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YOUR ZION + SOUTHERN UTAH ADVENTURE

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A Guide to the Zion Shuttle; Zion National Park

POV: You’re headed to Zion National Park in Utah for the first time and are ready to drive through its spectacular red rock canyon with all your windows rolled down. But wait, what is that you say? You just found out that you CAN’T drive your car through Zion Canyon?!


That’s right. While beautiful, the Virgin River-carved canyon is not so friendly to many guests driving and parking.


From February to November each year (and sometimes the holiday season in December), you will take the Zion Shuttle into Zion Canyon. A free shuttle runs from the Zion National Park Visitor Center to nine shuttle stops. Private cars are not allowed on the route during this time. Outside those times, you can drive your car into the Main Canyon, but parking can be tough.


The other portions of the park are open to exploring in your own vehicle, but Zion Canyon has limited parking and resources, making a shuttle necessary. Unfortunately, the Zion Canyon shuttle system can be confusing for first-timers. I’m here to help you plan your ride through the canyon BEFORE you step foot in the park.


Here are the basics of what you need to know to ride the Zion National Park shuttle:

Zion National Park Shuttle Pricing and Availability

The Zion National Park Shuttle is FREE for all park guests, but you must pay admission to the park or show your national park at the entrance station. No reservations are required; you can hop on any shuttle that isn’t full. That said, shuttles are typically full in the mornings, quieter in the early afternoon, and practically empty by early evening.


If you want to hack the system, see destinations beyond the shuttle route in your private vehicle during the morning and ride the shuttle up the canyon in the afternoon or evening. You’ll get the beautiful trails and views all to yourself.


SHUTTLE SCHEDULE

Shuttles run seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in summer (May until September 17). The last shuttle of the day leaves the Temple of Sinawava at 8:15 p.m. and arrives at the visitor center at 9:00 p.m. From September 18-November 4, the start time shifts to 7 a.m., and the final shuttle out of the canyon leaves at 7:15 p.m.


In November and December, hours are shortened. Check Zion National Park’s official shuttle schedule for more information.

Good to know Zion Shuttle information

You’ll board the shuttle at the visitor’s center at Zion’s Springdale entrance. It typically comes every 10-15 minutes, but you may have to wait longer if it’s crowded.


There are nine stops on the route, and it will take approximately 40 minutes to travel the 7.7-mile route from the visitor’s center up the canyon to the final stop.


On the way up, the shuttle does not stop at stops 2, 3, and 8. So, if you were looking to skip the visitor’s center by walking to another stop to board, you’re out of luck. You cannot ride the shuttle up and down as one scenic route. You’ll need to exit the shuttle at the final stop (Temple of Sinawava) and get in line to take the shuttle back down the canyon.


To get from the visitor center to the last shuttle stop, #9 Temple of Sinawava it takes about 40 minutes.


Local Insider Info

I recently boarded the shuttle with my kiddos on a weekday in August at 10:00 am. The line looked long and I was nervous, but it only ended up taking us 18 minutes to get on the shuttle. I was pleasantly surprised by how fast it went. If you are visiting on a holiday weekend the line will be much longer and it will take significantly more time to board the shuttle.


Shuttle Stops in Zion Canyon and What to See At Each One

Shuttle Stop #1 - Zion Canyon Visitor Center

This is the hub of the park. Here, you can go through the walk-in entrance station, visit the park gift shop, learn from exhibits in the Visitor Center, stamp your national park passport, get a junior ranger handbook for your kiddos, and buy a national park annual pass.

There are two trails beginning at the visitor center: the popular 3.5-mile paved Pa’rus Trail, which you can walk or bike, and the Watchman Trail.


The Pa’Rus trail is 3.5 miles long, and leashed dogs are welcome to walk on it. Great for anyone with mobility issues or disabilities who’d like to see views of the park. It’s also great for a casual stroll or for taking one of the many side trails down to the Virgin River for a little bit of solitude.

The Watchman Trail in Zion National Park is often overlooked for more popular trails like Angels Landing or The Narrows, but it shouldn't be. This trail is absolutely stunning with epic Zion views and a prime view of the iconic Watchman Mountain.


It’s a 3.3-mile roundtrip with about a 456-foot elevation gain, making it a fun and challenging family-friendly trail that is a must for Zion enthusiasts and new visitors alike.


Shuttle Stop #2 - Zion Human History Museum

This stop is a mile from the visitor center, but don’t try to bypass the crowds at the visitor center by hitting up this stop. This stop only goes down the canyon to the visitor center. You can not get on a shuttle going up canyon from this stop.


Jump off here to visit this fascinating museum and gift shop. Watch the Zion Forever Project Movie, “We Are The Keepers”. It is a beautiful film about the history of the park and how we can all do our part to take care of the park.

Don’t miss the viewing deck at the back of the museum where you can sit and watch the light change on the cliffs known as Temple of the Virgins.


From this stop you can also access Pa’Rus Trail by taking a short path west of the museum.


Shuttle Stop #3 - Canyon Junction

This stop is 1.7 miles from the visitor center and ONLY goes down the canyon. You can not get on a shuttle going up the canyon from this shuttle stop.

This stop provides access to the Pa’rus Trail. This is also a very popular spot to watch sunrise or sunset from the bridge. The views from the bridge are iconic with an incredible vantage point of the Watchman Mountain and the Virgin River below.


Shuttle Stop #4 - Court of the Patriarchs

This stop is 3.2 miles from the visitor center and provides access to the Court of Patriarchs Trail and the Sand Bench loop trail.

From this stop you can follow a short, steep path for views of the three patriarchs (mountains) across the canyon: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


This stop is excellent for some off-the-beaten-path exploring along the Virgin River. Make your way towards the Court Of the Patriarch mountains, and you will come to a stunning bridge and cascading waterfall. This is a beautiful spot to watch sunrise or sunset.


If you walk across the bridge you can connect to 1.25-mile Sand Bench Loop. It’s a great option to get away from the crowds.


Shuttle Stop #5 - Zion Lodge

This popular stop is 4.3 miles from the visitor’s center and is the starting place for the Emerald Pools Trails and the Grotto Trail. Take some time at the lodge and get a bite to eat at the Castle Dome Cafe or The Grill at The Lodge. The Loge has a big grassy area to rest and enjoy some shade under a giant cottonwood tree.


The Emerald Pools Trail is a can’t-miss favorite that leads to beautiful pools and waterfalls in the heart of Zion Canyon. It’s great for families and kids. It is 3 miles roundtrip to the Upper Pool, 2 miles roundtrip to the Middle Pool, and 1.2 miles roundtrip to the Lower Pool. You can connect the trails to see all the pools.


***DUE TO CONSTRUCTION ON THE BRIDGE, EMERALD POOLS IS CLOSED AT THIS STOP. GO UP TO #6 AND ACCESS EMERALD POOLS FROM THE KAYENTA TRAIL


The Grotto trail is a flat and easy 0.5-mile trail that will take you to The Grotto shuttle stop.

Shuttle Stop #6 - The Grotto

This stop is 4.9 miles from the visitor center and is the starting point for Kayenta Trail, Angels Landing, and West Rim Trail.


The Kayenta Trail is 2.2 miles and leads you to the Lower Emerald Pools Trail—if you’re looking to make it a longer walk.

The most popular hike on this stop is Angel’s Landing. This 5.4-mile trail has 1488 feet of elevation gain and is one of the most popular hikes in the park. If you don’t have a permit to hike the chain section, hike to Scouts Lookout and then take the West Rim Trail to continue your hike.


Note: A permit is required to hike Angel’s Landing from the chain section. Do not begin your hike without one if you plan to climb the chains at the top of the trail. CHECK OUT OUR BLOG POST - Hiking Angels Landing - Zion National Park


Shuttle Stop #7 - Weeping Rock (CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE TO ROCK SLIDE)

This stop is 6.4 miles from the visitor center and features the Weeping Rock Trail. This 0.4-mile roundtrip hike is short, but it packs a punch with a beautiful stream, hanging gardens, and an alcove with stunning views and an endless stream of rain weeping from the rock wall overhead.

This stop was once the starting point for East Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point but a massive rockslide damaged the trails and it is uncertain if the trails will ever be accessible again.


NOTE: You can still get to Observation Point via the East Mesa Trail on the east side of the park. No shuttle needed.

Shuttle Stop #8 - Big Bend (CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE TO CONSTRUCTION)

This stop is 6.6 miles from the visitor center and is a down-canyon stop only. Do not try to exit on the way up-canyon. Note that this stop does not have services like restrooms, water fountains, or hiking trails. It’s a popular rock-climbing destination and a great spot to see the park’s wildlife.


Shuttle Stop #9 - Temple of Sinawava

The final shuttle stop is 7.7 miles from the visitor center. It is the most popular stop, leading to the family-friendly Riverside Walk Trail, and the popular but more challenging slot canyon water hike, The Narrows.


Riverside Walk trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip and is paved the whole way. You can get a preview of the Narrows by walking along it, and it is excellent for people with disabilities, children, or anyone with mobility issues. You’ll follow this paved trail to reach The Narrows.

The Narrows is one of the most famous adventure hikes in Zion National Park. This hike is 4.5 miles one-way. You can hike beyond that point with a permit, but most people hike just a portion to experience being surrounded by 1,000 foot cliffs and then turn around.


In the summer, this hike is the perfect reprieve from the intense summer heat. In winter, specific gear is required from outfitters to safely walk in the cold water, but you won’t find any crowds in that quieter season.


or if you are hiking with kids 10 TIPS FOR HIKING THE NARROWS WITH KIDS


The Springdale Line for Lodging Guests

Staying in Springdale? There’s a free shuttle that will take you from many town hotels to the park. The Springdale Line, or town shuttle, stops at nine locations in town and picks up and drops off riders at the walking or biking entrance at Zion Canyon Village. Reservations are not required for this shuttle either. Hours vary depending on the season.


E-Bike the canyon and skip the shuttle all together

E-biking the canyon is one of my favorite ways to experience the Zion Canyon. Renting an e-bike allows you to spend the morning or afternoon going at your own pace through the Zion canyon. You will feel so alive zooming through the canyon with the wind in your hair, smells of the lush desert vegetation around you, and feeling the pockets of cool and warm air on your skin.

You are welcome to pull over and park your bike at any of the shuttle stop parking areas, and the shuttles are not allowed to pass you on your bike until you’re fully pulled over—making this a safe way to explore, too. CHECK OUR OUR BLOG POST - E-BIKING THE ZION CANYON


Zion National Park Shuttle Rules

You may want to snack on a sandwich while riding, but this is prohibited. No food or drink is allowed on the shuttle besides water, so plan ahead.


It’s also best to not wait for the last shuttle of the day. If you miss the last shuttle, you may have to walk the nine miles back to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center!


Pets are not allowed on shuttle buses.


That's about it! Once you figure it out, the Zion Shuttle system is super easy to navigate. I hope this guide helps you plan your trip next time you visit Zion National Park.


Happy Adventuring,

Arika




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2 Comments


Roberto Kja
Roberto Kja
Jun 08

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Flores Fred
Flores Fred
May 20

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