SPRINGDALE – Zion National Park saw record-breaking visitor turnout over President’s Day weekend, causing park officials to close access to the park for up to 90 minutes at a time.
“Between the great weather and it being a fee-free weekend in honor of Presidents Day, the park experienced an additional 2,000 cars through just the south (Springdale) entrance over last year,” Michelle Haas, volunteer program manager for Zion National Park, said.
Zion’s designated parking lots, spaces and roadside pullouts filled up quickly, Haas said.
On Saturday and Sunday, access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive was closed for 90 minutes each day due to heavy traffic and limited parking.
Park officials closed the road until parking spaces began to open back up, in order to ensure public safety and resource protection, Haas said. The closure caused traffic to back up into Springdale for about a mile.
The vehicle count for Friday through Monday was 9,807 – up from 7,886 in 2014, Haas said. Additionally, visitation numbers at the Zion Visitor Center have nearly doubled since 2012.
Over the last few years, Zion has been experiencing increased visitation during the “shoulder” seasons in early spring and late fall.
Visitors can expect the park to be crowded during fee-free entry days that occur during great weather and extended holiday weekends, Haas said, and travelers should expect long lines to get into the park, full campgrounds and limited parking spaces. The park encourages visitors to plan well in advance for lodging arrangements and to arrive early.
The Zion and Springdale shuttle services were implemented to alleviate heavy traffic in the park during the summer months. Concerns behind the creation of the shuttle services included public safety, resource protection, and alleviating visitor frustration by offering an alternative means to getting into Zion’s main canyon via the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
“The shuttle service has been a great success. In the last few years, as visitation increasingly bleeds into the shoulder seasons, and as that visitation continues to grow, the park has been undergoing a transportation study that will inform management decisions into the future,” Haas said. “The decision was made this year to begin shuttle service operation earlier in the year than in years past.”
The Zion and Springdale shuttle services will begin operation on March 15, two weeks earlier than 2014’s April 1 date. Visitors are reminded to park at the Zion Visitor Center or in town to use the shuttle system if their destination is along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Haas said.
The town and park shuttles are free, and private vehicles are prohibited on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive when the shuttles are operating.
- For information about the Zion and Springdale shuttle services, visit the park website
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