Parks warn of crowds, traffic over Presidents Day weekend; Zion releases shuttle schedule

Visitors line up for shuttle access to Zion National Park, Utah, circa 2017 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park are preparing for Presidents Day weekend, one of the busiest times of the year, and warning visitors of crowded conditions, parking availability, trail closures and schedules.

Zion National Park

Thousands of visitors are expected in Zion National Park over Presidents Day weekend, with numbers expected to climb starting Friday. In 2018, the park hosted more than 25,000 visitors, an 18 percent increase from the year before, according to a press release from the park.

Even if visitation numbers are similar, officials say the park will feel more congested to visitors this year due to the number of trails currently closed in Zion Canyon, including the Upper Emerald Pools and the Kayenta Trail, which are closed due to damage from summer monsoon rains.

Read more: Angels Landing trail reopening in Zion National Park after months of repairs; other popular trails still closed

A recent rockfall on the Lower East Rim trail has closed access to both Hidden Canyon and Observation Point trails from the canyon floor. Observation Point is still accessible from the East Mesa Trail to those who have a high clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead and are equipped to hike in deep snow.

Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock and the Lower Emerald Pools trails often close in the winter due to the danger of falling ice when midday temperatures begin to thaw hanging icicles. The East Rim Trail from the east entrance of the park remains open if visitors are prepared for snow and muddy conditions. Sand Bench, Watchman, Coalpits and Chinle trails are typically recommended winter hiking options.

For the holiday weekend, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The wilderness permits desk will be open from 8-11 a.m. and again from 3-5 p.m. The park film will be shown at the Human History Museum, which will be open Saturday and Sunday only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The recently reopened Kolob Canyons Visitor Center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Read more: After 9-month closure, Kolob Canyons district of Zion to reopen

“Visitors should come prepared,” Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in the press release. “Not only for crowded conditions but for the hikes and other activities they are planning under winter conditions. And remember that safety is your responsibility, so please avoid unsafe behaviors and risk-taking. With many people visiting, by showing patience with others and respectful trail etiquette, everyone can enjoy the beauty of the park.”

To facilitate visitor access, Zion will resume weekend-only, mandatory shuttle service Saturday and Sunday. Park shuttle buses will depart the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at 7 a.m. heading up-canyon to designated trailhead stops with the last bus of the evening returning from the Temple of Sinawava and back to the Visitor Center at 6:40 p.m. The same schedule will resume again Feb. 23-24 and March 2-3.

Shuttle services in Springdale will not operate during these weekend dates. Full season daily shuttle services in both the park and Springdale will begin March 9 and run through late fall.

Snow Canyon State Park

Presidents Day weekend is one of the busiest weekends of the year at Snow Canyon State Park, with most visitors arriving Saturday and Sunday. Preparations are being made to implement traffic control at both park entrances to ensure visitor and resource safety.

Peak visitation times are between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Temporary closures or entrance freezes will be put in place when designated parking areas and pullouts within the park are full. Visitors should be prepared for long entrance lines with a possible one-hour wait.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to arrive before or after peak hours. The best time to visit Snow Canyon is from 6-10:30 a.m. or 4-10 p.m. Visitors should also consider carpooling or visiting on alternative dates.

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