|A Practical Guide to Zion|
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Due to the large amount of visitors to Zion National Park, a shuttle system has been put in place to deal with traffic and parking problems in the main canyon. The shuttle buses operate during the popular tourism months which now run from April through October. The shuttle system helps keep Zion's main canyon serene and it also makes visiting Zion much less stressful and aggravating to tourists.
The shuttle system includes two separate bus lines that are free for all visitors to ride:
- The Springdale Shuttle:
The primary parking lot for Zion's main canyon is located at the Visitor Center near the southern entrance of the park, but this lot typically fills up by mid-morning on high visitation days. The Springdale Shuttle helps to alleviate this problem of limited parking. If you are staying at a lodge or motel in Springdale, simply leave your car behind and take the Springdale Shuttle to the park entrance. If you are visiting Zion for the day, drive to Springdale and look for and park in one of the various "Shuttle Parking" parking lots. Parking is free, the shuttle is free, and busses run at least once every 15 minutes. Once at the park, cross over the Pedestrian Entrance to pay the NPS entrance fee. The Visitor Center is only a stone's throw away.
- Zion Canyon Shuttle:
Think of this as a guided tour bus within the park. Starting at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, this shuttle takes visitors on a scenic ride up Zion's main canyon, making several stops at interesting locations and trailheads, including the Zion Lodge, the Grotto (start of the Angels Landing hike), Weeping Rock, and the Temple of Sinawava (close to the Zion Narrows where the steep canyon walls converge). Since shuttles come regularly, feel free to get off at any spot, explore, and then get on the next shuttle. Below is a complete list of stops and what is interesting about each.
- Zion Canyon Visitor Center:
The Zion Canyon Shuttle starts at the Visitor Center, located just north of a Zion National Park entrance near Springdale. Also in the vicinity of the Visitor Center are the Watchman Campground, the South Campground, the Pa'rus Trail and the Watchman Trail.
Map courtesy of nps.gov.
This stop is at the Zion Human History Museum off of Route 9. The museum (which was the previous Visitor Center through the 1980s) is open March through November, 10am to 5pm (or 6pm in summer). Restrooms and additional parking are available as are great views of the Altar of Sacrifice and the Bridge Mountain Arch.
- Canyon Junction:
This minor stop is at the junction of Route 9 and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. (No vehicles are allowed down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive during shuttle season unless visitors are staying at the Zion Lodge.) This stop also provides easy access to the river and is the end of the Pa'rus Trail.
- Court of the Patriarchs:
This minor stop has a short path that leads to a viewpoint of the Court of the Patriarchs. Across the road is the path and bridge that leads to the not-so-popular Sandbench Loop horse and foot trail.
- Zion Lodge:
This is a big stop for the Zion Shuttle, where many people will be getting on and off. The Zion Lodge has several restaurants, a gift shop, indoor restrooms, and a grand lawn with a majestic cottonwood tree that invites visitors to stay and relax. Across the road is the start of the Emerald Pools Trail and the horse stables for those looking to ride along the Sandbench Loop.
- The Grotto:
The Grotto used to be a campground and the site of the original Visitor Center, but now it is an isolated picnic area with a water fountain and primitive bathrooms. It is the starting point for the legendary Angels Landing hike, West Rim Trail, and the Kayenta Trail (an alternate approach to the Emerald Pools Trail).
- Weeping Rock:
Weeping Rock is the starting point for many interesting hikes up and out of the east side of the canyon: Weeping Rock, Observation Point, East Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon, Cable Mountain, and Deertrap Mountain. This stop has a primitive toilet and easy access to a nice stream flowing from Weeping Rock.
- Big Bend:
This stop isn't the starting point for any featured trails, but you may want to get out to see a good view of the Great White Throne with Angels Landing in the foreground. Climbers can often be spotted making their way up Angels Landing. There is access to the river and trails of use if you want to hike to the previous or next stops.
- Temple of Sinawava:
This is the end of the line for the shuttle, a beautifully quiet spot where everybody will want to get out and take a stroll to the river. (Bathrooms and water fountains are available.) This is the starting point for the Riverside Walk and the classic Zion Narrows Day Hike.
- The National Park Service does not offer free shuttle service to any other parts of the park, but several outfitters in Springdale offer shuttle services for a fee, taking hikers to various remote trailheads such as Chamberlain's Ranch (for the Zion Narrows hike), the Subway, Lava Point, Lee Pass (in the Kolob Canyons section), and the East Entrance Trailhead.
- To see the official shuttle dates and times, view the Shuttle Schedule for 2016.
- While you can drive down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the off-season, the park has been getting more popular in winter months, so parking at the trailheads may still be a problem if you don't get an early morning start.
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