SPRINGDALE — Outdoor enthusiasts planning to spend part of this festive season at Zion National Park will have some help from park staff to shuttle around the park for their family’s visit. 

Visitors wait to board Zion Canyon Line Shuttles, Zion National Park, Utah, Nov. 20, 2023 | Photo courtesy of National Park Service/ Jonathan Shafer, St. George News

According to a media release, shuttle service resumes today, Friday, Dec. 22 and continues through Sunday, Dec. 31. Park staff have provided these guidelines to make the family excursion even more enjoyable.

First shuttle leaving the Visitor Center is at 8 a.m.
Last shuttle leaving the Visitor Center is at 3 p.m.
Last Shuttle leaving the Temple of Sinawava is at 5:45 p.m.
During these 10 days, visitors cannot drive personal vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.  

In December, if there are more people in line than there is space available on the shuttle that departs at 3 p.m. (if everyone in line will not fit on the last bus), those who do not board can return another day to ride up-canyon or visit areas other than Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the release states.

Winter personal vehicle access in Zion Canyon starts January 1, 2024.
The last day of winter shuttle service in Zion Canyon and Springdale is December 31, 2023.
Visitors can drive personal vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive starting on January 1, 2024.
Plan for limited parking; when parking in Zion Canyon is full, the NPS may temporarily limit access.  

Shuttle service will resume in spring, the National Park Service will share specific dates in 2024.  

Fall and winter camping

Watchman Campground is open year-round and campers can make reservations up to six months before visiting at this link or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Staff suggest planning ahead and make arrangements for where to stay before you get to the park. South Campground and Lava Point Campground are closed for the season.  

Visitor Center and Wilderness Permit hours  

Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons Visitor Centers

Open 8 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. every day through the fall and winter.  

Wilderness Permit Desks

Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk: Open 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Kolob Canyons Wilderness Desk: Closed for the season. Get permits at Zion Canyon Wilderness Desk. Zion National Park staff will post updates on the park’s operating hours and seasons webpage when hours change.

Zion Canyon Shuttle System buses

Hikers view wildlife on Pa’rus Trail at Zion National Park, Utah, Dec. 20, 2023 | Photo by NPS/Jonathan Shafer, St. George News

This fall, the National Park Service determined that Zion Canyon Shuttle Bus trailers have reached the end of their service lives. Riders should expect limited capacity with single-unit buses operating in Zion Canyon and the Town of Springdale. To assist with rider capacity, the park is already operating the first of its new, all-electric shuttle bus fleet and anticipates more entering service in spring 2024.

Falling temperatures

Check conditions before going outside. Air temperatures are near freezing at night, and water temperatures have been consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Virgin River (the Narrows). Check the forecast and dress in layers to stay warm.

Big Bend temporarily closed

In order to accommodate larger, electric shuttle buses that are scheduled to enter service in 2024 and to resolve significant cracking in concrete on the edges of the paved area at Big Bend, the National Park Service is completing construction at Big Bend. While work is happening, the paved area at the shuttle stop is fenced and closed. Depending on the availability of materials and winter weather, the park plans to reopen Big Bend in the spring 2024. 

Weeping Rock

A Ride Zion Adventures tour guide caught images and video of the rockslide at Weeping Rock on Tuesday afternoon within Zion National Park, Utah, Nov. 14, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Nolan Hanson, St. George News

Following rockfall on Nov. 14, Weeping Rock Shuttle Stop, parking area and trail remain closed until further notice while park scientists and maintenance staff assess rock in the area.

Whether you ride a shuttle or drive your own car in Zion Canyon, be prepared for crowds.
Parking fills early year-round.
Watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists if you are driving.
Stay on trails and avoid walking on the roads.
Ride your bike on the road or the Pa’Rus Trail. Bicycling is not allowed on any other trails in the park. If you are riding in the road, you must stop to let buses pass you.
The NPS may temporarily close roads if traffic is congested or there is nowhere for drivers to park.  

In general, fewer people visit Zion on weekdays than weekends. Consider arriving early or after 3 p.m. to avoid the busiest times of day.

Visitors that cannot park in Zion — or if all campsites are full — are advised to research nearby communities and public lands to learn about other recreational activities and lodging. Always recreate responsibly and respect private owners’ property and facilities.

Follow ‘Leave No Trace’ practices everywhere in the park and beyond; be sure to pack out all trash and dispose of it properly.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.