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Are you planning a trip to the Zions and wondering about Zion National Park? This is possibly an excellent place for you to get started.
Undoubtedly, Zion National Park is known for its spectacular drive-throughs and the most adventurous hikes of all time. Situated high on the rugged terrain of southwestern Utah, the Zions leave you awe-inspiring with their noteworthy hikes to Angels Landing, the Narrows, and the Riverside Walks.
Don’t miss this article if you want to know the best way. Let’s begin!
Listed below is the complete guide that you can follow to make the most out of your Zion visit.
Which entrance is the best to enter Zion National Park?
The Zion National Park has two entrances, the southern entrance and the east entrance. You can choose either of the two according to your convenience. You might be a little confused as to which entrance is the best way to enter Zion National Park; know the differences before getting started.
From the east entrance of Zion National Park
To enter the Zion National Park from this entrance, you need to have access. The Zion-Mount Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is narrow and requires buying the permit access, which will only cost you about $15.
If you plan to visit the Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park at the same time, you can do so by accessing this entrance. The difference between the two national parks is about 50 miles, which will take an hour or so.
Another combined trip that people take is Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park is also considered by many. However it is a much longer drive-through, which will take around 5 hours for 242 miles. It is best recommended to have a two-day stay planned. This preferably will give you access to the east side of the national park.
Entering Zion National Park from the south entrance
Las Vegas is one of the most visited tourist attractions, one of the main reasons being the Zion National Park. To visit the Zion National Park, this is the nearest airport. The distance between Zion and Las Vegas is about 167 miles, which takes up to 3 hours and is easily accessible from this entrance.
What are the options to get around Zion National Park?
If you are thinking, through a shuttle or by car. Know that the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, in the months from mid-May to November, Zion Shuttle is operational. During this time, no private vehicles are allowed to the Zion Scenic Drive.
During December, January, and February, the shuttle service is not operational, and therefore, you can opt for a private car around Zion Canyon. Also be aware of the parking because it is very much limited, therefore, make sure to start early.
You are not just limited to private cars and shuttles; you can also go for cycle rides around the Zion National Park or choose to walk the distance on foot.
With or without a shuttle bus?
The drive-in from the Visitor Center to the east entrance can be done all year round, without any restrictions.
The Springdale shuttle, which connects the main hotels of Springdale to the Zion National’s main entrance, is available all year long. Also, this Springdale shuttle is wheelchair accessible and available 24*7.
During the months when the shuttle is not operational, you can drive on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Overcrowding in the Visitor Center for the Zion Shuttle will lead to a good wait of about an hour or two. The earlier, the better if you are planning on a hike in the chain section.
What are the entry fees to Zion National Park?
Just like any other National Park, Zion National Park also requires entrance fees or a National Parks Pass to enter.
The entrance fee is $35 for seven days for those taking their private car, with parking facilities in the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. The other options in the Visitor Center for you include parking at the Springdale Hotel and walking the Zion Canyon, which will come around $20 for a week.
If you have a fourth or fifth grader in your family, you can get free entry under the free national park access given to the students.
Suppose you have America The Beautiful Pass, which will cost you around $80. In that case, you can easily access all the National Parks without paying any entrance fees.
hike, drive, and explore?
1. Go Hiking
Of course, it is by hiking through it.
Ideally, if we consider looking, is through hikes and treks. If you are a hiking lover, then this place is for you. Explore rock climbing adventures, Zion’s camping, and miles of hiking trails.
Let’s know a bit more about these hiking attractions:
Weeping Rock Trail
It is a short yet worth the hike!
The hike ends with a view of a Weeping Rock.
As the name itself justifies, the importance lies in the rock that weeps water which is considered its ultimate beauty.
You can get down at the Weeping Rock Bus Stop to start the hike. This bilateral road is also the trailhead of the other two trails: the Hidden Canyon Trail and the East Rim Trail, which will take you to the Observation Point.
The Zion Narrows
One of the most splendid trekking sites in Zion Canyon is The Zion Narrows, which is situated in the narrow canyon and the gorge that the Virgin River has created over centuries. This 15.5-mile-long stretched trail is one of the main tourist attractions of the place.
Though not as difficult a hike as Angels Landing, it is best to reach the Visitation Center one day before the hike to make the most out of this hike. The purpose of this is to be sure that you will receive all the updates timely, and if you are willing to do the hike both to and from, which will take approximately 8 hours, you can go for that.
The trek for the Zion Narrows begins at the Temple of Sinawava bus stop, and from the first mile, you can walk along the Riverside Walk.
It is a good deal for a two-day backpacking site, but you have to apply for the campsite. Therefore, you are also required to apply for a permit beforehand.
The beauty of the Zion Canyon can be experienced along the pathway of the Virgin River. This lies at a stretch of about 2.5 miles along the river.
But make sure to avoid hiking narrow canyons when the water level is high, or it’s raining. Carry waterproof shoes and dry bags for your clothes as the pathway could be a disaster if not properly managed well.
Emerald pools trail
Along the Emerald Pool trail, it is a hike for about 1.5 to 3 miles, depending on how far you trek. This pool is mainly a confluence of the Lower Emerald Pools Trail and Upper Emerald Pool Trails.
Its main starting point is the Visitor Center; the Watchman Trail gives the most splendid views of the Southern Part of Zion National Park.
Canyon Overlook trail
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a short one-mile trip that begins near the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, gives you the best views of the Zion National Park. The canyon overlook trail will be a short hike but worth the while.
The most incredible hike in Zion National Park is the Angels Landing. Here you can get the most splendid 360-degree view of the park.
One of the most strenuous hikes begins at the Grotto bus stop. The Angels Landing Trail is about a 5.6-mile hike, which requires 4 hours to cover the 1640 feet of elevation. The trek could be quite strenuous, especially if done during summer.
As for hiking, the Angels Landing trail is considered difficult but has to be attempted as it is the with a 360-degree view.
The first part of the hike is not a difficult path; it follows a zig-zag path. However, the last route consists of a narrow ridge with chains, which has witnessed falls over the period. Therefore, it is best recommended to grab the handrails on either side of it.
It will be the best hike with the most amazing view of Zion National Park if you don’t have a fear of heights.
This trail does not involve as high and much panoramic view as Angels Landing but can get pleasant views of the Zion Canyon National Park. The hike will be of 3 miles, round trip, and is associated with chains on the trails that help you keep the balance.
West Rim Trail
The trek on the West Rim Trail is a long one full day or a two-day backpacking trail to see some of the most iconic sites of the Zion National Park. The rewards on the West Rim trail hike include a fewer number of visitors on the site.
To get the best of the site on the West Rim trail, you can book a shuttle in advance or walk the distance without worrying about the place getting crowded.
This Zion Canyon trail is about 3.5 miles from the South of the Campground to the Canyon Junction. This trail follows the pathway of the Virgin River and would be a short hike to be made.
Observation Point is a must to get some of the most amazing and jaw-dropping views on the trek.
Observation Point is considered with a 360-degree view. There are two trails to this hike, but currently, the operation is only through the East Mesa trail. It will be a full one-day strenuous hike.
2. Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel highway
This most amazing scenic drive connects the visitor center and the East Entrance of the park. While visiting Zion National Park, driving onto the Mount Carmel Highway is one of the best experiences of all time as you traverse up and switch back along the steep and sturdy drive-through.
You will pass the 1.1-mile-long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. You can also stop by to admire Canyon Overlook Trail and Checkerboard Mesa, also known for its stargazing point.
3. Visit the Kolob Canyons
The Kolob Canyons are often referred to as the least visited part of the Zion Canyon National Park. The reason simply is due to its far-off location. And, you do not need to pass loads of people, which is its greatest perk.
The advantage of getting to this location is that you do not need to book any shuttle in advance. You can straightaway drive to this location in your private car.
This spot is also famous for its golden-hour sunset view. The short hike to the Timber Creek Overlook gives you a 360-degree overview of Zion National Park. The best time to visit this place is for the sunset view on the golden hour.
4. Explore the Zion Human History Museum
To know the history of the place, its nativity before the discovery of the whites, and its indigenous practices and population, Zion History Museum is someplace that is a must-visit.
As for the museum, it is quite small where you can discover the life of the early American Indians. It has a few displays and a small theatre, along with a gift shop, where you can buy souvenirs for your friends and family.
Outside the museum, you can enjoy the ranger talks amidst the sight of the Towers of Virgin and Watchman on the patio.
5. Go for Zion Star Gazing
If you are up to Zion National Park to stargazing in the night sky, then, of course, you are at the right place. At Zion National Park, you will find some of the best stargazing spots in the entire country.
Some of the favorites of all time are the Checkerboard Mesa and the Kolob View Point in the Kolob Canyons, likely accompanied by lesser crowds and even pollution. Even the Zion Human History Museum and Canyon Junction Bridge are ideal for stargazing moments at night.
6. Go hiking at the Subway
Often considered as one of the most difficult hikes, The Subway is also one of the most interesting things to see and hike.
This is a 6-7 hours hike that will involve two ways to reach the famous Subway; one is the difficult part through Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead. This requires you to have experience in canyoning and rappelling.
The other route involves the bottom route that ends at the southern part of the Canyon. This generally does not involve the requirement to have experience in canyoning and other expertise.
Make sure to check all the information related to this hike before getting started. Also, make sure to apply for the permit for three months.
7. Watch out for the Court of Patriarchs
Not to be missed out is the symbolic spot in the Zion National Park, the Court of Patriarchs. You can find it on the Court of Patriarch bus stop itself.
The three patriarch peaks are named after the biblical patriarchs- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Surely, not a spot to be missed out for your photo album!
You can visit the Zion National Park throughout the year. People generally visit it for hiking or a drive-through amidst the scenic crimson beauty.
If you are up for a hiking adventure, the summer months between June and August are ideal. The rivers are dried up during this, and the flow rate is considerably lower, especially in the Virgin River. Expect all these; you just have to deal with a little more crowd during this time of the year.
Winter months in Zion Canyon are usually not preferable because of their cold temperature, which can go up to zero degrees.
However, the monsoon months are the worst decision to take for the hike due to the high chance of falls on the high slippery surfaces, especially while hiking in high areas like Angels Landing. The river flow also increases during this time, leading to fatal accidents.
The fall months are ideal for the visit, especially for the drive-through, which is one of the best ways to see Zion National Park. The crowds will be thinning, and the temperature will be warm during the day and mildly cold during the night. Therefore, September- October is also an ideal time for the Zion National Park visit.
Where to stay in Zion National Park?
The Zion Lodge is ideal for in-park lodging with parking and other such additional facilities.
Zion Ponderosa Resort
Often known as ideal for vacation rentals, camping, and rooms. Choose among the eight varied destinations to stay and experience lodging, recreational, and food facilities.
Camping on the South Campground Watchman Ground or Lava Campground
- The best way is to combine these camping sites to give you the most pleasant, wholesome experience. However, these reservations have to be made well in advance while planning.
- Choose the best way among the various camping sites and numerous resorts and lodges!
How many days are required to see Zion National Park?
I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that even if you spend weeks in the Zion National Park, still you wouldn’t be exploring the whole of it. That being said, ideally, to plan a good two to three-day trip to Zion to hike most of The Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point.
You can also add comparatively shorter and easier hikes like the Canyon Overlook and the Riverside Walk if you are on a tight schedule. However, the part of Southern Utah has a long list of things from camping to canoeing to do to keep you entertained.
The Zion National Park is undoubtedly one of the most visited national parks in the country. This is because of its varied facilities, from driving through the high sandstones to its hiking opportunities.
Also, the fact that it is near reach to national parks like The Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the Canyonlands National Parks. It is an ideal combined trip to be made.
Have you got your next vacation to Zion National Park planned out? Check out this video to get a more detailed idea about the trip to the Zions.
Hopefully, by now, you have an idea, of the adventures to experience out there, and the most fun things to be done. Follow this complete guide, and undoubtedly you are going to have the best vacation of your lifetime.