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The small towns that serve as gateways to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, as well as the parks themselves, offer a varied but somewhat limited selection of lodging possibilities. Both parks have handsome lodges and cabins, owned by the National Park Service and managed by concessionaires. Rates for the park lodges are controlled by the park service and are not outrageous.

Outside the parks you'll find chain motels, independent mom-and-pop motels, and a few small bed and breakfasts, often in historic homes. Rates vary, but these towns are tourist traps, and you are unlikely to find bargains, especially during the busy summer season. Resist the temptation and stay in or as close to the parks as you can afford.

The best -- and perhaps only -- way to really save money on lodging is to go in the off season, preferably just before or just after the high season. We recently spent a week at Zion National Park in late March. The cool, spring weather was perfect for hiking, and lodging cost close to half of June or July rates.

Lodging, eating, and camping choices inside the park are limited to Zion Lodge and the three National Park Service campgrounds, which are wonderful and allow you to spend the most time possible in the park, enjoying changing angles of the sun's rays on the rocks. In addition to using the park's lodging, dining, and camping options, you'll probably head to the nearby gateway communities for at least some of your eating and lodging, and possibly camping. Generally, the farther you get from the park entrances, the less expensive your lodging will be. Outside the park, you'll find choices to suit almost every taste.

Pets are not accepted unless otherwise noted. Room tax adds 10.2% in the park and 12.8% outside the park. For additional information about lodging, dining, and other services in the area contact the Zion Canyon Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 331, Springdale, UT 84767 (tel. 888/518-7070; www.zionpark.com).

Near the East Entrance to Zion National Park

Although there is no town directly outside the east entrance to Zion National Park, several businesses provide visitor services nearby. About 13 miles east of the east entrance, at the junction of Utah 9 and U.S. 89, is Mt. Carmel Junction, at an elevation of 5,191 feet. The town is 73 miles southwest of Bryce Canyon National Park, and 17 miles northwest of Kanab.

For area information, contact the Kane County Office of Tourism, 78 S. 100 E., Kanab, UT 84741 (tel. 800/733-5263 or 435/644-5033; www.kaneutah.com).

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.