Zion continues mask protocols, limited services amid omicron outbreak

This 2019 file photo shows the hourslong line forming at the Grotto to hike Angels Landing over Memorial Day weekend, Zion National Park, May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With omicron COVID cases sharply rising in Utah, Zion National Park continues to mandate masks and limit services. The National Park Service also continues to monitor and respond to the pandemic.

Undated file photo of the chained final portion of the Angels Landing Trail that will require a permit in Zion National Park, Utah | Photo by gelyngfjell/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“We work closely with the National Park Service Office of Public Health to use the latest science to guide our decision making,” Jonathan M. Shafer, Zion National Park Public Affairs Specialist, said. “To promote our staff and visitors’ safety, masks are required in all NPS buildings and on park shuttles, regardless of location or vaccination status. Masks must be worn in outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

The National Park Service closely monitors COVID-19 with federal, state and local authorities. Most outdoor areas remain open to the public following the latest health guidance. They strongly encouraged visitors to adhere to advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local public health officials to protect each other.

While outdoor areas remain open, other services in the park are limited. The visitor center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wilderness permits are available from 8-10 a.m. and from 3-4:30 p.m. The Watchman Campground is open, and visitors can make a reservation to stay there on recreation.gov.

Shuttle riders are still required to wear masks; however, the previous ticket system to use the park shuttle system that was implemented in February 2020 is no longer in place. During the winter months, Zion doesn’t operate park shuttles, but shuttle service will resume on weekends only (Saturday and Sunday) in mid-February and daily starting mid-March.

The Court of the Patriarchs’ is a sandstone cliff on the south face of the Three Patriarchs, Zion National Park, Utah, Dec. 6, 2021 | Photo by Stephanie DeGraw, St. George News

Currently, visitors can drive personal vehicles on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive inside the park. However, visitors are encouraged to plan for limited parking. When parking in Zion Canyon is full, the park service may temporarily close the road.

As far as hiking, the trail to Angels Landing via West Rim Trail is open. On and after April 1, hikers will need a permit.

The new lottery program reflects comments from nearly 1,000 members of the public, park neighbors and other stakeholders. The park service also examined the number of hikers on the trail in 2019 and 2021.

The Upper Emerald Pool Trail is currently closed because of a rockfall. The trail will stay closed while park rangers and a trail crew assess conditions. Once the debris is removed, the trail will reopen as soon as it is safe. More information on the Emerald Pool trails and other hikes can be found on the Zion website.

Zion National Park has many other things to do. Here are a few recommended alternative ideas for a trip to Zion:

  • Stop for a picnic lunch at one of Zion’s community parks or on numerous roadside pullouts.
  • Drive Zion’s scenic roads and enjoy the park’s beauty from inside your car.
  • Hike or bike the Zion Canyon scenic drive. It is a great way to see the park, get some fresh air and keep your distance from other visitors. Remember to be safe as there is little to no shoulder on most roads.
  • Visit the Kolob Canyons side of Zion, just off Interstate-15.

The park service also urges visitors to pack out everything brought into the park, maintain social distance from other visitors, plan around busier hours and park only in designated areas. If you encounter an overcrowded trailhead, park officials recommend you try a different hike.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!