How to Get the Ultimate Solitude and Beat the Crowds in Zion National Park

Beating the Crowds at Zion National Park

Why I found the shuttle services at Zion frustrating:

For those hiking enthusiasts traveling to Zion for the first time, you may find it a bit frustrating when you come to learn that the park shuttles don't begin running until 7am, well after sunrise. Why does this suck? Unfortunately, access to most of the best hikes within Zion are only accessible from shuttle drop-off points, which are also closed-off to public vehicle access. Yes, there are a few exceptions and many, many hikes in Zion, but if you're looking to do some of the most popular, namely The Narrows and Angel's Landing, you're stuck with the park shuttle regulations. Here is a great site I found with more details on each shuttle stop and the accessible hikes from each one. Aside from the start times, it's worth noting that the shuttles themselves are killer. They run very often and on-time, and the drivers were all fantastic and very helpful.

Now, let me clarify that I am not advocating that you go against Zion's rules and I fully understand why they don't want vehicles in the park, emitting waste all over the beautiful lands. That said, I think they need to seriously reconsider and amend the 7am start time for the shuttle service. I'm not a fan of those who whinge (complain without offering a solution), so I also offered two solutions for the park, below. 

So, if you enjoy waiting in a long queue at 7am, zig-zagging in-and-out of other hikers on the trail, others' conversations drowning out the beautiful sounds of nature all around you, and consistently interrupted Insta pics, feel free to stop reading and simply join one of the shuttles after 7am! Nothing wrong with that. If not, you're my people, and I've got a few tips for you to avoid the mess:

First, here are a couple non-cheeky alternative options: 

  • Stay at Zion National Park Lodge. This is the closest you can get to the majority of the staging points/shuttle stops for the most popular hikes. Zion Lodge is only about .5 mile from the Grotto, which is the main trailhead for some of the best hikes, including Angel's Landing. Unfortunately, for hikes like The Narrows, this won't help you as it's still quite far from the Lodge, so keep reading.
  • Get a backpacking permit and camp overnight. This is certainly your best, least cheeky option.

A cheekier option that requires a little work:

  • Rent a bike and ride in. There are heaps of places that rent bikes and the distance from the visitor's center (Shuttle Stop 1) to the farthest stop, the Temple of Sinawava where you can hike Riverside Walk and The Narrows, is 7.7 miles. Not ideal, but not too bad on a bike and a great way to start the day and this is completely permitted under park rules & regs.

My two alternative solutions for Zion National Park Shuttle services:

  1. Offer earlier, private shuttle services. 
  2. Have one shuttle that runs all night, or at least with some extended hours, such as starting and finishing 2-3 hours before sunrise and after sunset. One single additional shuttle driver surely wouldn't put too much of a financial strain on the park and would alleviate some of the 7am mess that shuttle stops 1 & 2 have during peak season. 

Hope this helps some of you get some great late night or early morning hikes in at one of the best national parks I've ever visited. 

Published: June 5, 2018

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