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/ / / / / / 10 Incredible Things to Do in Zion National Park

10 Incredible Things to Do in Zion National Park

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There are so many incredible things to do in Zion National Park that you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to cover everything! This national park located in southwestern Utah draws a crowd year-round due to its incredible landscape. With over 3.5 million visitors in 2020, there is a reason it’s the most visited park in Utah.

Though many visitors never stray from the main canyon, and some of the best hiking in Zion can be found there, the entire park has so much to offer! From canyoneering to horseback riding and hiking through the Virgin River, Zion National Park has something for everyone.  You can hike the infamous Narrows, clutch the chains to Angel’s Landing, or relax with a good book at one of the campgrounds.

Zion is one of the “Mighty Five” national parks in Utah. It’s included with Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Here’s why you should visit Zion and all you should do when you go.

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Top 10 Things to do in Zion National Park

When first arriving at the park, make sure to check out one of the park’s two visitor centers. This is where you’ll learn about park activities and stay up to date on the latest weather and trail information.

Explore the Best Hikes in Zion

One of the most popular things to do in Zion National Park is to go hiking! The best hiking in Zion can be found within Zion Canyon. Though more remote and less traveled trails exist all over the park. Hikes range from easy trails with minimal elevation gain to more strenuous treks along steep cliffs.

Always check-in at the Visitor’s Center to get the most up-to-date information on the trails. A major rockfall in 2019 closed a number of popular trails. 

Sites like Weeping Rock and Hidden Canyon Trail are both worth checking out when open!  A trip wouldn’t be complete without checking out one of the best hikes in Zion.

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Angel Landing via West Rim Trail

Angels Landing is one of the best hikes in Zion but also one of the most dangerous. It is definitely not for those with a fear of heights! 

The hike begins on the West Rim Trail and ascends a series of switchbacks famously known as Walter’s Wiggles. It ends along a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs and a chain to hold on to for support.

  • Distance (roundtrip): 5.4 miles 
  • Elevation Change: 1,488 ft 
  • Difficulty: Strenuous 
  • Trail Type: Out and back
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Photo Credit: Roadmaps and Restaurants

The Narrows via Riverside Walk

The Narrows is one of the coolest hikes in the park. The bottom-up Narrows route begins along the paved Riverside Walk until you reach an opening to the Virgin River. The rest of the hike takes place within the river.  

Walk-in only a few feet or go all the way to Big Spring, the turnaround point on day hikes.  Over 50% of the hike is spent walking, wading, or even swimming in the river. 

Be sure to check out local weather conditions before attempting the Narrows. The hike weaves through a slot canyon, which is susceptible to flash floods.

  • Distance (roundtrip): up to 9.4 miles 
  • Elevation Change: 334 ft 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back

Emerald Pool Hikes

The Emerald Pool hikes are made up of the Lower, Middle, and Upper trails. They are varying distances and difficulties. 

Lower Emerald Pool is an easily accessible trail. It connects to the Kayenta, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools trails for a longer and more strenuous hike. The pools are bodies of water at the base of water run-offs and waterfalls.

Lower Emerald Pool

  • Distance (roundtrip): 1.2 miles
  • Elevation Change: 69 ft
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Out and back

Middle Emerald Pool

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Change: 150 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Roundtrip

Upper Emerald Pool

  • Distance (roundtrip): 1 mile
  • Elevation Change: 200 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back

Drive Through Zion Canyon 

Zion Canyon is accessed along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, running along the canyon floor. The majority of the park’s popular destinations are located along the drive.  

In the off-seasons, cars can drive along the route. Otherwise, traffic is limited to bikes and the free Zion National Park shuttle.

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Photo Credit: Roadmaps and Restaurants

Check Out the Subway

Are you a more experienced hiker with canyoneering experience? Don’t miss the Subway, a semi-technical hike that requires a permit to explore!  

There are two different ways to explore the Subway. Visitors can either embark on the bottom-up strenuous but rewarding 9-mile round trip hike. Or, take the top-down canyoneering route, which is a 9.5-mile through-hike that requires rappelling skills.

Admire Checkerboard Mesa 

Checkerboard Mesa is a must-see for those interested in stunning geology. It’s located just inside the East entrance of the park, or accessible from the South entrance via the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. The famous rock formations display a unique crack pattern that resembles a checkerboard.

gorgeous red rock

Drive the Zion Mount Carmel Highway

The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway offers stunning views of the canyons as well as the surrounding mountains. It runs from the South entrance of the park to the East entrance, 

The highway passes through a 1.1-mile long tunnel and has multiple pullouts for cars to stop and observe.

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Visit the Human History Museum 

The Human History Museum is the first stop on the Zion Shuttle bus. From a range of permanent exhibits to temporary rotating exhibits, the museum shares unique cultural information with its visitors.

Try Canyoneering or Rock Climbing

There are multiple canyoneering routes within the slot canyons and the incredible landscape of Zion National Park. If you are interested but unsure how to safely do it on your own, there are multiple outfitters that will show you the ropes! They offer courses, equipment rentals, and tons of information on canyoneering in the area.

Take a Horseback Riding Tour

Looking for a break from hiking? Consider a trail ride by horseback. From March to October, visitors can take a one-hour trip along the Virgin River. Tours are limited, and they often book quickly, so be sure to book in advance of your trip!

Explore Kolob Canyon and Kolob Terrace

Looking to escape the crowds? Check out Kolob Canyon and Kolob Terrace.  Both areas offer alternatives to the more popular attractions within Zion Canyon. They also offer equally stunning views.  

This area of the park can not be accessed through the South Entrance of the park but rather from the northwest side of the park. This park entrance is located at Exit 40 on Interstate 15.  

Stop by the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center before exploring this lesser-traveled part of the park! You can get some great information about what to see and do in this area.

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Enjoy the Milky Way and Starry Sky 

Don’t forget to enjoy the night sky when you visit the park. Zion National Park recently became certified as an International Dark Sky Park. The museum patio is the park’s official night sky viewing area and offers an expansive view of the sky for observing the stars.

How to Get to Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located in Springdale, Utah. You can easily access it from St. George, Salt Lake City, or Las Vegas. There are several airports you can fly into to visit Zion.

  • St. George Airport (SGU): This smaller airport offers limited commercial flights. It’s only a one-hour drive to the park.
  • McCarran International Airport (LAS): Closest international airport with a lot of flights from around the US and many international destinations. It’s a three-hour drive to the park.
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC): Another major airport with a four-hour drive to the park.

Many visitors add Zion into multi-park itineraries. Check out this 8-day itinerary exploring the best of Utah and Arizona.

How to Get Around Zion National Park

Two free shuttle routes that service Zion National Park, so it’s easy to get around. The Zion Canyon shuttle runs from the visitor center to the lodge, many popular trailheads, and locations throughout Zion Canyon.

The Springdale shuttle is located in the town of Springdale just outside the park. It makes nine stops throughout the town and drops riders at the park’s South pedestrian/bike entrance.

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Photo Credit: Roadmaps and Restaurants

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park

You will find things to do in Zion National Park year-round. Though, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are some of the best times to visit the park. If you are looking to escape the crowds and heat, they are the best times to go! 

Millions of visitors go to the park in the summer months. It’s a popular time, however, the temperatures stay above 90°F and can reach well over 100°F (32 to 38°C). The excessive heat makes it difficult to hike at times during the day.  

The winter months attract fewer visitors. Temperatures hover around 50 degrees (10°C) during the day but drop to below freezing at night. The park does get snow in the winter as well.

Spring and fall offer the perfect temperatures, fewer crowds, and easier access to some of the park’s most popular attractions. 

If you are interested in hiking the Narrows, make sure to check the weather ahead of time! The Narrows are often closed during the spring due to high water levels.

How Much Time to Spend in Zion National Park

Visitors should plan to spend at least two to three days exploring all of the incredible things to do in Zion National Park. This provides enough time to complete the time-consuming, more strenuous, and popular trails like Angels Landing and the Narrows.  But, it also allows time to explore the other less traveled trails and areas throughout the park.

Where to Stay in Zion National Park

Zion Lodge, open year-round, is the only lodging option for visitors looking to stay inside Zion National Park. Zion Lodge takes reservations 13 months in advance and it is often booked.  

The lodge is located in the scenic Zion Canyon, close to all of the incredible things to do in Zion National Park. It is serviced by the free Zion Canyon shuttle.

If you’re interested in camping, there are three campgrounds within the park that offer a variety of services. Make campsite reservations as early as allowed as the sites often book quickly upon becoming available. 

Always prepare for the weather while camping. Many sites within Zion lack shade and can get very hot in the summer months.

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South Campground

Located .5 miles into the South entrance, South Campground is open from mid-March through October. The campground offers tent sites, RV sites (up to 30 feet), and group sites. Generators are allowed, but there are no electric hookups. The campground offers showers, potable water, decent cell service, and a dump station.   

Watchman Campground

Located .25 miles into the South entrance, Watchman Campground is open year-round. The campground offers tent sites, RV sites (up to 50 feet), and group sites.  This is the largest and most established campground within the park, so reservations are highly recommended.

Lava Point Campground

Located an hour’s drive from the South entrance, Lava Point Campground is open (weather permitting) from May to October. There are six first-come, first-serve campsites that are best equipped for tents. The campsite offers pit toilets and trash cans.

road sign for Zion canyon and campgrounds visitor center

Nearby Accommodation Options

Instead of staying within the park, there are additional popular accommodations in Springdale, Kanab, and St. George. Also, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort in Orderville is a very popular adventure resort!  

If you are looking to travel via campervan, check out Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort right outside the South entrance of the park.

Where to Eat in Zion National Park 

There are only two restaurants in the park, both around Zion Lodge. Castle Dome Cafe is a snack bar next to the lodge that is open seasonally. The Red Rock Grill is the main dining option at the lodge, open year-round serving lunch and dinner.

Popular restaurants in Springdale (the closest town to Zion) include the Whiptail Grill, Spotted Dog Cafe, and the Switchback Grill. You’ll find a great variety of delicious food and drinks. The Whiptail Grill serves amazing Mexican food while the Switchback Grill offers traditional steakhouse options. Both make great stops after a long day of outdoor adventuring.

Best Things to Do Near Zion National Park

Looking to add on to your trip to Zion National Park? You have some great options to choose from! 

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is located less than an hour and a half from Zion National Park. It offers a dramatic change of scenery and is as stunning as Zion but in a very different way. 

This park is famous for its hoodoos, unique rock formations sticking up for the ground. Bryce Canyon is one of the best places in the United States to see the Milky Way.

gorgeous red rock cliffs

Explore Kanab 

Consider exploring Kanab while you are in the area! Located 30 minutes from the park, the town makes a great basecamp for those looking to explore both Zion and the surrounding areas. 

Kanab is surrounded by abandoned film sets that have become tourist attractions. Every February, Kanab hosts the Balloons and Tunes Roundup, a hot air balloon and live music festival. Another popular festival in Kanab is Western Legends Heritage and Music Festival.

See the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell 

Lake Powell is located on the border in southern Utah and northern Arizona and is worth exploring if you’re in the area! Lake Powell offers something for everyone from swimming to boating, and hiking to relaxing on the shores of the lake. 

Don’t miss the Glen Canyon Dam. Enjoy a delicious meal at the Lake Powell Resorts and Marina’s Rainbow Room restaurant.

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Check Out the North Rim of the Grand Canyon 

Located just 2 hours from Zion is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is less traveled than the famous South Rim and is only visited by 10% of Grand Canyon visitors. Even so, it offers equally stunning views, scenic drives, and hikes.

Combine Zion with all of the Mighty Five 

Zion is the most popular park in Utah. If it’s possible to make a trip to Zion even better, it’s often combined with the other four national parks in the state that make up the “Mighty Five.” 

Popular itineraries often start in Arches National Park. Then, they work their way through the best of Utah and end in Zion National Park.

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Will the Incredible Things to Do in Zion National Park Earn a Spot on Your Bucket List?

There are so many incredible things to do in Zion National Park. From hiking some of the most popular trails in the United States to exploring diverse landscapes and scenery, it’s a natural wonder worth visiting. 

Zion National Park offers something for everyone and can easily be combined with other area attractions for an even more incredible trip! So, what are you waiting for?

Sarah is the traveling foodie behind Roadmaps and Restaurants, a travel blog that explores the world, one roadmap and one restaurant at a time.  Sarah explores the world while working full-time and aims to find hidden gems and delicious food wherever she goes.

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