Oh, Utah! You’re just so very gorgeous with your red dirt, geological wonders and brilliant blue skies! Really, visiting any of Utah’s National Parks will not disappoint, but Zion?! Well, let’s just say there is nowhere quite like it and you just need to go and experience it first hand – stat! 🙂
Here are some handy tips for planning a trip to Zion National Park [and some puuurdy photos to show you why you need to just go!]
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah and is the most popular of all Utahian [I just made that word up teehee] National Parks. With unique hikes through river-filled slot canyons and across ledges of massive sandstone cliffs this info comes as no surprise!
Shop my Utah + hiking style
Getting to Zion is a sightseeing experience in itself. It is only 2.5-3 hours drive from Las Vegas and it also isn’t too from it’s sister National Parks [Bryce national Park 1.5 hours, Capitol Reef National Park about 4 hours and Arches/Canyonlands about 5 hours drive]. All of Utah is visually breathtaking including the drive to and from each park. [Check out this post about all of Utah’s National Parks]. Please note McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada is the closest major airport.
Located just outside of Zion’s entrance is the quaint town of Springdale, Utah. There you will find some hotels/lodges/inns, shops and eateries. The park shuttle even goes directly to the town making access to the hiking trails very convenient. AND should you forget any needed supplies, Springdale has your back!
Download a free copy of the Zion National Park map here.
The fees for the park are similar to others in the NPS system. $30 per vehicle gives you access for 7 days. If you are backpacking without a vehicle it is only $15 per person for 7 days [read about required backpacking permits here]. If you plan on going to more than a couple U.S. National Parks, I highly recommend an annual season pass for $80. You can purchase online here.
Please note pets are not allowed on the shuttle and very limited to certain areas of the park. ‘Boarding kennels are available in the nearby towns of Rockville, Hurricane, St. George, Kanab, and Cedar City’ [courtesy of nps.gov].
The weather in Zion can vary greatly. With the varying elevations throughout the hiking trails, temperatures may fluctuate up to 30°F. It is common for monsoons to occur mid July-September, which can greatly affect some of the available hiking trails and throughout summer it is best to begin hiking early morning as afternoons can exceed 100°F.
Snow is common during the winter months, but it tends to be more on the lighter side in this southern region of Utah. Find the current weather and road conditions here. Some of my favorite visits have been during off season [November-February]. There were fewer crowds and you are able to drive on the main road to each trailhead [a road accessed only by shuttle March-October].
Lodging & Dining
Because Zion is such a spectacular place to explore, it can get very crowded, and campgrounds can be full if you don’t plan ahead [especially during spring and fall]. Be sure to book your site or nearby lodging online in advance.
There are 3 campgrounds inside the park as well as the Zion National Park Lodge if camping isn’t your jam [be sure to reserve close to 6 months in advance for the Lodge as this is the only lodging inside of the National Park]. The Lodge also has the Red Rock Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner year round.
For camping, there is South and Watchman Campgrounds [reservations can be made here or by calling 877-444-6777] which are in Zion Canyon [near the Springdale entrance of the park]. This side of the park gets quite hot in warmer months with direct sunlight and fewer trees. Despite the heat, it is still very pretty with the Virgin River near by [there are very few riverside sites but if you see one – grab it!]
And the other campground is The Lava Paint Campground which is about an hour outside of the Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road.Planning a trip to #Zion National Park in #Utah just got easier with these handy tips. Click To Tweet
The Shuttle That I Keep Mentioning
You are required to use the free shuttle system when visiting during the peak season of March-October. It is quite convenient, with frequent runs and drop offs right at the hiking trail heads. You can drive into the park, through the park and to/from your campground, but access to the trail heads requires the shuttle.
Also, it was lovely, after hiking Angel’s Landing when my legs felt like spaghetti, to be picked up by an air conditioned shuttle and driven back to camp. I just feel sorry for everyone on the shuttle that got a whiff of my sweaty-ness. Eek! This map shows you all of the shuttle stops and routes.
My Suggested Zion To Do List
- Hike Angel’s Landing [or the Canyon Overlook Trail instead]
- Hike the Narrows
- Drive the entire Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway
- Check out Weeping Rock
- Stroll along the Riverside Walk
- Mini hike to the Emerald Pools
- Go horseback riding across from the Zion National Park Lodge
- Camp under the stars & watch for Utahian (teehee) wildlife
- Ride bikes on the trail that hugs the Virgin River
- Dine & check out the shops in Springdale
- Drive to Zion’s sister park [Bryce Canyon National Park] only 1.5 hours away for a day or two and/or check out all 5 Utahian Parks and make a whole road trip through this gorgeous state!
Thanks for reading! Have you been to Zion? Was it one of your fav National Parks ever? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂