Planning a visit to Zion National Park? You might need to RSVP first

This would be a first for a U.S. national park: requiring reservations to get in. But it’s an option that Zion National Park is considering to manage an overwhelming surge of visitors to its sweeping red-rock vistas and canyons in Utah.

Zion, which welcomed 4.3 million people last year, is weighing online reservations for those who want to explore its main canyon. National Park Service rangers struggle to cope with overcrowded tour buses and alleviate damage to Zion’s natural wonders, including soil erosion and human waste near trails.

People without reservations could pay an entrance fee and drive through the park, but they couldn’t stop to hike or picnic.

“We have to do something,” said park spokesman John Marciano. With limited budgets, Zion’s Park Service rangers routinely see long lines and plants trampled by visitors who also have cut some 30 miles of their own trails.

Zion isn’t the only U.S. national park with swelling numbers of tourists, and at least two national parks, in California and Hawaii, are testing more limited reservation systems for parking.

Overall, more than 330 million people visited U.S. national parks in 2016, a record. Visits were bolstered by the improving economy, cheap gas and marketing campaigns for the National Park Service’s 2016 centennial.

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