A Practical Guide to Zion: Page 1 2 3 4 5 6

a shuttle bus pulls up to one of the Zion Canyon stops (Zion National Park) -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography

The Zion Shuttle System:

Due to the large number of tourists visiting Zion National Park, a free shuttle bus system has been put in place to deal with traffic and parking problems in Zion Canyon and in the neighboring tourist town of Springdale. The shuttle buses operate almost year round at this point (March to November as well as popular holidays and weekends), taking a break only during the dead of winter. The Zion Canyon Line helps keep the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive serene and free from traffic jams while the Springdale Line allows people to park in numerous designated spaces and lots in the town of Springdale when the limited parking at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center has reached capacity.

Driving Private Vehicles through the Park:

Private vehicles are allowed to drive through Zion National Park along Route 9 (the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway that connects Springdale with Mt. Carmel Junction, Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon). The closure to private vehicles during tourist season is only for the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive--the road that breaks off from Route 9 at Canyon Junction and heads up Zion Canyon towards the most popular trailheads as well as the Zion Lodge. (If you have a reservation to stay at the Zion Lodge, you are permitted to drive up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to get to the lodge.)

Map showing Route 9 and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, where you can drive when the shuttles are in operation

Finding Parking at the Visitor Center or in Springdale:

If you are planning on driving into Zion National Park for the day, the primary parking lot for Zion Canyon is located at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center just inside the south entrance to the park. On high visitation days, this lot typically fills up by mid-morning, so if you arrive later, you will have to find parking in one of Springdale's various parking lots or roadside parking spots and then catch a free ride on the Springdale Line to the pedestrian entrance of the park. Note that you must now pay for parking in Springdale and you will get ticketed if you park in prohibited areas like side streets that have "no public parking" signs. On high visitation days (summer tourist season, holidays, etc.), searching for parking and entering the park can be an absolute nightmare if you arrive late morning or early afternoon.

The Two Bus Lines of the Free Shuttle System:

the NPS shuttle map infographic (Zion National Park)

The Zion Canyon Line Stops:

  1. Zion Canyon Visitor Center
    The Zion Canyon Shuttle starts at the Visitor Center, located just inside the main south entrance to Zion National Park near Springdale. A queue has been put in place at the stop to help round up the crowds. Also in the vicinity of the Visitor Center are the Watchman Campground, the South Campground, the Pa'rus Trail, and the Watchman Trail.
  2. Zion Human History Museum
    This stop is less than a mile up the road at the Zion Human History Museum along 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). Behind the museum is a great view of the famous "Towers of the Virgin" and to the east you can catch a glimpse of the Bridge Mountain Arch. A path from the parking lot also connects with the Pa'rus Trail.
  3. Canyon Junction
    This stop is at the junction of Route 9 and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. No private vehicles are allowed to drive up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive while the shuttle busses are in use (except for visitors staying at the Zion Lodge). This stop also provides easy access to the river and is the end of the Pa'rus Trail.
  4. 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 hikers bridge that leads to the Sandbench Loop horse and foot trail as well as a connector trail to the Emerald Pools Trail.
  5. Zion Lodge
    This is a big stop for the Zion shuttle line 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 Trail also starts here and follows the road to the next stop.
  6. 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, the Kayenta Trail (an alternate approach to the Emerald Pools Trail), and the Grotto Trail that connects back to the Zion Lodge.
    This is a cool stop for a short walk to the lovely Weeping Rock alcove. This also used to be the starting point for many interesting hikes up and out of the east side of the canyon (Observation Point, East Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon, Cable Mountain, and Deertrap Mountain), but a massive landslide in 2019 has closed this trail indefinitely.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Route 9 in front of Checkerboard Mesa (Zion National Park) -- © 2015 Joe Braun Photography

Notes on Vehicles and Shuttles:

Page 6: Dealing with Crowds

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