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Contact Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767 (tel. 435/772-3256; www.nps.gov/zion). Officials will mail you information (they request that you write rather than call, at least a month before your planned visit), but you will find everything they will send you and more at the park website. You can also get information at www.twitter.com/zionnps and see a variety of photos at www.flickr.com/photos/zionnps.

You can purchase books, posters, maps, DVDs, and CDs related to the park from the nonprofit Zion Natural History Association, Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767 (tel. 800/635-3959 or 435/772-3265; www.zionpark.org). Some publications are available in foreign languages, including German, French, Japanese, and Chinese. Those wanting to help the nonprofit association can join ($45 single or $60 family annually) and get a 20% discount on purchases, a 20% discount on most Zion Canyon Field Institute classes, and discounts at most other nonprofit bookstores at national parks, monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas.

Among the publications available from the Zion Natural History Association is the inexpensive and easy-to-understand 22-page booklet An Introduction to the Geology of Zion National Park, by Al Warneke. Those who want more information, plus some spectacular photos, should consider Water, Rock & Time: The Geologic Story of Zion National Park, by Dr. Robert L. Eves. With a foreword by Robert Redford, A Century of Sanctuary -- The Art of Zion National Park is a beautiful collection of about 140 historic and contemporary paintings depicting the park plus five essays. There are also a number of detailed hiking guides and specialized books on the area's plants and animals.

Those planning to spend a lot of time in the backcountry on Zion's trails should purchase the Trails Illustrated topographic map.

For additional information about the area contact the Zion Canyon Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 331, Springdale, UT 84767 (tel. 888/518-7070; www.zionpark.com).

Access/Entry Points

Zion National Park has two main sections: Zion Canyon, the main part of the park, and the less-visited Kolob Canyons. The main east-west road through Zion Canyon is the park-owned extension of Utah 9; from this road, the park's 12-mile round-trip Zion Canyon Scenic Drive heads north, providing access to most of the scenic overlooks and trail heads.

Utah 9 connects to both sides of Zion National Park, giving the main section of the park two entry gates -- south and east. The south entrance, at Springdale, is by far the more popular, with two-thirds of park visitors arriving there. Most area lodgings and restaurants are found in Springdale. In addition, the park's two campgrounds and the Zion Canyon Visitor Center are located just inside the south entrance.

There is no town at the east entrance, but that route is more scenic -- it drops over 2,500 feet in elevation, passes through the 1-mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, and winds down six steep switchbacks. The tunnel is off limits to bicycles. It can accommodate two-way traffic when standard passenger cars and pickup trucks are being used, but it is too small for two-way traffic that includes larger vehicles, so opposite-direction traffic must be stopped when motor homes, campers, and other larger vehicles are passing through. Those also visiting Bryce Canyon National Park will probably enter or leave Zion through the east entrance.

The Kolob Canyons section, in the park's northwest corner, is easily reached on the short Kolob Canyons Road off I-15, at exit 40.

About 15 miles west of Zion Canyon, Kolob Terrace Road heads north from the village of Virgin off Utah 9, providing access to several backcountry trails and the Lava Point Campground. This road is closed in the winter.

To get to Bryce Canyon National Park, head north and east on Utah 9, U.S. 89, and Utah 12.

Visitor Centers & Information

The park has two visitor centers. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center, near the south entrance to the park, has a wide variety of outdoor exhibits. Rangers answer questions and provide backcountry permits; free brochures are available; and books, maps, videos, postcards, and posters are sold. In summer, it is open daily from 8am to 7:30pm, with shorter hours the rest of the year. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, in the northwest corner of the park, right off I-15, provides information, permits, books, and maps. It is open from 8am to 6pm in summer, with shorter hours the rest of the year.

The Zion Human History Museum, located about 1 mile inside the south entrance, offers museum exhibits, park information, and an orientation program, plus a bookstore. It's open daily in summer from 9am to 7pm, with shorter hours at other times.

Both visitor centers and the museum are closed on Christmas Day.

Fees

Entry into the park (for up to 7 days), which includes unlimited use of the shuttle bus, costs $25 per private vehicle (car, pickup truck, van, or RV); $12 per individual ages 16 or older on motorcycle, bicycle, or foot. Oversize vehicles are charged $15 for use of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel on the east side of the park.

Backcountry permits, available at either visitor center, are required for all overnight hikes in the park as well as for any slot canyon hikes. Permits cost $10 for 1 or 2 people, $15 for 3 to 7, and $20 for 8 to 12 people. Camping in Watchman and South campgrounds costs $16 per night for basic campsites and $18 to $20 per night for sites with electric hookups (located in Watchman Campground); campsites in the small, primitive Lava Point Campground are free.

Passes Offer Free Admission on Most Federal Lands -- Those who enjoy vacationing at national parks, national forests, and other federal lands have opportunities to save quite a bit of money by using the federal government's annual passes. The America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass costs $80 for 1 year, from the date of purchase, for the general public. It provides free admission for the pass holder, and those in his or her vehicle, to recreation sites that charge vehicle entrance fees on lands administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. At areas that charge per-person fees, the passes are good for the pass holder, plus three additional adults. Children 15 and under are admitted free.

The passes are also available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents ages 62 and older for a lifetime fee of $10 (Senior Pass), and are free for U.S. residents and permanent residents with disabilities (Access Pass). The Senior and Access passes also provide 50% discounts on some fees, such as those for camping.

The Senior and Access passes can be obtained by mail with an application form available online with a $10 processing fee, or without the processing fee in person at national parks, U.S. Forest Service offices, and other federal recreation sites. The general public version (the $80 one) can be purchased in person, by phone (tel. 888/275-8747, ext. 1), or online at http://store.usgs.gov/pass.

Regulations

The 1-mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is too small for two-way traffic that includes vehicles larger than standard passenger cars and pickup trucks. All vehicles over 7'10" wide (including mirrors) or 11'4" tall (including luggage racks and so forth) must be driven down the center of the tunnel, and therefore all traffic from the opposite direction must be stopped. These oversize vehicles must pay a $15 fee, which is good for two trips through the tunnel during a 7-day period. Drivers pay the fee at the entrance stations. All vehicles over 13'1" tall and other particularly large vehicles are prohibited from driving anywhere on the park road between the east entrance and Zion Canyon. Call the park headquarters if you have questions about accessibility for your vehicle.

Bicycles are prohibited in the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, the backcountry, and on trails, except the Pa'rus Trail. Feeding or disturbing wildlife is forbidden, as is vandalism and disturbing any natural feature of the park. Pets, which must be leashed at all times, are prohibited on all trails (except the Pa'rus Trail, where leashed pets are permitted), in the backcountry, in public buildings, and on the shuttles.

Backcountry hikers should practice minimum impact techniques and are prohibited from building fires. A limit on the number of people allowed in various parts of the backcountry may be in force during your visit; prospective backcountry hikers should check with rangers before setting out. You can purchase a backcountry permit at the visitor center the day before or the day of your trip, and reservations for permits can be made in advance through the park's website, www.nps.gov/zion, although they must still be picked up in person at the visitor center.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.