How busy are Utah’s national parks? Prepare to queue

Memorial Day vacations may be in the rearview mirror, but Utah’s national parks and landmarks continue to be at the forefront of tourists wishing to travel through some of the state’s most spectacular scenery.

Since May 20, with the exception of one day, Arches National Park has had to close the park every day – temporarily – until the line of motorists slackens and the park has capacity. additional for new visitors.

It was at full capacity until Wednesday, when it warned potential tourists in a tweet that they needed to find another attraction or come back later after visits dwindle.

The situation was no better during the vacation weekend in Utah’s most visited national park – Zion – which reported a two hour wait to catch his shuttle and a four hour wait to start the precarious hike by Angels Landing.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, Acting Superintendent Jim Ireland said the park filled up on May 28 and again on May 30, forcing rangers to direct unique vehicles to the town of Bryce Canyon, where they could take a shuttle to get in.

“We were very, very busy,” said Ireland, who served as Utah State Coordinator for the National Park Service but has a temporary role above Bryce.

“I’m really interested to see what the numbers were. “

Ireland attributes the increase in visits and extended stays to one factor: the coronavirus pandemic.

“The general response is that the COVID pandemic is starting to ease, vaccinations are up, cases are down, people are just anxious to get out. “

It was a whole different story a year ago when pandemic closures kept people sequestered in their homes, or if there was a way out, fear of the virus blocking visits to national parks and monuments of Utah.

Zion National Park, for example, saw a 45% drop in recreational visits in June 2020 from June 2019 and had to deal with its popular shuttle service closed until July of last year. , according to the National Park Service.

But Ireland said those low numbers appear to have turned around as people across the country feel more secure about their personal safety.

“People are eager to get out, eager to get away from their homes after being in quarantine for so long, and they just want to be in the parks. “

Ireland said it was hearing similar stories of congestion from national tourism officials and their National Park Service counterparts about the large crowds and the challenges associated with juggling the massive influx of people.

“National parks and public lands are a natural place to go and being outdoors is a safer place than in a covered place,” Ireland said, highlighting the struggling cruise ship industry. to bounce back and international flights which still carry restrictions or even prohibitions.

Ireland said it sees potential relief from vehicle overcrowding in the resumption of service by tourist bus companies.

Although they are not at the same level as before the pandemic, he said some companies are starting to offer their services to tourists.

About Joyce Hill

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