.

After a decade of closure, Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools trail system is now fully open to the public.

Heavy rains and mudslides in 2010 closed some of the trails, but after years of work and $1.2 million in funding, the three Emerald Pools trails are ready to be hiked.

Tony Ballard is a roads supervisor for the park and helped with the rebuild. He said the long wait to open the trails was because of a lack of staff and funding.

A photo of trail damage in Zion National Park.
Courtesy of the Zion Forever Project
Heavy storms and mudslides closed parts of the Emerald Pools trail system for a decade. Lack of staff and funding contributed to the long closure, but private donors helped finish the $1.2 million project.

“With the generous donations that came in we were finally able to get this trail open,” Ballard said. “The logistics were very complex to get the materials, the rocks, the concrete, the tools up there.”

A portion of a $1 million grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation went toward construction. The Zion Forever Project, the park’s official non-profit partner, assisted in raising additional funds to finish it off.

“Frankly, as we move forward and think about the issues that Zion and our other national parks face as we move into the next century, that type of private-public partnership is going to be required more and more,” said Mark Preiss, the director of the Zion Forever Project.

Weeping Rock Trail and the surrounding area have been closed since last year because of a rockfall. Additionally, the chained section of Angel’s Landing is still not open to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But standing near Zion’s towering rocks next to the Emerald Pools trailhead, park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said it brings tears to his eyes to see this one open.

“Zion is a dramatic landscape and geology happens every day, and over the years some of these major rockfall and landslide events,” Bradybaugh said. “Being able to complete this project opens up another world so to speak at Zion Canyon for visitors to explore.”

Most of the park is open to visitors, and to get up the main canyon shuttles are available through an online reservation system.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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