Zion National Park, one of Utah’s five national parks, stands out for its geological wonders, a location where water and sand collide to generate arguably the country’s most stunning terrain. Here’s how to see it all, from the huge attractions like Zion Canyon and the Narrows to the hidden wonders that many people miss.
Established in 1919 to safeguard the towering sandstone cliffs concentrated around Zion Canyon, Zion was Utah’s first national park. It’s a midsized national park at 229 square miles, yet it draws outsized tourists because of its distinctive, awe-inspiring, gorgeous scenery. It also helps that the park has a wide spectrum of hiking terrain, from expert to preschool-friendly.
Where is Zion National Park?
In the southwestern section of Utah, Zion National Park is sandwiched between the Mojave Desert, Great Basin National Park, and the Colorado Plateau. Springdale, located at the park’s southern entrance, is the closest town. Despite its tiny size, there are plenty of lodging options, restaurants, pubs, and shopping.
Zion is an easy addition to any Southwest National Park vacation, being only 163 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada, and 307 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah. You can drive 86 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park, 126 miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or 175 miles to the Capitol Reef National Park entrance from the park.
How to get there?
The southwest part of Utah is home to Zion National Park, which is roughly an hour east of Saint George, a midsize city with all the amenities you won’t find the closer you get to Zion. Fly into the regional Saint George Airport in tourist-friendly Springdale, about an hour west of the park’s south entrance. Most visitors, however, fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which is slightly under three hours west of the park’s main entrance. The east entrance to Zion is located on SR-9, which is a lonely but scenic stretch of road. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center is located 40 miles northwest of Zion Canyon, just a few miles off I-15.
The months of June to August attract the most visits, with July being the busiest. In July, the average high temperature is 100°F. In the spring months of April and May, there are fewer people and the weather is pleasant for trekking. Fall foliage hues make October and November a terrific time to visit Zion. Fall is a terrific season to visit the park with a couple of garments for warmth in the morning and evening.
The visitor center is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the gift shop is open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., all year. COVID-19 has limited activities in Zion National Park. It’s possible that some facilities won’t be available, and staffing may be limited.
Park Entrance Fee
All visitors to Zion National Park must acquire a pass before entering the park. Your age, vehicle type, and how often you plan to visit national parks in the coming year will all influence which pass is ideal for you. Check out their website for the most up-to-date and detailed information.
If you plan on visiting even a few National Parks this year, the Interagency Annual Pass, often known as the America the Beautiful Pass, is the best option for most individuals. It provides unlimited admission to all Federal charge locations for one year from the date of purchase. The regular charge is $80, but seniors get a discount and active duty military get it for free.
Zion National Park Landmarks
Zion National Park Shuttle
Canyon Overlook Trail
Best Zion National Park Hiking Trails
Taylor Creek Trail
Weeping Rock Trail
East Rim Trail
Lower and Upper Emerald Pools Trails
Where to stay?
The South Campground (from $20), which has 117 sites, three of which are wheelchair accessible, and the 190-site Watchman Campground (from $20), which has seven accessible sites and six for groups, are the two largest campgrounds in Zion Canyon. Both are near the main entrance on each side of the visitor centre. While South Campground is closed from November to February, Watchman Campground is open all year and offers campers a little more privacy because it is set back from the main road. Springdale’s restaurants, shops, and groceries are all just a short walk away. During an unusually cold fall camping trip, I took full advantage of this fact by settling down at any number of nearby places with a book and an adult beverage each night. The private Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort (from $49 for a tent; $59 for an RV) is available March through November and includes facilities like a swimming pool and showers.
The park’s only hotel choice is Zion Lodge, and a night in one of its 76 Craftsman-meets-southwestern-style rooms, six suites, or 40 cabins (from $217) is hard to come by. Make a reservation at least a year ahead of time, especially if you’ll be visiting during high season or around a holiday. Springdale has a wider range of accommodations, including chain and boutique hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and private vacation rentals, however anything under $100 is rare. For additional economical lodging, travel a half-hour west to the little towns of Hurricane and La Verkin. Both Zion Mountain Ranch (from $179) and Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort (tents from $30) are located near the east entrance and provide a variety of rustic and elegant cabins and lodges; the latter also has campsites and Instagram-worthy glamping choices.