SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 30,000 people crowded into Zion National Park Sunday over Memorial Day weekend as park managers at the iconic red rock landscape work to manage the throngs of visitors.
Some visitors waited an hour and a half to ride the park shuttle. Visitation to Zion spiked 60 percent over the last decade, and most people flood to Zion Canyon, a 6-mile corridor along the Virgin River, park officials told the Deseret News .
Sunday’s visitation didn’t quite set a record — 33,000 people came on that day last year — but “it’s still over the top,” Zion National Park Ranger John Marciano said on Wednesday.
Park officials are exploring a reservation system as a potential solution, though such a year-round requirement would be a first for a national park.
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Zion was ranked the fifth-most-visited national park in 2016 and the park’s shuttle system often sees 95 to 100 people cramming onto buses designed to sit 68, officials have said.
Arches and Canyonlands National Parks also drew holiday weekend masses. The steady surge in visitors is hard on national resources as well as staffers and tourists, said Superintendent Kate Cannon. Park staffers were “reasonably successful” at managing the people, she said.
“We are not alone in having the challenge of dealing with these crowds. Most of the parks in southeast Utah are working hard to come up with good solutions,” Cannon said. “There are not a lot of those to be had.”
Arches and Canyonlands are also considering asking people to make reservations during peak visitation months and times in the midst of a planning effort to cope with surging crowds.
Cannon said staggered visitation improves the visitor experience.
“Everybody comes at the same time and they travel in a big herd,” Cannon said.