As I’m spending the second day in Zion National Park, I can’t help but notice what a great job they have done with their wheelchair accessible shuttle bus system. To be honest, when they implemented the whole system they had a huge problem with too many autos in the park. Not only did the traffic take away from the whole natural experience, but there just weren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate all of the cars.
So they did what many national parks are considering doing – they banned private vehicles from the canyon. And in doing so they implemented a fully accessible shuttle bus system. Unlike a few other parks that let folks with a blue hang tag drive their own vehicle in, Zion has a truly integrated system. Everyone can use the shuttle system, so there’s no need for separate accommodations.
Let’s start at the beginning — in Springdale, where most visitors access the park. There is an accessible city shuttle that takes visitors from parking areas throughout town to the pedestrian entrance to the park. It’s fast, efficient and free. And all of the vehicles are lift-equipped.
Once you arrive at the pedestrian entrance, you pay your entrance fee and walk or roll over to the visitor center, and then catch an accessible shuttle bus to the canyon. There are a number of stops in the canyon, and a few accessible trails; but you can also just ride the shuttle round-trip for a quick overview of the park.
The shuttles come every 5-6 minutes and they are really a great way to enjoy the park.
Vehicle traffic is still permitted in the Mt. Carmel Tunnel, and Zion Lodge guests are allowed to park their cars in the lodge parking area. From there you can catch the shuttle up or down the canyon to explore the park.
All in all it’s a great system. Accessible lodging is also available in the park. In fact, I’m writing this from one of the accessible guest rooms at Zion Lodge. Look for all the details in an upcoming issue of Emerging Horizons.
The bottom line is, it’s very possible to enjoy this park no matter what your disability. And you can do it all on a very integrated public transportation system. So, if you’ve never seen Zion, make plans to visit it soon.