A record number of visitors also means an increase in the vandalism of national parks. Our national parks are some of our greatest treasures. They preserve land and wildlife for future generations.
Unfortunately, a small number of people deface and damage our parks every year. Utah’s Zion National Park became the most recent victim.
We’ll take a closer look at this recent act of vandalism and what we can do when we see it at national parks.
Widespread Vandalism at Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah is one of our most beautiful parks. It has amazing trails with epic views. In 2021 there were over 5 million visitors.
Unfortunately, there’s also been widespread vandalism, of which there are a few different types. The vandals scratch and carve into the rocks or use spray paint, markers, and stickers.
In one instance, it took park rangers over 35 hours to sand off 150 square feet of spray paint. This took time and skill not to damage the rock beneath the paint. They had to be very careful while sanding so as not to damage a slow-growing lichen. The rangers had to clean up after themselves to avoid damaging wildlife.
The rangers and volunteers work diligently to repair the land. Repairing destruction is labor-intensive and costs the parks a lot of money. It also takes rangers and volunteers away from their regular duties. Sometimes there’s no way to completely repair a national park’s vandalism.
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park is in southern Utah, near Springdale. It’s also close to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. The park is at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and the Mojave Desert.
The park’s geography is unique, and there is unusual plant and animal diversity. Hundreds of plant, bird, mammal, and reptile species live in the four life zones – desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest.
The Zion Canyon is 15 miles long and up to 2640 feet deep, with canyon walls in a beautiful ochre and tan sandstone. The park has mountains, canyons, mesas, and natural arches.
The government established Zion National Park on November 19, 1919. The park’s foundation papers read, “the purpose of the park is to protect evidence of human history; and to provide for scientific research and the enjoyment and the enlightenment of the public.”
The park offers many activities in and around it, such as guided horseback rides, hiking, rock climbing, and camping.
Visiting Zion National Park
The closest place to stay is the Zion Lodge, located inside the park. However, Springdale is the nearest city with a variety of hotels for different budgets.
A seven-day entrance pass for a single vehicle is $35, a motorcycle is $30, a pedestrian or bicycle is $20, and under 15 years old are free. There are a variety of wilderness and camping permits also, so it’s a good idea to check the website for specifics.
Kolob Canyon Visitor Center is open year-round from 8 am to 5 pm, closed only on Christmas Day. In addition, a park museum is open from March through October.
The park has a shuttle system that runs in a loop. It takes visitors between the visitor center and various stops, including some trailheads.
Dogs aren’t allowed in the wilderness areas, on any trails except for the Pa’rus trail, on shuttle buses, or in public buildings. They’re permitted on leashes in developed campgrounds and picnic areas and on the grounds of Zion Lodge. Service animals are permitted anywhere in the park.
When to Visit Zion
The park is open year-round, and spring is an excellent time to visit the park as it’s not too hot yet. You should be cautious of flash floods and wear layers. The summer season is the most popular and crowded. It’s also sweltering in Utah during July and August.
Fall is the golden season at Zion, with cooler weather and beautiful fall color. Winter is the least crowded, but you’ll need to dress warmly and use caution due to heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
Pro Tip: We uncovered Statistically, The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park. It may surprise you!
How Vandalism Harms National Parks
Vandalism destroys the natural beauty of our national parks, which are some of the last places we can explore the untainted glory of our country. When a vandal defaces the park, they destroy sites that have taken a millennium to create.
Vandalism can also harm or kill protected wildlife. The consequences of this can be devastating for generations.
It’s important to realize that you can create damage unintentionally. Make sure you take away anything you bring into the park. For example, please don’t make rock cairns or take away “mementos” of the park. There are restrooms available, so please use them!
Pro Tip: Want to camp in Zion National Park? Check out our Ultimate Zion National Park Camping Guide.
Report Vandalism Witnessed in National Parks
If you see vandalism at our national parks, please report it to any national park service employee. There are several ways to report vandalism. Don’t confront a vandal directly.
You can call or text this investigative services branch tip line – 888-653-0009. You can report it online at nps.gov/ISB and click “submit a tip.” If it’s an emergency, you should call 911. Visitors have the power to make positive changes against vandalism.
Best Hikes in Zion National Park
Zion Narrows Riverside Walk
The Narrows Riverside Walk is 1.9 miles out and back. It’s a slot canyon hike and takes approximately 45-60 minutes. This is the gate to the canyon, and it’s very narrow.
Water covers the bottom in many spots, so you should plan to get wet. There are some places where the water is deep enough to swim. It’s a great hike to keep cool on a hot summer day. It’s also an easy hike to take young children and people in wheelchairs.
Zion is a leave no trace zone, so pack out anything you bring. Handicapped accessible parking is available, and the trail is smooth and almost three feet wide.
The most accessible portion of the trail is the first 0.4 miles northbound, and the best time to hike it is from March to October.
Pa’rus Trail is 3.4-miles out and back and takes approximately 1.5 to two hours to hike. It follows the Virgin River and has excellent views of the Watchman.
You’ll see a large variety of plant and animal life trailside. It’s also a beautiful spot to stargaze or watch the sunset.
This is a very popular trail. If you want to avoid crowds, it’s probably best to hike early or later in the day.
The Pa’rus Trail is accessible for wheelchairs, pets on leashes, and bicycles. The best times to visit this trail are March-October.
Emerald Pools Trail
Emerald Pools is a three-mile trail that takes approximately 1.5 to two hours to hike. Several trail options range from easy to challenging. All the paths lead to sparkling waterfalls and glistening emerald pools. It’s also a popular trail so go early to avoid crowds.
The lower trail is suitable for young children, baby strollers, and wheelchairs (with some assistance.) Dogs or other pets aren’t allowed on the hike. The best times to visit here are May through November.
Our national parks are our greatest treasures, places where we can enjoy the beauty of our world. They’re also great places to vacation inexpensively yet grandly.
Widespread vandalism endangers Zion and other national parks, which are legacies to our future generations that we must preserve.
If you decide to visit one, please take care of our parks and report any damage or vandalism. It’s up to us to preserve our public lands!
Will you take a vacation to a national park this year?
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