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Everything you Need to Know Before Your Trip to Zion National Park


the red rocks of Zion National Park and the Watchman

Every National Park comes with a few logistical questions, but this is especially true of Zion National Park. A quick look on their website might leave you with a lot of questions. Which pass do I need? How do these shuttles work? Wait, which hikes do I need permits for? Here’s a bunch of answers for you, all in one convenient location!


Park Entrance Fees


Yes, there is a fee to enter Zion National Park. It’s part of how they keep the park running, and it’s a very reasonable amount.


There are several different options depending on your group size and how you plan to enter the park, but I recommend the Private Vehicle Pass. This pass will get you and your group (up to 15 people) into the park either via car or on foot. This way if you want to walk in from Springdale, you can, but you can also come in with your car and park in Zion’s lots. (Provided there’s still space. Arrive early if you want to park in Zion’s lots on a weekend or in the summer. If you arrive too late for Zion's lots, you can park in town outside the national park and walk in or take the shuttle. Parking inside the park is free. Parking in town is paid by the hour.)


Also, the vehicle pass also means you can get through the main gate to drive the Zion-Mt Caramel Tunnel! The drive itself is quite an experience, winding its way up the cliffs and through a huge stretch of mountain. The tunnel is dotted with windows that look out onto the vistas! And while the tunnel on its own is an attraction, you will need to be able to drive through the tunnel if you want to hike the Canyon Overlook trail or anything on the East Rim.


The Private Vehicle Pass is $35 and is good for seven days. It’s well worth the upgrade from the on-foot-only pass.


Sign at the entrance gate of Zion National Park

Shuttle Lines and Schedules


Ah the Zion Shuttle! So confusing but oh so so so convenient!


There are two shuttle lines, the Canyon Line and the Springdale Line. The Springdale line runs up and down the town of Springdale, stopping just outside the park gates. The Canyon line starts inside the park, running from the Visitor Center all the way back into the canyon. These are two separate shuttles, so when you get to the park gates on the Springdale line, you need to get off the shuttle, enter through the park gates on foot, and pick up the Canyon line from the visitor's center.


You do not (repeat: DO NOT) need tickets or reservations to ride the shuttle. Anyone who tries to sell you shuttle tickets is scamming you.


The shuttles run from roughly March to roughly November. During these months, you must ride the Zion Shuttle inside the park, as private vehicles are not permitted on the roads when the shuttle is in operation. Springdale shuttles arrive at their stops approximately every fifteen minutes, and Canyon shuttles arrive every 6-10 minutes. To find the exact schedule, visit this page of the NPS website shortly before your visit.


You can get on and off the shuttle at any of the stops, although certain Canyon Line stops are down-canyon-only, meaning the shuttle only stops on the return to the visitors center.


Overall, the shuttles are incredibly convenient and easy to ride. Take full advantage of them!


Zion National Park Trail Permits: Angel’s Landing and Beyond


There are two major attractions in Zion National Park that require permits. The first is wilderness hiking, camping, and canyoneering. I won’t be talking about these permits in detail, because I’ve never personally had to acquire one. If you’re the type of deep-wilderness adventurer that chases these types of experiences, you do need a permit, but I’m not the blogger to show you how to get one.


What I can give you is a firsthand account of getting permits to hike Angel’s Landing.


Angel’s Landing is one of the most famous hikes in Zion. Either it or the Narrows are what most people think of when they think of Zion. (The Narrows does not require permits, but check in at the ranger stations to make sure the trail is open. High water levels often close the Narrows in the spring and early summer.) In recent years, a permit system has been put in place for Angel’s Landing. This permit system has done great things for the hike, making it safer and more enjoyable, and it helps the park maintain the trail.


Permits for Angel’s Landing are awarded via a lottery system. You can apply for the lottery via recreation.gov. They've got a page dedicated to Zion National Park with permits for Angels Landing and Campground reservations.




When it comes to Angel's Landing, there’s a small fee for each lottery entry, and each entry allows you to select up to nine dates and times.


The Recreation.gov site runs two lotteries, a seasonal lottery and a day-before lottery. Once you have your dates set for your Zion visit, keep an eye on the website to see when the seasonal lottery opens for your dates. Once it’s open, you can fill out your lottery entry with your preferred hike dates and times.


Pro tip: enter this lottery with every single email address you and/or your group members have to your name. This is a popular lottery. I entered the seasonal lottery for my trip and didn’t receive a permit from it. Not going to lie, I was pretty devastated. Only one entry is allowed per email address, but give yourself the best possible chance and apply with as many emails if you can. If you win multiple permits, oh well! You gave a little extra money to Zion National Park with those extra application fees. Oh darn.


But if you’re like me and you don’t get a permit out of the seasonal lottery, you can apply for the next-day lottery on the days of your trip. This is how I got my permit! By carpet bombing this next-day lottery with both of my Gmail accounts and my work email on the first full day of my trip. (And of course my work email was the one that won. Figures.) Just make sure you apply early on the day before you want to hike. Applications close at 3pm Zion local time, and are only good for next-day hikes.


And all this chaos is 100% percent worth it, because hiking Angel’s Landing is a life-changing experience. The permit system helps limit the amount of hikers on the trail, making the experience safer and infinitely more enjoyable for the folks hiking it. So try your luck!



Zion Canyon and Angel's Landing


What Else Do You Want to Know about Your Zion Visit?


Hit me up for answers to any questions you might have about the logistics of Zion National Park!


Looking for info on Zion's trails? Here's a list of all the trails I hiked, ranked for your perusal!


Lastly, I managed to pack for my wild National Park hiking adventure with only a backpack and a purse! Want to learn how? Subscribe to Arts and Adventures today and you'll receive a FREE Packing Light List: the ultimate guide to packing everything you need and nothing you don't!


Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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