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Zion is one of the most majestic National Parks in the United States and there is plenty to take in without leaving the comfort of your vehicle. Yes, there is a shuttle system most of the year but answering the question of can you drive through Zion National Park is not a simple yes or no.
Because technically you CAN drive through Zion all year long. But there is one main section that is only accessible by private vehicle for a few months. After living in the area for over a year I am going to help lay out when you can drive in all sections of the park and when you have to leave your vehicle in the visitor center parking lot and hop on a shuttle.
Can You Drive Thru Zion National Park?
Typically from March through November each year you are not allowed to drive your personal vehicle along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This is when you will need to take a shuttle that departs from the park’s visitor center just past the entrance coming from Springdale.
There is an exception to the rule about private vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Dr. during months where the shuttle operates. If you booked a stay at the Zion National Park Lodge you will be mailed a red permit that allows you to drive to the lodge’s parking area.
The main reason is that this is where some of Zion’s most popular areas are located such as Angel’s Landing and The Narrows and there is very limited parking space. So to ensure visitors can still experience these parts of the park without traffic congestion, a shuttle system is necessary.
The shuttle dates are not written in stone and vary from year to year depending on weather as well. There are some years when the shuttles run into December and start back again in February so make sure to check the National Park Service’s website for more details.
All year long you can drive through Zion National Park on Highway 9 (Zion Park Blvd) past the turnoff for Zion Canyon Scenic Dr. This section of Zion Park Blvd is also known as the Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy or Utah State Hwy 9 and leads to the East Ranger Station Entrance.
The switchbacks on the Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy offer spectacular views along every turn and provide great photo opportunities leading to the Zion – Mount Carmel Tunnel. Shortly after the tunnel is the Scenic Overlook Trail and a little further prior to the East Ranger Station is Checkerboard Mesa. Two great places to stop, get out for some fresh air and take it all in!
If your visit to Zion National Park does take you during the months when the shuttle is your only option to experience the Zion Scenic Drive, I would suggest planning on arriving at the park as early as possible. You don’t need a reservation to drive thru Zion National Park or to get on the Zion Shuttle, but the visitor center parking lot does fill up quickly in the busier months.
Also don’t forget there are two other less visited parts of Zion National Park that are worth a drive. If you are coming from the St. George, UT area and taking UT Route 9, then taking a left turn and going up Kolob Terrace Road after Virgin, UT is well worth your time. You can access some of Zion’s hikes from here and if you are a rock climber, a stop at Lambs Knoll should be on your must-do list.
The Kolob Canyons entrance north of St. George and off of Interstate 15 Exit 40 is another area of Zion you are able to drive to year round. Plus it is where you can see the world’s sixth longest natural arch according to the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, aptly named Kolob Arch.
As with the Kolob Terrace Rd. section in Virgin, Utah, there is no driveable access to the main section of Zion National Park.
Can You Drive Through Zion National Park at Night?
Yes, you can drive through Zion National Park at night. Access to Zion is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year – weather permitting – but the visitors center does keep regular hours. Zion National Park is a great place to do some stargazing so make sure to add a night time drive to your itinerary!
How Much Does it Cost to Drive Through Zion National Park?
You will need to pay a fee to enter Zion National Park and private vehicles are charged $35 but that is valid for 7 days. Otherwise you can drive thru Zion with your America the Beautiful annual National Parks pass which is $80 or there is a Zion National Park only annual pass that is $70. US Active duty military and Veterans (like me) are able to enter ALL U.S. National Parks for free with proper id!
Wrapping It Up…
So no matter when you decide to take a trip to Zion, a scenic drive awaits! Just make sure to plan ahead to know when you can drive through every part of Zion National Park or when you might need to take the shuttle. No matter when you go or where you end up driving make sure your camera has plenty of memory because the photo ops are endless!