Want to enjoy nature without lots of company? Here are our top tips on how to avoid crowds at Zion National Park.
We visited Zion National Park earlier this year, and during the trip planning phase, I started to get worried.
This park has the potential for major crowds.
While I don't mind some crowds, my preference was to enjoy nature with peace and quiet. I wasn't going for a theme park experience.
Happily, with a little planning, we were (mostly) successful in avoiding the crowds.
If you too want to visit Zion without crowds and without waiting in lots of lines, we can help! Here are our top tips for avoiding crowds at Zion National Park.
1. Go Off-Season For Fewer Crowds at Zion
The majority of Zion's visitors come between March and September.
Keep in mind that Zion does get snow, so if you go off-season some roads, trails and camping areas (such as the Lava Point campground) may be closed for winter.
2. Visit In the Shoulder Season to Avoid Crowds at Zion
Zion gets the most crowded in summer. If you don't want to (or can't) visit in the off-season, try visiting in the shoulder season. Visiting in early spring (March to early May) or in fall (September to October) might still mean crowds, but smaller crowds.
When visiting in spring, there may still be some snow closures, especially in years with heavy snowfall.
When we visited in mid-May, the park seemed pretty crowded to me, but I heard another couple talking about how much less crowded it was than usual. So I think the crowds were not at their peak.
3. If Possible, Avoid Visiting on the Weekend
If you visit when lots of people have time off work, expect crowds. Saturdays or Sundays, especially holiday weekends, will likely be busier than weekdays.
4. Enter the Park Early
The line of cars waiting to get into the national park can sometimes mean over an hour's wait time to get in.
We drove into the park at sunrise for an early hike and had no wait time to enter and no problems finding a parking spot at the visitor center.
5. Avoid Driving Out of the Park for Lunch
Once you're in Zion for the day, you want to avoid driving out again if you possibly can! The lines to get back in can be long.
Instead, pack a lunch or walk across the pedestrian bridge by the visitor center and eat at one of the restaurants within walking distance, like the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. (It was amazing!)
The line to get back into the park from the pedestrian bridge tends to move much more quickly. Just don’t forget your park pass when you’re leaving the park!
Here are some more options for where to get food in Zion.
6. If Camping, Cook Some (or Most, or All) of Your Own Dinners!
The restaurants in nearby Springdale can be wonderful but are also sometimes crowded. Here are some of our favorite camping recipes.
Another option is to bring along your favorite freeze-dried meals for an easy quick meal that doesn't require leaving the park.
7. Stay In or Near the Park + Leave Your Car at Your Lodging
One of the most stressful parts of visiting Zion can be finding a parking spot. You are not the only visitor and there is not enough parking!
Or, book a hotel in nearby Springdale and take the free shuttle into the park.
The free Zion shuttles make it easy to navigate the main canyon. Paid shuttles to other parts of the park often have pickup points at the visitor center, which is within walking distance of Watchman Campground.
8. Skip the Free Park Shuttles During Peak Season
Most of the time, these shuttles are absolutely fabulous. But in the middle of summer, the lines for shuttle rides can be long. Check out our tips for avoiding the shuttle.
9. Hike Less Visited Trails to Avoid Crowds at Zion
Less visited doesn’t mean less amazing!
When we visited, we hiked the incredible Watchman Trail and had the trail and overlook almost completely to ourselves!
The busiest trails in Zion are along Zion Scenic Drive, where the free park shuttle stops, and the trails just past the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
Trails in the Kolob Canyon or east side of Zion tend to be less crowded because they require a longer drive.
10. Go Backpacking in the Zion Wilderness
Talk about less crowded! The wilderness trails in Zion can provide an isolated backcountry experience.
These wilderness trails require a little more preparation (and overnight trips require a permit), but are a fabulous way to experience Zion.
We loved our time on the West Rim Trail, and it was the highlight of our visit.
Do you have more questions about how to avoid crowds at Zion? Leave them in the comments and we'll see if we can help!