April 17, 2023

Navigating the Zion Canyon Shuttle

There are many things that help make Zion one of the most unique—and popular—national parks in the country. From the towering cliffs to unique hiking trails like The Narrows and Angels Landing, the park is packed with a variety of must-see features. Many of those features share one big detail; they’re located within the unique and incredible Zion Canyon.

Zion Canyon is the park’s crowning feature. This narrow canyon is an average of 2,000 feet deep, with the opening located at the South Entrance to Zion, less than a half-mile from Cliffrose Lodge. Carved over thousands of years by the Virgin River, Zion Canyon becomes increasingly narrow as you travel deeper into the canyon. 

With the Visitor Center, Zion Lodge, and many of the park’s most popular hiking trails and overlooks located in Zion Canyon, it’s no surprise that it can get a little crowded. That’s where the Zion Canyon Shuttle comes in. 

The Zion Canyon Shuttle

For more than two decades, the Zion shuttle has alleviated parking issues and traffic in the Lower Canyon and allowed millions of visitors to enjoy the park. The Zion shuttle begins its operations in mid-March each year and runs through late November. The shuttle service also operates around the December holidays.

If you’re planning a visit to Zion in 2023, the odds are good that you’ll need to use the shuttle to get around. If it’s your first time in the park, navigating the Zion Canyon shuttle can be a little confusing. Keep reading as we dive into what first-timers and experienced guests alike should know about the shuttle system.

Understanding Where You Can Go

Planning a spontaneous visit to most national parks doesn’t take much planning. With the exception of a few parks that require reservations, you can head to a national park on a whim, and drive right through to enjoy the view. You can do this in Zion, too, with one big exception; personal vehicles aren’t allowed on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive when the Zion Canyon Shuttle is in operation.

This means that you can’t drive to the trailhead for Angels Landing, Emerald Pools, Riverside Walk, and other popular trails when the shuttles are operating. Instead, you’ll need to park your car and hop on the shuttle instead.

Plan Your Parking Strategy Before You Arrive

The Zion Canyon Shuttle has helped to alleviate parking issues in the Lower Canyon. Unfortunately, the shuttle has caused a big parking issue at Zion’s South Entrance and in Springdale. On busy days, parking at the entrance to the park fills quickly. Public parking in Springdale is limited, too.

If you don’t want to find yourself driving around in circles looking for parking, you’ll want to do a little planning ahead of your trip. One option is to get to Zion’s South Entrance very early to secure a parking spot. Another is to book your stay at a Springdale resort close to the South Entrance or a stop on the Springdale Shuttle line.

Cliffrose Lodge is conveniently located just a half mile from the entrance to Zion. It’s also located at Stop #2 on the Springdale Shuttle loop. This means that you have the option to walk to the entrance to the park to board the Zion Canyon Shuttle or ride the Springdale Shuttle to the park’s entrance. After a long day of hiking, hop back on the shuttle to ride to the entrance to the park, and be back in your room for an afternoon nap or a dip in the pool in no time!

Check the Schedule

The Zion Canyon Shuttle’s schedule changes a few times each year. It operates longer hours in the busy summer months and a shorter schedule in the shoulder season. If you find yourself in the park after the last shuttle has left, your only option may be to walk as much as nine miles back to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. 

Before you head to the park for the day, make sure to check that day’s operating schedule. Then, head back to the nearest shuttle stop well before the last shuttle bus is scheduled to arrive to avoid getting stuck walking.

If the last Zion Canyon Shuttle is full, you may not be able to board, even if you’re waiting at the shuttle stop on time. On busy days, it’s a good idea to head out of the park early if you want to avoid having to walk. Some companies do offer after-hour shuttle van rides, though these do vary in price and may not always be available.

Know the Rules

Riding the shuttles is free, and you won’t need a reservation to ride. But before you hop aboard the Zion shuttle, it’s a good idea to make sure that you know the rules. These are a few important ones:

  • You’ll still need to pay the entrance fee to Zion. If you ride the Springdale Shuttle from Cliffrose Lodge, you’ll hop off before the entrance to the park. Walk through the gate and pay your fee, and then walk to the first stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle line.
  • Bicycles and strollers are allowed, as long as the rider can place their bike on the shuttle’s bike rack on their own.
  • Pets are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Shuttles.
  • Smoking and eating are not permitted on the shuttles. You can bring water bottles onboard, as long as they are closed.

Navigating the Zion Canyon Shuttle

Navigating the Zion Canyon Shuttle for the first time can be a little confusing. But with these simple tips, it’s easy to use the shuttle as a resource for exploring the park’s popular Lower Canyon during your visit.

Staying in Cliffrose Lodge makes utilizing the Zion Shuttle even easier. Whether you walk to the entrance to the park each day or take advantage of the convenient on-site shuttle stop for the Springdale line, you won’t have to worry about navigating traffic or finding parking before heading to the park each day.

If you’re planning a visit to Zion National Park in 2023, now is a great time to book your stay at Cliffrose Lodge.

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