Zion National Park Will Ban RVs from Main Highway

Zion National Park is moving to ban RVs and other large vehicles from traveling the historic highway that snakes through the park’s iconic red-and-white sandstone landscape

Starting in mid-2026, Zion National Park will no longer allow large RVs and other oversized vehicles to travel the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, the scenic byway that bisects southern Utah’s top tourist draw.

“These changes reflect months of discussions to find the best way forward to manage the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and increase driver safety,” said Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park superintendent, in a statement. “Our goal is to protect drivers, meet modern safety standards, and ensure the integrity of the road and tunnels so that we continue to enjoy scenic drives on the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.”

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Specifically, National Park Service (NPS) will reroute vehicles to roads around the park if they are:

  • Longer than 35 feet and 9 inches
  • Taller than 11 feet and 4 inches
  • Wider than 7 feet and 10 inches
  • Weigh more than 50,000 pounds

The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Designed and constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, the road has tight turns, steep grades, several switchbacks, narrow lanes, and two low and slender tunnels.

As scenic as the drive is, park officials say it is increasingly crowded and unsafe. When the historic highway and accompanying tunnel were opened in 1930, a little more than 55,000 visitors toured Zion each year. The park now attracts about 5 million visitors per year. Moreover, the vehicles that traverse the park are often too large and heavy for the road.

While these design elements make the road compatible with the beloved desert landscape, they weren’t meant to accommodate a 45-foot-long motorhome. A century ago, cars were much smaller and weighed far less than they do today.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tight turns, traffic bottlenecks

Recent studies show many vehicles on Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway exceed 50,000 pounds, the weight limit on park bridges. In addition, engineers have identified 18 locations on the road where the turning radius is too tight to accommodate long vehicles. Currently, many oversized vehicles negotiating the highway’s many switchbacks cross the center median and pose a safety risk to oncoming traffic.

Studies on the busy scenic highway highlighted the dangers of hosting large vehicles. According to the park service, engineering and traffic surveys showed that large recreational vehicles crossed the highway’s center lines in 18 locations because the road’s turning radius cannot accommodate vehicles that exceed 35 feet and 9 inches.

Because of the park’s unique terrain, wildlife and the costs associated with new construction, expanding the roadway is not an option, park officials said. They added that the decision to restrict large vehicles in Zion was the result of discussions with many stakeholders including transportation departments, neighbors, business owners, and elected officials.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Further exacerbating matters is the mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel which isn’t wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic with large rigs. Vehicles taller than 13 feet 1 inch won’t fit in the tunnel while those wider than 7 feet 10 inches and taller than 11 feet 4 inches require a tunnel escort. As a result, the tunnel often functions as a one-way road as oversized vehicles are escorted through while traffic bottlenecks on the opposite end result in substantial delays.

The new rules will require visitors from Bryce Canyon National Park to access Zion’s south entrance via state Route 20 and Interstate 15 adding 63 miles to the current route through Carmel Junction and the park’s back entrance. Visitors from the Grand Canyon North Rim will have to travel State Route 59 to access Zion’s south entrance, 23 miles longer than the existing route.

Driving tourists elsewhere?

Springdale Mayor Barbara Bruno doesn’t foresee many negative impacts on the town that serves as the gateway to Zion. She said local business owners’ reaction to the upcoming change has been mixed but a majority expressed support.

“Since [the change] is based on safety, I wholeheartedly agree with the park’s decision,” Bruno said. “I also appreciate having been notified ahead of time.”

Even though they will be banned from the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway in two years, oversized-vehicle owners can still park their rigs in Springdale or at the main visitors center near Zion’s south entrance and take an electric shuttle to tour Zion Canyon which is closed to private vehicles most of the year.

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’ve written several posts about Zion National Park that can be found here, if you’re interested in learning more.

The Complete Guide to Zion National Park

Cathedral-like canyons and majestic sandstone cliffs create a wondrous landscape. Don’t be surprised if your first glimpse of Zion National Park with its vast red rock canyons and towering sandstone temples feels a bit like a spiritual awakening. You wouldn’t be the first person moved by its majesty.

Check out this article…

The Ultimate Guide to Zion National Park

Zion National Park is without a doubt one of the most beautiful national parks in all of America.

Check out this article…

Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Best of Zion

Zion National Park brims with awe-inspiring views and outdoor adventures. I’ve been to Zion several times and managed to pick up some new spots on each visit. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best of Zion.

Check out this article…

Worth Pondering…

It is a place where a family can rest at streamside after a pleasant morning hike.

It is a vast labyrinth of narrow canyons where one can become hopelessly lost, shrinking to invisibility beneath dark, towering walls of stone.

One may feel triumph and exhilaration, or awesome smallness atop Angels Landing; thirst and fatigue, or a rewarding weariness, on the return trek from the backcountry.

Perhaps one’s view of Zion is in the eyes of the beholder.

—Wayne L. Hamilton, The Sculpturing of Zion