A Record-Breaking ExperienceJul 15, 2014
8th most visited and still moving up the list?
According to the National Park Service, Zion is the 8th most visited national park in america. As recently as 1980, Zion was at number fifteen on the list of most popular parks, greeting about 1.1 million visitors. This year it is on pace to break the 3 million visitor mark for the first time.
Since its establishment nearly 100 years ago, Zion has gone from being an isolated oasis in the desert southwest, to one of the most popular scenic destinations in the world. Increased publicity, word-of-mouth reputation, and improved transportation have all played a role in Zion’s growing recognition as one of america’s must-see attractions. Thankfully, over the past several years, the Springdale / Zion community has also grown in its ability to provide quality services to its many admirers. By most accounts, the overall traveler’s experience has improved even more than its traffic-count.
How can Zion / Springdale improve the visitor experience while handling the ever-increasing number of tourists? Here are a few factors which make the difference:
- longer “peak” seasons. People are starting to realize that the best time to visit Zion is “Anytime” whether it’s Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. Temperatures are great all year long and depending on what activities you are wanting do you might want to plan according to the right season. Winter is a great time to experience the definition of tranquility and likewise a great time to catch the alpenglow for amazing evening photography, you can even walk the Narrows from the bottom up with a dry suit and likely only see a few other visitors. Spring is fantastic for hiking the more exposed trails like Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, and the Watchman Trail with cooler temperatures. Summer is the ideal time for taking advantage of the long days and conquering hikes like the Narrows from the top down, the West Rim Trail, and various other back country hikes. Fall is pretty much wonderful anywhere but the Indian Summer typically lasts well into November in Zion Canyon with the leaves changing in the canyon between the 20th of October through the 15th of November.
- improved infra-structure. Every year, local businesses make upgrades to their facilities. For example, the Switchback Grille and Cliffrose Lodge made major renovations to their properties this spring, and new resorts are replacing old ones on a regular basis.
- enhanced planning. The internet has made it possible for people to plan their trips in advance, booking their lodging and activities before they ever cross the Utah border. Sites like ZionNationalPark.com, TripAdvisor and VisitUtah.com make it easy for people to see their options and get advice from insiders.
- smarter management. The National Park Service continues to find better ways to lessen crowd-impact on fragile eco-systems, providing mass-transportation such as the free Springdale / Zion shuttle, and building environmentally sensitive facilities like the main visitor’s center at the west entrance to the park. This means less pollution, traffic, and noise, and more natural conditions for plants and animals.
- better service. With the popularity of social media and information-sharing sites like Trip Advisor, businesses understand that providing the best possible service is the key to their existence. Only the best businesses and employees are able to survive the demands made upon them by the public. Note how many 4 and 5-star reviews are given to Springdale businesses!
- alternative activities. 20 years ago, adventures such as canyoneering, rock-climbing and outback traveling were available only to the most experienced travelers. Most people simply drove up Zion Canyon, took a few photos and returned to their motel rooms. The best thing about Zion is that it provides so many opportunities for “experiencing” the park, not just seeing it. This helps to spread the crowds to more remote regions of the area, many of which aren’t even within the borders of the park.
- innovative equipment. The outdoor recreation market has boomed in recent years, with advancements in materials, designs and technology. Visitors are coming better prepared for the conditions which they will face on hikes or other activities, and local businesses have increased the availability of specialized rental equipment.
Don’t let the news of record-breaking visitation discourage you from experiencing Zion. We’re ready to help make it an incredible experience for you and your family!
Top Left: Springdale / Zion Shuttle
Top Right: Zion Nature Center Rehabilitation
Bottom Left: Pa’rus Trail bridge improvements
Bottom Right: Zion Visitor’s Center