Zion National Park is an internationally recognized name that inspires images of steep red cliffs, lush desert canyons and plenty of hiking. What might not be as apparent as the breathtaking landscape is the National Park Service’s commitment to preserving the environment. In a significant step in the right direction to honoring this undertaking, five brand-new and fully electric buses to shuttle visitors throughout the park have just begun operation.
Zion, which was the third most visited national park in 2022, began offering free shuttles between the nearby town of Springdale and various areas within the park in 2000. Since then the fleet has grown alongside park visitation numbers, but with a record breaking five million visitors in 2021 — up from just 2.4 million in 2000 — the park’s need for a cleaner mode of transportation became clear.
To help combat both air and noise pollution from bussing millions of visitors throughout the park, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted Zion $33 million in 2021 to replace the aging buses.
“These funds to modernize Zion’s transportation system will benefit our visitors and the rural economies who depend on those visitors,” said Gov. Spencer Cox in 2021 after the grant was awarded. “Additionally, this new electric bus system will better serve the sensitive ecosystem of Zion, preserving its beauty for future generations.”
These five buses are the beginning of Zion’s plan to fully transition the park’s propane-powered and hybrid-electric transit fleet to a fully electric one over the coming years. Each of the buses added to the fleet will have a unique look. The first of many styles to come is Navajo Sandstone, which is the iconic red rock that spans much of southwestern Utah and is abundant in Zion.
In addition to the new buses, Zion’s commitment to ecological sustainability extends throughout the park’s other infrastructure. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center satisfies the majority of its electrical needs through solar panels. Excess power is either sold back to the local power company or stored in batteries for use at a later time.
Visitors who are eager to contribute to Zion’s mission of sustaining the environment are encouraged to dispose of all of their trash properly. That means abstaining from littering and putting all garbage in the appropriate receptacle, be it a general waste container or a specific recycling bin. Visitors are also asked — and required by federal law — to stay on designated trails in order to preserve the delicate ecosystem.
Zion makes clear through consistent action just how important sustainability of the natural world is. Energy-efficient infrastructure and eco-friendly transit systems are just a few of the ways the NPS prioritizes protecting the great outdoors for generations to come. To learn more about sustainability in Zion, as well as how to take a ride on the shuttles, visit their website.
Story: Jacob Horne
Photos: Lily Brunson
Editor: Lily Brunson