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Bigger crowds expected at Utah’s National Parks this summer

President Trump is calling for national parks to re-open, something Governor Gary Herbert supports if done safely and carefully. Meanwhile, local businesses and shops around the parks are eagerly awaiting the return of visitors. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Visitation at all of Utah’s national parks was down last year but this summer, with the pandemic nearing its end, the crowds are expected to return. Planning your visit before you leave will likely pay off in a better visitor experience.

Look at the websites. Check out the camping arrangements. And be ready for the weather.

It might be worthwhile to use a little strategy on when and how you visit Utah’s National Parks this summer. For example, Zion requires reservations for its shuttle system. Visiting Arches can sometimes result in a long wait at the gate.

K. Sophie Will, the national parks reporter for The Spectrum in St. George said, “If you get into Arches before about 7 or 8 am, you’ll be able to be there all day,” Will says. “But if you can’t make it that early, you’re going to have to come in the late afternoon when things have died down because – the thing with Arches is there aren’t enough parking spots.”

Utah’s national parks all have maintenance backlogs of things that need to be improved or fixed. A major federal spending bill for national parks across the country included very little for Utah.

Vicki Varela heads Utah’s Office of Tourism. She tells KSL NewsRadio, “That was super disappointing, ‘cause we have worked so hard for so many years to get more investment in our national parks.” 

Anna Perdue and Ryan Jones are graduate students at the University of Central Florida who’ve visited Utah’s national parks. They’ve created a data visualization tool for national parks across the country and in the West. It shows Canyonlands and Capitol Reef are the least crowded parks in Utah.

Screenshot from Observable

Jones said, “If you want to find a highly rated trail but you don’t want to get bogged down with a lot of people on the trail at the same time, you probably want to find a trail that has a high rating but a lower number of reviews, that could be a possible indicator that that’s a good trail for you.”

Once you’ve done your homework and set out for adventure, K. Sophie Will says visitors can’t forget the important stuff like safety.

“They think they’re gonna have enough water. Or they think they’ll be OK – it’s only a short hike. But as we head into the summer months, the heat in southern Utah is killer,” Will emphasized.

Masks are still required in the national parks, and it might be worthwhile, along with extra water and sunscreen, to pack some patience.

 

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