At either Zion or Bryce Canyon national parks there are two main ways to get around -- private vehicle and/or shuttle bus. Due to road congestion within the parks, both have instituted shuttle buses from late spring through early fall in the most popular areas of the parks. At Zion, it's mandatory -- private vehicles are prohibited on the park road when the shuttle is running; at Bryce Canyon, use of the shuttle bus is optional. Unlimited use of the shuttle buses in both parks is included in the entrance fee.
Most visitors to Zion will be arriving at the South Entrance, at the town of Springdale. From April through October private vehicle use in this area is limited and visitors must use the shuttle on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The rest of the year you are free to drive yourself on the scenic drive. However, there is no shuttle and you are free to drive yourself year-round along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (from the park's East Entrance) and in the Kolob Canyons and Terrace sections of the park.
Year-round fuel stations include Springdale Chevron, on the south side of town, at 1593 Zion Park Blvd. (tel. 435/772-3677). Outside the park's east entrance, there is a gas station at 4490 S. State St., Mt. Carmel (tel. 435/648-2326). Emergency 24-hour service is available from W. J. Bassett Repair (tel. 435/772-3328), in Springdale.
The park's shuttle bus system runs from April through October, and during that time access to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (above Utah 9) is limited to shuttle buses, hikers, and bikers. The only exceptions are overnight Zion Lodge guests and tour buses connected with the lodge, which have access to the road as far as the lodge. The shuttle system consists of two loops: one in the town of Springdale and the other along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, with the loops connecting at the transit/visitor center just inside the south park entrance. Shuttle stops are located at all the major-use areas in the park, and shuttles run frequently (about every 6 min. at peak times). The buses are handicap accessible. From November through March, when park visitation is lowest, visitors are permitted to drive the full length of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in their own vehicles. Complete information about the shuttle and all stops is available at the visitor center.
Exploring the Parks by RV or "Car-Camping"
One of the best ways to explore Zion and Bryce parks, is in an RV, or in a car or truck while spending your nights in a tent.
There are a few things that RVers might want to know. Entering Zion from the east in an RV involves an extra fee and maybe a short wait to get through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, and there may be parking restrictions along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. However, entering the park from this direction is worth it, and taking your RV into these parks isn't much of a hassle, especially if you plan ahead.
Parking is limited, especially for motor homes and other large vehicles, so park your RV where you'll be camping, and take shuttle buses as much as possible. Drive either early or late in the day, when there's less traffic -- the best times to explore the parks anyway.
If you'll be traveling in the parks in your RV and want to make it obvious that your campsite is occupied, carry something to leave in it, such as a cardboard box with "Site Taken" clearly written on it.
Because many of the national park campsites are not level, carry four or five short boards, or leveling blocks, to place under the RV's wheels. You can buy inexpensive levels at RV and hardware stores.
Elsewhere in this guide you'll find information on camping in Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, on nearby federal and state lands, and in the parks' gateway towns. Those planning to camp elsewhere in the state can get information on Utah's national forests from the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Region Office, 324 25th St., Ogden, UT 84401 (tel. 801/625-5306; www.fs.fed.us/r4). The Utah State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is at 440 W. 200 South, Ste. 500, Salt Lake City, UT 84145-0155 (tel. 801/539-4001; www.blm.gov/ut). For information on Utah's state parks, contact Utah State Parks, 1594 W. North Temple, Ste. 116, Salt Lake City, UT 84116 (tel. 877/887-2757 or 801/538-7220; www.stateparks.utah.gov).
Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) can request the club's free Southwestern CampBook, which includes campgrounds and RV parks in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico; and several good national and regional campground guides are also available.
Renting an RV for Your National Park Trek -- If you own an RV, you're all set for a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks; but if you don't, you might want to consider renting one.
But first, let's get one thing straight: You probably won't save a lot of money. It is possible to travel fairly cheaply if you limit your equipment to a tent, a pop-up tent trailer, or a small pickup truck camper, but renting a motor home will probably end up costing almost as much as driving a compact car, staying in moderately priced motels, and eating in family-style restaurants and cafes. That's because the motor home will go only one-third as far on a gallon of gas or diesel as your car, and they're expensive to rent (generally $1,000-$1,500 per week in midsummer).
But carrying your house with you lets you stay in relative comfort in the national park campgrounds, which many park visitors feel is one of the highlights of their trip. It also lets you stop for meals anytime and anywhere you choose, and you won't spend time searching for a restroom.
If you plan to fly into the area and rent an RV when you arrive, choose your starting point carefully. Rental rates are usually less in Las Vegas, Nevada, than in Salt Lake City, and most of Utah's national parks are closer to Vegas than to Salt Lake City anyway.
The country's largest RV rental company, with outlets in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, is Cruise America (tel. 800/671-8042; www.cruiseamerica.com). RV rentals are also available from El Monte RV (tel. 888/337-2214; www.elmonterv.com) and Camping World (tel. 877/297-3687; www.rvrental.com). Information on rental agencies, as well as tips on renting, can be obtained from the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association (www.rvra.org).
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.