Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park: USA 2015

Unluckily, we chose a busy Saturday in September to visit Utah’s Zion National Park, rather than a quieter weekday. Compared to some of the other national parks we visited, Zion is pretty enclosed and has limited parking.

Essentially, there’s a single, winding road through the park which gives access to the canyon road. From March – October access to the canyon itself is by shuttle bus only, but the road to the main parking areas gets very congested. One reason for this is that the road passes through a tunnel that’s far too narrow to allow modern US pick-up trucks and RVs to pass each other within. So on busy days there’s a traffic light system controlled by park wardens and the tunnel is one way.

As you may have guessed, traffic can be bad — be prepared to queue if it’s not out of season. At busy times you’ll probably also need to park in Springdale and get the shuttle bus from there, rather than being able to park in the limited parking at the visitor centre.

The canyon is pretty spectacular, though. Anyone wanting to see the canyon but avoid a lot of driving might consider the Canyon Overlook Trail. There are two small parking areas and toilets just before the tunnel, from which you can walk to enjoy a decent view of the canyon. If time’s tight, this could be the best option. It’s what we did:

Zion National Park entrance

Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
Walking along the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail
Looking down into Zion Canyon
Looking down towards Zion Canyon

Personally, I think that the only solution to reclaim the peace and preserve Zion is to ban private vehicles more widely during busy times and extend the shuttle bus service instead. No doubt this wouldn’t be popular, but it would seriously improve the ambience in the park.

Onwards from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park. This is also popular but much larger. Parking can still be difficult at busy times but there is a shuttle service which is worth considering if you want to spend a day meandering around the park. A particular advantage is that using the shuttle allows you to take one-way walks.

The big attraction at Bryce Canyon is the Hoodoos. These are strangely-shaped pillars of rock left standing by the effects of erosion. It’s a spectacular landscape. As usual, you can do as much or as little walking as you want:

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

After leaving Bryce Canyon we drove to Cedar City to spend the night ahead of a very special journey the next day, to which I was really looking forward…

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