With the summer season now in full swing, Zion’s shuttles are running non-stop, 7-days a week. But while the shuttles are an excellent way to get around, making the most of their service is about more than just hopping on a bus and taking off for a day in the park. Here’s what you need to know about the Springdale and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive shuttle loops.
Springdale Shuttle Loop and Stops
The Springdale Shuttle Loop is designed to help reduce traffic entering Zion National Park. With parking spots in the park filling up early each day, this shuttle also allows visitors to park elsewhere in Springdale or even leave their vehicle at the hotel or campground they’re staying at.
The shuttle makes 9 stops in Springdale:
- Zion Canyon Village
- Cafe Soleil/Thai Sapa/Cliffrose Lodge
- Flanigan’s Inn/Whiptail Grill
- Desert Pearl Inn
- Zion Pizza & Noodle/Bumbleberry Inn
- Bit & Spur/Hampton Inn/Holiday Inn Express
- Quality Inn & Suites Montclair/Driftwood Lodge
- Park House Cafe/Silver Bear Enterprises
- Majestic View Lodge
Zion Canyon Scenic Loop and Stops
While the Springdale shuttle loop is mainly for convenience and to help alleviate some parking issues within the park, the Zion Canyon Scenic Loop is a bit more vital. You can get to the park without taking the in-town shuttle, but you can’t drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in your own vehicle.
From March to late in November, the shuttle is the only way to enjoy the beauty of this drive or to access the many stops along its path. Depending on how busy the park is and traffic conditions, shuttles leave from the visitors center every 7 to 10 minutes on average. It then travels through the park, making 8 stops along the way. Knowing the stops ahead of time will help you better plan your day. Here’s where you can hop off the shuttle and checkout the park’s trails, overlooks, museums, and more:
Zion Human History Museum
Located a short distance from the visitors center and marking the first shuttle stop is the Zion Human History Museum. The museum features exhibits and artifacts that tell the tale of the region’s people, starting with the early Native American settlers and including pioneer settlements and railroad workers. It’s also a great spot to learn about the history of the park you’re about to explore.
Next stop is Canyon Junction. While this stop doesn’t offer the wealth of trails or other activities that other stops have, it does feature a stunning 360 degree view of Zion.
Court of the Patriarchs
If you want to do some hiking, this next stop is a good place to go. The stop’s namesake refers to the set of sandstone cliffs that are an iconic photo spot. But you’ll also find the trailhead for Sand Bench Loop, a 3.5 mile round trip loop that offers a great, moderate day hike for experienced hikers.
Whether you’re staying there or not, the Zion Lodge is a must-see. You can check out the famous lodge, do some shopping in the gift shop, and even dine at one of the restaurants on-site. This is also where you’ll find the trailhead for the popular Emerald Pools Trail.
This is one of the most popular stops on the shuttle loop for hikers. Here you can find the trailheads for Kayenta Trail, West Rim Trail, and Angel’s Landing. Keep in mind that during busy summer months, these trails will likely see crowds during the middle of the day. Plan an early hike to avoid them, and to help you stay cool. This stop also offers restrooms, water fountains, and picnics areas, making it a great spot to eat lunch and fill your water bottles before continuing on.
Another popular hiking destination is the Weeping Rock shuttle stop. Trailheads for Deertrap Mountain, Cable Mountain, East Rim Trail, Weeping Rock, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point can all be found here. There’s a restroom at this stop as well.
Like Canyon Junction, this is another great spot to stop and take some photos. You’ll have great views of both Angel’s Landing and Great White Throne.
Temple of Sinawava
The last stop on the shuttle loop, at the Temple of Sinawava you can hop on The Narrows trail as well as the Riverside Walk. There are restrooms here and a spot to fill your water bottles.
Planning Your Route
You could always hop on and off the shuttle at each stop, going in order until you’ve seen everything. But if you plan to do any hiking or want to avoid crowds as much as possible, you’ll want to do a little more planning than that.
The best way to utilize the shuttle is to get on it as early as you can, and then head straight for a popular stop like The Grotto or Weeping Rock. The shuttles are free and you can ride them as much as you’d like. So traveling to later stops early in the day will help you avoid the crowds that are likely to hop off at the first stop or two. Then you can go back to those early stops later in the day.
If you do plan to take on a lengthy or difficult hike, you should start early in the day to avoid larger crowds or rising temps. You don’t want to get caught on a trail after dark, so avoid starting a long hike too late in the day.
Know the Shuttle Rules
The shuttles are a relaxing way to get around without having to fight traffic or search for parking at each new stop. But there are a few rules you’ll need to know to keep from getting in trouble while onboard.
Packing water is a must for any visit to Zion, but especially during the summer months. Zion National Park is a high-desert, which means that during the summer it experiences soaring temperatures. These crest in July, when the average daily max temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Crowds can mean lines at trailheads or busier-than-usual trails, which might leave you spending more time than you expected outside in the heat. You’ll need to pack more water than you expect to need to avoid succumbing to dehydration. While you can bring your water on the shuttle and even drink while in-route to your next stop, you aren’t allowed to bring any other types of beverages onboard.
There’s also a ban on eating while riding either of the two shuttles. You are encouraged to bring along snacks to tide you over between meals or to keep you fueled and energized while on a hike. Just make sure to keep them in your backpack while you’re traveling to your next destination.
Finally, pets are banned on the national park shuttles. But because they are also banned on all but one trail within the park and all visitors centers, it’s best to plan ahead to board your pet or leave them behind with relatives or friends during your trip.
Making the Most of the Zion and Springdale Shuttles
The shuttle system was first launched in 2000 to help reduce traffic and parking issues, as well as to protect the natural vegetation in the park. At the time, the park was welcoming just over 2 million visitors a year, a number that had far surpassed anything Zion had seen in the past.
Today, more than 6 million people ride the shuttles each year. While they are excellent tools for exploring Zion National Park, you’ll want to plan ahead so that you know what to expect and can make the most of your trip!