Where? : located on the south west part of Utah, The park is less of 3 hr north of Las-Vegas, half an hour drive east off of hwy 15 near the town of Springdale.
What? : Zion is one of the most iconic national park of the US. There are many things to see, visit and explore at the park but the main attraction is visiting the central Virgin River canyon, see the huge red-pink colored mountains at both sides of the main road. You will also have the opportunity to do some of the best hiking trails in the US.
When? : Year round park, can be hot at summer or cold at winter (snow) but every season bring it beauty to this place.
Due Note 1: You can find hotels at the town of Springdale located just at the park entrance (provide shuttle into the park visitor center).
Due Note 2: At most of the year there you can't drive into the main canyon road - you have free shuttle service. Always look in advance at the park website, check for shuttle arrangements and open of locations/trails.
Due Note 3: Some of the trails need special permit (like Subway), some are close because of rock instability, check in advance.
Due Note 4: This is a VERY popular park so try to arrive early morning to get the shuttle in or late at the afternoon, another option is to use bike to get to the different trail head spots.
My thoughts: One of the best US National parks, amazing view and probably 2 of the most iconic hikes in the US (The Narrows and Angels Landing).
A must do park, even if this is one day visit, take the shuttle and do one hike, driving through hwy 9 crossing it and stopping on the way for inspiration.
Usually when saying Zion NP people refer to the main park section where hwy#9 is crossing the park (west park entrants is right after Springdale).
Because of visitors load and limited parking lots at summertime (and Christmas week in the winter) you can’t get into main Zion valley road (turnout of hwy #9) with your car. There is very efficient shuttle bus that get into the park and stop at all points. You can park your car at the first visitor center on the right (just after park entrance) or if it is full at the town main road (paid parking) and take local shuttle bus to the visitor center.
Main session end at Oct. 31 so check arrangement in advance at the park website.
Another option if you are staying overnight in Springdale there is local shuttle from the hotels that take you into the same place, from there you are taking the park shuttle that stop at all points along the main park road. You can also continue hwy 9 and try to find parking spots just before the road get into the Zion Valley but this is not recommended option (no shuttle stop over there).
Check at park website for more information.
Hikes and places in the main park valley:
Angels Landing Trail – The best track in the park and one of the most iconic trails in the US !
The trail starts at Grotto stop crossing the river by a bridge. The paved trail climbs the side of the cliff and after many switchbacks get into the Refrigerator Canyon. Additional climb and steep switchbacks will take you into the open where you have nice view down the river canyon in both directions.
From here you can continue climbing up on a VERY steep and narrow trail that with the help of metal chins you can go on and climb.
This section is very narrow, you need to give other direction traffic "time-share" the chains so progress can be very slow. Although it looks like trail is going straight up on the narrow cliff it is not long (1/2 m) and because of the slow past and many rests you can do it without a lot of physical difficulties.
Reaching the top of the mountain is rewording moment, the view down into the main valley or the surrounding mountains is amazing.
Going up from the bus stop is ~4hr (so bring enough water with you), going down is ~1.5; Hiking timing is dependent on your shape and the slow section, this can take much longer time if there are many people on the trail.
Emerald Pools – not very steep trail that go to the lower section of waterfall that create humid microsystem, when we were there (and of 2019), due to a landslide you can use only the trail that start at Grotto stop.
The Narrows - Another must do hike and iconic canyon to visit.
Starting from the last bus stop (#9 Temple of Sinawava) you are starting at Riverside Walk trail (easy & paved) and after ~1 mile the paved trail ends. From this section you are going in the water into the narrow part of the canyon.
You can walk as long as you want, longer you get in less crowded it will be. Water are cold and depending on rains it can be up to waist deep. There is an option to rent special waterproof boots and pants.
My recommendation is to do this trail late afternoon when most people already start to hike back out of the canyon. At mid day you will have many other hikers at the trail so you will not have the option to really enjoy this narrow river canyon. Check last shuttle time and plan accordingly.
Please be aware of flash-flood warning, in any session the water are cold but can be done also at winter.
There are many other hiking options along the Virgin River in the valley and also climbing the steep long hike to Echo Canyon Passage and Zion Observation Point (this trail is close due to huge rock slide so check in advance); I never hike them so can’t really recommend.
Places to visit outside of the main park valley:
Canyon Overlook – this is a short easy 1/2-mile trail starting right at the upper end of the long tunnel. The nice trail is going all the way back to the canyon cliff, from that point you will have a nice view on the Zion mountains (The Sentinel and West Temple). Try to park at the Canyon Overlook Trail Parking right after the tunnel on the right side or few hundred feet on the left side, it is very difficult to find parking spot in both places so see where you can park on the road side.
This is perfect spot for sunrise when the sun starts to light the mountains or when sunset behind the mountains.
There are many viewpoints along the main road, Checkerboard Mesa is probably the most famous one.
Kolob Canyons Visitor Center:
This is another park section were the entrance is far on hwy #15 (exit 40), this section visited by a lot less people and you need park permit if you are doing overnight stay. If you are not going to do few days hike, I will recommend skipping this section (as most do). Many years back we spend in this park section 3 days backpacking hike and it was excellent, less people and impressive mountains and canyons.
Another famous hike is The Subway:
I never did it so can’t give more information except that hike start at Left Fork Trailhead on Kolob Terrace Rd. and the Subway section looks amazing… on my todo list.
Due popularity at many dates you must get hiking permit to this location, must order permit in advance!