Zion National Park is like love at first sight. After rounding up the other four national parks in Utah, I wasn’t too sure what Zion would offer in terms of variation. To my surprise, Zion National Park packs a whole lot of adventure and scenery. If you have to visit just ONE National Park in Utah, I say visit ZION!
Utah’s slogan ‘Life Elevated‘ is surely justified after visiting Zion National Park.
Getting there – Zion National Park is located on State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah. Major airports: Las Vegas, Nevada (170 miles); Salt Lake City, Utah (300 miles)
Where to Stay – Inside the park there is lodging available at Zion Lodge and three campgrounds. The town of Springdale is located immediately outside the boundaries of the park and has plenty of restaurants and hotels.
Need to Know – Parking is limited inside the park so ride the free shuttle which connects the park and the town of Springdale.
Scenic Drives in Zion National Park
Unlike other canyons where you see the view from the top, in Zion; you go down into the heart of the canyon.
Zion-Mount Carmel Highway connects the South and East entrances. This incredible 12-mile road is the perfect entrance to Zion National Park. There is a 1.1-mile tunnel carved through the cliffs and it is pretty exciting to drive through it. You are most likely to see bighorn sheep on this side of the park.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive – Spring through fall, this scenic drive is open to shuttle buses only. The shuttles are free and you can get on and off as you like at the designated stops.
Kolob Canyons Road is located in the northwest corner of the park. Explore this 5-mile scenic drive as it climbs past spectacular canyons and red rocks of the Kolob Canyons area.
Things to Do in Zion National Park
Angels Landing (Hike)
Zion is a hikers paradise with trails suited for beginners and seasoned hikers. Angels Landing is one of the defacto classic hikes in Zion National Park. The hike starts at Grotto Trailhead and ends at Angles Landing, a unique mountain that juts out to the center of the main canyon in the park. It is strenuous (5 mi RT) with an uphill climb and involves walking on compact switchbacks. The last half-mile of the trail is across a narrow sandstone ridge, maintained with chains with carved steps. It is an exhilarating hike but be mindful if you are someone who is afraid of heights.
The Narrows (Hike)
Have you ever walked or hiked into the river? The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the Zion Canyon and this trail lets you experience it. You basically walk/wade in the Virgin River to the narrowest part of the gorge. There is no marked trail as the route is in the river but there are different ways to explore it, a day hike from top to bottom or overnight hike that requires a permit.
Check the river flow conditions at the visitor center before starting on the hike. The river current is strong and swift with water level reaching thigh high at some places and big slippery rocks underneath. Stay prepared with the right gear i.e. walking stick, close-toed shoes. I hiked this in late Fall and rented a cold package gear which included wet pants, neoprene socks, shoes and walking sticks from Zion Outfitters in Springdale.
If you can’t make it to the Narrows, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the river. The 1-mile long paved path runs along the Virgin river till the start of the Narrows hike.
Sunset at Canyon Junction Bridge
The view of the Watchman peak from Canyon Junction Bridge is one of the most photographed views in Zion National Park. At sunset this view is spectacular! Make sure you walk down to the Virgin River and explore more.
Emerald Pools (Hike)
It is an oasis in the middle of the desert. A fairly simple hike through lush vegetation takes you to waterfalls and pools. (Note: The waterfalls dry up during Fall & Winter.)
It is one of the shortest hikes in Zion National Park where as the name suggests water trickles down from a rock. Weeping Rock is also the starting point to another classic Zion hike – Observation Point Trail. (8 mile RT)
Court of the Patriarchs
The Patriarchs are three neighboring sandstone peaks on the west side of Zion Canyon.
The Kolab Canyon is in the northwest corner of the park which is relatively less crowded. Drive the Kolab Terrace Road that goes up steep inclines and switchbacks.
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