Written by By Sara Whittle, CNN
Ajung Simon-Bowen, CNN Written by Sara Whittle, CNN
“I have set out to make the Zion Narrows my private canyon. But the real goal here is to stand back and admire the surrounding beauty of the Rio Grande of this great landscape,” said Brian Devastagrande, in an original piece for CNN’s Quest redefined series.
To mark the 50th anniversary of America’s most iconic and demanding hiking destination, Devastagrande has trekked to the Na’Sheem National Forest — a towering array of spires, peaks and ancient rock formations — across 812 miles of backcountry. It was the first of several hikes for which he has been given a unique reservation system: that he must reserve a spot in advance and follow specific conditions set by an official guide.
“The Zion Narrows, since its completion in 1969, has remained the only federal wilderness area in the continental U.S. to permit day hikes,” said Tony Lipson, Park Services regional ranger for the K-6 and K-7 Ranger Districts, in a statement. “Brian’s group is the largest in a series of 42 permit holders for areas including the Canyon-Crested Butte Trail, Capitol Reef. Visitors must complete the required federally required barrier course prior to hiking. Public access is only limited to hikers with written and/or stamped government permits (including motorcycle permits).”
The trail, named the “Only National Wilderness Area in the Continental U.S.” has seen its fair share of firsts and visitors, including the 1968 landing of Apollo 11. Ironically, 15 years later the National Park Service launched its first electronic lookout towers, illuminated with red lights. One of the towers stands in the Narrows.