Sunday, October 2, 2022


I’m worried about visiting two of the most popular National Parks

Next week I’m braving the spring break crowds and heading south to meet some friends (alas, without an RV on this last-minute, whirlwind trip). We’ll start in Phoenix, head up to Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, then through Page, up into Zion National Park for a few days then return home from Las Vegas. Now is when I take a deep breath and ask for your wishes of “good luck!”

I know what the parks were once like. I remember camping with my dad, Chuck, in Bryce Canyon National Park years ago. We arrived in the afternoon and pulled into a campsite practically hanging over the hoodoo formations below. No problem. Peace, quiet, open campsites and no crowds. And it wasn’t just like this at Bryce… Death Valley, Yellowstone, Arches… it was all the same back then.

Ten years ago, before RVing boomed, we drove into the main campground at Bryce Canyon National Park and selected a campsite, no reservation was required. This is me, checking my email (we still used computers back then).

But you already know this. Most of you have experienced this too. I’m not here to reminisce on the “good ol’ days,” but you can be absolutely certain that when I have to wait in a line to take a picture at an overlook or on a hike, or sit in my car at the entrance stations (even before sunrise) for way too much gas-wasting time, I’ll be moaning and groaning.

I booked the trip pretty much last-minute, so hotel reservations, car rentals, and restaurant reservations (who knew you needed restaurant reservations nowadays in these small towns? SIGH.) were pretty scarce. Guess the high gas prices aren’t stopping spring-breakers. Does anything ever stop spring-breakers?

Crowded tourist spot in Zion National Park
Crowds in Zion hiking “The Narrows.” Luckily, I’ll avoid this because of the season… I hope.

We all know what people are saying online. We’ve read the articles and seen the photos. Many of you have experienced it. Parking lots fill up by 6 a.m., the lines for the shuttles are longer than the Grand Canyon itself (not really, but close!), selfie sticks whack people out of the way for that “perfect shot”… This is what I’m expecting. I hope I’m surprised. Oh, boy, do I hope…

If you haven’t seen today’s poll yet, do you find National Parks to be busier than they ever were before, please go vote. I’ll be waiting (and cringing) for your answers.

OK, I’ve got a lot to do before I leave and time is running out. I’ll update you next week, when I’ll be writing from Zion.

Wish my grumpy self good luck, please. I’ll need it.



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6 months ago

Last Spring break,braved Joshua Tree. Sooo many people,and that’s right..found a mask blowing around in this previously pristine park.
Good luck!

Astrid Bierworth
6 months ago

I hope you have a great trip. Since you are going to Page, be sure to check out Antelope Canyon. We’ve been to both the upper and lower and they are amazing!

6 months ago

Honestly not sure if there is even an off season anywhere anymore. With so many people working remotely in their RV’s and traveling year round with kids, I’d almost think the popular parks are always hopping. Winter probably not so much

Susan RN MPH
6 months ago

A few years ago I went to Bryce and Zion and they weren’t crowded. But I went in February and even in winter they weren’t empty.

Jim Prideaux
6 months ago

I’ve done the National Parks and have no desire to go back. They all have their famous sites, geysers, deepest canyon, biggest trees etc, but they offer no better camping experience than lesser known parks. For the camping experience and getting back to nature I prefer the State Parks.

Donald N Wright
6 months ago

It is a problem when everyone goes to the same place at the same time. I have also made reservations for June 2022 back in 2021. Have you visited Big Bend or the Badlands during the summer months? Gulf coast beaches during the winter? Everyone is in Florida or Arizona.

6 months ago

I hope you have a good trip. I live in Southern Utah and we’re pretty packed with Spring Breakers right now. It’s still beautiful here, you just have to share it with millions of people. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, but to others visiting our awesome sites, please stay on the trails, don’t climb on the toadstools and hoodoos, and PLEASE don’t toss your brightly colored dog poop bag on the side of the trail. Pack it out with you. I say this because I have been seeing a lot of these behaviors on the trails lately. 🙂

Bill Fisher
6 months ago

We visited Sedona four days ago and it was totally overcrowded! Long lines to get up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a four mile long traffic creep to get through town on 179, every overview packed with all parking spots full and on and on.

6 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fisher

We last visited Sedona in Oct…the “off” season and experienced the same thing. We have friends that live there and they say it is constantly like that.. There is no off season.

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago

The way I see it is, if you were lucky enough to visit these NP’s earlier on, let your memories serve you and don’t try to go back for a re-visit. It will ruin your wonderful memories of times gone by. I will never try to go back to any of these parks that I was lucky enough to see years ago. Why foul up your wonderful memories (assuming your memories ARE wonderful)?

Rick Vollstedt
6 months ago

Not sure how long you’ll be staying in Sedona, but if you ever wanted to climb to the top of Bell Rock, there is a guy who’ll guide you. Google Peter the Vortex Jumper, Peter Alan Gersten is his name. He guides people of all ages to the top, for free. Very interesting guy. He does not go everyday, so will need to contact him. Have fun, I know I did!

6 months ago

Will be looking forward to an update after your trip. Hoping you have a positive experience.

6 months ago

You are spot on. Ive been to 8 NPs since October. Its insane out here. We are at Acadia now and its barely open but better that than fighting the masses. One thing that has been consistent in Grand Canyon and Zion and confirmed by the Acadia ranger the other day is that the NPS cant get enough labor, so they artificially limit the number of visitors in a variety of sneaky ways. Less entrance booth staffing, less camping spots, more permits required. The Acadia guy currently has 14 openings and zero applicants. They fully open in 30 days hows that going to go? We have just resigned ourselves to going way off season and staying away on the weekends. I dont see a solution other than that.

Mr T
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

NPS pay is too low.Only someone really enthusiastic would apply there. The parks need to increase their entrance fees

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