UPDATE: 9/26/2015 3 p.m.
Zion National Park has announced a partial reopening of State Road 9 effective Friday, Sept. 25 at 8:00 a.m. However, visitors still cannot drive from Mount Carmel Junction to Springdale. The road is open from the east entrance to the Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Buses, RVs, motor homes, and trailers are still banned due to the narrow nature of the road and a lack of turnaround spots. This section of road will only by open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many of Zion National Park’s most popular attractions are available from this road, including Checkerboard Mesa and the Canyon Overlook Trail above the Great Arch near the tunnel entrance.
The rockfall in Zion National Park which closed the road occurred sometime before 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Two massive boulders weighing approximately 200 and 100 tons crashed onto the highway, blocking both lanes of traffic. Zion National Park road crews, in conjunction with the Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Geologic Survey and The Federal Transportation Administration have been on scene, assessing the stability of the cliff face that spawned the rockfall. The road will be reopened when additional unstable rocks from the cliff have been removed.
This segment of the highway has experienced periodic rock falls over the last 20 years. As Zion National Park Hydrologist Dave Sharrow stated, “The area that the rock fall occurred in is a part of the Springdale Sandstone rock formation. There are cliffs that are near the road and because the road is carved into the side of the mountain rock falls can, and do, occur.”
Alternatives to accessing the eastern side of the park are available. One option is Highway 59 accessed from Hurricane and driving to Fredonia, Arizona. Another option is driving UT 14 east from Cedar City to the Long Valley Junction with Highway 89. The park can still be accessed by driving east on UT 9 from Interstate 15. The visitor center, museum and campgrounds are all still in operation.