Of the twelve southwestern national parks encompassed within The Grand Circle, Zion is the jewel in the crown. Here are some tips to maximize accessible travel for people with disabilities.
Get yourself an Access Pass (You can thank me later.)
The national parks issue an Access Pass for US citizens with permanent disabilities. You can apply by mail but be prepared to wait for your card to arrive (mine took about three months), or go in person to one of the listed federal recreation sites that issue passes (Zion is one of them.) This pass enables you to tour the park without having to board an often crowded shuttle and readily find ADA permit parking in Zion where parking is at a premium. If you qualify, do not hesitate to apply for your card today. Traveling with a disability is already challenging enough. An Access Pass reduces stress, saves time and money, and is valid for all the national parks.
Where to roll
Here’s what we did: (Stick with me here, it’s worth it!) My husband dropped me off with my red mobility scooter and his bike at the Temple of Sinawava (at the furthest, uphill end of the park); drove our van back down to The Grotto parking lot; and then jumped on the shuttle to meet back up with me. Then we both rode the approximate 9-mile length of the park downhill together, including the hook up to Pa’rus Trail that flows the last 1.8 miles into the visitor center. (Map and more)
Afterwards, I waited about 20 minutes at the visitor center with my husband’s bike while he boarded the shuttle back to The Grotto for our van to pick me up. It was such a wonderful ride that we did it all again the next day!
(In case you’re wondering: My husband would have parked at the visitor center to begin with but there was no parking available. Plus, it divided my wait time.) We couldn’t have had this amazing experience without an Access Pass.
If you can only do a short roll, park at the Temple of Sinawava and spin your scooter along the 2.2-mile round trip Riverside Walk Trail. Completely paved, it enables wheelchairs and light weight scooters to go quite a distance along the gorgeous Virgin River. There will be a sign advising when to turn around. My more heavy-duty scooter, a Pride Pursuit, easily maneuvered the remaining wide, sloping trail the entire distance. Allow yourself a couple hours. Pack snacks and hydrate well.
Suitable for wheelchairs, scooters, strollers, bikes and even pets, Pa’rus Trail offers accessible exploration for everyone within the majestic Navajo sandstone canyon. This multi-use pathway aptly gets its name from the Paiute word “pa’rus” meaning bubbling, tumbling water. And, sure enough, the 1.8 mile (one-way) trail crisscrosses the bubbling, tumbling Virgin River at two small, picturesque bridges that are level with the pavement.
We were lucky enough to catch sight of quite a bit of wildlife: loitering turkey vultures, grazing deer, begging squirrels and a rare daytime sighting of a beautiful black-and-white striped kingsnake swerving across the terra-cotta colored path (don’t worry, these snakes are harmless).
You’ll see plenty of wayfinding signage from the visitor center area to catch the trail. If you have a wheelchair or small scooter (size requirements here), it can be loaded on a shuttle bus and drop you off at the end of the trail so you can roll back in a generally more downward direction towards the visitor center. Either way, enjoy the ride!
Need a wheelchair? Loaners are available at the visitor center. I would assume on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Making Accessibility Happen
Every national park has a visitor comment form that you can pick up at the guard station or sometimes e-mail online. Sharing your experiences – positive or negative – makes a difference.
The above post was sent to:
Superintendent, Jeff Bradybaugh
Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9
Springdale, UT 84767