PSA: Zion NP off-limit Research Natural Areas

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
660
I was doing some digging around about Zion NP Research Natural Areas this weekend based off a note in Courtney Purcell's Zion NP Summit Routes book and thought I would share the info since it's buried online and somewhat vague. Previously I knew about Parunuweap from Joe Braun's site, but not the others and I've seen various TRs (on other sites) where the authors unknowingly hiked or put up a climbing route in the RNAs.

The best written description I could find is in the Zion NP 36 CFR 1.7(b), Compendium 2016 starting on page 8:

Kolob Mesas: Mesa tops of Timber Top Mountain and Nagunt Mesa overlooking the Kolob Canyons. Also includes the canyon draining west from Timber Top Mountain.

Shune’s Creek: Shune’s Creek Canyon below the Navajo Sandstone cliffs along the southern boundary of the park, excluding the administrative zone around the water right diversion.

Hanging Garden: Five hanging gardens in Zion and Parunuweap Canyons. Includes the immediate vicinities of Grotto Spring, Weeping Rock, Sinawava Hanging Garden, and two unnamed springs in Parunuweap Canyon.

Isolated Mesa Tops: Isolated mesa tops that are surrounded by high cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. These include Burnt Mountain (south of La Verkin Creek), Greatheart Mesa, Inclined Temple, four unnamed high mesas west of Horse Pasture Plateau, and two closely associated unnamed mesas north of Wynopits Mountain.

Goose Creek: The sandstone slot canyons of Goose Creek, which drains east from Lava Point and Horse Pasture Plateau. A five-mile long tributary of the North Fork of the Virgin River with deep narrow canyons and perennial stream flow in the lower reaches.

Crazy Quilt Mesa: The top of Crazy Quilt Mesa and adjacent slopes, west of Checkerboard Mesa

Slickrock: An area of slickrock buttes, slopes and traverses, south of Clear Creek, east of Gifford Canyon and around the head of Crawford Wash.

Southeast Pinyon Juniper: An area of relatively deep sandy soils supporting relict pinyon-juniper forests in the southeastern most corner of the park.

Parunuweap: Includes Parunuweap and most of Shune’s Creek Canyons below the Navajo Sandstone, and Transview Mountain above the Navajo Sandstone.

map source
rna.png
 

chandlerwest

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2015
Messages
528
Thanks for finding this and sharing. As far as maps goes Joe Braun also has been my best source for when one of his routes comes near a Research Area. When I went to Parunuweap Pass I saw some people on the top of a peak to the west and thought "I don't think they should be there." When I saw where you got to, above Gifford I, was thinking you were on the fringes of the RSA (as with Paranuweap Pass). But connecting those two points is closed..(?) Have you ever gone up the canyon at the Court of the Patriarchs and seen that ladder? It is a hanging garden but doesn't seem included specifically in the link you provided. I have seen a picture of a person repelling right by it.
 

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
660
As far as I can tell from the map, much but not all of the Jenny Peak ridgeline is closed. It would be nice it were overlaid on a USGS topo. I haven't been seen that ladder or explored that area behind Court of the Patriarchs.
 

chandlerwest

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2015
Messages
528
As far as I can tell from the map, much but not all of the Jenny Peak ridgeline is closed. It would be nice it were overlaid on a USGS topo. I haven't been seen that ladder or explored that area behind Court of the Patriarchs.
I put the Research Area map along side Google Earth. Trying to assess the borders of the closed area. To me it looks the farthest south point is even with where Crawford Wash comes in. Then it diagonals northwest over to Gifford, probably along a natural drainage high spot (?). What I am seeing is the area directly south of Gifford and the end of the ridge to the east is open wilderness. Looks like interesting territory to explore, if I can figure out that ramp you climbed along. Thanks again for finding this map.
IMG_1300.jpg
 
Last edited:

fossana

Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2018
Messages
660
The vegetated ramp starts almost at the southern end of Gifford Canyon, somewhat close to (but across canyon from) where the drainage between Roof and Hepworth Peak drain into Gifford Canyon.
 

utahastro

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2021
Messages
10
It turns out that since April of this year, the NPS has also closed the Cave Valley area. While it's not a Research Natural Area like these other zones, it is nonetheless closed to visitation pending further assessment to protect cultural resources. The map included with the closure notice shows that some of the nearby slickrock is also off-limits.

It's a bit frustrating that the NPS makes it so difficult to figure out which areas are closed---particularly Cave Valley, which, unlike the Research Natural Areas, is easily accessible to even casual visitors.

Regarding the Research Natural Areas mentioned in the original discussion from 4 years ago, the NatGeo Trails Illustrated topo map for Zion NP outlines them in maroon, even in the free online preview at the NatGeo website. This is probably the best map that I've found of those areas, especially the one near Crawford Wash.

The good news is that as I review the most recent Superintendent's Compendium from August 2022, the boundaries of the Research Natural Areas (listed in Sec. (a)(1)(xii) on page 9 of the Compendium) appear to be unchanged relative to 2018.
 

zionsky

Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2018
Messages
625
Thanks for the update. This map is pretty clear. Why can't the park service make the rest of the areas/maps as clear?:thinking:
 
Joined
Aug 31, 2015
Messages
228
It turns out that since April of this year, the NPS has also closed the Cave Valley area. While it's not a Research Natural Area like these other zones, it is nonetheless closed to visitation pending further assessment to protect cultural resources. The map included with the closure notice shows that some of the nearby slickrock is also off-limits.

It's a bit frustrating that the NPS makes it so difficult to figure out which areas are closed---particularly Cave Valley, which, unlike the Research Natural Areas, is easily accessible to even casual visitors.

Regarding the Research Natural Areas mentioned in the original discussion from 4 years ago, the NatGeo Trails Illustrated topo map for Zion NP outlines them in maroon, even in the free online preview at the NatGeo website. This is probably the best map that I've found of those areas, especially the one near Crawford Wash.

The good news is that as I review the most recent Superintendent's Compendium from August 2022, the boundaries of the Research Natural Areas (listed in Sec. (a)(1)(xii) on page 9 of the Compendium) appear to be unchanged relative to 2018.
I'm stunned it took them this long to close cave valley. That place always felt like a bad mix of cultural resources, private property, and easy access to stay open long. Hopefully they put actual work into making it known to be closed. i feel with these other places, people that go there will stumble across the closures at some point (much like those climbers in the first message), but cave valley definitely wont.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
3,345
Natural study areas, etc. .... Just another way to lock you out of public lands so they do t have to deal with people
 

utahastro

Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2021
Messages
10
I'm stunned it took them this long to close cave valley. That place always felt like a bad mix of cultural resources, private property, and easy access to stay open long. Hopefully they put actual work into making it known to be closed. i feel with these other places, people that go there will stumble across the closures at some point (much like those climbers in the first message), but cave valley definitely wont.
I went there at the end of June before I knew of the closure. I didn't come across any notices of the closure until I reached the gate about a quarter-mile from the road (and only a short distance from the cultural sites). While the sign on the gate said that the area ahead was closed, it gave no indication that the closure extended all the way back to the road and onto the slickrock above. If the NPS is serious about this closure, it should probably close the nearby pullout parking and post no-entry signs there. I suspect that non-existent parking is a more effective deterrent than a sign on an unmonitored gate.

While I respect the need to protect cultural sites from vandalism, I do hope that the park will restore access to the slickrock on top of Cave Knoll (which, to my knowledge, does not have any sensitive sites).
 
Joined
Aug 31, 2015
Messages
228
I went there at the end of June before I knew of the closure. I didn't come across any notices of the closure until I reached the gate about a quarter-mile from the road (and only a short distance from the cultural sites). While the sign on the gate said that the area ahead was closed, it gave no indication that the closure extended all the way back to the road and onto the slickrock above. If the NPS is serious about this closure, it should probably close the nearby pullout parking and post no-entry signs there. I suspect that non-existent parking is a more effective deterrent than a sign on an unmonitored gate.

While I respect the need to protect cultural sites from vandalism, I do hope that the park will restore access to the slickrock on top of Cave Knoll (which, to my knowledge, does not have any sensitive sites).
sounds about right for closures in that area. Those pullouts are rough because they're parking for lamb's knoll too, so closing those could cause unforseen issues. We'll see. That cave knoll slickrock though would be cool to keep open.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
Ellen Zion West Rim Trail, December 2022 Trip Planning 3
zionsky Flash Flood in Zion General Discussion 3
TrailScot Zion backpacking permit changes General Discussion 3
G Dispersed camping near Zion? Trip Planning 5
G Zion trail report please Trip Planning 6
G Zion (half) traverse in April '21? Trip Planning 31
zionsky November in Zion Hiking & Camping 8
chandlerwest Zion Nat'l Park - October Adventures 2020 Hiking & Camping 16
Yvonne Zion Wilderness Permits and Canyoneering permits opened up again General Discussion 11
zionsky Vandalism in Zion General Discussion 4
zionsky Zion to Resume Shuttles July 1 General Discussion 2
Yvonne Hiking Connector Trail to Northgate Peaks on Zion Opening Day, May 13 Hiking & Camping 8
wabenho Zion Front-country - Nov. 2019 Hiking & Camping 5
Yvonne A misty Thanksgiving Hike, Zion NP Hiking & Camping 11
fossana 24 Aug rockfall and E Rim trail closure in Zion (again) General Discussion 3
fossana Eastern Sun Canyon to the Narrows (Zion NP) Canyoneering 4
chandlerwest Zion - West Rim Loop...........in July???? Hiking & Camping 7
zionsky Fatality in Zion National Park General Discussion 1
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 4 Hiking & Camping 5
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 3 Hiking & Camping 4
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 2 Hiking & Camping 2
chandlerwest Continuing Adventures in Eastern Zion National Park Hiking & Camping 31
zionsky Zion Scrambles March 2019 Day 1 Hiking & Camping 2
M Zion West Rim Trail, Early April 2019 Trip Planning 40
I Zion-South Utah Spring Break - March 9th-March 14th Trip Planning 15
C Route 9 Through Zion closed indefinitely. General Discussion 25
zionsky Snowshoe Rental in Zion Gear 2
fossana Kolob Canyons (Zion NP) still closed for road construction Trip Planning 2
Yvonne Snowshoeing Northgate Peaks, Zion NP, December 2018 Winter Sports 10
J Zion Traverse in early December Trip Planning 19
D Zion NP in the winter Trip Planning 7
Jammer Zion to Arches Hike Backpacking 26
chandlerwest Just Some Drainage in the East side of Zion Nat'l Park Hiking & Camping 9
fossana Destination Peak plus (Zion NP) Hiking & Camping 2
fossana South Guardian Angel (Zion NP, UT) Hiking & Camping 3
J Zion National Park Trails and scrambles Nov 9-12, 2017 Hiking & Camping 6
Rockskipper Zion National Park visitors rescued after mocking rangers, hiking The Subway unprepared General Discussion 97
Nick Invite Zion Canyoneering 5/5 Meet Up (Members Only) 1
Mike Jones Big Sur or Zion Next Week? Trip Planning 20
LarryBoy A week in Zion... Advice needed! Trip Planning 7
C Invite Trans Zion Trek April 11-14 Meet Up (Members Only) 2
Outdoors24 Zion West Rim Trail in winter Trip Planning 6
J Camping outside East entrance of Zion NP General Discussion 2
OCArch Zion Blitz- A Quick 3 days Oct 11-14 Backpacking 6
chandlerwest Zion Nat'l Park - Rim of the East Canyons Hiking & Camping 5
cmgz Right Fork-Zion NP Canyoneering 5
Stickerbumper Zion Traverse Memorial Day Weekend - Shuttle Meet Up (Members Only) 0
K Zion in Mid Feb Suggestions? Trip Planning 6
Ross 11 days of canyons in the Zion-Page region (part 1) Hiking & Camping 5
Nick Drilling proposed outside Zion National Park General Discussion 4

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top