OUTDOORS + RECREATION

Things to know when visiting Zion National Park

May 9, 2023, 9:30 PM

Long lines and heavy traffic are expected at Zion National Park this summer as they prepare for the...

FILE: Long lines and heavy traffic are expected at Zion National Park this summer as they prepare for the Fourth of July. (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As the summer months are approaching, visiting places, such as Zion National Park, become front and center for most people.

And as such, national parks are getting ready for an influx of visitors. Jonathan Shafer, public affairs officer for Zion National Park, joined KSL at Night with hosts Leah Murray and Scott Simpson on Tuesday. They discuss what visitors can expect when they visit the park.

Who visits Zion National Park?

Murray starts off the conversation by asking, “Are we getting overwhelmed in our national parks? Has everybody come? How many people come?”

Schafer says Zion National Park hosted 4.7 million visitors in 2022. 

“That’s the second most we’ve ever had in history,” he said. “When anyone comes here, we want to prepare them for the kind of experience that they’re gonna have.”

Simpson asked, “Tell us what that means? Is that cars that come across the gate?”

Shafer says park officials are counting the number of individuals who come through the gate on any given day. He says a mathematical formula is used in the counting of visitors. He says some people may visit the park for one day, while others may visit for two or three days.

Things you should know

Murray asked, “Do you all have to reserve a time to hike in Zion, or can you just show up?”

Shafer offers the following information:

  • Zion National Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • No reservation is needed to enter the park.
  • No ticket is required to ride the shuttle bus.
  • A permit is required if you are planning to go to certain areas in the park, such as Angels Landing.

“What’s the process for getting those permits?” Simpson asked. “Is that available on a website?”

“It is,” Shafer said. “So, we’ve tried to make that process accessible, flexible and fair. Anyone can apply for a permit. And if you know that you’re gonna be coming here months a head of time, if you’re a planner, you can apply to our seasonal lottery.”

Shafer says four seasonal lotteries are managed a year. 

Or, if you show up at the park on a spur of the moment, you can apply for a day-before lottery.

“Which is just the way that it sounds,” Shafer said. 

Aftermath of an historic winter

“How is this weather, this kind of unprecedented winter affected Zion National Park?” Murray asked.

Shafer says it’s always wise to check the forecast before coming to the park.

He says there is currently a lot of water flowing through the Virgin River. He says anytime the Virgin River is flowing over 150 cubic feet per second, access to the narrows is closed. 

“The narrows is one of the most popular destinations in the park,” he said. “But we want to make sure everyone who goes there is going to have a happy, healthy experience.”

However, he says flows in the Virgin River have been over 600 cubic feet per second since the middle of April. And he acknowledges there’s no way of knowing how long the flows will be that high.

For additional information, check out the park’s website by clicking here. 

KSL at Night can be heard on weeknights from 7 to 9 p.m.

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Things to know when visiting Zion National Park