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Zion National Park Might Ticket Illegal Parkers


There are only so many vehicles you can squeeze into Zion National Park, and even fewer parking spots. And with spring weather in the offing, park rangers just might start ticketing folks who park in the wrong spot.

So no matter how tempting that shoulder section along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive might look, resist the urge to pull off and park or you might find yourself looking at a fine.

Zion officials are expecting heavy traffic during the rest of March's weekends as a result of spring break, beautiful weather, and Zion Half Marathon. As a result, this weekend, next weekend, and the weekend of March 29 and 30 might see rangers doing traffic control along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to ensure visitor safety and mitigate resource damage.

"Park visitors should expect long lines at Entrance Stations and are encouraged to carpool," a park release said. "Zion National Park’s shuttle bus system does not begin operation until April 1. Currently, Zion Canyon is open to vehicular traffic and the high number of visitors is quickly filling the canyon’s parking lots."

Visitors in the park on these weekends should expect designated parking lots and pullouts along the Scenic Drive to fill up quickly. For the protection of park visitors and park resources, parking outside of designated areas is not permitted.

"If it becomes apparent that visitation exceeds parking availability on the Scenic Drive, rangers will proactively manage traffic on the Scenic Drive," the release said.

Traffic control measures could include 1-2 hour periodic closures at the turn off onto the Scenic Drive from Highway 9. Vehicles parked outside of designated areas pose potential safety hazards to other vehicles, impede emergency response, and can cause resource damage to roads, drainage systems, and vegetation. Vehicles parked outside designated areas, on vegetation, or blocking or restricting the movement of vehicle traffic may be cited.


The carrying capacity of Zion Main Canyon poses an ever increasing challenge to park management. While the shuttle system, implemented in 2000, addressed much of the challenge, annual visitation continues to increase and the busy season to grow longer. Park management is currently involved in a transportation study and is considering the possibility of expanding shuttle services in 2015. 


Clearly a no-win situation for both the staff and visitors when this kind of over-capacity use occurs. It sounds like extending the season for shuttle operations in future years could be part of the solution, if funding can be found to do so.

In the meantime, information like this press release at least helps gives visitors fair notice of the situation. It's certainly true that having "no parking signs" lining park roadways is not desirable, but without them or other public information efforts, once one or two people decided to pull off to the side of the road and park anywhere they want, the sheep syndrome will kick in, and other drivers will assume it must be okay to do so.

The worst case would be a situation where someone parks his vehicle in a way that blocks traffic and slows or logjams it completely. I've never met a ranger yet who enjoyed spending his or her time writing parking tickets, but sometimes that's the only way to convince people to follow the rules.

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