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Zion National Park could get a major makeover to ease overcrowding and increase safety

March 24, 2024 by Nicole Masson

By Mark Eddington, The Salt Lake Tribune, Link

Overloaded and overwhelmed by vehicles and crowds much of the year, the area around the visitors center and south entrance to Zion National Park could get a major makeover to reduce congestion.

Roughly 70% of the people visiting Zion — the mightiest of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks in terms of visitation numbers — enter the park through the south entrance. Zion now draws nearly 5 million people a year, more than a twofold increase since 2000 when the Zion Canyon Visitor Center was constructed.

Given the increase in visitors, along with the limitations of the two-lane Watchman Campground Road and bridge that many entering the south entrance use to access the visitors center, the southern portion of the park is often overrun and unsafe. There were nine vehicle crashes in the area between 2018 and 2023, according to park officials.

Often the congestion delays shuttles ferrying passengers back and forth from the visitors center to Zion’s main canyon. Vehicles that don’t yield at crosswalks, park officials say, can hamper hikers’ and cyclists’ ability to cross Watchman Campground Road while high-pedestrian traffic on crosswalks, in turn, can delay vehicles en route to the visitors center.

Jaden Wood doesn’t need stats to know how congested the area can be. He has learned from hard experience to steer clear of the park, especially the south area during peak visitation times.

“My out-of-state friends always tell me how lucky I am to live so close to Zion,” the Hurricane resident said. “What they don’t know is that I never hike Zion anymore except, on rare occasions, in January or February when there are fewer cars and people.”

As outlined in the Environmental Assessment, there are currently two options for the Zion Canyon south entrance area — one is to maintain the status quo despite the increased traffic and congestion, the other is the “preferred option” that involves a major redesign.

Grab the rest of the article and detailed maps here. 


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