Traffic, Shuttles and Fees
The Virgin River didn’t shape Zion Canyon to accommodate large numbers of visitors. There is one road — Highway 9 — connecting the west and east entrances through the most popular part of the park. This leads to traffic issues for the fifth most visited national park in the country.
Visitors can expect a wait at the entrance stations, particularly the west entrance in Springdale, even in the off-season. Lines to get into Zion on holidays and long weekends stretch far into Springdale. Once in the park, visitors will find the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only open to people with reservations at Zion Lodge and park shuttles from mid-March to November.
There are two free shuttles: one within Zion National Park and one between the entrance to the park and several stops in the town of Springdale. The free shuttles pick up passengers at nine stops (map PDF) with the Zion Canyon Visitor Center serving as the main hub. The Temple of Sinawava is the end of the Scenic Drive and the shuttle turn around point. During the busiest days buses can arrive at the stops every seven minutes. There is also a free shuttle system in Springdale that delivers people from their hotels to the park entrance. To minimize congestion, the town shuttle is the best option for visitors with overnight stays at accommodations in Springdale. Anyone staying in Springdale (map PDF) should leave their car at the hotel and use the shuttle instead. Parking within the park is full by 8:30 a.m. most days through the summer. Don't forget your annual pass or receipts if you've previously entered the park by vehicle.
Visitors are allowed to drive through the park on Highway 9 year round. A wonder of human achievement on Highway 9 makes travel from the Springdale to Mount Carmel Junction. When it was completed in 1930 the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel was the longest tunnel of its kind in the country. It was completed to give tourists easier access between Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.
2017 Shuttle Schedule
The Zion National Park free shuttle service in Zion Canyon and Springdale resumed on Saturday, March 11, 2017 and will operate into late November. During this time the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will be closed to private vehicles. See Current Conditions related to the daily shuttle.
Oversized Vehicles in the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
All vehicles, however, are not allowed to drive through the tunnel and others must pay a special fee to get private time in the tunnel.
People driving motorhomes are required to stop at the entrance station and get their vehicles measured if they plan to drive through the tunnel at any point. If the vehicle will fit in the tunnel a $15 fee must be paid for rangers to shut down traffic in both directions to allow the motorhome to drive through the tunnel without traffic. There are special times of the day when the oversized vehicles are allowed to drive through the tunnel with a permit. Specifications for motorhomes that will fit in the tunnel can be found on the Zion website. Visitors are only allowed to go through the tunnel in vehicles. No pedestrians or bicyclists are allowed in the tunnel.
Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway
The Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway is not connected to the Zion Canyon portion of the park. The out-and-back 10-mile round trip takes visitors to the photogenic Kolob Canyons Viewpoint. Plenty of panoramic photographs have been taken at the end of the byway.
Interest in bicycling in the park is growing. Riding a bike is allowed on all park roads; riding on hiking trails in Zion is not allowed. Visitors staying in the campgrounds or entering the park from Springdale can ride from the visitors center on the Pa’rus Trail 1.75 miles to the Canyon Junction. At the junction cyclists can then ride on the 7-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Riders are required to pull over and stop when approached from behind by a shuttle bus while riding on the Scenic Drive. One way to enjoy a day in the park is to ride the shuttle to the top of the Scenic Drive — each shuttle has a rack with room for at least two bikes — and ride down the canyon and Pa’rus trail back to the visitors center.
Visitors are required to pay an entry fee or show a valid annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. Each vehicle is $30 for a week in the park. A motorcycle permit is $25. People entering the park on foot or bicycle pay $15. Children 15 and under are allowed to enter with no charge.