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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. 


I certainly hope they expand the shuttle service. Seems like a much better idea than the potential damage and the bad press they'll get from ticketing folks.

I don't get it.

Where is the bad press for issuing a ticket for a place posted no parking?

To the average visitor being ticketed for parking along roads is going to seem like BS when there's no shuttle service and nowhere legitimate to park. What are they supposed to do, drive around aimlessly? If parking is full the only real options seem to be to allow people to park wherever they can, or close the entrance.

Agree rick b. If it is illegal it should be ticketed. Perhaps there is a better solution, but until then illegal is illegal.

EC, you are correct, if an area is posted "No Parking", that is an obvious violation. The problem is that on many roadways, this is particularly true in Yosemite, there are many road shoulders, etc, where it appears it is OK to park, in another words it is not signed. It is also true how many places you can squeeze your vehicle off the pavement, thinking this is OK. Efforts to reduce this issue include moving boulders/barricades, etc closer to the pavement so vehicles cannot pull off, some of it of course is not to have the whole road signed on both sides. In effect, while traffic has increased, parking has been substantially reduced. It is a catch 22 situation as parking is reduced, more and more vehicles are allowed to enter. It puts everyone in a tough situation including the rangers that have to write the tickets because we are not dealing with the cause of the problem, to many vehicles at one time. There are some that say, well that is OK, I just want to drive, I will not stop, but the congestion on the roadways from this policy is a huge problem also. I am not sure I have any answers, but at some point, a visitor capacity maybe needed, be it shuttles or cars, that was the whole issue of the 15 years of litigation over the Yosemite Merced River Plan. It appears the issue is still unresolved in Yosemite as it is at Zion and other areas. It is interesting to note that when I was first employed in Yosemite NP in 1960, the only real peak days were the 3 summer holiday weekends. At that time people were allowed to pull off anywhere they could find, including all along both sides of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. It was quite a scene. Being 18, I had no idea this was an issue, I thought it was just the way it is. It began to change in 1968.

There are areas where visitor capacities have been set to deal with overcrowding in various forms. At Mammoth Cave NP, all the gateway communities have internet connections (including the local motels, campgrounds, etc.) with the Park. Signs tell you during the peak season if the cave walks are booked for the day, but if you stay at one of the out of park facilities they can make reservations for you. This done (and you may have to wait a day, which I did), you drive to the main VC and Cave entrance, no problem parking, and you are on a wonderful cave walk. This is a an excellent way to deal with the crowding issue, a win win for everyone. I do think that we have parks that have peak visitation periods that need to either build more facilities (and that is never ending) or have a system in place that permits only the entry allowed for the infrastructure in place. (let alone the ecological considerations). In fairness to Yosemite, their current Merced River Plan is an effort to do just that. Thank you Traveler for an interesting post.

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.

If it's anything like what I see here at any random spot on the Klondike Highway most days, all it takes is for one car to spot a bear and pull over. Next thing you know there are half a dozen cars on either side of the road doing the camera thing. It doesn't have to be scenic, historic, or even to have wide shoulders - it just takes one wandering animal.

If I remember correctly, there are a number of notices in park brochures and signs along the roads that say something like, "Park in Designated Spaces Only."

But of course, for some people, that only applies to others.

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