In 2013, the state of Utah launched an advertising campaign called “Mighty 5.” It promoted Utah’s five national parks to out-of-state travelers. Five years later, the campaign has clearly been a success – maybe too much of one.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that more than 60,000 people poured into Zion National Park in the state’s southwestern corner over the Memorial Day weekend. People reportedly waited up to two hours just to get on shuttle buses. Some 4.5 million people visited Zion in 2017, up 60 percent from just 10 years earlier. The park is developing a Visitor Use Management Plan and has proposed a reservation system as one option. The draft plan is tentatively set to be released by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, at Canyonlands, park managers tried to stagger visitors by letting in 10 cars every 10 minutes. Arches National Park closed its entrance and turned vehicles away for a few hours in the middle of the day on Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend. The Tribune says park rangers asked people to return later, after some other visitors had left. There were reportedly half-hour waits just to use the bathrooms at Arches. On Zion’s Facebook page, one man commented that the park had once been “a serene place” before the crowds “that swelled out of control in so few years.” He wrote, “I can only go to Zion in my memories now.”
More information about Zion’s planning process can be found at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?parkID=113&projectID=58542