Article Overview: Zion Rockfall Caught on Camera
A Zion National Park rockfall caught on camera reminds us of how wild the great outdoors can be, even in places like one of the most popular national parks.
Nolan Hanson was leading a group along Angels Landing when the thunderous roar started. He kept the camera rolling to see dust and rocks pouring down the mountain above Weeping Rock. The force of the Zion rockfall sent a dust cloud through Echo Canyon and across Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Nolan wrote on his Instagram page, “We were on our way down from the (Angels Landing) Summit and heard what sounded like thunder. I looked over and this is what I saw! Surreal and amazing.”
“(It) sounded like thunder. Surreal and amazing.“Nolan Hanson, witness/trail guide
Park rangers took photos after confirming everyone was safe, and the parking lot looked like it was covered in snow. However, that’s actually dust from the Zion rockfall.
What Caused the Zion Rockslide?
While the exact cause is not known, this isn’t a freak incident. As Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park Superintendent said, “Rockfalls can happen at any time in this highly erosive landscape.”
In previous incidents involving Zion rockfalls, including one that happened at this same spot on Weeping Rock, the park rangers have noted, “Zion National Park experiences rockfalls because of the steep canyon walls and characteristic geology of the area.”
“Zion National Park experiences rockfalls because of the steep canyon walls and characteristic geology of the area.”Zion National park website
Was Anyone Hurt in the Zion Rockslide 2023?
Park rangers said they didn’t treat any injuries. Due to the dust cloud and debris, the Zion shuttle service stopped for about an hour and a half. The 2019 Zion rockfall left three people hurt and a group trapped until they could be rescued.
Because of the rockfall risk, Observation Point and Hidden Canyon Trails were closed after the 2019 rockfall. You can still take a 0.4-mile hike to the Weeping Rock observation area.
History of Zion Rockfalls
Rockfalls in Zion National Park aren’t just particular to Cable Mountain above Weeping Rock. However, the area has been impacted in 2019, as noted above, and another in 2009.
The Narrows, Mt. Carmel Highway, West Temple, and Hidden Canyon have all experienced their fair share of rockfalls in recent memory. To be honest, it’s this kind of behavior we expect from the evolving geologic landscape.
Check out this photo from 1947, when a large sandstone section sent 880 tons of rocks and boulders tumbling into the park maintenance area.
This photo shows a 40-ton boulder that flattened an unoccupied truck.
If you’ve been to Zion National Park, it will never quite be the exact same as when you were there. Rockfalls and other erosion activities are always shaping the park and widening this beloved canyon.
Similar to the arches at Arches National Park, which will all inevitably collapse, it’s the circle of life and geology.
A Closer Look at Above Weeping Rock
In the series of photos below, you’ll see what the cliff looked like before the rockfall in 2019, how it looked after the rockfall, and how it looked after the 2023 Zion rockfall.
You can see that even with the dramatic video, it’s such a small section of a massive park and ecosystem across Southern Utah that more rockfalls are certain.
Map of Zion Rockfall
Safety in Zion National Park
Rockfalls can happen anytime in Zion National Park and any geologic erosive location. It’s imperative that you practice smart trail safety, including checking the park conditions before you go, respecting closed trails due to rockfalls, and talking with park rangers about rockfall risks.
It’s another great reminder to keep your head on a swivel while you’re hiking in any part of Zion National Park. In the event of a rockfall or even hanging ice, you will have less than a few seconds to get out of the way or take safety steps like protecting your head with your hands.
Always prepare for the worst-case scenario, which could include a rockfall blocking your return hike.
Zion National Park has an entire website section dedicated to your safety.
In October 2023, More than half a million people visited Zion, bringing the annual total number of visitors to 4,125,817 with still two months to go. Zion is a safe place to visit, but does have natural risks. By following the safety guidance and trail restrictions, you can have a more enjoyable experience.
We want to thank the park service employees and crews who help clean up after these disasters and repair what they can while repaving new trails or determining whether a trail is too dangerous for guests.
Plan Your Visit to Zion National Park
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