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With huge crowds expected to jam trails and parking areas in Zion National Park for Memorial Day weekend, the state tourism officials are promoting alternative southwestern Utah destinations nearby.

The big opening to the summer travel season typically leads to longer-than-normal wait times at entrance stations and shuttle stops throughout Zion Canyon and crowded conditions on the park's most popular trails.

"Southwest Utah has remarkable landscapes and Memorial Day weekend promises to bring a large number of visitors from around the world to experience the region," said Vicki Varela, managing director, Utah Office of Tourism. "We are encouraging visitors to consider expanding their itinerary to include destinations outside Zion National Park, particularly on Saturday, the busiest day of the holiday weekend."

Ideas for those near Zion include the Chile Trail, Coal Pits Wash, Northgate Peaks on Kolob Reservoir Road, and Eagle Crags, all of which can be accessed outside of the park but offer good views and experiences.

On the east side of Zion, consider hiking to Observation Point and Cable Mountain, assessed through the Zion Ponderosa Resort, or enjoying a day trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Within a two-hour drive of Zion, visitors can explore Cedar Breaks National Monument east of Cedar City; Brian Head Resort for mountain biking and hiking; Snow Canyon State Park; or the Red Cliffs Recreation Area near St. George.

Boaters and water park enthusiasts can also check out Quail Creek, Sand Hollow or Gunlock state park reservoirs that are near Zion.

Even then, all of those destinations will be busy. This is one of those weekends when escaping crowds is going to be difficult.