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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Making Memorial Day Weekend Plans For Utah’s National And State Parks? Be Ready For Crowds

A photo of people in front of a Zion shuttle.
Zion National Park Twitter
Zion National Park requires masks to be worn in line and on the shuttles. Officials at the park are planning to have a busy holiday weekend.

Utah’s state and national parks are gearing up for a busy Memorial Day weekend and park officials are encouraging people to make flexible plans.

This weekend is the start of the peak tourism season for national parks, especially the state’s most visited: Zion. Officials are expecting to see more than 85,000 visitors from Friday through Monday, according to Amanda Rowland, a spokesperson for Zion National Park. That means this could be the busiest weekend for the park this year.

She said people entering Zion in the coming days should expect long lines and full parking lots.

“If folks have the opportunity to have other recreational experiences this weekend, we definitely want them to take advantage of those,” Rowland said. “If they're coming to Zion, just anticipate that it's going to be very busy.”

Masks are still required in crowds and on the shuttle, she said. There will also be a holding line for visitors going on Angel’s Landing, one of the park’s most popular hikes. Rowland said it’s best if people check the park’s social media accounts to get the latest information on what to expect.

On the eastern side of the state at Arches National Park, officials are also recommending people have other plans in mind, or come early or later in the day.

“There are many great hikes along the river corridor in Bureau of Land Management areas, as well as local museums like Moab Giants or the Moab Museum,” Patty Trap, the superintendent of Arches National Park, said. “These are good alternative activities while waiting to enter the parks.”

Last year Utah’s “Mighty Five” all closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but once they reopened, visitation numbers rebounded at record levels, according to KSL. State parks also saw a record uptick in people, more than 2.6 million people visited in 2020 compared to 2019.

Jon Allred, the park manager for Gunlock State Park, said they’re expecting crowds at the Washington County reservoir, but he said it may not be as bad as last year.

“The nice thing is that there's more recreational opportunities this year,” he said. “There's a lot more things that are open — swimming pools are open, public parks are a lot more open and accessible than they were last year. So that's helping because it's spreading a lot of the crowd out among different places.”

Allred said reservoir levels are down this year at Gunlock, which is the case for others in the county. He said that means fewer boats can be out on the water this weekend, but there is more beach space available for people.

Officials are encouraging people to “leave no trace,” which means disposing of waste properly and respecting the natural environment. People should also be aware of current fire restrictions when visiting an area.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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