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Hikers with permits for the massively popular bucket list Zion Narrows hike are once again allowed to hike on. However, this was not the case a few days ago when the trail was closed to the public — including permit holders — over a property dispute. While hiking has resumed for the time being, there’s a serious risk that the general public might lose access to the Zion Narrows for the indefinite future.

The Zion Narrows, which is located at Chamberlain Ranch a few miles northeast of Zion National Park near Springdale, UT, is almost entirely on public land. However, for about a mile beginning near Simon Gulch, hikers enter private property.

Part of the Zion Narrows trail
Part of the Zion Narrows trail

This private land has been owned by the same family for 50 years. Previously, the Bulloch family has allowed hikers to pass through their private property to complete the 16-mile trek, which takes hikers through narrow cliff passages of up to 2,000 feet high. But recently, “For sale” and “No trespassing” signs popped up alongside the trail, leading to the brief closure of the Zion Narrows.

Though the Bullochs were indeed the ones to post the signs, the family says they want to see their land become public and be passed on to government control. The Bullochs have been working with the Forest Legacy Program, a part of the Land and Water Conservation Trust, to get the property owners a deal they see fit. However, the Land and Water Conversation Trust recently lapsed, with no plan to reinstate the trust.

Without the Land and Water Conservation Trust, talks of transferring the Bulloch’s private land to the public have stalled. The family has also been unable to work directly with the federal government to receive what they view as a fair deal for their private land.

Zion National Park in Utah
Zion National Park in Utah

For now, the US Forest Service has reached a tentative agreement with the Bulloch family to allow hikers to pass through the family’s land while hiking the Zion Narrows.

While hikers are fortunate to have been allowed to continue to hike this beautiful and breathtaking trail, this dispute has shown just how easy it is to lose access to the nation’s most valuable assets, its national parks and forests. With new conservation easement efforts, there are additional parcels of private and public land that could lead to similar disputes.

H/T: Outside Online

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