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.
Where to stay
Driftwood Lodge, Springdale, UT (Zion National Park)
I look forward to the day when all ADA accommodations are this well thought out. With ample space, appropriate bathroom fittings and easy access parking to a relatively new, ground-floor unit, Driftwood Lodge is the place to stay for accessible travel accommodations when visiting Zion National Park.
But wait, there’s more!
Entry: Upon arrival to our ADA unit (#502, which I highly recommend!), it was such a refreshing change to have ample space to wheel in without having to negotiate a front door swinging into a bathroom door.
Bathroom: Again, there was plenty of space to spin a wheelchair on attractive, non-slip tile flooring. The shower area was beautifully tiled and outfitted with a curved shower rod, grab bars, shower wand, and quality toiletries and towels. I also appreciated that the sink and mirror were lowered for easier use from a seated position. A shower chair is available from the front desk upon request.
Beds: Super comfortable and easy to transfer getting in and out of as they were at an appropriate level.
View: OMG! Just glorious. You feel like you’re in the park without having to leave your bed.
Back deck: Our first night, we ate dinner outside just to enjoy the fantastic view from the privacy of our deck. It was also a suitable place to recharge my red mobility scooter under cover.
Pool: We visited in early May, when the daytime temperatures reached the high 80s. After a hot day in the park and a little rest, the lodge pool refreshed us before dinner time. The pool has two gates, one of which facilitates ADA access but requires the front desk to open it with a key. There are two sets of stairs into the pool water but no chairlift at the moment.
Service: We felt that everyone working at Driftwood Lodge genuinely enjoyed hosting our visit, including the owner, Hans Dunzinger. My husband and I enjoyed hearing how he came to acquire the lodge and everything he’s doing to make it a special place for everyone now and for generations to come.
1515 Zion Park Boulevard,
Springdale, Utah 84767, United States
Where to have a great dinner
King’s Landing Bistro
Go no further than the lodge’s associated restaurant, King’s Landing Bistro (I’m telling you, this is a great place all around!). Husband and wife chefs, Thomas King and Phu Nguyen, bring their expertise from the big name Las Vegas kitchens and renowned French Laundry to produce fabulous dining in a casual setting. Everything is made in-house, from the bison carpaccio to lamb ragu to the strawberry rhubarb crisp dolloped with homemade ice cream.
On our first visit – yes, we went again the next night!— we enjoyed an amazing appetizer of a goat cheese mousse filled pastry layered high with sliced beets and orange segments.
When the weather is nice, be sure to sit on the outdoor patio with a view of the sun setting on the sandstone canyon walls and birdsong in surround stereo.
Accessibility to the restaurant is pretty good. It’s all on the ground floor level; and chairs were readily moved to accommodate wheelchair entry.
European-sized portions. Wonderful service. $$-$$$
King’s Landing Bistro
1515 Zion Park Boulevard, Suite 50-A
Springdale, Utah 84767, United States
+1 (435) 772-7422