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Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Angels landing

Angels Landing in Zion National Park. NPS Photo.

A California woman died in a fall Sunday from the popular site in Zion National Park known as Angels Landing.

The victim, 55-year-old Nancy Maltez of Glendora, California, was reported to be hiking with family members early Sunday when she fell at about 8:30 a.m. The accident was reported by another hiker by cell phone.

She was believed to have stumbled and fallen from the north side of Angels Landing. Media reports indicate she fell a distance of about 1,000 feet, and search-and-rescue crews reached her body before noon.

The West Rim Trail from the Grotto to Scout Lookout, along with climbing routes on the north side of Angels Landing, are temporarily closed while an investigation by the park and the Washington County Sheriff's Department is completed.

There has been considerable discussion on theTraveler in recent months about the safety of the Angels Landing Trail. Prior to today's incident, the most recent fatal fall at that location was in 2007.

The park website includes the following information in a description of the Angels Landing Trail:

Caution: The route to Angels Landing involves travel along a steep, narrow ridge with support chains anchored intermittently along the route. Footing can be slippery even when the rock is dry Unevenly surfaced steps are cut into the rock with major cliff dropoffs adjacent. Keep off when it is wet, icy or thunderstorms are in the area. Plan to be off before dark. Younger children should skip this trail; older children must be closely supervised.

This accident will almost certainly revive the debate about the safety of the popular trail. According to the park website, "about 5 people" have died due to falls from Angels Landing in the 100 years since the park was established, but it is not the most dangerous trail in the park. Emerald Pools holds that unwelcome distinction with seven victims.


There have been 4 fatalities in the 6 years I've been associated with the Park. One teenage boy and 3 middle-aged people, 2 women and one man. I wonder about the "about 5" mentioned in the website.

Angel's Landing is a beautiful and exhilerating trail, but like any hike in any location, safety responsibility should rest on the shoulders of the hiker. The national parks can't be responsible for every fatality that happens in the park. I see irresponsible hikers all the time who think they can defy Mother Nature. Despite national park warnings, many people choose hikes beyond their skill level and cause accidents.

That said, not knowing whether this woman was skilled for this hike or not, I would say the only reason to reopen the debate over whether to close the Angel's Landing trail is to ensure that the NPS can more closely control the number and skill level of people on the path in the face of shrinking budgets and resources. If closer attention on the part of NPS becomes essential, then those who enjoy the parks will need to be squeezed onto fewer, less "dangerous" trails just so rangers can keep a tighter grip on people in the park and hopefully minimize the number of accidents. As a true lover of our country's natural spaces, I hope this doesn't happen.

This woman was my sister. She was an experienced hiker and she and her family had hiked this trail numerous times in the past. I am told it was one of their favorites. By all accounts she simply stumbled and fell. She was a very grounded person so I am sure there would have been no horseplay up there. I also believe that she would not want this place closed because of this.

Anonymous -

Thank you for your comments and insight into this tragic accident.

Please extend our condolences to other members of the family.

I was on the trail about 2 minutes before this woman and her family when it happened. It really freaked us out and I hope that they decide to make the trail more secure in the future. My condolences to the family

To the family who lost their loved one, My condolences.

I too wonder about the death stats on Zion's webpage. I have been going to Zion every summer since I was born and have been there for 4 deaths. One on Emerald pools, two on Angel's Landing, and I can't remember where the 4th was. The Park's number just seems too low to me, I think perhaps more have perished.

I do not think this trail however needs any modification. People obviously know the risk when they set out. If ANYTHING, a sign should be posted at the bottom of the hike that states the dates of each death. As the above woman stated, her sister had hiked this trail many times before. A stumble is a stumble. If you look statistically at how many people have hiked it, and how many have fallen to their death, I'm sure it is still much safer than a car ride. I do not think this is a proper outing for boyscout or other groups like it. Too many uncontrolled liabilities.

I too have hiked this hike many times, and well...I am pretty careful, but anything at any point can happen, and I take full responsibility of my own actions and the result of those actions. Other's should be expected to do the same, or don't hike at all.

To close Angels Landing would be just very wrong for the other millions of others who have successfully completed it, and those waiting to do so. Zion Forever! I

I was sorry to hear of this tragic accident. I live near the park and recently took the opportunity to take my 10 year old nephew, my 12 year old niece, (who live out of state) and my 9 year old daughter on this hike. We took the time to talk about the hike, what we would be doing. We had an adult per child and we discussed the dangers and the precautions we would take. (My nephew was working on a Webelos' scout badge.) It was shocking to see other hikers on the trail with no regard to their safety or that of others. There were some, probably early college, young men that were basically free running the trail. It was a disappointing example to those kids on the trail. I know that those kids left the trail that day with more respect for mother nature and a sense of accomplishment for what they had achieved. I hope that, in the future, those who seek to challenge themselves will have the respect that this hike deserves.

My condolences to the family and friends of Nancy. It is a tragedy to loose those whom we love.

Angels Landing is a very tough hike that should not be undertaken by those Angie describes above. Unfortunately, many who are unprepared make the climb; I rescued a dehydrated man who brought only 12 ounces of water on a 105 degree day.

Anonymous thinks the person whose life tragically ended would not want the trail closed. I agree with that sentiment, but hope the park can increase safety awareness to potential Angels Landing hikers. Preventative search and rescue could set up an entrance point at the trail head and provide safety talks and orientations.

As for the hike itself, I don't know how it can be made any safer without substantially altering the area. Ultimately, we must assume the risk should we choose to go.

My condolences to the family.

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