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Can You Fly a Drone in Zion National Park?

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Zion National Park in Utah is beloved for its dramatic red cliffs, the Emerald Pools with a hanging garden and waterfalls, Zion Narrows, and the plummeting chasms throughout the park.

It’s an enchanting place to visit, but can you take your drone?

Can you fly a drone in Zion National Park?

According to the National Park Service, drones cannot fly in Zion National Park. The U.S. National Park Service frequently prohibits drones in national parks to preserve wildlife and maintain the tranquility of the park for visitors.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about drone usage in and around Zion National Park so you can plan your travels to Utah accordingly.

Make sure you keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Zion National Park? #

The U.S. National Park Service is a federal government-appointed agency that establishes regulations about national park usage, including as it pertains to drones.

According to this page[1] on the U.S. National Park Service site, in a section called Aircraft-based Remote-controlled Equipment, here is the NPS’s full statement on drone use in Zion National Park:

“Use of remote-controlled aircraft (including but not limited to helicopters, drones, and other aircraft-based equipment) within Zion National Park is prohibited.”

This isn’t surprising if you’ve read the other posts on our blog about drone use in national parks.

In 2014, the U.S. National Park Service released Policy Memorandum 14-05, which–per the rules of 36 CRF 1.5­–grants the U.S. National Park Service permission to restrict the usage of unmanned aircraft around national parks, including launching, operating, and landing them.

While some exceptions exist, they’re very few and far between.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Utah

The U.S. National Park Service established its drone ban across national parks for several reasons. Primarily, it’s done to protect the park grounds and the animals that call the area home.

Zion National Park is a nature preserve. The guardianship of the species that live here could be at risk due to the presence of your drone.

Moreso, the U.S. National Park Service strives to provide a peaceful environment for national park visitors to keep attracting their repeat business.

The sights and sounds of drones are a nuisance to many, which can detract them from coming back to Zion or any national park that allows a drone.

While the U.S. National Park Service itself can and sometimes does use drones, commercial and recreational pilots cannot.

Commercial pilots can’t get permits here, and there are no loopholes. You must take heed of the park’s parameters and avoid flying there.

What happens if you illegally use your drone in Zion National Park? #

The U.S. National Park Service’s national park ban is nothing new, so drone pilots considering visiting Zion National Park should already be well aware of the regulations in place before visiting.

If not, this post will help make you cognizant. It’s a good thing, too, as the fines for using a drone illegally around Zion aren’t cheap by any means.

The U.S. National Park Service could fine you up to $5,000 for illegal drone use. You might even go to jail for six months.

Remember, the U.S. National Park Service is a federal entity, so you will face stiffer penalties than you would when dealing with a non-government organization.

It’s not worth flying a drone here illegally.

Can you fly a drone outside of Zion National Park? #

Once you leave the parameters of Zion National Park, the U.S. National Park Service no longer regulates those lands. However, 36 CFR rules may still apply.

For example, if you operate your drone (or any other portable device with an engine or motor) in a non-developed area, you’d violate the rules of 36 CFR §2.12 (a)(3).

Further, if you use your drone to create a public nuisance or alarm, especially recklessly and knowingly, you’d receive a disorderly conduct citation under a violation of 36 CFR §2.34.

On top of that, if you disturb or harass animals around Zion National Park and prevent them from engaging in activities like breeding or nesting, you’d disobey 36 CFR §2.2.

Keeping those rules in mind, let’s look at what’s around Zion National Park to determine if you can legally operate a drone here.

You won’t find much to the north of Zion for a while. You’d have to keep going for a bit to reach New Harmony, Kanarraville, Cedar Mountain, and Black Mountain.

Eastward of the national park is Glendale, Orderville, and Mount Carmel.

Westward is Pintura, Toquerville, Silver Reef, Leeds, and Harrisburg. South of Zion National Park is Springdale, Grafton, Rockville, and Shunesburg.

You shouldn’t face any restrictions entering these cities or towns with your drone since Utah has no local drone laws.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Kalbarri National Park?

However, if flying over someone else’s private property, you might still need permission from them. You also can’t land or launch your drone from private property without permission.  

Utah drone laws to remember #

Even though you can’t fly a drone in Zion National Park, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some time in the skies in Utah.

Many other parts of this state permit drones, but you must follow these state laws.

Avoid livestock when using your drone #

HB 217, Livestock Harassment, is a drone law designed to protect Utah’s livestock.

In Section 2, the rules state that: “…a person is guilty of harassment of livestock if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly chases, with the intention of causing distress, or harms livestock through the use of:

  • a motorized vehicle or all-terrain vehicle;
  • a dog; or
  • an unmanned aircraft system.”

If you own livestock in Utah, this rule doesn’t apply to your own livestock, just someone else’s. Also, if you’re an agent or employee of someone who owns livestock, you’re exempt.

You can’t carry a weapon on your drone #

SB 111 bans drones from transporting weapons through the skies. If you’re caught doing so, you’ll receive a Class B misdemeanor charge.

In Utah, a Class B misdemeanor results in a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Avoid wildland fires #

You wouldn’t want to fly your drone around a wildland fire, as it’s dangerous, but Utah’s state law 65A-3-2.5 strictly prohibits it anyway.

According to Chapter 3, Illegal Activities on State Lands and Wildland Fire Liability, Section 2.5, Wildland fire and unmanned aircraft, the law states that:

“A person may not operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that causes an unmanned aircraft to fly within an area that is under a temporary flight restriction that is used by the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of a wildland fire, or an area designated as a wildland fire scene on a system managed by a federal state as legal government.”

While violating 65A-3-2.5 can lead to a Class B misdemeanor charge, you could receive a larger fine of up to $5,000.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Big Bend National Park?

In addition, you must also follow these FAA guidelines when operating your drone:

  • Do not fly your drone over 400 feet from ground level, including over structures
  • Do not operate your drone over public transit rail vehicle overhead electric lines
  • Stay within 50 feet of a public transit fixed guideway right-of-way
  • Do not operate within five nautical miles of a military facility, airport, or heliport
  • Maintain a visual line of sight on your drone or have an observer who can do so for you
  • Do not fly over other people’s heads or close to crowds unless your drone weighs under 0.55 pounds or you have permission
  • Do not fly over moving vehicles
  • Always give manned aircraft the right of way
  • Have a valid drone license, such as a TRUST certificate or Remote Pilot Certificate
  • Register your drone if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds
  • Do not fly your drone at night unless you have prior permission
  • Only operate your drone in clear weather
  • Use a drone map to check for temporary flight restrictions and restricted airspace

Utah is the home of the beloved Zion National Park, a nature preserve known for its red cliffs. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. National Park Service prohibits the use of drones around Zion.

While you can fly your drone outside of the park, make sure you’re not violating any CFR rules, as you could receive federal charges with expensive fines and potential imprisonment.

Always obey FAA laws when operating a drone in Utah as well!

» MORE: Drone Laws in Utah

References:1. Zion National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (link)


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