Explore More at Utah's Zion National Park
The mythical Zion has become synonymous in popular culture with a holy, spiritual place to which people long to return, but you need not be religious to make a pilgrimage to the majestic Zion National Park in Southwest Utah. It is a place that many outdoors lovers consider a destination that must be visited at least once in their lifetime. Zion receives nearly 3 million visitors each year and is the most visited park in all of Utah, but is still large enough for visitors to find solitude among its plethora of canyons.
As visitors hike Zion’s vast network of trails, it’s easy to imagine the park’s original inhabitants tracking game and living in caves, and pioneers meandering through the towering canyons on horseback. Picturesque canyons, alien geography, desert wildlife, and mystical history combine to make Utah’s first national park feel like a small piece of heaven on Earth.
Zion’s World-Famous Hiking Trails
Zion National Park’s hiking trails are some of the most famous in the world, but you don’t have to be an avid hiker to enjoy them. Zion has trails for every level of hiker, from toddlers to the elderly, and a number of the lower trails are even wheelchair accessible.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS:
- Emerald Pools Trail: The Emerald Pools Trail is a must-visit for any Zion first-timer. This set of family-friendly trails guides visitors past streams and waterfalls and to the Lower Pool, Middle Pool and finally the Upper Emerald Pool, which is well worth the 1.5-mile hike.
- Riverside Walk: This easy-going 2-mile-long hike starts at the Temple of Sinawava and guides hikers along a paved trail to the world-famous Zion Narrows. The Virgin River and its vibrant greenery provide pleasant scenery (and a great place to cool off) along the entire trek.
- Zion Narrows: The Zion Narrows day hike starts where the easier Riverside Walk ends. This popular trail leads hikers along — and even through — the flowing Virgin River into the heart of some of Zion’s best canyon scenery.
- Angels Landing: The Angels Landing Trail offers a more strenuous day hike starting at the Grotto Trailhead and leading to one of the most jaw-dropping viewpoints in all of Zion. This 5-mile-long hike takes roughly 5 hours to complete, but you’ll never forget the view from the top.
- West Rim Trail: Hikers with a backpacking permit can take the classic two-day backpacking adventure from Lava Point (Zion’s highest point) to the park’s main canyon. The breathtaking viewpoints into the canyons along this descent will have you reaching for your camera with nearly every step.
Photo by Zion National Park CCBY
Zion National Park offers a variety of accommodation options for its visitors. The Zion Lodge is the most luxurious option within the park with 76 standard hotel rooms, six high-end suites, and 40 historic cabins. The Zion Lodge is open year round, but visitors are advised to make reservations ahead of time.
There are three campgrounds in Zion National Park. The South Campground and Watchman Campground are located near the south entrance of the park in Zion Canyon. These desert campgrounds tend to be hot in the summer months, so bring plenty of water and, if possible, a canopy for shade because not all sites have natural shade. Sites in the south campground are available on a first come, first served basis, while the sites at Watchman can be reserved ahead of time.
When to Visit
Zion National Park is one of the country’s few national parks that is enjoyable to visit any time of year. Zion is generally open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but certain facilities may reduce their hours or even close during some parts of the year, so it’s advisable to check that the parts you want to visit are open on the park’s website.
Zion is busiest from the beginning of June to mid-August. The park’s slowest months are December, January, and February when the weather is chilly and snow or ice may be on the ground. The most ideal times to visit Zion are during the shoulder-seasons in the early fall and late spring when the temperatures are warm, but the crowds are small.
Zion visitors must purchase a recreational use pass. Passes may be purchased with cash or credit card at each of the park’s entrances. Zion National Park also offers Annual Passes and Lifetime Passes, both of which are available for purchase on the park’s website. Other pass purchases are valid for seven days.
- Private vehicle or RV: $25
- Motorcycle: $12
- Person with no vehicle: $12
- Noncommercial organized groups (with 15 people or less): $25
- Noncommercial organized group (with 16 people or more): $12 per person with children under 15 admitted free
- Commercial tours up to six passengers: $35 + $12 per passenger
- Commercial tours 7-15 passengers: $70
- Commercial tours 16-25 passengers: $80
- Commercial tours 26 or more passengers: $190