Zion Nationa Park Shuttle

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How to Visit Zion National Park Without Riding the Shuttle

One of the easiest ways to get around Zion National Park is to ride the Zion Canyon Shuttle. This service runs along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive for most of the year, from March through November. It helps limit vehicular traffic and makes the park more enjoyable during peak season. Zion is one of the most popular National Parks in the country. But there are ways to visit Zion National Park without riding the shuttle

Shuttles take about 45 minutes to drive between the Zion Visitor Center and the Temple of Sinawava. This means a round trip takes about an hour and a half. Here are some basics on how the shuttles work:

  • No tickets or reservation is needed to ride the park shuttle. You do need to pay an entrance fee to enter at the park’s east entrance (if you don’t already have one, look into getting an America The Beautiful Pass, especially if you are 62 years old or older).
  • Visitors cannot drive private vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive during the shuttle season. There are plenty of parking lots at the Zion Visitor Center and in the town of Springdale. You can take the Springdale Shuttle to reach the park entrance from there.
  • Typically, shuttles run from March to November, but that may change without notice.
  • Shuttles run every 5-10 minutes on the Zion Canyon Line (inside the park). The shuttle schedule during the summer months is 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., leaving from the Visitor Center.

But sometimes, the lines for the shuttle (especially at the Visitors Center) can be long during the summer months, particularly in the early morning. So, you might be looking for a way to avoid using the shuttles. There are a few ways to get around the shuttle service. Here is a list of options:

#1 Walk Right-In

The most basic way to visit Zion National Park without riding the shuttle is to walk right in. Once you pass through the park entrance, in Zion Canyon Village, it’s a short walk to the Pa’rus Trail, which is a paved trail following the Virgin River. It runs 3.5 miles from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. You could then travel on foot to several of the park’s highlights, but be warned from the Visitor Center to the Temple of Sinawava is just under 8 miles one way.

The Watchman Trail is another trail to check out directly from the Visitor Center. It is a beautiful trail that you do not need to ride a shuttle to reach. It’s a great hike with views of the Towers of the Virgin, lower Zion Canyon, and Springdale. This is also an easy hike within the park.

Riding a bike in Zion National Park.

#2 Bike Into The Park

The best way to see the entire park without hopping on a shuttle is by bike. If you don’t have your own bike with you, many places in Springdale rent bikes. If you are unsure you can handle the steady climb to the Temple of Sinawava, don’t worry; you can rent an e-bike. Since the road is closed to traffic, riding the Scenic Drive is easy and safe.

For more details on biking in Zion National Park, see my post Essential Guide To Biking In Zion National Park.

The rules of the road dictate that as a shuttle approaches to pass you, it will only pass once you stop and place one foot on the ground. The bike entrance is the same as the main foot traffic entrance, so you must pay your entrance fee and be ready to roll.

With a bike, you can reach all of the main attractions and best hikes within this section of the park. It is easy to park your bike and hike to Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, the Narrows, and even Angel’s Landing.

FYI, you can put your bike on the front of the Zion National Park Shuttles if you need a lift back.

If you want more ideas on things to do in Zion besides hiking, check out my post Best Things To Do Besides Hiking On Visit To Zion National Park.

​#3 Stay at the Lodge

The only exception to the private vehicle ban during most of the peak season pertains to Zion Lodge guests. Since the Lodge is about halfway along the Zion Cayon Scenic Drive, guests can drive to the Lodge and park. Zion National Park Lodge guests with overnight stays can drive to the Lodge using the red permit mailed to them. This doesn’t mean you can drive around the park; the road is blocked beyond the Lodge to all vehicles except shuttles.

​But once you are at the Lodge, you are within easy walking distance of almost all the major attractions in Zion.

View over Zion Canyon

#4 Hikes from the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway

Not only is the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway a beautiful scenic drive, but it is also one of the few ways to drive through sections of Zion in your vehicle. Often, this is how you arrive at Zion from Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, or the Grand Canyon. But this road also has access to two of the park’s best trails, the Canyon Overlook Trail and the only current trail to Observation Point.

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a short but stunning hike. You reach the trail by parking just before the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on the eastern side. Parking is very limited, but if you can find a spot, do this hike. The other top hike here is the trail to Observation Point (the trail to Observation Point via the East in Zion Canyon is currently closed due to damage from a rockfall; this is your only option to reach this fantastic vantage point). Follow directions to the East Mesa Trailhead, a bit of a drive from the highway.

#5 Visit the Kolob Area

The Zion Canyon area is only a tiny portion of Zion National Park. Other areas you can access that do not require the shuttle include the Kolob Canyons in the northwest corner of Zion near Interstate 15. This is a spectacular drive past red rocks and canyons. Some of the top hikes in this area of the park include Timber Creek Overlook Trail and Taylor Creek Trail.

#6 Visit During The Winter Months Between December and February

The last option for avoiding the shuttles is to visit in the off-season of December, January, and February. During these months, the park is much less crowded, and the Canyon Scenic Road is open to personal vehicles. But remember, it gets cold in Zion in the winter, and you might encounter snow or ice.

Overlook on hike to Observation Point in Zion National Park

Remember, The Shuttle Makes Visiting Zion Easier

You may want to avoid the Zion shuttles mainly due to crowds or lines. It’s easy Zion National Park without riding the shuttle it just takes a bit of planning. Riding a bike into the park or walking are both excellent options. And if you want a unique experience, stay at the Lodge. And remember, Zion is a big park, so look for an area outside of the canyon proper.

But remember, the shuttles have made visiting Zion a more enjoyable experience. If you think the lines are long to board the shuttle during the summer, imagine what it was like prior to the shuttle system when every one of those visitors was in a car!

But whatever you do, take time to experience this amazing National Park.

Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

    Booking.com and Expedia.com are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

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