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. The main attraction in the park is visiting the central Virgin River canyon, see the huge red-pink colored mountains at both sides of the main road and travel into the canyon and hike. Here you will have the opportunity to do some of the best hiking trails in the US.
Related National Park Blogs:
Where? : Located in the south west part of Utah, The park is less of 3 hr north of Las-Vegas, half an hour drive east off of highway I-15, The town of Springdale is located just on the west park entrance.
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 I visit Zion National Park people are referring to the main park section where highway 9 is crossing the park from west to east (west park entrants is right after the town of Springdale).
Because of the park popularity, visitors load and limited parking locations at summertime (and Christmas week in the winter) you can’t drive into the main Zion valley road with your car (turnout of hwy #9). There is very efficient shuttle bus service that will take you into the park road.
You can park your car bear the visitor center on the right (just after the park entrance), I will recommend to come early in the morning for finding parking spot.
If the visitor center parking lot is already full and you can't find any parking spot you need to park at the town main road (paid parking) and take the local shuttle bus to the visitor center.
The "busy session" end at Oct. 31 so check arrangement in advance at the park website.
If you are staying overnight in Springdale there is local shuttle from the hotels that take you into the park visitor center, from there you are taking the park shuttle that stop at all points along the main park road.
Check at park website for more information:
In this blog I will only describe the main park attractions alongside Zion Canyon and I will not cover the less visited park sections.
Hikes and Places to visit in the main park valley:
I will cover the following locations:
- Angels Landing Trail
- Emerald Pools
- The Narrows
Angels Landing Trail
The best trail in the park and one of the most iconic trails in the US !
The trail starts at shuttle Grotto stop.
from here you need to cross the bridge to the other side of the river.
The paved trail start to climb the cliff side in a steep ascend, after many switchbacks and impressive view to the valley below the trail get into the Refrigerator Canyon.
Additional climb in the canyon and another set of steep switchbacks will take you into the open ridge section and Scout Lookout point. From here you have a nice view down to the river canyon in both directions.
You do not need hike permit for this section, take a rest and enjoy the view. From here you keep climbing up if you have a permit or you hike down the same way you came.
Overall from Grotto stop to Angels Landing this 5.4 mile round-trip hike, you will gain 1,488 feet in elevation. This is not an easy hike but very rewording, most hikers take around 4 hours to complete the hike.
Update as of 2022:
From the Scout Lookout to Angels Landing you need to have a hiking permit.
From Scout Lookout point 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 the narrow cliff.
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 rests you you are taking you can do this section without so much physical difficulties.
Reaching the top of the mountain is rewording moment, the view down into the main valley in both sides and the surrounding mountains is amazing.
Going up from the bus stop is ~3 hr (so bring enough water and some food with you), going down is ~1.5 hours; Hiking timing is dependent on your shape and on the slow narrow section, this can take much longer time if there are many people on the trail.
This short and easy to hike trail will take you to the lower section of a high waterfall that creates humid micro environment, the last time when we were there (and of 2019), due to a landslide you can only hike the trail that start at Grotto stop.
Another must do hike and iconic canyon to visit.
from the last bus stop (#9 Temple of Sinawava) you are starting your visit at Riverside Walk
trail. this section is ftat, easy & paved and can be done also with small kids. After ~1 mile of walking alongside the river the paved trail ends. From this point you are walking in the water into the narrow part of the canyon.
people that do not want to get wet turn around here, even without getting into the water this hike is highly recommended.
You can walk into the canyon as far as you want, the longer you hike it become less crowded. The river water are cold and depending on latest rains it can be in some sections up to waist deep.
There is an option to rent in Springdale special waterproof boots and pants.
My recommendation is to do The Narrow trail late at the afternoon when most people already start to hike back out of the canyon.
At mid day you will have many other hikers at the narrows so you will not have the option to really enjoy this narrow river canyon.
Check last shuttle schedule 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 hikes that climb the steep canyon walls. there is the 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 roadside.
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 section of the park were the entrance is from hwy I-15 (exit 40). This park section visited by a lot less people and you need park permit if you are planning overnight stay.
If you are not planning doing few days hike, I will recommend skipping this section (as most do).
Many years ago we spend in this section 3 days backpacking 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!