Each January, over 90,000 people visit Zion National Park. While that may seem like a lot, it’s less than a quarter the number that descend on the park just a few months later. Starting in April, monthly visitor counts climb to more than 500,000. In July, the busiest month of the year for Zion, nearly 600,000 people enter the park during those 31 days.
The crowds won’t begin to die down again until October. Some days are certainly busier than others; the 4 days of Memorial Day weekend alone see more than 80,000 visitors, nearly one-fifth of the total visitors for the month of May.
Don’t let the numbers scare you away from planning a visit. With Zion National Park covering more than 229 square miles, there’s plenty of room for everyone. But if plan to visit during the summer months, you’ll want to do a little pre-planning to help you make the most of your trip without stressing out over lines or crowds. Keep reading to learn a few essential tips for a successful summer adventure in the park.
1. Stay Close to the Park
There’s just one lodge and two campgrounds within the national park. That means that the majority of visitors are day-guests who drive to and from the park each day. This can mean plenty of traffic in the surrounding area, not to mention at the entrance gates. While the seasonal park shuttles help with this, even those form lines later in the day.
Whether you have a hike planned or simply want to enjoy a relaxing visit to one of the most beautiful spots in the country, the last thing you want to do is start your day in a traffic jam.
Do yourself a favor and book a stay in a resort that’s close to the park. You’ll be able to get a better night’s rest when you don’t have to be up before dawn to drive into Springdale. At the end of the day, you’ll have a short drive or shuttle ride back to your comfortable room, a hot shower, or a nice nap. Plus, staying close to the park will help you utilize some of the other tips on this list.
2. Visit Through the Week
If your plans are flexible, aim to visit Zion through the week to avoid the worst of the crowds. The majority of visitors make their way into the park on the weekends. Not only will you see an influx of tourists, but locals enjoying their weekend as well.
If your visit to the area is more than a few days and includes a weekend, the next tip can help you fill up the remainder of your itinerary.
3. Plan a Day or Two Outside of the Park
A longer trip not only gives you the chance to enjoy Zion on a less-crowded weekday, but also means you’ll have time to explore Springdale and the surrounding area as well.
Take a stroll through town and do some shopping at local gift shops, art stores, and outfitters. Take a day trip to one of the region’s many state parks, like Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park or Quail Creek State Park.
You can even visit one of Utah’s other national parks. Bryce Canyon is just an hour’s drive away. If you’re craving a break from the crowds though, Capitol Reef National Park is an often-overlooked destination brimming with stunning red rock cliffs and domes, canyons, and more.
4. Utilize the Shuttle System
Even if you get to the park pretty early, you’ll likely still struggle to find a parking spot. Lines at the entrance gate on the busiest weekends of the year can reach an hour or longer. Luckily, there’s the shuttle.
From March through late November, two shuttle loops help to alleviate parking woes and ferry guests to and from and within the park.
The first loop runs through the town of Springdale, making stops along the way and depositing guests at the pedestrian entrance to Zion. Once there, guests can cross into the park at the National Park Visitor Center.
That’s where the second shuttle loop begins. This shuttle takes visitors through the Zion Canyon Scenic Loop. Access to this loop is closed to the public while the shuttle is in operation each year, which means that the only way to experience it or visit any of its stops is by climbing onboard.
The Scenic Loop shuttle makes 9 stops on it’s journey from the visitor center and back. You can get on and off as often as you’d like to hike or take photos.
There are a few rules you’ll want to keep in mind if you plan to ride the shuttle.
- First, no pets are allowed. But as pets can’t join you on your hike in Zion anyway, it’s best to make plans ahead of time to board your dog during your visit to the park.
- While you are encouraged to bring water with you into the park, no other types of beverages are allowed onto the shuttle.
- Finally, you are welcome to pack snacks for hiking or just to tide you over until dinner, but you’ll have to wait to enjoy them when you get off the shuttle.
5. Plan Your Park Itinerary Ahead of Time
Whether it’s your first visit to Zion or your hundredth, the summer season isn’t the best time to simply wander without a plan.
Soaring temperatures in the middle of the day mean that you’ll want to pack the right supplies and make sure that you’re physically prepared, even for shorter hikes. Lines at the most popular trails make it necessary to think about your arrival time to make your wait as short as possible. Early in the season, snowfall causes flooding and damage to trails that can lead to closures that last well into the summer months.
Planning the trails you want to hike or the overlooks you’d like to visit ahead of time will help you stay safe and avoid having to find new trails at the last minute.
6. Remember that You Can Always Re-enter the Park
Most visitors to the park enter early in the day, stay for a few hours or even most of the day, and then leave. While this may seem like a great way to get the most time in the park, it usually means getting stuck in the most crowds as well.
If you’ve got a National Parks Access Pass, you already know that you can go in and out of the park as often as you’d like, all year long. But even with a regular entrance ticket, you can still enter the park as many times as you’d like in a 7-day span.
This also means that you can visit more than once during a single day. If you want to avoid crowds and the heat, consider visiting the park as soon as the shuttles start running for the day. Stay for a few hours, then head back to your resort during the heat of the afternoon. You can then revisit the park in the early evening, when most of the day-visitors will have already left for dinner.
7. Pack More Water than You Think You Need
Nothing brings a day in the parks to a close-or your entire vacation to an end-faster than dehydration. If you aren’t used to the conditions in the region or the difficulty of the hikes you’ve chosen, it’s easy to underestimate how much water you’ll need. Always pack extra, just in case. It’s also a good idea to learn the symptoms of dehydration so you’ll know when you or someone in your group may be in trouble.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget to Relax
If you’re someone who loves hiking and nature, a day in Zion might be relaxing and rejuvenating for you. But even the most avid outdoorsman will want to unwind after battling the heat and sore feet all day long.
Book your stay at Cliffrose, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to unwind during your visit to Springdale. Take a dip in the pool or a soak in the hot tub. Take a stroll through the resort’s beautiful grounds. Or simply relax in your beautiful room. However you choose to enjoy your stay, you’re sure to return home feeling like a whole new person.