Zion National Park plans to handle big Memorial Day weekend crowds

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SPRINGDALE — The National Park Service is planning ahead to handle the busiest weekend of the year at Zion National Park: Memorial Day weekend.

In 2018, park officials say more than 86,000 people visited Zion National Park over the four-day weekend. The park service says the weekend is expected to be busy yet again this year.

Park officials are recommending visitors who can be flexible in their scheduling plan to visit the park on Friday or Monday rather than Saturday and Sunday, when peak crowds are expected. They also recommended visitors consider arriving early in the day or after 3:00 p.m. to avoid the largest crowds.

“Visitors should come prepared, both for crowded conditions and for the activities they are planning,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, park superintendent.

Parking lots are typically full by 9:00 a.m. during the busy season; a free shuttle is available from the town of Springdale to help visitors access the park.

Bradybaugh pointed out that park visitors are responsible for their own safety, and urged them to avoid taking unnecessary risks.

“Multiple emergencies are common during busy periods,” he added, “stretching the availability of search and rescue, emergency medical and fire-fighting capabilities.”

Zion plans to extend the hours of its Zion Canyon Visitor Center and Wilderness Desk starting May 25 and running through Labor Day, staying open until 7:00 p.m. nightly.

The park is also trying something new to help manage the crowds of visitors hoping to hike Angels Landing, one of Zion National Park’s most congested but also treacherous trails: managing the line that forms at Scout Lookout by moving it to the West Rim Trailhead at the Grotto instead. Because of storm damage and high water this year, a number of Zion’s other trails remain closed for Memorial Day weekend, raising concerns that crowding for Angels Landing might be even greater in 2019.

In 2018 over the same weekend, lines at Scout Lookout for visitors hoping to hike Angels Landing were one to two hours long. Toilets at that location were over capacity; park officials said park visitors also damaged soils and vegetation. The Grotto provides a water bottle refilling tap, flush toilets and additional portable toilets that the park hopes will alleviate some of those crowding problems.

Currently, park officials say the Narrows remain closed because of snowmelt. The Kayenta Trail and Upper Emerald Pools Trail are closed because of storm damage. The Hidden Canyon Trail and Observation Point from Weeping Rock are also closed because of a rockfall.

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Kelli Pierce and Becky Bruce


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