On the evening of Monday, March 16, Zion National Park officials announced that they would be temporarily suspending operations of its shuttle service. Coming on the tails of nation-wide measures to limit situations groups, it’s unclear when the shuttles will start again for the year.
Zion’s shuttles only began operation for the 2020 season last week. Running from March through late November each year, the Zion Canyon Shuttle and the Springdale Shuttle help solve the problem of limited parking and traffic. They also give guests an easy way to navigate the roads and reach Zion’s most popular hiking trails and overlooks.
While the shuttles may be temporarily parked, that doesn’t mean that visitors can’t still enter the national park. Keep reading to learn what you should know about visiting Zion and other Utah national parks during the coronavirus outbreak.
Zion National Park Remains Open at This Time
As of Tuesday afternoon, Zion National Park remains open to visitors without restrictions. With the shuttles out of operation, guests are welcome to drive their personal vehicles along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, just as they can during the winter off-season in the park each year.
The Scenic Drive will be open each morning. But as the limited parking spots in the lower canyon fill, park officials will close the roadway. They’ll reopen it intermittently as parking spaces reopen. This process is likely to continue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, as these are the busiest hours in the park.
When the Scenic Drive is closed because the parking spaces are full, guests are still welcome to park at the Visitor Center or in Springdale and walk into the park and lower canyon. Or, take a scenic drive through the upper canyon and stop back by the lower canyon later in the day when parking will likely become available again.
Visitor Centers and Human History Museum Have Closed Until Further Notice
The Zion and Springdale Shuttles ceasing operations aren’t the only changes being made in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At this time, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, and the Zion Human History Museum are closed to guests. While there have been no reports of individuals with coronavirus visiting the parks, these closures are part of a national response to the outbreak. President Trump and White House officials have advised that the public should avoid any situations that bring groups of more than 10 people together.
The Zion Lodge and its restaurants are open at this time. Staff and officials are working to maintain clean facilities. They will be following all guidelines from the CDC to prevent the spread of germs.
Other Measures in Place in the Park
All ranger programs, park films, and other programs are canceled at this time, and until further notice. However, that doesn’t mean that the park is open without any restrictions or rules.
Rangers are still patrolling the park at this time. Wilderness permits are also still necessary if you want to backpack in the backcountry, or do any climbing or canyoneering.
Obtaining a Wilderness Permit Online
Instead of obtaining permits from the visitor centers, guests are asked to go online to obtain their permits.
Following this link, you’ll need to reserve your trip and provide an email address that park officials can reach you at. You’ll also need to submit a reservation fee of $5. Then, wait for an email from the park service confirming your reservation. Submitting a reservation does not constitute receiving a wilderness permit. You do need to receive a confirmation to legally access the backcountry.
Each day, the park service will send out emails to visitors who have made reservations the evening or hours before. The email will contain instructions and a password that you can then use to log in to the Zion Express Membership.
Anyone who is already a member of the Zion Express system can simply go online and obtain their permit like normal.
Visiting Zion National Park During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Visitor numbers are beginning to pick up for the year in Zion. This is thanks in part to Spring Break and likely also an influx of people as schools are canceled and many businesses are allowing employees to work remotely.
Closing the visitor centers and museums and suspending the shuttle service will help keep guests from coming in close contact with others during their visit. The measure also helps protect park officials, staff, and rangers.
These measures are incredibly important. However, the fact that Zion remains open at this time highlights that it is possible to enjoy a safe visit. By limiting your contact with other guests and practicing healthy habits, you and your family can get outside and enjoy some fresh air without putting your health and safety at risk.
To learn more about enjoying a safe and healthy visit to Zion, check out these tips.