|Above, Amber relaxing at Zion Lodge. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Two years ago, my daughter Amber and I drove through Zion National Park on the way home from Yellowstone National Park. When we got to the east entrance (from Mt. Carmel), we found a line of cars waiting to get in.
Once in, we had to wait in another line to be escorted through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. This is necessary as today's oversized RVs won't make it through unless they drive smack dab in the center of the road. Fortunately, we were first in line.
|Above, waiting for the escort through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Once we got into Zion canyon itself, we noticed that passenger vehicles are not permitted into the canyon unless they have proof they have a campsite or are staying at the Lodge. We thought we'd have breakfast at the Zion Lodge. We would have had to park The Beast at a shuttle stop and be shuttled in. We did not want to bother with that, so we went to breakfast in nearby Springdale.
My mom, Amber and I spent Labor Day weekend at Zion back around 2002. Since we drove there in the Mustang, parking at the shuttle stop near the Visitor Center was not an issue. We stayed at a motel in Springdale on that trip. We took the shuttle through the park to different points, including the Visitor Center and the Weeping Rock trail. It worked out very well.
|Above, Amber in The Beast at Zion National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
The shuttle system was made necessary due to the influx of visitors. Years ago, not that many people visited Zion and cars were permitted in the canyon with no restrictions. But those days are long past and the park had to take steps, such as the mandatory shuttle, to manage the crowds.
The Salt Lake Tribune has an article on tips to negotiate or avoid the crowds at Zion.
They begin with:
Zion National Park • In Springdale, the sun is high, the parking spaces are full, and the porta-potties are lined up like soldiers. So grab your shuttle maps and brass knuckles. Busy season has begun at Zion National Park.
Just kidding, you can leave the weapons at home. I haven't been put out by my fellow tourists, despite the persistent concerns about crowding in the nation's fifth-most-visited national park.
My family braved Zion Canyon during the opening weekend of its mandatory shuttle, which runs many times a day from March through October and on weekends in November. Spring-breakers were pouring in by early March — and although I didn't struggle with crowds at the entry gate or parking, I can easily imagine summer getting a bit crowded.
Park administrators are considering measures such as limiting visitor entries to the park or at certain areas or campgrounds, but those wouldn't be implemented right away.
In the meantime, here are some tips to negotiate or avoid the crowds in Zion.To read more, go here.