A $1.5 million deal will keep Utah’s Zion Narrows open to hikers forever

No one will ever see “no trespassing” signs in Zion Narrows, thanks to a complicated land deal tapping money from myriad federal, state and private sources that will keep a historic property in a farming family’s hands, while preserving public access to one of the nation’s finest hiking destinations.

The famed 16-mile Utah trail, which can be hiked by permit only, starts outside Zion National Park’s eastern border and passes through an 880-acre parcel, long owned by the Bulloch family, before entering the park and continuing to Zion Canyon.

For decades, the family allowed hikers to pass through the property known as Simon Gulch, but it posted “for sale” signs last year after the federal government low-balled the land’s value for a potential public acquisition. The impasse has now been broken with easements that shield the land from development and guarantee access to the Narrows forever, under agreements announced by The Trust for Public Land, which orchestrated the $1.5 million deal.

Simon Gulch was among numerous Zion “edge holdings” — private land just outside park boundaries — that complicate access to some out-of-the-way destinations, such as Orderville and Parunuweap canyons. Additionally, some 3,400 acres in 32 private parcels remain, leaving open the prospect for trophy homes arising inside Utah’s marquee park.

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