With rising temperatures, Southern Utah’s state and national parks experience an increase in visitation. According to Jason Both, manager of Sand Hollow State Park, warmer weather has led to a notable rise in overnight and day use at the park.
“All campgrounds have been full throughout the week and boating is starting to pick up,” he told St. George News.
Both expects visitation at Sand Hollow State Park to continue growing as the summer tourism season approaches. Off-highway vehicle use remains popular in the park and Sand Mountain, with a major event scheduled for May 6, 2023: the Ironman 70.3 North American Championship.
Similarly, Zion National Park has seen increased visitor numbers, particularly on weekends and holidays. Park spokesman Jonathan Shafer reported that March 2023 had 336,226 visitors, a steep increase from February and January numbers.
Zion National Park’s South Entrance road drainage improvements are nearing completion, but visitors should still be prepared for lines and limited parking. Shafer also advises those planning to hike The Narrows to check conditions beforehand, as melting snow will cause more water to flow through the Virgin River. Zion National Park’s website offers information on The Narrows’ history and current conditions, as well as campground reservations and shuttle schedules.
At Snow Canyon State Park, visitation patterns remain inconsistent. Park manager Kristen Comella explained that colder-than-average weather from mid-February through early April impacted visitor numbers. Though visitation appeared to be returning to normal before Easter, it has since slowed down due to the end of spring break waves.
Bryce Canyon National Park’s altitude of 8,000 feet results in a cooler climate compared to its lower desert surroundings. Park spokesman Peter Densmore said, “As spring arrives, that difference in climate often means we’re still receiving snow when nearby areas are seeing rain.” The park received about 136 inches of snow this winter, well above the annual average of 90 inches.
Densmore encourages all visitors to check the park website before arriving, as several seasonal road and trail closures remain in place. The repair of the Navajo Loop, which closed on March 16 due to unsafe conditions, will begin once the area thaws. In the meantime, all other front-country trails are open for hiking.
The outdoor recreation industry in Southern Utah benefits significantly from the increased visitation during warmer months. As more people travel to the region, local businesses, such as tour operators, campgrounds, and RV parks, experience a boost in revenue. This growth also highlights the importance of sustainable tourism practices to preserve the natural resources and beauty of these popular destinations for generations to come.