Zion to limit RV’s and Tour Buses

Zion NAtional Park

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According to a press release from the National Park Service, changes to how people enjoy Zion National Park are coming in 2026.

These changes will also negatively impact many small businesses that support Zion National Park and people wanting to travel between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park.

Beginning in mid-2026, the park plans to reroute vehicles that exceed 11’4” tall, 7’10” wide, 35’9” long, or 50,000 pounds to routes other than the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway (the road across Zion National Park).

Note: This “reroute” (ban) will include tour buses, many RVs, and vehicles pulling camper trailers. They will no longer be allowed to drive through the park.

Coming in from Las Vegas, they will only be allowed to go as far as the main entrance or the Lodge (with permits).

Coming from Bryce Canyon, they will not be allowed to access Zion via the Mt Carmel tunnel.

The many small businesses along these routes cater heavily to the tour groups, and RVers who stop, shop, and spend money during the summer travel season will most likely have to close.

Changes

The new rules’ late start is probably to give all the tour operators who have tours planned for this popular route time to make necessary changes.

Vehicles that exceed these specifications can use existing alternate routes surrounding the park. These changes aim to help reduce: 

  • collision likelihood. 
  • overweight transits on road bridges. 
  • lane-crossing due to vehicles being too long to negotiate turns. 

“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. “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.” 

Vehicles that exceed the specifications listed here will still be able to enter the park and drive on open roads. If they are too large to safely drive on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, they can drive around the park on existing roads, which will add an estimated ten to forty minutes trips, depending on route and destination. In the years to come, regional partners are also discussing improvements to roads around Zion that should simplify travel.  

Background 
Engineering and traffic studies regarding contemporary road use show that travel by many large vehicles presents public safety concerns. In addition to exceeding engineering limits on park bridges, large vehicles like recreational vehicles or motorcoach buses cross the centerline in 18 locations where the road’s turning radius cannot accommodate long vehicles – which becomes problematic when vehicle length exceeds 35 feet 9 inches.   

Bridges on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway are rated for 50,000-pound vehicles. Some large vehicles exceed this weight. Additionally, the Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel requires its own restrictions. Vehicles wider than 7 feet 10 inches and taller than 11 feet 4 inches cannot pass through the tunnel while maintaining two-way traffic and require a tunnel escort. Vehicles taller than 13 feet 1 inch cannot fit through the tunnel and are not allowed.  

Historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway 
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. This historic road was originally designed and constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. To complement the landscape, the road has: 

  • tight turns. 
  • some steep grades. 
  • a large number of switchbacks. 
  • relatively narrow lanes. 
  • two low and narrow tunnels.  
  • bridges. 

These design elements make the road more compatible with the landscape but also hard for modern, larger vehicles to travel safely. 

When the road was designed, vehicles were smaller, moved at slower speeds, and weighed far less. Expanding the historic road is not feasible because of the terrain. New construction could be prohibitively expensive and harm the park’s landscapes, plants, animals, and impact the historic values of the road itself, the press release stated.