Visitor advisory: Consider less explored destinations over holiday weekends

The Zion Natl Park Forever Project aims to raise awareness and funding to preserve Zion National Park in perpetuity, Zion National Park, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Love Communications, St. George News

SPRINGDALE  As with most holiday weekends, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend typically brings heavy crowds to  Zion National Park, leading to longer than normal wait times at entrance stations and shuttle stops throughout Zion Canyon and crowded conditions on the park’s most popular trails.

Given these anticipated conditions, the Utah Office of Tourism is suggesting several other beautiful locales in the area.

“Southwest Utah has remarkable landscapes and Memorial Day weekend promises to bring a large number of visitors from around the world to experience the region,” Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism said. “We are encouraging visitors to consider expanding their itinerary to include destinations outside Zion National Park, particularly on Saturday, the busiest day of the holiday weekend.”

Read the St. George News exclusive series “Zion National Park Traffic Jam,” which focuses on issues related to Zion National Park’s growth challenges and its ripple effects on surrounding communities.

However, for visitors who have already solidified travel plans to Zion National Park this Memorial Day weekend, the tourism office has also compiled some recommendations for a more enjoyable visit.

Crowds line up for a shuttle ride in Zion National Park, undated | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

Visitors are encouraged to use the free shuttle system and leave their cars in designated parking lots in Springdale.

Saturday is expected to be much busier than the rest of the weekend, with more moderate visitation on Sunday and Monday. Travelers are encouraged to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid long lines at park entrances and facilities.

For visitors looking for a less crowded area than Zion Canyon, the Utah Office of Tourism has assembled a list of recommended alternative destinations for the busy weekend, including less populated hikes still within park boundaries.

Near Springdale and Zion National Park (south entrance): These hikes provide spectacular scenic views of Zion National Park’s majestic cliffs and are close to hotels and restaurants in Springdale.

  • Chinle Trail: Views of the West Temple, Mount Kinesava, Towers of the Virgin, Sundial and the spires of Eagle Crags. An out-and-back trail allows you to tailor the distance of the hike to suit your group’s needs. Trailhead is located outside south park entrance, approximately a block south of the Springdale Fruit Company.
  • Coal Pits Wash, photo undated | Stock image, St. George News

    Coal Pits Wash: 5.6 miles round trip (to junction with Chinle Trail), moderate difficulty. Trail follows a long wash adjacent to a reliable stream dotted with waterfalls and adjacent to tall cliffs within Zion National Park. Access from Highway 9.

  • Northgate Peaks Trail on Kolob Reservoir Road: This family-friendly, out-and-back hike follows a gradual path through tall ponderosa pines to an overlook at 2.2 miles. Hike is higher elevation and cooler during midday than hikes in the main valley.
  • Eagle Crags: 5 miles round trip, moderate difficulty. Accessed through the town of Rockville via an unpaved road, this hike provides spectacular views into Zion Canyon amid a pristine high-desert setting.

East Side of Zion National Park: Higher elevation, cooler temperatures and fewer visitors creates an appealing alternative to the valley floor.

  • Mounds of coral-colored sand shape the landscape of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah, Nov. 26, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

    Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: Before Zion’s cliffs were stone, they were magnificent sand dunes of the color and texture found here. Explore the dunes on foot or ATV, or look out over the ever-changing formations from the ADA accessible overlook platform.

  • Observation Point & Cable Mountain: Approximately 6 miles round trip, moderate difficulty. Accessed through Zion Ponderosa Resort, these two hikes lead to spectacular views at the rim of Zion Canyon. Trail details and information at the Zion Ponderosa Resort.

Within 60-90 minutes of Zion National Park: A spectacular array of remarkable parks, trails and unforgettable landscapes surrounds Zion National Park. Here are three remarkable parks to explore.

  • Cedar Breaks National Monument: High-elevation plateau with views into stunning amphitheater reminiscent of Bryce Canyon National Park. Renowned for their starry skies, Cedar Breaks will offer a ranger-led dark skies party every Saturday from May 27-Aug. 12, 2017 at 8:30 p.m. at Point Supreme.
  • Brian Head Resort: A short distance from Cedar Breaks, Brian Head offers mountain biking and hiking trails with several viewpoints looking into Cedar Breaks.
  • Snow Canyon State Park: Sheer Navajo sandstone cliffs, like those found in Zion National Park, and volcanic intrusions set the landscape for Snow Canyon’s many trails and scenic drives. Many options for hiking, scrambling and rock climbing.

However you spend your Memorial Day weekend, remember to be safe, drive carefully and most of all, enjoy this beautiful area.

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Twitter: @STGnews


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