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…)


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.

National Park Fee Free Dates 2019

[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBnQBkipwgU” title=”National Park Fee Free Days for 2019 ” description=”The National Park Service list for fee-free days to all the national parks in 2019″ /]
The National Park Service has just released the “Fee Free” dates for 2019.  The five days in 2019 that you will be able to visit any National Park in the country for free.  Please remember that not all fees will be waived and not all national parks charge an entrance fee.

Only 115 of the 418 parks managed by the National Park Service charge entrance fees regularly, with fees ranging from $5 to $35. That means 303 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.  Still making this a great deal!

The five entrance fee-free days for 2019 will be:

Monday, January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Saturday, April 20 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
Sunday, August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
Saturday, September 28 – National Public Lands Day
Monday, November 11 – Veterans Day

>> Not sure where your nearest National Park is?  No problem, they have a website just for you! Check out the National Park’s website “Find your park” <<

Get Your National Park Pass

Beat The Fee with a Pass!

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the U.S. military, families of fourth-grade students, and disabled citizens.

Want to see more of what our parks and services departments offer?  Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2019 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife ServiceBureau of Land ManagementBureau of ReclamationU.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


More Information

Friday is National Park Fee Free Day!

It’s been a long week, you need to take a day off and get out of town.  I have just the place.  Your local National Park.  Friday is Fee Free day in honor of the National Park Service 101st Birthday.  Waiving the entrance fee at all the National Parks that have one.

The National Park Service was created on August 25, 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act.

National Park Sites Near Las Vegas

Bryce Canyon National Park – 258 miles (415 km) from Las Vegas

Capitol Reef National Park – 327 miles (526 km) from Las Vegas

Cedar Breaks National Monument – 191 miles (307 km) from Las Vegas

Death Valley National Park- 139 miles (223 km) from Las Vegas

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – 270 miles (434 km) from Las Vegas

Grand Canyon National Park –  276 miles (444 km) from Las Vegas

Great Basin National Park – 296 miles (476 km) from Las Vegas

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 21 miles (33 km) from Las Vegas

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument – 18 miles (29 km) from Las Vegas

Zion National Park – 160 miles (258 km) from Las Vegas

National Park Fee Free Day


A Millionaires Dream
A lot of the credit for the creation of the National Park Services (NPS) goes to a self-made millionaire and businessman named Stephen Mather.  He was the man who created the “20 Mule Team Borax” slogan for the  Pacific Coast Borax Company.   In 1898, Mather helped a friend, Thomas Thorkildsen, create the Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Company. Their company became prosperous, and they were millionaires by 1914.

This wealth gave Mather, now in his mid-forties, the financial independence to pursue personal projects.  So he retired from the company and set off to make a difference in the world.  He became a dedicated conservationist and a friend and admirer of the influential John Muir.

Eventually, Stephen Mather would go to Washington as assistant secretary of the Interior and lobbied for the establishment of a bureau to operate the national parks. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill authorizing the National Park Service. At the time, the government owned 14 parks and 18 national monuments, many administered by Army officers or political appointees, as battlefields were among the first parks designated.


Mather used his personal funds to hire Robert Sterling Yard to work with him on publicizing the great resources of the parks. Mather was effective in building support for the parks with a variety of politicians and wealthy corporate leaders. He also led efforts to publicize the National Parks and develop a wider appreciation for their scenic beauty among the population. He appointed Yard as head of the National Park Education Committee to coordinate their various communication efforts. In April 1917, Mather was appointed as its first director, a position he filled until he resigned due to illness in January 1929. During the course of his career, he and his staff molded the NPS into one of the most respected and prestigious arms of the federal government.

After the establishment of the National Park Service by Congress, Mather agreed to stay on. Mather was appointed Assistant Secretary of Interior and head of the National Park Service.  He served until 1929.

Along with Albright, they helped establish the new federal agency to protect and manage the national parks, together with a new appreciation for their wonders. In addition, he professionalized management of the parks, creating a cadre of career civil service people who were specialists in a variety of disciplines, to operate and manage the parks while preserving their natural character.

He introduced concessions to the national parks. Among the services they sold were basic amenities and necessities to park visitors, plus aids for studying nature. Mather promoted the creation of the National Park to Park Highway. He also encouraged cooperation with the railroads to increase visitation to normally remote units of the National Park System.

Mathers Legacy

He believed that once more of the public had visited the parks, they would become supporters for the fledgling agency and its holdings. By the time he left his position, the park system included 20 national parks and 32 national monuments. Mather also had created the criteria for identifying and adopting new parks and monuments.

Stephen Mather believed that magnificent scenery should be the first criterion in establishing a national park, and made efforts to have new parks established before the lands were developed for other purposes.

Periodically disabled by Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), Mather had to take some leaves from work and Albright continued in their mutual understanding of the task. Over time they convinced Congress of the wisdom of extending the national park concept into the East, and in 1926 Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks were authorized. In January 1929 Mather suffered a stroke and had to leave office. He died a year later.

Stephen Mather died January 22, 1930, at the age of 62 in Brookline, Massachusetts



No Room at the Canyon??

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.

Zion National Park Tours

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.


Tour Options

Remembering Manzanar – On the Road

If you were to drive out of Las Vegas about 4 hours, through Death Valley National Park and over the Panamint Springs Mountains, then head up California Highway 395, you will find Manzanar War Relocation Center.  You may even miss it if you aren’t really looking for it.

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat) signed Executive Order 9066 which led to the incarceration of more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry — two-thirds of them United States citizens – Relocating them to one of ten “War Relocation Centers”.  Manzanar was one of those centers. Today, it’s a National Historic Site.

When World War II began, the danger of a Japanese attack on the west coast led to growing pressure to move people of Japanese descent away from the coastal region. Fear of terrorism, espionage, and/or sabotage; as well as anti-Japanese competition and discrimination.  They were forced to give up their properties and businesses, and transported to hastily built camps in interior, harsh locations.

Manzanar National Historic Site

Debbie and I visited the site last year and we walked away with a different look at America, our dividing politics as well as reminding us of the things that should be taught in schools but aren’t because they may offend someone.  Sometimes you need to be offended to realize how petty your problems of today really are when compared to others who walked before us.

Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established. It was in operation from March 21, 1942, to November 21, 1945.  Few of the buildings remain.  Some are rebuilt to look as they did when people lived in them, others are in a state of rehabilitation while a few others are beyond saving and left to rot in the hot desert sun.  When you enter, you get a map of the streets and can walk or drive around the premises and see what remains of the camp and learn where some of the facilities were.  You can find the markers showing where the store and the communal latrines and showers once stood.

As much as the government and the media tried to say otherwise, when you stand inside the fenced area, see the guard towers and look at the bleak surroundings and understand the rules they lived by, you can’t shake the feeling that this was nothing but a Prison Camp.

As you wander around, you get the sense of isolation and even desperation.  After visiting the visitor center and see the displays, you get a feeling for the unity or maybe even group survival they had as they tried to make their living hell into a happy, hopefully temporary, home.  The first prisoners or “detainees” were actually the builders.  They were sent out here to construct the facility that would soon take them and their friends and family away from the only life they ever knew.  And that is one of the most curious things about this all.  They understood they were being singled out for something they did not do, but most accepted their fate, their loss and held out hope to one day be able to go back and resume their life again.  To put this all behind them and move on.

Unfortunately for them, they only had a few days to try and sell off what they owned before being bussed out to the camps.  Most had to just abandon their businesses and their homes so that others could loot and pillage what was left behind.  When they were finally released, the detainees only had what they brought with them to the camps and literally had to start life over.

The displays show how some made their little quarters into a comfortable place.  Even if it was just a dirty wool blanket that separated your sleeping area from another family’s living area.  To them, it had to be home. Other displays talked about the work and the play that was essential in maintaining control as well as your sanity. They built gardens and places of worship.  Making it have almost all the things they had back in their old neighborhoods, including baseball fields.  One thing I noticed was how the children were the concern of everyone.  The parents tried to do whatever they could to look happy so that the younger kids were not scared for life (if that were possible) by this time in the camps.

The names of everyone who lived at Manzanar

To see the names of all who had been placed here, I could get a feeling for the emotions you see when people visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall.  It makes it all real.  The camp held 10 to 11,000 people at any one time.  Looking around, you wonder how that was possible.  Then you see the scale model of the camp and knowing what we know now about Germany and their concentration camps during World War II, you get that feeling again of being in a prison.

Manzanar Map

To say it was a quiet drive home would not be an exaggeration.  What can you say on that drive?  To see a sad piece of American history and realize there is an entire generation protesting stupid shit because they are no longer taught American history.  That if they were to spend just one day in a place like Manzanar, they would hopefully get a clue that their world is not falling apart because they can’t download the latest Beyoncé song or that some corrupt politician their teacher told them should be president, isn’t.

Yes, Manzanar National Historic Site represents a sad piece of modern American history. But thankfully it is being preserved for future generations to learn from it and understand how precious our freedoms really are.

This is not one of those historical sites you pass thru and say “cool, ok, whats next?”  and leave.  It will live with you forever in one way or another.  Driving from Las Vegas, through the Panamint Mountains, you also get a different look at the wonders, the beauty and the diversity of Death valley you don’t normally get as a tourist from Las Vegas.