When planning a trip to the American Southwest, Zion National Park should be high on the list of destinations. With its awe-inspiring landscapes and abundance of things to see and do, Zion is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the beauty of the West. Here are the best things to do in this amazing park.
Towering umber-colored cliffs, winding slot canyon trails with bucket list backdrops, and sublime views of desert mesas from stomach-churning heights – Zion National Park holds some of Utah’s most scenic natural wonders. But more than just eye candy, there’s a treasure trove of things to do in Zion National Park.
Of course, your run-of-the-mill national park activities are here – hiking, horseback riding, climbing, and canyoneering (we’ll get more into these later) – but really, Zion has plenty more in store for adventurers looking to tread the road less traveled.
If you’re planning the perfect Zion adventure, get ready for a jam-packed itinerary.
Table of Contents
- Fun & Best Things to do in Zion National Park
- Angel’s Landing
- The Narrows
- Take a scenic drive
- Zion Human History Museum
- Weeping Rock Trail
- Taylor Creek Trail
- Spend a night camping
- Emerald Pools
- Observation Point
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Go Mountain Biking
- Riverside Walk
- Pa’rus Trail Hike
- Try ATVing
- Go swimming and river tubing
- Try your hand at canyoneering
- Go on a Kayaking tour
- What is Zion National Park?
- Why is Zion National Park so famous?
- How to get to Zion National Park
- Best time to visit Zion National Park
- Is Zion National Park worth visiting?
- What is Zion National Park famous for?
Fun & Best Things to do in Zion National Park
If you’re looking to know why Zion National Park is the most visited national park in Utah, here’s your answer. Zion’s diverse geographical landscape makes it the perfect playground for hikers of various skill levels.
Here’s everything you need to know about Zion National Park and what to do in this sun-bleached paradise.
This is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park and for good reason. Angels Landing is probably the most exhilarating of all trails in Zion Canyon, a 3 to 6-hour 5-mile hike that lets you teeter 1,000 feet on the edge of a giant rock, with amazing views of the canyon valley floor below you.
The views from the top are incredible, and the hike itself is very challenging but also very rewarding. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as a camera to capture the views.
Since this is a strenuous day hike, it isn’t recommended for children, people who are out of shape, or those who aren’t quick and balanced on their feet.
Hogsback, the final stretch leading to Angels Landing, is a steep ridge with high drips on both sides.
While Angels Landing Trail seems dangerous, cling for dear life to the handrails provided, and you’ll be rewarded with absolutely breathtaking views of the valley.
Hiking Trail Summary:
- Shuttle Stop to Start from: #6 The Grotto
- Pets: Not allowed
- Handicap: No
- Trailhead Location: Across the road from the shuttle stop and then across the footbridge.
- Distance (roundtrip): 5.4 mi / 8.7 km
- Elevation Change: 1,488 ft / 453 m
- Average Hiking Time: 4 hours
Another popular spot in Zion, the Narrows is a must-do for anyone visiting the park. The hike through the narrow canyon is absolutely stunning, and the cool water is refreshing on a hot day.
Be sure to wear proper shoes and bring plenty of water, as well as a walking stick to help with balance.
You can get to the Narrow canyon using the paved trail via Riverside Walk One of the park’s most famous hikes, The Narrows, is the slimmest section in Zion Canyon that hikers may access on both ends.
Approaching through the East Rim Trail is the most popular, as it includes trekking on a paved trail through the stunning Virgin River as it passes through the slot zion canyon.
Water depths vary depending on the area, from ankle to waist level, so suit up accordingly. The farther you venture into the Narrows canyon, the more breathtaking the sceneries become. This is a strenuous 9.4-mile hike that lasts for approximately 8 hours, so if you fall short on endurance, think twice.
- Shuttle Stop to Start from: #9 Temple of Sinawava
- Pets: Not allowed
- Handicap: No
- Trailhead Location: Adjacent to shuttle stop and restrooms.
- Distance (roundtrip): up to 9.4 mi / 15.1 km
- Elevation Change: 334 ft / 102 m
- Average Hiking Time: up to 8 hours
Take a scenic drive
If you’re not one to muscle your way through steep trails or scramble over rocks, taking a zion canyon scenic drive can be one of the best things to do in Zion National Park.
Being away from the elements in the safety of your car makes taking the zion canyon scenic drive one of the most kid-friendly things to do in Zion National Park.
The 57-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive starts at the intersection of Highway 15 and Highway 9 and then heads east side towards Mount Carmel Junction. This is the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and it’s full-on fun.
Be prepared for stunning views, as it will take you through the park’s famous landmarks and past the River, rewarding you with breathtaking views of the slot canyon walls in the comfort of your own vehicle.
You can only do the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from December to February because that’s when the roads are open. Between March to November, the section that passes through the park is off-limits to cars.
The portion that runs through Zion National park will require you to pay the park’s $30 entrance fee (good for seven days).
If you’re looking for a convenient, ready-made experience in an air-conditioned tour vehicle, check out Viator’s Zion Scenic Drive offerings.
See Related: 13 Best Road Trip Books for Kids
Zion Human History Museum
The Human History Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Zion National Park and the people who have made it what it is today. The museum offers large, easily understandable displays and a large model to put the park into perspective.
This permanent collection includes documents concerning Native American culture, colonial settlement, and the establishment of the park. Temporary displays also appear and cover many topics.
A video runs for about 30 minutes with the rangers answering questions. Be sure to take the time to explore the museum and learn about the fascinating history of Zion National Park.
Weeping Rock Trail
Weeping Rock is one of the most popular destinations in Zion National Park, and it’s easy to see why. The views from the top are incredible, and the waterfall is simply beautiful. Be sure to take plenty of pictures and enjoy the views. Weeping Rock is a must-see spot in Zion National Park. The views from the top are incredible, and the waterfall is simply beautiful.
Be sure to take plenty of pictures and enjoy the views. A prominent place along the scenic Zion Valley Road is Weeping Rock. This dripstone encroachment gives an excellent view of the hanging garden, resting on another, narrow rock wall.
According to seasonal conditions, water flows from rocks either in dripping streams or in full waterfalls. From here, you see different views of the mountain range and a true appreciation of the huge canyon walls. Weeping Rock stands in the number 6 of a Zion shuttle that travels in the canyon.
An excellent hike for when your kids are tagging along, the Weeping Rock Trail is one of the park’s shortest hiking trails, just under half a mile.
The steep journey ends in a watery alcove embraced by verdant greenery that offers shade from the sun. Stop by the river near the trail’s starting point and allow your kids to splash around in the water.
This is a great and safe hike if you’re suddenly caught in unexpected rain.
- Shuttle Stop to Start from: #7 Weeping Rock
- Pets: Not allowed
- Trailhead Location: Across the bridge adjacent to the parking lot. Follow the signs to the left.
- Distance (roundtrip): 0.4 mi / 0.6 km
- Elevation Change: 98 ft / 30 m
- Average Hiking Time: 30 minutes
Taylor Creek Trail
While there aren’t many trails in the Kolob section of Zion National Park, the Taylor Creek Trail is one of the most well-known. This 2.5-mile trail will have you passing by riverbeds, boulders, canyons, historical cabins, and multi-colored sandstone.
The main draw here is the Double Arch Alcove, located at the trail’s end. Seeping water ‘paints’ the cave’s walls with black and white – a truly unique sight to see.
Spend a night camping
With scenic, well-maintained campgrounds, camping is one of the best things to do in Zion National Park with kids. The park is home to two sizeable campgrounds, the South Campground and the Watchman Campground, and both are located on opposite ends of the visitor center located near the main entrance.
The South Campground has 117 sites (three are wheelchair accessible), while the Watchman Campground has seven accessible sites (6 of which are for groups). Travelers are required to pay a small fee to access the campgrounds.
For some Zion National Park RV camping, inquire at establishments like the Zion River Resort, which offers RV sites complete with full hookups, free WiFi, cable television, and picnic tables.
Check out RV rentals from RVshare if you’re looking to bring your own RV!
See Related: RVShare vs Outdoorsy
Glamping in Zion National Park
Are you looking for a more sophisticated wilderness experience?
Accommodations like Under Canvas allow you ‘glamorously’ camp in deluxe tents, complete with upscale amenities like on-site dining, organic bath products, and complimentary camp activities.
See Related: 21 Best Van Camping Equipment [Essentials & Gadgets]
The Emerald Pools are a great spot to cool off on a hot day. There are three different pools to explore, each with its own unique features. Be sure to take the time to swim in all three pools and enjoy the views.
While it’s one of the shortest hikes in Zion, traversing this trail is one of the most popular things to do in Zion National Park.
This hike is less than a mile long but very rewarding, as it offers scenic views of the Zion National Park Emerald Pools and the verdant vegetation surrounding it.
It’s an excellent hike for families (you can even consider bringing a baby stroller here in there if you don’t mind maneuvering some slightly rocky areas).
Hiking Trail summary:
- Shuttle Stop to Start from: #5 Zion Lodge
- Pets: Not Allowed
- Trailhead Location: Across the road from the Zion Lodge.
- Distance (roundtrip): 1.2 mi / 1.9 km
- Elevation Change: 69 ft / 21 m
- Average Hiking Time: 1 hour
For the most jaw-dropping views, the Zion National Park Observation Point is the best place to hike. While the views are incredibly rewarding, the journey here is challenging.
The hike here is 8 miles long and requires around 2,300 feet of climbing. You can reach the observation point by hiking the East Rim Trail or the East Mesa Trail.
The former is shorter, with a distance of only 7 miles.
Hiking Trail summary:
- Shuttle Stop to Start from: #7 Weeping Rock
- Pets: No
- Trailhead Location: Access the East Rim Trail from across the footbridge adjacent to the parking lot. The Observation Point Trail branches off of the East Rim Trail after approximately 2.5 miles.
- Distance (roundtrip): 8.0 mi / 12.9 km
- Elevation Change: 2,148 ft / 655 m
- Estimated Hiking Time: 6 hours
Canyon Overlook Trail
Canyon Overlook Trail is relatively short but the views from the top are incredible. If you are a photographer, this Zion Canyon trail is the best place to go. It’s a short trail with an average elevation meaning it’s not too steep.
From this point of the Zion Canyon, you can see the expanse of the canyon with the way the sections of the cliffs look like they have been carved out by a giant hand. Canyon Overlook Trail is a must-do for any visitor of this amazing national park.
Hiking trail summary:
- Shuttle Location: No shuttle, requires personal transportation.
- Pets: Not Allowed
- Trailhead Location: Located near the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
- Distance (roundtrip): 1.0 mi / 1.6 km
- Elevation Change: 163 ft / 50 m
- Estimated Hiking Time: 1 hour
Kolob Arch via the La Verkin Creek Trail
Kolob Arch is the world’s second-longest natural arch and is located in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park. The hike along this 11-mile trail is strenuous, but it offers stunning views of waterfalls, towering cliffs, and wildlife such as deer and coyotes.
The hike isn’t recommended for children under 12 or people with a fear of heights since there are steep drop-offs on both sides which require you to cross cables along the way.
This hiking trail is one of the most popular among overnight campers, backpackers, and hikers who don’t mind doing a bit of rock scrambling.
The La Verkin Creek Trail offers spectacular views of the forest, desert, and mountain terrain, and while it’s definitely lengthy, the pass is straightforward and uncomplicated. Only a maximum of 12 people are allowed to hike here as a group.
Go Mountain Biking
Exploring Zion National Park on two wheels can be both rewarding and challenging.
Taking in the desert sights while feeling the wind rush past you can be a thrilling experience!
Biking also allows you to skip the shuttle lines and enjoy the views at any point in the Scenic Drive, instead of being limited at shuttle stops.
A couple of things to keep in mind: The roads in Zion National Park are often busy with pedestrians, shuttle buses, and large vehicles, so cyclists need to be aware of their surroundings.
If you intend to ride from the South Entrance, you’ll have to use the Pa’rus Trail instead of the main road. Shuttles in Zion National Park are not allowed to pass moving bicycles, so you’ll have to pull over to let them move ahead.
If you’re arriving on a vehicle, consider A Zion National Park bike rental at Zion Outfitter, located just minutes away from the visitor center where the biking path starts.
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Riverside Walk is a paved trail that follows the Virgin River and is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. The trail is just over a mile long and is an easy walk with gentle grades.
Riverside Walk is the last stop on the Zion Shuttle Bus and is accessible from anywhere in the park. The trail crosses rock walls in some spots and passes hanging gardens and spurs to the water’s edge.
On the opposite side of the river, huge waterfalls are often falling from the rocky walls, particularly in the spring. There are plenty of places to spot birds. Riverside Walk is a great trail for anyone looking for an easy hike with beautiful scenery.
Pa’rus Trail Hike
The Pa’rus Trail is a moderate, 5.5-mile hike in Zion National Park. It has something for everyone: an easy access point at the Pa’rus trailhead and an elevation gain of only 500 feet, as well as beautiful scenery along the way.
The Pa’rus Trail is located near Canyon Junction in Zion National Park and can be reached by taking Route 9 to the east entrance of the park before turning right onto Kolob Terrace Road. After driving 4 miles down Kolob Terrace Road, you will find yourself at the Pa’rus trailhead.
From here, it’s just another 2 miles to Sunset Point for a spectacular view of Zion Canyon below—perfect for snapping some Instagram-worthy photos! To reach your destination back at Canyon Junction (and avoid hiking up those 500 feet again), simply follow Route 9A east until you see signs that say “Bright Angel Campground & Cable Tramway.”
There will also be ample parking available if needed; however, we recommend checking out some other places within this post before deciding which one most appeals to your interests.
While ATVs are not allowed within the park premises, travelers looking for adrenaline-pumping experiences can ride an ATV along the spectacular trails on public and private lands located close to the park.
You’ll find various scenic riding areas at nearby Utah state parks, including Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Goblin Valley, and Sand Hollow.
With Zion National Park’s multicolored cliffs as the backdrop and soft sands at your feet, the ATV experience here is truly unique.
Consider ATV rentals Zion National Park from outfitters like these top-rated rentals, which offer guided ATV and Jeep-UTV tours near Zion National Park.
Go swimming and river tubing
If you’re looking for Zion National Park swimming, there are plenty of opportunities here. The park is home to the Virgin River, one of the principal carvers of the Zion canyon. During summer, families flock to the river to take a dip or go river-tubing.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path escapade, head to the Pine Creek Waterfall (no permit required) near the Pine Creek Bridge.
The location is open all year round, but be cautious. Pine Creek is a known flash flood zone, and travelers are advised not to approach the area when it is raining or about to rain.
Try your hand at canyoneering
With easily scalable canyons, canyoneering is one of the best things to do in Zion National Park.
The park is the perfect playground for beginners, but even so, you’ll have to be well-practiced in downclimbing, ropework, and rappelling.
Travelers are advised to check the weather before descending the canyon, as they may be trapped in a flash flood (this is especially true in places where it can be challenging to reach high ground, such as slot canyons).
Some of the most popular canyoneering spots include the Left Fork route, a vibrantly-colored oblong tunnel that is generally considered the best for beginners, and the Mystery Canyon, which descends five miles down, the go-to spot for experienced canyoners.
Travelers who plan to go canyoneering must secure a permit, which can be difficult to secure if you don’t plan carefully. Due to being a popular spot for canyoners, permits are often booked three months in advance.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Zion National Park
Go on a Kayaking tour
Zion National Park kayaking depends on the flow rate of the Virgin River.
During the spring months, when the flow rate is high, travelers with advanced whitewater skills can secure a wilderness permit and brave the Virgin River if they don’t mind going at it alone as there are no outfitters in the area.
Near the Temple of Sinawa, rapids can range from Class I to II, with the waves becoming wilder the closer you get to the visitor center.
What is Zion National Park?
Situated in southwestern Utah and just a stone’s throw away from the town of Springdale, the 146,569-acre paradise is a land shaped by natural forces.
As with most national parks, the purpose of establishing Zion National Park in 1919 was to preserve these natural wonders, safeguard its wilderness character, and protect the history behind it.
Ice, wind, seismic uplift, and volcanic activity have molded this destination’s unique geography, allowing unusual animal and plant diversity to thrive. More than anything else, however, it is the mighty River of which the canyon is most at mercy.
This roaring river perpetually claws its way through the park’s winding canyons, digging deeper and making it wider each year.
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Why is Zion National Park so famous?
The secret is in the diversity of its geological wonders – the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, and the Mojave Desert all converge here. The combination creates a slew of unique geological formations, including mesas, peaks, canyons, and hoodoos, all serving as playgrounds for travelers just itching to scale the next height.
Zion National Park wildlife is thriving, thanks to the park’s geographical diversity, which developed unique conditions that nurture all sorts of life. More than 80% of the park is pure wilderness; around 289 species of birds, 32 reptiles, and 75 mammals consider this national park their home.
With that said, it doesn’t take more than a few steps from the visitor center to be entirely surrounded by pure nature.
While travelers flock to the park for all sorts of excursions, the main draw has always been the Zion Canyon, a deep gorge carved by the Virgin River, and the epicenter of all the exciting tourist attractions in Zion National Park.
But there’s more to Zion National Park than this. Curious travelers who venture farther may discover hidden gems, like the majestic Kolob Canyons and the secluded Pine Creek waterfall.
See Related: Best National Parks to Visit in November
How to get to Zion National Park
Zion National Park sits in the southwest corner of Utah, just an hour to the east of Saint George. This city has all the modern comforts you need, making it a great launching point for Zion National Park.
Most travelers, however, choose to fly in from the budget-friendly McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, located just three hours west of the park’s main entrance.
Those who choose to fly into Salt Lake City may take a connecting flight to Saint George or Cedar City, which are 49 miles and 60 miles from the park respectively.
(TIP: Leave the crowds and chaos of an airport in the very best lounges, where you can enjoy peace and comfort, log onto free wifi, and get complimentary refreshments care of Priority Pass.)
Travelers journeying on two wheels will most likely come from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Cedar City, or Saint George.
Travel is easy, directions are clear from these cities, and you’ll likely jump on Interstate 15 in these cases. The entrance to the Zion National Park sits on a beautiful stretch of SR-9.
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Best time to visit Zion National Park
Crowds are at their thinnest during winter, all thanks to the park’s low temperatures ranging from 50 to 30 degrees and regular precipitation. Those who are brave enough to endure the cold are rewarded with splendid scenery of bright red cliffs and white snow.
During winter, most of the high-elevation roads, including a part of the Kolob Terrace Road and Kolob Canyons Road, close. The Zion Canyon, however, is still open.
Most visitors come flocking back to Zion in March when spring arrives, and temperatures rise to around 40 to 60 degrees. During spring, melted snow feeds the hungry soil, prompting vibrant wildflowers to sprout.
Since increasing temperatures and melting snow causes a high flow rate for the River, The Narrows, one of the most popular areas of the zion canyon, is closed to hikers.
Summer is the best time to visit some of the park’s higher elevations, including the Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons areas.
It’s also the perfect season to hike the Narrow, as it is much cooler than other regions of the park during summer.
Be aware, though, that the monsoon season begins in mid-July until mid-September, and a perfectly sunny day can end in a flash flood.
Fall is the last window where heat seekers can visit before temperatures start to fall again by October. In September, aspens and cottonwoods erupt in various colors, offering a spectacular display for visitors.
Fall is a great time to visit all of the great Utah national parks, especially if you’re aiming to spend some time away from the crowds.
Is Zion National Park worth visiting?
Yes, Zion National Park is definitely worth visiting. It’s one of the most beautiful and popular national parks in the country, with plenty of things to see for all kinds of travelers.
What is Zion National Park famous for?
Zion National Park is famous for its red rock canyon landscape, lush vegetation including tall trees and waterfalls, and its relative isolation. It is located in Utah and is one of the most popular National Parks in the United States.
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