My Guide to Zion National Park

The Stats

Established: 1919

Location:  Southwest Utah, about two and a half hours from Las Vegas.

Visitation:  4.3 million in 2018 (making it the fourth most visited National Park)

Size:  146,597 acres

 

Brief Description

Zion National Park is a red rock wonderland. There are numerous stone monoliths, mesas, soaring cliffs and towers.  The Virgin River creates a vibrant oasis within Zion Canyon that makes the park considerably different than the other parks in the southwest.  There are a lot of varied hiking options, including two of the most iconic trails in the entire National Park System.

 

The Best and Worst of the Park

The best thing about the park:  Zion Canyon.  The majority of the visitors to Zion spend all of their time in Zion Canyon (and rightfully so).  Towering cliffs and sandstone monoliths enclose the small canyon created by the Virgin River.  It is home to Zion Lodge and several of the most popular sights and trailheads within the park.

The worst thing about the park: The crowds. Zion gets incredibly crowded, especially in Zion Canyon.

Can’t miss sight: The Narrows. Hiking the Zion Narrows, which is more of a river walk than a hike is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Depending on the weather and time of year, you should at least hike a short distance into the Narrows.

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Best hikes: Zion is home to two of the most famous hikes in the entire National Park System. Hiking the Narrows will take you between 2,000-foot-high Navajo sandstone cliffs.  Angels Landing requires a climb of 1,500 feet culminating at a tiny vista in the sky following a perilous walk along a thin ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides.

Best spots for photography: Angels Landing, the Narrows, and the Watchman. The Court of the Patriarchs is another popular spot with a view of a trio of tall sandstone cliffs.

Best place to relax: Zion Canyon can get very crowded, but it’s not that hard to find some peace and quiet. I’d recommend walking along the Virgin River.  If you walk for a few minutes (and you’re not on the Riverside Walk at the start of the Narrows) you should be able to find some privacy.

Best time to visit: Due to its location and climate I truly think Zion is a great park to visit anytime of the year. I have been there in the Spring and Summer, but I would actually guess Fall might be the best time to visit.  It is very hot and crowded in the summer, and I think Fall would likely be a little better with crowds and temperature.  If you want to hike the Narrows in the Virgin River you will likely have to visit in the Summer to be sure the water isn’t too cold, fast, or deep.  Although, you will have to be wary of the weather and the possibility of flash floods.

 

Other Information

Where to sleep: I have camped in the Watchman Campground twice. I had a great site along the Virgin River my second time there.  Zion Lodge is the only source of lodging within the park, but there are many hotels in Springdale, just outside the park.

Getting around: Most of the year Zion Canyon does not permit private vehicles (unless you are staying in the lodge). Instead, the park provides a free shuttle bus that transports visitors throughout the park.  There is a nice and informative recording that plays while you ride.

Wildlife: I have seen bighorn sheep and turkeys in the park.

Non-hiking activities: Zion is very popular for canyoneering and rock climbing.

How much time does the park need? I guess it depends how much you want to see and do. I’d say you can get a good taste of the park in two days, but I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed if you hike a lot and stay there for three or four days.

 

Links To My Other Blog Posts About Zion National Park

I have written about a few hikes in the park:

I also mentioned Zion or one of its hikes in several of the National Parks lists I have made:

I additionally wrote

 

I also dedicated a whole chapter in my book to my time in Zion National Park

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