Zion National Park is one of 5 national parks in Utah!  The views are breathtaking and will make you want to take lots of beautiful photos.  Amazingly, Zion was formed over 250 million years ago by rivers carving their way through the stone. As a result, Zion’s 2000-foot cliffs were once dunes and now provide amazing scenic canyon views.

Zion also provides views of plateaus, the Virgin River, and sandstone canyons. There are various trails available for everyone to enjoy Zion, no matter what your fitness level is.  If you are looking for amazing scenic views and to enjoy one of Utah’s 5 National Parks, check out Zion National Park and this travel guide, plus 5 great tips to improve your experience at this park.

Zion National Park, View of Zion Canyon  from Observation Point with road down below
View of Zion Canyon from Observation Point

How to Get to Zion National Park

The closest major airport is in Las Vegas at McCarran International Airport, about a 3-hour drive to Zion National Park. There are also 2 regional airports in St. George, Utah, and Cedar City, Utah, but the flights are limited from Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City, Utah.  There is also Salt Lake City International Airport, which is about a 4.5-hour drive.

Best Time to Go

October through November is the most pleasant time to visit due to cooler weather and fewer crowds.  However, a good time to visit can be anytime between May through November, when the free shuttle takes you to the main trailheads.  December through April is the low season, and the weather will be cooler.

Weather

According to US News, average low temperatures in the low season (December through April) are from 29 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and average highs are from 52 to 73 degrees.  In the summer, the temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. For example, we went in June which the average high temperature is typically 93.  However, due to the heatwave in June 2021, the temperatures were up to 110 degrees!  To deal with this record-breaking heat, we went hiking early in the morning, wore hats, and brought lots of water and electrolytes. 

Zion National Park Entrance Cost

As of July 2021, you will pay $35 for a 7-day pass if you enter the park by car. If walking or biking into the park, you will need to get a 7-day pass for $20 per person.  Children/teens 15 years and younger are free.

Things to Do in Zion National Park

There are plenty of activities to do in Zion.  Below are just a few ideas!

Hiking

One of the main things to do in Zion is hiking.  There are lots of options for all levels, from the Riverside Walk to Angel’s Landing.  Check out two of my favorite trails below!

Camping

There are three campgrounds at Zion: South Campground, Watchman, and Lava Point Campground.  South and Watchman are in the Zion Canyon, and Lava Point is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon. You can make reservations for the campgrounds to ensure a spot. 

Take the Zion Scenic Drive

While the main road through the park is closed to private vehicles most of the year, there is an available scenic drive—the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway takes you from Zion Canyon to the east side of the park.  The views are amazing, and it was nice to have the freedom to drive in the comfort of your own car.  There are places to pull off the road to get out and take pictures. And driving through the tunnel is fun too! 

Zion National Park red sandstone mountains
Stopping point along the Zion Scenic Drive

Getting Around Zion National Park

Shuttle

The shuttle bus in Zion will take you to the major trailheads throughout the park.  You can pick up the shuttle at the Visitor Center, and they run every 6-10 minutes between 6 am to 5 pm.  The last shuttle back to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center is at 8:15 pm.

Biking

Another great way to get around Zion other than hiking and taking the shuttle is cycling.  Bicycles are allowed on all the roadways and the Pa’rus Trail.  And cycling to the trailheads can be a great option if you want to avoid the shuttle lines.  There are bike racks available at the trailheads and major shuttle stops.

Driving

While driving in the park is limited, especially from March to November when the shuttle is the only way to get to the main trailheads, you can drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway.  This was one of my favorite ways to see Zion.  You can stop along the way to take pictures, hike the Canyon Overlook Trail, and check out the Checkerboard Mesa! 


Best Hiking Trails in Zion National Park

There are numerous trails to take in Zion National Park that have different levels of difficulty. In addition, there are trails for every fitness level, including wheelchair-accessible trails. For a complete guide to trails and the most up-to-date information, check out the National Park Service.

Here are a couple of my favorite trails to check out in Zion!

Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook Trail was definitely one of my favorite trails.  The views of Zion Canyon are breathtaking, and it is a shorter hike which is perfect if you are looking for a quick trail.  And this is one of the few trails that you can drive to instead of taking the shuttle. The scenic drive on the way to the trail is also great for taking pictures. 

Length of trail: 1 mile

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 163 feet

Canyon Overlook Trail with small wooden bridge and metal railing on the side of the mountain
Canyon Overlook Trail

Angels Landing via the West Rim Trail

Another of my favorite trails is Angels Landing.  The first part of the hike, the West Rim Trail, has great switchbacks that take you up the mountain, providing great opportunities to take in the beauty of Zion.  This hike is considered strenuous, so definitely bring water and snacks to keep you going. 

Angels Landing is the last ½ mile of the trail and should only be taken if you are cautious and not afraid of heights.  There are steep, long drop-offs and only one chain to hang onto!  Yikes!  People have died doing this part of the trail, but many people still are brave as there was a long line to get to the top of Angels Landing.  We decided not to do this last part of the trail, but it was still one of my favorite hikes without it!

Length of trail: 5.4 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

Zion National Park, Trail down below in canyon
View of the West Rim Trail to Angels Landing
Zion National Park, Sandy trail up towards rocky trail to Angels Landing
Looking towards the trail and line to get to Angels Landing

Where to Stay

There are many hotels near Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah.  If you stay in Springdale, you can walk into the park through the south entrance or take the Springdale shuttle to the park entrance. Hotel prices in Springdale may be higher, so staying in other neighboring towns can be another option. 

We stayed in Hurricane, Utah, which is about a 30-minute drive to Zion.  There are many hotel options here as well.  We stayed at the Wingate by Wyndham Hurricane/Zion National Park, and we highly recommend it. It was spotless and had a great continental breakfast to give you some greatly needed energy in the morning for your hikes.

Where to Eat

In addition to hotels, Springdale has a plethora of places to eat. Our favorites were Oscar’s Café and Whiptail Grill. Oscar’s menu has a lot to choose from, including Mexican dishes and burgers. The enchiladas with delicious salsa verde, rice, black beans, and shredded pork, was spectacular!  I’m craving those enchiladas right now!  Even the side salad that comes with the enchiladas is amazing. 

Whiptail Grill had a giant burrito, which is also delicious and a great option if you are starving. They also have delicious burgers. After a long hike, these restaurants give you delicious food to refuel!

Large burrito covered with cheese, salsa verde, and small container of black beans
Extremely large burrito at Whiptail Grill

What to Bring to Zion National Park

Here are some ideas for what to bring for your visit to Zion.

  • Small bag or backpack
  • Lightweight, breathable clothing
  • Hiking boots or shoes
  • Hiking poles
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water and refillable water bottle
  • Electrolyte packets, such as Liquid IV
  • Snacks such as trail mix, protein bars, and granola bars
  • Camera
Woman with hiking clothes, hat, and boots standing on a trail with trees on the side
Taking time to rest and take in the view

5 Great Tips for Zion National Park

1. Stay well hydrated

Keeping up with your hydration during your visit to Zion is so important. Bring a refillable water bottle. There are water stations at many places throughout the park.  It can also be helpful to bring electrolyte beverages such as Gatorade, Powerade or bring electrolyte powders such as Liquid IV.  These help to replace the electrolytes you lose through sweating and hydrate you faster.

2. Wear proper clothing and footwear

The type of clothing you will need will depend on the time of year and the weather, so be sure to look ahead at the weather forecast.  We went in the summer, so it was hot! Hats to block the sun and lightweight, quick-dry clothing helped us to stay cool and comfortable. Hiking boots or shoes can also have the best traction on the trails and protect your feet on the rocky trails.

3. Parking can fill up quickly and lines for the shuttle get long, so get there early. 

Attendance at Zion National Park and many other national parks throughout the US was dramatically increased in June 2021.  So, keep in mind that shuttle lines can get long.  We waited for 1.5 to 2 hours for the shuttle, and we got there between 5:45 to 6:30 am.  The main parking lot in Zion National Park was also filling up by 6 am. Additional parking is found outside the park in Springdale or inside the park around the corner from the main parking lot. There are some parking spots on the road going towards the Zion Scenic Drive.

4. Beat the heat by getting there early

Part of the reason the shuttle lines are so long early in the morning is that everyone wants to beat the heat!  Hiking in 70-to-90-degree temperatures feels better than 110!  And it is, of course, safer and can prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Unfortunately, beating the heat may mean you need to stand in line longer. But, on the other hand, there were no lines for the shuttle in the middle of the day.  So, if the heat doesn’t bother you and you want to avoid the lines, then arrive at the park after 10 or 11 am.

5. Go in the offseason to avoid crowds and the heat

If lines and heat are not your thing, then go in the off-season.  October and November are a great time to go if you want cooler weather and fewer people. However, the free shuttle runs between March and November, so you will need to drive to the trailhead if you go outside this time.


Conclusion

Zion National Park is one of the top national parks to visit in Utah and the United States.  This travel guide gives you all the important information to get you ready to visit this beautiful place.  From the scenic drive to the unique views of the sandstone canyons, you will enjoy seeing and taking pictures of the natural wonders in Zion. 

Here are More Travel Posts to Check Out!

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Dietitian, food lover, and world traveler! Veronica has been a registered dietitian for over 18 years, specializing in clinical and community nutrition. She enjoys wellness, trying new foods, and exploring the globe to learn about different cultures.