The awe-inspiring red cliffs of Zion rise directly from the open canyon floor with sweeping vistas in every direction. Zion is an outdoor paradise, but finding the best things to do in Zion National Park, deciding how to get there, and finding the best lodging near Zion National Park, can feel overwhelming. After visiting Zion, we’re here to share everything we know and wished we’d known before we went.
After spending several days at Capitol Reef, Bryce National Park and Kodachrome State Park, we were blown away with the scenery at Zion.
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Quick Look at the Best Things to do in Zion National Park
Here is a snapshot of the best things to do in Zion National Park. You can read more details below about each hike. Most people who visit here start by looking for information on hiking Zion National Park. If you are short on time you should choose one of the iconic hikes (like Angel’s Landing or the Zion Narrows) and build your itinerary around that. Some of the best hikes in Zion include:
- Angel’s Landing
- Zion Narrows
- Observation Point
- Emerald Pools
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Weeping Rock
- Riverside Walk
- Hidden Canyon
- The Watchman Trail
- The West Rim Trail
If you aren’t into hiking or are looking for the best things to do in zion national park besides hiking, there are plenty of other activities to choose from and there are lots of tours to make it easier. Other things to do around Zion include:
- Go Canyoneering in Zion
- Bike in Zion NP
- Take a scenic drive to the best viewpoints in Zion National Park
- Join one of the Zion ATV tours
- Practice Your Photography in Zion
- Explore one of the many Zion National Park guided tours
- Do Some Zion Stargazing
- Visit Kolob Canyon
- Check out the Zion Wildlife including Big Horn Sheep
- Go Horseback Riding in Zion
Find Highly Ranked Zion Park Tours
Map of the Best Things to Do in Zion National Park
Overview of Zion National Park
Zion National Park covers 232 acres in Southwestern Utah. The 2,000 foot Navajos sandstone cliffs have been shaped by the forces of nature since they were formed over a period of 250 million years. The park is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, but it is typically the soaring cliffs, and the red rock that people come to see.
Native American’s first came to the area over 8,000 years ago, followed by the Mormon pioneers more recently in 1858. The place was originally called Mukuntuweap National Monument and in 1919 was renamed Zion National Park. Each year over 4 million people visit this National Park that is consistently in the top 5 most popular National Parks in the United State.
Entrance into Zion National Park is $30 or included in the National Parks Pass.
With the increase in visitors, Zion has added a shuttle service. When the shuttle service is operating, you can not drive on these sections of the road. We found the shuttle easy to use and frequent. Before your visit, check to see if the shuttle is running to help plan your trip. You can read more below about getting around the park and the shuttle.
The closest town to Zion is Springdale located directly outside the main gate (you can walk into town from the visitor’s center).
Weather in Zion National Park: When to Visit
Zion National Park is open year-round, but the best time to visit Zion National Park is typically in the spring and fall months when the weather is nice, not too hot and there are fewer crowds. If you’re visiting Zion National Park in the winter, you can still find plenty to do although be prepared for snow and cold weather. In the summer, weather Zion National Park is hot, so you will want to plan to explore early and late. We also had thunderstorms every day we were in Zion in August, which is a common occurrence (it actually hailed quite heavily while we were there, not once, but twice).
The table below shows the Zion National Park weather by month and also includes information about how crowded it is. It’s important to remember that Zion has a range of elevations and temperatures and weather can change dramatically within the park. Always pack extra layers!
20 Best Things to Do in Zion National Park
The most popular thing to do in Zion National Park is to go hiking. The best thing about the Zion hiking trails is that there is truly something for everyone. You can find short trails and much longer and strenuous Zion hiking trails. The first 10 things on my list of the best things to do in Zion National Park are all hikes.
It is recommended that you get an early start for your Zion National Park hikes, especially if you are choosing the popular Angel’s Landing or Zion Narrows.
Hiking Angel’s Landing
Trail Length: 5.4 miles (3-5 hours)
Shuttle Stop: Stop #6 – the Grotto
Angel’s Landing is one of the most iconic hiking trails in Zion National Park. The trail winds its way up the rocks. Towards the top, you scale a rocky ridge and ascend via some chains to the top. This hike gets really crowded and since you are passing on vary narrow sections, it’s best to get an early start. This hike is at the top of the list of most peoples’ best things to do in Zion National Park.
(note that starting April 1, 2022 you need a permit to hike Angel’s Landing).
This is the other famous hike in Zion National Park. There are two ways to hike the Zion Narrows – from the top-down and from the bottom up. To hike the Zion Narrows from the top down, you will need to get a permit and will need to either to the entire 16 miles in one long day, or do the hike as a backpack and camp partway down the narrows.
You will need to book your permit in advance at the NPS.
The other option is to hike the Zion Narrows from the bottom up (this is what we did). When you hike this direction, you get to the narrowest part of the narrows and can continue on as long as you want. Many people go to the Wall Street portion where the walls rise 1,500 ft from the river.
No matter which way you hike the narrows, you will spend much of the hike wading through water. When we did this hike there had been a lot of rain and the river was running high and full of silt. At other times, the river is more clear and you won’t spend as much time in the water.
Just like Angel’s Landing, the Zion Narrows can get crowded. When we visited, we started the hike by about 7:30 and it was somewhat crowded. By 10 on our way back, the Narrows were packed with people! Put this hike at the top of your list of best things to do in Zion National Park.
Distance: 6.8 miles
This trail is currently closed due to a large rock slide but is worth mentioning as it is a wonderful hike in Zion!
Distance: 1.5-3 miles (2-3 hours)
Location: Emerald Pools is between stop #5 and #6, so you can hike it as a loop or out and back on the same trail
This is a pretty hiking trail and you get to choose from the lower or upper pools. We were less impressed with the pools than some of the dripping water on the walls and the overall views out over the canyon. The upper canyon is a bit more strenous and since thi s one of the most popular hikes it does get crowded. We did this as a loop starting on Kayenta Trail and ending on the Emerald Pool Trail.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Distance: 1 mile (1 hour)
Location: East of the Mount Carmel Tunnel
This hike is located away from many of the other hikes and you can drive to it isf you don’t want to want to deal with the shuttle. The hike itself is short, sweet, and easy for all levels making it good for families. It also has a tremendous view from the end!
Distance: 0.4 miles (30 minutes)
Location: Stop #7 Weeping Rock
This nice little hike up a steep little hill to a rock that seems like it’s weeping water. This is one of the best easy hikes in Zion National Park, mostly because it is short, but the hike itself is pretty steep.
Distance: 1.9 miles (1.5 hours)
Location: Last shuttle stop – Temple of Sinawava
This is an easy walk along the river right at the start of the Narrows with boardwalks and easy walking trails. We did this walk as part of our Narrows hike, but if you don’t want to get your feet wet, you can just do this hike on its own and still enjoy some of the beautiful views along the river as the canyon walls start to narrow.
Distance: 3.1 miles (2-3 hours)
Location: Weeping Rock, Stop #7 on the Zion shuttle
This hike was closed when we were in Zion, but we had to include it on the list since it is supposed to be an amazing hike. The hike ascends just under 1,000 feet and does include some drop-offs so if you have a fear of heights, this might not be for you.
The Watchman Trail
Distance: 3.1 miles out and back (1.5-2 hours)
Location: Starts right at the visitors center
This is a great trail, starting right at the visitors center. The trail is well maintained and relatively easy. It starts on flat ground and then climbs some switchbacks. Compared to some of the hikes in Zion, the Watchman Trail is slightly less popular which makes it an excellent choice for crowded summer days.
The West Rim Trail
Distance: Varies – 15-mile point to point (or turn around when you want!)
You can do this hike as a long day hike or do it as a multi-day backpack. Since it’s a point to point you will need to arrange transportation and decide whether to do the hike from the top-down or bottom-up. You will also need to arrange transportation or a shuttle to get you back to your car or drop you off. Definitely plan this in advance and expect to pay upwards of $175. If you’re hiking from the top down, the first half of the hike is mostly flat without great views, the second half of the hike descends into Zion Canyon with stellar views!
Things to Do in Zion Besides Hiking
Go Canyoneering in Zion
Zion has many options for canyoneering that involve technical skills, or a guide. Canyoneering involves rappelling and climbing through a canyon with the use of ropes and harnesses. There are several tours that will take you into the heart of some of Utah’s most beautiful slot canyons. You can see an East Zion tour here. We’ve done some canyoneering and climbing so we did Keyhole Canyon on our own. Please note that you will need a permit to go canyoneering in Zion that can be purchased through the NPS. If you are going to try canyoneering Zion, Keyhole Slot Canyon is an excellent first technical slot canyon.
Bike in Zion NP
Biking is a great option in Zion. Even though you can’t drive up some of the roads in Zion, you can bike. You can also bike on the Pa’rus trail at the base of Zion NP right from the visitor center. We rode our bikes up this trail and partway up the main road into Zion one morning and it was lovely without cars on the road. It is also possible to rent bikes or e-bikes for this ride.
Take a scenic drive to the best viewpoints in Zion National Park
Seek out some of Zion’s best overlooks and viewpoints. The best viewpoints are typically elevated so you can see out over the canyon. You will either need to hike or drive to these viewpoints. A few of the best viewpoints including: Observation Point, Canyon Overlook, Angel’s Landing, Northgate Peaks, Lava Point, Cable Mountain, and Deertrap Mountain.
Join one of the Zion ATV Tours
Taking an ATV tour is a great way to see a bit more of the surrounding area. There are several outfits that offer these tours. If you are going in the summer, book in advance. Many of the ATV tours take you to hike in a slot canyon.
Practice Your Photography in Zion
Zion is a photographer’s dream, with dramatic red rocks. Take some time when you’re in Zion to get out and take some photos. Check out some of the viewpoints listed above or take your camera on one of the hikes. If you can get out early or late during golden hour when the sun slants if you will go home with some stunning photos!
Do Some Zion Stargazing
Zion is a great place to stargaze and practice astrophotography. It’s important to note that the shuttle service stops running in the evening, so you may not be able to be in the park itself after sunset. A great option it to walk on the Pa’rus trail for dark skies and beautiful stars.
Visit Kolob Canyon
Kolob Canyons is a quieter alternative to Zion Canyon. This part of Zion National Park, located in the Northwest corner is a 5-mile canyon with panoramic views of this beautiful canyon. Located slightly higher then Zion, this area is sometimes closed in the winter, so check ahead before coming.
Explore One of the Many Zion National Park Guided Tours
There are many tour offerings in Zion that include activities in Zion or guided tours to multiple parks or attractions.
Check out the Zion Wildlife including Big Horn Sheep
Although we don’t naturally think of Zion when we think about viewing wildlife, there are plenty of animals to see. Zion is home to 68 mammals including mule deer, fox, bats, bighorn sheep, and rock squirrels. You are most likely to find these animals if you get out early or late in the day. Remember not to feed the animals although there are some very friendly squirrels on many of the trails.
Go Horseback Riding in Zion
This is the one activity we didn’t do in Zion but wished we had just a little more time for. We did go rock climbing one morning and from our spot on the side of the canyon, we watched several groups of horseback riders go past across the canyon. I would definitely plan to book this in advance as it can sell out, especially in the summer.
What did I miss of the top things to do near Zion National Park? Leave a comment and I’ll make sure to add it to the post.
Getting to Zion National Park
The easiest way to get to Zion is by car. There are several airports nearby where you can rent a car and drive, and Zion is surrounded by other amazing destinations, making it the perfect stop on a long road trip. Below are some of the common driving times for getting to Zion. George Regional Airport is a small airport near Zion National Park that is about a 1-hour drive but has limited flights.
From airports/major cities:
- Las Vegas to Zion National Park is 160 miles (2-3 hours)
- Salt Lake City to Zion National Park is 300 miles (4.5 hours)
From Other Destinations:
- Grand Canyon to Zion National Park is 216 miles (3.5 hours)
- Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is 72 miles (1.5 hours)
- Kodachrome Basin State Park to Zion is 90 miles (1 hour and 45 minutes)
- Zion National Park to Capitol Reef National Park is 174 miles (3 hours)
It is possible to get to Zion National Park without a car. Once you’re in Springdale, you can easily walk to the park and hop on the shuttle from there. Greyhound does have a stop in Zion and this is one of the better National Parks to explore without a car.
Where to Stay Zion National Park
If you’re looking for where to stay at Zion National Park, the easiest place to stay in Zion is the town of Springdale which is directly outside the gate. From here is it easy to get to almost anywhere inside the park. You can also camp at several campgrounds in the park. The Southgate camping area is probably the most popular. It was nothing special but was in a great location for getting to town and being near all the attractions. Book your campground through the NPS.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Virgin Zion National Park: This is where we stayed in Zion. We loved that we could see our car out the window and there was a swimming pool.
Zion Wildflower: This is another one that gets good reviews and has really fun looking lodging options
Best Western Plue Settlers Point: This highly rated hotel has an indoor pool and a fitness center.
How to get Around Zion and Understanding the Zion National Park shuttle
Getting around Zion is generally easy. When the shuttle is in service, there are 2 shuttles (one that runs through town and one that runs up into the Zion canyon). If you are going elsewhere in the park such as Kolob Canyon or East Zion, you can drive on your own. At first I thought the shuttle would be inconvenient, but after seeing how many people there were and how little parking was available, it was great to hop on and off the shuttle to our next stop.
You can find the Zion shuttle schedule online here.
You can either park at the Zion Visitor Center or take the town shuttle up to the Visitor Center. From here just wait in line. We were there in August and got an early start each day to avoid the crowds, but we didn’t have a problem getting on and off the shuttle. Even if there was a line it tended to move quickly.
How to Combine Zion National Park with Bryce for a Perfect Vacation
Bryce and Zion Canyon: Combining Bryce and Zion National Park: Since getting from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park is relatively easy (they are only about 1.5 hours apart). It is easy to plan a combined Bryce and Zion trip. We spent a few days staying in Kodachrome State Park and visited Bryce Canyon, then drove down to Zion for a few days exploring here. You should plan to spend 3-5 days on your Zion-Bryce Itinerary.
Combining Zion NP with other Utah Parks: Bryce may be the closest National Park, but you can also combine Zion with any of the other Utah Park. Creating an itinerary from Arches National Park to Zion National Park, you should note that these parks are about 5 hours apart.
Zion and the Grand Canyon: Since driving from Grand Canyon to Zion is just about a 2-hour drive, combining these 2 parks into 1 trip makes an excellent vacation. You could easily do both the Grand Canyon and Zion in a week-long adventure and still have time for many of the best things to do in Zion National Park and in the grand Canyon.
Common Zion Questions
If you only have time for 1 hike, what is the absolute best Zion hikes? I would select either the Narrows or Angels Landing since these are both iconic hikes in Zion NP
Is a Zion National Park winter trip worth it? Yes! Hiking in the winter here is beautiful – just plan accordingly! Some of the things on our list of the best things to do in Zion National Park may not be open, so it’s worth checking.
What is the airport closest to zion national park? George Regional Airport (the closest big airport in Las Vegas)
Leave a comment and let me know what you think are the best Things to Do in Zion National Park.