America loves its national parks – sometimes a little too much, and overcrowding is a mounting concern. You can’t blame anyone for visiting in a treasure like Zion National Park, but you can get away from the crowds. Here are five ways to get ahead of the pack and have your own adventure.
1) Early bird
Don’t wait until after breakfast to get after it. If you want the best experience Zion has to offer, especially in Zion Canyon, get up early. Often, parking inside the canyon fills by mid-morning, according to park officials. Reports of a 45-minute wait to enter the park are common.
Park rangers are directing visitors out of the popular Zion Canyon to Zion’s west side, Kolob Terrace Road, and Kolob Canyons, where congestion is far less and the park is wide open. Or, tempting the more adventurous, hikes like the wildly exposed Hidden Canyon and towering Observation Point are among the park’s highlights, but less traveled.
3) Holidazed and confused
You’re way better off on a random Tuesday than Presidents’ Day weekend.
“Holiday weekends can strain the park’s facilities and staffing to manage crowded conditions and meet visitor expectations,” said Zion Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. Beating the crowds isn’t joining them.
4) Think outside the park
Local guide services like Zion Rock & Mountain Guides offer a selection of adventures just outside the park’s boundaries, magical places that get you away from the hustle and bustle. From rock climbing and canyoneering to mountain biking, quality experiences await.
“People really enjoy it. It’s a way to do something real, not just be on a front country hike,” said Kevin Dineen of ZRMG. In a landscape where it’s easy to get into trouble, Dineen said it’s wise to let experienced parties lead the way.
“This is the way to do it,” he said. We can take out just about anybody.”
5) Ditch the car
With few exceptions, Zion is only accessible in private vehicles during late fall and winter, but even during periods of fewer visitors, parking and traffic becomes an issue. Ditch the car and take advantage of the park’s shuttle service.
Or better yet, get a bike pass and pedal your way through the park’s system of roads.