Spring is almost here, which means warmer temperatures, school vacations, and more visitors streaming into Zion National Park. Which also means that the famous shuttles are back.
From early March until late November, two shuttle routes ferry visitors around the park and Springdale. The Zion Canyon Shuttle is designed to alleviate the problems caused by limited parking and tight roadways in the lower canyon. The road leading through the lower canyon is closed to personal vehicles while the shuttles are in operation, so all visitors must take the shuttles.
The other loop, the Springdale Shuttle, ferries guests from hotels, shopping, restaurants, and other stops to the entrance to the park. This means fewer cars vying for parking near the park’s entrance gate.
From November to the beginning of March, with the exception of President’s Day Weekend, shuttles services are suspended. Low visitor numbers make them unnecessary during the park’s winter off-season. But now that the shuttles are back in full swing, most visitors to the park will find themselves climbing onboard. Whether it will be your first ride or your hundredth, keep reading to learn what you need to know to master the Zion shuttle system.
Riding the Shuttles is Totally Free, But Parking Might Cost You
Riding the Zion Canyon Shuttle or the Springdale Shuttle is totally free. You can hop on and off at your favorite stops throughout the park for some hiking, then hop from one shuttle to the next to enjoy a meal in Springdale or to head back to your hotel (and stop by the Springdale Visitor Center for some souvenirs, of course!).
But while riding the shuttles may be free of charge, parking could cost you. Parking at the Zion Visitor Center, located just inside the Southern entrance to the park, is free. Unfortunately, this lot is the first to fill. On a busy Summer day or holiday, it isn’t unusual for this parking lot to fill up within a short time of the park opening. Even on a less-busy day, it may fill by the afternoon.
There is other parking available in Springdale, including several parking lots and spaces along the town’s main road. However, you will need to pay for these spots. Failure to pay could lead to a ticket.
If you don’t want to struggle to find parking or have to pay for a space, one great way to avoid both is to choose a hotel or vacation rental in Springdale that’s located close to a shuttle stop. That way, you can roll out of bed and walk right on the shuttle without ever worrying about moving your car.
The Zion Canyon Shuttle Makes 9 Stops in the Park
The shuttle loop running through the park makes 9 stops, spread out throughout the lower canyon to help you reach the park’s most popular hiking trails, overlooks, and other destinations.
The 9 stops include:
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center
The shuttle loop begins and ends at the Visitor Center, where the park’s main parking lot is also located. This is also the most convenient shuttle for those staying in the Watchman Campground or the South Campground, or for anyone wishing to hike the popular Pa’rus Trail.
Zion Human History Museum
Open from March through November, the Zion Human History Museum is a great spot to learn not only about the park but also the region and the people who settled it. You’ll also find restaurants at this stop, and photo opportunities for catching the Altar of Sacrifice and the Bridge Mountain Arch. There is some additional parking here as well.
This small stop provides access to the end of Pa’rus Trail and the Virgin River. Located at the junction of Route 9 and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, this stop marks the last spot cars can get to on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive if drivers aren’t staying in the Zion Lodge.
Court of Patriarchs
Another smaller stop, here you can get a great view of the Court of the Patriarchs and access to the Sandbench Loop trail.
Even if you aren’t staying at the Zion Lodge, this stop is worth your time. Besides indoor restrooms, you can dine at one of several restaurants, shop in the gift shop, and relax on the Lodge’s green lawn. Across the road from the Lodge, you’ll find the start of the Emerald Pools Trail.
This popular stop is a great place to enjoy a picnic, fill your water bottle, or head to one of the park’s most popular trails, including Angels Landing, West Rim Trail, and the Kayenta Trail.
Another great stop for hiking, Weeping Rock shuttle stop provides access to Weeping Rock, Observation Point, East Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon, Cable Mountain, and Deertrap Mountain. There is also a primitive toilet on this stop.
Home to more overlooks than trails, Big Bend is a great spot to get pictures of the Great White Throne and Angels Landing.
Temple of Sinawava
The last stop before the shuttle turns around to start back through the canyon, this is a great spot to take a stroll along the Virgin River on the Riverside Walk. If you’re headed to The Narrows for a short hike, this is also where you’ll want to hop off the shuttle. This stop features a restroom and a spot to fill your water bottles.
The Springdale Shuttle Also Makes 9 Stops
The shuttle running through the town of Springdale also makes 9 stops. Along the route are restaurants, hotels, shopping, and more. You can find a full map of the stop here.
You Can Still Drive Through Parts of the Park
While the shuttles are in service, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles. The only exception is for those who are staying at the Zion Lodge.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t drive in other parts of the park. Highway 9 remains open and takes visitors from the South Entrance into the park. From there, you’ll climb towards the upper canyon, passing through the famous Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. From there, the highway takes you to the park’s East Entrance.
Hop on the Shuttle to Enjoy the Park this Spring
Whether you have your sights set on hiking to Angels Landing or just want to do some sightseeing in the park, the Zion Canyon Shuttle and the Springdale Shuttle can help you do so without the traffic or parking woes.