Zion and Other National Parks to Be Busy this Holiday Weekend

I will admit that I am partial to Zion National Park when it comes to social media. They just seem to have it dialed in when compared to other national parks I keep track of. They are often fun, informative, and fact-filled nuggets of useful information about the park, the history, the people, and its activities.

For one thing, Ziona has to be the most land-locked National Park in the Southwest.  What I mean by that is its natural design as a narrow canyon that makes it so difficult to handle the crowds.  Unlike other National Parks that are canyon-formed, Zion has no room to expand in order to more easily handle the crowds or to move all the people around.

For that problem, I like to blame Ken Burns!  Zion was truly a nice little hidden Vegas Gem few people even knew about.  That was until the filmmaker went and told all the entire world about it and the other wonderful National Parks in his 2016 PBS documentary Ken Burns: The National Parks – Americas Best Idea.   Now everyone wants to come out and see this little canyon!

Being Labor Day Weekend is usually one of the busiest, Zion National Park put out a press release explaining to those people brave enough to visit this magnificent little gem of a Park this weekend;  What to look forward to and how best to maneuver the crowds.

This actually makes for a great primer for those of you thinking of visiting other National Parks.

(Bolded text in press release added by me for emphasis…)

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SPRINGDALE, UT – Zion National Park is expecting a busy Labor Day weekend from Friday, September 3 through Monday, September 6, 2021. As our nation honors American workers, many will visit Zion and other National Parks across the country. Visitors to Zion should expect some queues and congestion within the park. Those with flexible plans are encouraged to visit before Friday or after Monday to avoid crowds.

Park visitors are reminded to recreate responsibly and plan ahead. Visitors, employees and contractors are required to wear a mask in NPS buildings, shuttle buses, and crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels.

Parking in Zion typically fills by 8:00 a.m. MDT, so visitors arriving later should plan on parking in Springdale and walking or taking the free town shuttle to the Pedestrian Entrance walk-in gate. The shuttle is free and masks are required. The first Springdale shuttle leaves the Majestic View Lodge (Stop 9) at 7:00 a.m. and the last shuttle leaves the Zion Canyon Village (Stop 1) at 9:00 p.m. The first Zion Canyon shuttle leaves the Visitor Center at 6:00 a.m., the last shuttle leaves the Visitor Center at 5:00 p.m., and the last shuttle out of the canyon from the Temple of Sinawava leaves at 8:15 p.m. Once parking in Zion is full, vehicle admittance into the park will be metered based upon availability. The Zion Mount Carmel Highway may be closed to through traffic periodically when parking has filled in order to safely relieve congestion both east and west of the large tunnel and to restore traffic flow. Alternative routes include: Utah Highway 59 /Arizona Highway 389, Utah Highway 14, and Utah Highway 20.

Both campgrounds in Zion Canyon are on a reservation system and are already fully reserved for the weekend. Campground and lodging options are available in the gateway communities surrounding the park. Please plan your trip accordingly.

This Labor Day weekend, Friday through Monday, park staff will be managing the queue that usually forms at Scout Lookout for visitors wanting to hike Angels Landing. Visitors will instead queue in the Grotto area and be metered on to the trail by park staff. This will reduce crowding on the chains section and allow visitors to wait at the Grotto where there are restrooms, running water and shade. Lines of several hours are possible, so hikers should be prepared. Hikers who want to stop at Scout Lookout or continue up the West Rim Trail without hiking the chain section to Angels Landing will not be required to wait at the Grotto. Park visitors are reminded to “Know before you go”; research the park and the activity you plan to do and potential hazards you may encounter, be realistic about your limits and the limits of those traveling with you, identify the right equipment for your trip and test it and/or try it out before you go. Visitors should be prepared to hike in the heat, with plenty of water, electrolytes, and proper footwear.

Zion National Park visitors are reminded that there is a severe drought, and everyone needs to be smart in their actions when it comes to having a campfire. Be sure any campfire area is clear of debris and your fire is out cold before you leave. Campfires are only allowed in South Campground, Watchman Campground and Lava Point Campground in fire rings at the campsites. For more information on preventing unwanted human caused wildfires, visit www.utahfiresense.org, and on Twitter @UtahWildfire.

Monsoon season runs from mid-July to mid-September. Flash floods are unpredictable and can occur from storms some distance away though skies appear sunny overhead. Check the weather forecast or stop by park Visitor Centers for up-to-date information. Your safety is your responsibility.

Zion National Park will enhance the enforcement of impaired driving over Labor Day Weekend through expanded DUI checkpoints and increased road patrols for visitor safety. Zion National Park’s DUI enforcement is aimed to keep all visitors, local residents, and wildlife safe on the park’s roads. Impaired driving in Zion is especially dangerous due to the narrow roads, steep drop-offs, and sharp turns.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired driving crashes killed 10,767 people in 2016, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States. That’s an average of one alcohol-impaired driving fatality every 50 minutes.

Zion National Park Rangers wish for all visitors to have an enjoyable and safe visit to the park. This includes obeying all traffic laws, driving sober, and appointing a designated driver if you plan on consuming alcohol.

The NPS requests visitor cooperation utilizing Leave No Trace (LNT) practices throughout Zion National Park. Following these LNT principles and tips helps to protect the natural and cultural resources of Zion National Park during your visit. The park also encourages visitors to take the Zion National Park Pledge. The Zion Pledge is a personal promise you can make to protect yourself and the park. Please share your #ZionPledge story on social media and encourage family and friends to do the same.