What You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Healthy 4th of July Weekend in Zion National Park

Jun 28, 2019

Next week, hundreds of thousands of Americans will celebrate our nation’s Independence Day with a visit to a national park. And for thousands of those visitors, that park will be Zion.

While Zion is an excellent spot to celebrate the 4th of July with hiking, picnicking, sightseeing, and more, it also marks one of the highest attendance days of the year. This means that visitors will contend with traffic and crowds, as well as the heat that the park experiences during this time of year.

But don’t let this scare you away from a holiday visit. Instead, check out these tips to help you and your family stay safe and enjoy a fun holiday together in Zion National Park this 4th of July weekend.

Shuttles are Free (And You’ll Have to Use Them)

Starting in February of each year and lasting into fall, Zion launches its shuttle service. Not only is the shuttle service free to use, it’s also the only way to get to many areas of the park during its busy season. That’s because when the shuttle is in operation, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles.

To utilize the shuttle, you have two options. One option is to park at the Visitor Center and hop directly on the park loop. The second is to park in Springdale, either at your hotel or vacation rental or in a designated public lot, and then hop on the Springdale shuttle loop. Hop off at the Visitors Center, and then catch a park shuttle to ride the loop and get to your chosen hiking trail, the Lodge, or elsewhere in the park.

It’s Going to be a Hot One

July is the hottest month of the year for Zion. While the average daily maximum temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, temps have soared as high as 115 degrees in the past.

Whether you plan to hike, camp, or even just picnic in the park or go sightseeing, it’s important to plan ahead to stay safe in the heat. Plan difficult hikes early in the day when the temperatures will be cooler. Pack more water than you expect to need, and drink frequently to stay hydrated. Make sure that young children and older adults are drinking water and not overheating, though everyone, regardless of age, should be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and dehydration.

But There’s Still a Chance of Rain

Perhaps because much of southern Utah is desert landscape, many new visitors to the area don’t realize that rain is still fairly common during the summer months. Starting around mid-July and lasting into September, Zion experiences monsoons. While these usually occur just a few days a month, the dry conditions can lead to dangerous flash floods as water pools and runs into washes and streams rather than soaking into the hardened ground.

On average July sees a maximum of 3.6 inches of rain during the month of July, while August sees 4.8 inches and September sees 6.7 inches. While that rain usually occurs later in the month, it is still possible for storms to pass through during the 4th of July weekend.

While you can certainly still hike and enjoy the park, it’s important to be aware of the increased threat of flash floods. Always check the weather conditions for that day before you start a hike, heed any warnings from park officials about trails that could be dangerous on any given day, and know what to do if a flash flood does occur.

Some Trails Remain Closed

Heavy snow that occurred late in the season has caused flooding on several of Zion National Park’s most popular trails. The excess water also caused rockslides and other damage that closed even more trails.

The Upper Emerald Pools Trail, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point, starting from Weeping Rock onwards, were all closed. Most of those trails will remain closed through the holiday weekend.

Luckily, one of the most popular hiking spots, The Narrows, has reopened. However, park officials are warning that the water that hikers will need to traverse is still flowing faster than usual. If you choose to make this journey, be prepared for high waters and a strong current which you’ll have to contend with as you walk through waist-deep or even deeper water at points. Only those hikers who are strong, confident swimmers should attempt this hike until the water levels recede more.

If additional rainfall occurs and the flow rate increases, park officials may close the trail again ahead of the 4th of July weekend. You can check trail closures at the Visitors Center or online before your visit to help you plan which hikes and overlooks you’d like to visit.

Don’t Drink and Drive

While drunk driving always puts not only the driver’s life, but also the lives of any passengers, pedestrians, or others on the road in danger, it’s particularly dangerous in Zion. The national park’s roads are notoriously narrow. Many hug tightly to rock faces or border steep drop-offs. And during the busy summer months, traffic congestion is a big problem. Memorial Day weekend and the weekends surrounding the 4th of July are some of the busiest days to visit the park, which means that roadways are crowded with cars and pedestrians.

According to park officials, one person dies in a motor vehicle accident in national parks across the country every single week. Whether as a result of drunk driving, dangerous conditions, or other causes, parks officials have noted a surge in accidents during busy summer months, and particularly in popular parks that see high visitation during June, July, and August.

If these statistics aren’t enough to make you think twice before climbing behind the wheel, you should also know that Zion officials are planning to increase enforcement of impaired driving over the upcoming 4-day holiday weekend.

Planning Your 4th of July Visit to Zion

Celebrating the 4th of July in Zion or any other national park is a great way to pay tribute to just one of the perks we now enjoy as a result of our nation’s independence. But if you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a stress free vacation, be sure to keep these tips in mind!