As Omicron COVID cases continue to rise dramatically in Utah, Zion National Park is continuing to mandate masks while offering limited services within the park. The National Park Service is continuing to monitor and respond to any changes to the ongoing COVID pandemic.
Zion National Park Public Affairs Specialist, Jonathan M. Shafer stated in an interview with St. George News, “We work closely with the National Park Service Office of Public Health to use the latest science to guide our decision making. To promote our staff and visitors’ safety, masks are required in all NPS buildings and on park shuttles, regardless of location or vaccination status. Masks must be worn in outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
Federal, state and local authorities, along with members of the National Park Service are closely monitoring COVID-19 impacts to the area. Although there is an increase in Omicron cases, most outdoor areas within the park remain open to the public as Zion National Park continues to follow the latest in health guidelines. Park officials are strongly encouraging visitors to follow the guidance offered by the CDC as well as guidelines by Utah state and local authorities.
Closures and Restrictions
Although many outdoor areas continue to remain open, various services within the park have been limited during this time. The Visitor Center will now be open daily from 8am to 5pm. Wilderness permits are now available from 8 am to 10 am as well as from 3 pm to 4:30 pm. The Watchman Campground remains open and those wishing to camp there can make a reservation for the campground on recreation.gov.
Guests using the park shuttles are still required to wear masks. The previous ticket system that was put into place for the shuttle is no longer in place. During these winter months, the park shuttle is non operational. Shuttle services will be fully operational again mid March and partially operational with busses running on weekends in mid February.
With shuttle services down, visitors are currently permitted to drive personal vehicles along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive within the park, but should be aware and plan for limited parking. Once parking within the canyon fills up, the park may temporarily close the road.
In regards to hiking, Angels Landing accessible through the West Rim Trail, remains open. On and after April 1, 2022, hikers will need a permit to access the trail, as part of the new lottery program that will be in full effect.
The lottery system was put into effect after comments from nearly 1,000 members of the public, park neighbors and other stakeholders weighed in on the high traffic to the trail and area. The decision was also made after National Park Services examined the number of guests who frequented the trail in 2019 and 2021.
The Upper Emerald Pools Trail is currently closed due to a rockfall. The trail will remain closed as park rangers and trail crew assess conditions. Once debris is removed from the trail, it will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.
While the events of the pandemic are ever changing, park officials at Zion National Park continue to ask for patience and understanding from those visiting during these changing times. Remember to pack out anything that you may bring into the park, continue to social distance from other visitors, try to plan around busy park hours and only in designated areas. If you come across an overcrowded trailhead, park officials recommend considering a different hike.