On a recent tour up to Bryce Canyon National Park, I took a little detour and headed up through Zion National Park. Two of the most beautiful National Parks you can see on a day trip out of Las Vegas. Being a Tuesday morning in the beginning of April, I did not expect to find traffic problems, but I did. At 10am, they were already telling people not to park inside the park, but to use the external lots and ride the free shuttles to the gate.
This is a relatively new, yet serious issue that most of the National Parks are facing: crowded conditions. We see it at the Grand Canyon as well as Bryce Canyon. Death Valley is not too bad because of its open spaces and your ability to get off the main path easily.
This problem is brought on primarily by two issues: One was that 100th anniversary of the National Park Service last year and their extensive promotion of the anniversary woke a lot of people up to what they have sitting literally in their back yard. No need to go to Europe to see beauty and history. It’s right here in America. This created a new audience wanting to explore more.
The second issue has been a lack of attention to the needs of the parks. For the past 8 years, the National Park Service has focused on political correctness with park management and trying to appease the environmentalists as well as conservationists. While ignoring their first directive and that is to protect the parks.
Also, the federal government and the White House has been busy creating many new National Landmarks and Monuments without providing a proper funding source for operations and maintenance. As well, limiting what people can do with their National lands. This has left the parks strapped for cash and adequate staff to keep up with the infrastructure as well as repair and upkeep to aging existing structures and outdated systems.
In the case of Zion, it just has no place else to grow or expand. This is a narrow majestic canyon with one main road in and out. There is no more room for parking lots or expanded trails systems to move people around and open up areas for more people to enter.
The Double-Edged Sword
For me being a tour guide as well as a lover of the parks, I don’t want to tell people NOT to go here because of the crowds. I think everyone should visit National Parks as often as possible. I just want you to be aware of the crowded conditions and be prepared.
- Park at the first chance you get and use the shuttle system.
Just be prepared for longer than normal wait times and crowds.
Shuttles in the parks usually run every 10 to 15 minutes
- Plan early. Research the overlooks and viewpoints you want to visit.
You can find the less crowded trails, off the main path sights and more hiking options.
- Come with a backpack filled with supplies. Water, protein bars, sweatbands, etc…
There are refill stations at the more popular overlooks, so you won’t need to buy bottled water if you have your own.
(Zion National Park stopped selling bottled water)
- Wear comfortable shoes and proper socks
- Get a National Park Pass. Save money and visit often.
Or better yet: Take a tour. Yes, I am a tour guide and I sell tours on this website. However! Tours are also a great idea for those short on time and want to enjoy as much of the park as they can with the least amount of problems. With a tour, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as well as enjoy the exclusive access that professional tour companies have. It’s a little bit better because we can get into the park, give you some directions and a chance to get in front of the crowds. Often times we can show you places where the other tourists don’t go. Plus we can get you back into Vegas in time for a late dinner without any driving, traffic or parking hassles!
Don’t Forget the Kids
The National Park Service is still offering their “Every Kid in The Park” promotion. This is a great program for any fourth-grade student. They can get a free National Parks Pass good for the entire family and for the school year.
- Lodging in Springdale, Ut. The entrance to Zion National Park
- Day Trip From Las Vegas to Zion – Small Group Tour, No Bus!