Zion National Park was our first stop on the tour of the national parks of the West Coast. And the trip could not have started better! Zion National Park is the first to be founded in the state of Utah. Although there are now four more, Zion is still the most visited. It is the third national park that receives more visitors throughout the United States. The reddish tones of the Zion Canyon are its great attraction. Any nature lover will enjoy its trails. Here, we tell you what to see in Zion national park.
What to see in Zion national park?
The road that joins the Zion National Park with Mount Carmel is a marvel. Its 12 miles (almost 20 kilometers) where you’ll want to stop the car at every turn. It passes through mountains of a thousand shades and different shapes, a work of art of nature over the centuries. The road has very new asphalt and is correctly maintained, but it is better to drive slowly to enjoy the views and have time to stop at some stretch where the shoulder widens. You may also like the best beaches in Cuba.
Halfway there is a tunnel of just over a mile. The project ended in 1930 and then it was the longest tunnel dug under the mountains of this type. It was intended to link the Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon. If you drive a motorhome or a very high vehicle, pay $15 to cut the traffic from the opposite direction to be able to circulate through the tunnel. Let’s observe what to see in Zion national park.
The most famous geological formation along the scenic road that leads to Mount Carmel is Checkerboard Mesa. The grayish color of this mountain stands out in a landscape dominated by earth tones.
Court of Patriarchs
After Canyon Junction, the next stop for the free bus is called a Court of Patriarchs. Walking a couple of minutes, you will reach a viewpoint to see three imposing rocky mountains. His name honors the three biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Zion Human History Museum
Near the entrance to the Zion National Park, there is a small museum about the history of the place. They pass a short documentary of 22 minutes about the changes that the park has experienced over the years. You can also see a massive model of the site and some objects of American Indian culture. It is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm with free access.
The view from the Canyon Junction Bridge
One of the most beautiful panoramas of the Zion National Park does not require any effort. You have to stop the car and enjoy the views from the bridge that crosses the river at Canyon Junction.
The park is home to hundreds of animal and plant species. Many visitors wear binoculars to see any of the more than 200 different birds that live there. Highlights include the peregrine falcon, the spotted owl or the California condor. It is also likely that you will find a snake, although it is better not to bother it much because some species are poisonous.
Do not miss this lesser-known part of the Zion National Park. You have to drive about 50 minutes north of the main entrance of the Zion National Park to get there. In addition to discovering the roads of the area, you can get to know the city by driving on a scenic highway. Try to arrive at sunset, because the light makes the stones look a deep reddish color. Also, being within the canyon itself, the panoramic view is more extensive than from the central area of the Zion National Park.
The best short walks in the Zion National Park
There are many trails in the park. You could spend weeks there that you would not all do! We recommend you the simple roads with better views. We recommend you take a look at the map of the park where you can find the technical details and the exact location of all roads.
Canyon Overlook Trail
This is undoubtedly the most grateful trek you can do in the Zion National Park. It is not at all complicated, and the views are amazing. It takes less than an hour to go and return. Sure, you will not regret it. Access to the road is just at the exit of the tunnel in the direction of Mount Carmel. The main parking lot is usually full, but there is space on the shoulder a few meters ahead.
An ideal way to do with children or even take a bike ride. It runs along the river. It’s all flat and paved. You will not have the best view, but the surroundings are beautiful. It is great to warm up the body before making another more demanding walk.
This road starts very close to the visitor center. So it is an excellent way to start the day walking without having to take the bus if there is a lot of queues. 🙂 It is not physically demanding. The climb is quite long and constant. Once at the highest point, you get a great view without having to spend all day walking. It takes slightly less than two hours to go and return.
An inquisitive place to see in the Zion National Park is this “weeping rock.” There is a fall of water on top that causes the edge of the rock to drip always. To get there, you will have to walk the shortest route of the Zion National Park, only 600 meters.
Pine Creek Waterfall
Weeping Rock is not the only waterfall in the park. One of the most accessible is Pine Creek Waterfall, which is within Pine Creek Canyon. The walk to the waterfall is concise, but there are some obstacles, and you will probably get soaked by the water that splashes. Just below the waterfall, there is a small pool where you can cool off in summer.
A jewel within the Zion National Park is these three emerald lakes located in an excellent environment. There are three different ways to see them from different perspectives: lower, mild, and upper Emerald Pools. All of them are beautiful and without too much complication. On the way, you will cross waterfalls, vegetation and excellent views of the Virgin River.
The best long treks in the Zion National Park
If you have several days in the park or you like challenges, there are some more difficult roads with excellent views as a reward.
It is not a very hard walk. There are barely 102 meters of unevenness all the way. But 22.5 kilometers can be done hard on sweltering days or if you do not have enough water and food. Remember to check how water levels are on the road before starting this road. Floods can hinder passage and cause danger. Even if the water levels are normal, get ready to get wet because the way runs through the narrow canyon of the Virgin River.
This trek is the most popular among the most complicated ones that can be done in the Zion National Park. They travel almost 9 kilometers (round trip) with a difference of 453 meters. It is not excessive, but you have to be very careful with the ravines along the way. It is not a good idea to do it if you have vertigo because there are quite narrow stretches. The views from the top deserve a lot.
This is the most difficult trek in Zion National Park. They are 12.9 kilometers with 655 meters of altitude and some sections where you must climb. It’s more physically demanding than Angels Landing, but it’s not that exposed. On the way, you will pass through Echo Canyon, a very cool canyon. Upon reaching the top, you will have a panoramic postcard, the typical photo of the Zion National Park.
Where to stay to visit the Zion National Park?
This is the only accommodation in the park. That’s why it is usually filled even months in advance for the most requested dates. The prices are quite high, more than $ 200 for a room. So if you’re looking to sleep comfortably and save a few dollars, it’s better to stay out of the Zion National Park.
Of course, sleeping inside the enclosure also has its advantages: enjoying the tranquility when all the visitors have left is a luxury.
Camping inside the Zion National Park
There are three camping areas within Zion National Park: South Campground, Watchman Campground, and Lava Point Campground. The warmest and busiest months remain open: from March to November approximately. Keep in mind that these are basic camps, with hardly any shade areas and no showers. It is recommended to book a couple of weeks in advance through the internet for $ 20 per night.
Reserve a space for camping
It is the closest town to the entrance of the Zion National Park, that’s why you’ll find plenty of hotels. Staying in Springdale, you will have the convenience of leaving the car in the hotel parking and taking the free bus to the entrance of the park. You will find much lower prices than at the hotel inside the park, starting at around $ 100 per night. Also, staying in Springdale, you will have many restaurants to eat.
The next closest town is Hurricane. There are only 30 minutes by car to the entrance of the Zion National Park. If you want to save a few dollars and do not mind having to drive that little bit, you can find motels for just $ 50.
As the last option to stay near the Zion National Park, we propose you a bigger city. Saint George will have all the necessary amenities: shops, restaurants, etc. But you’ll also be further away from the main entrance of Zion National Park. It takes about 50 minutes to get there by car from Saint George. There are motels and hotels for all tastes and budgets.
If after visiting the Zion National Park you head north, the nearest city is Cedar City. It takes an hour to get from the main entrance, but it is much closer to Kolob Canyon. It is a perfect option if you want to end the day watching the sunset there. Being further away from Zion National Park, the prices are somewhat tighter.
When to visit the Zion National Park?
We visited Zion National Park in early April and had a beautiful day. Almost that summer! Of course, when the clouds cover the sun, the temperatures go down a lot. At night it is also much colder, so it suits to dress in layers. Keep in mind that during the Easter holidays many people visit the park. Prices to stay and waiting times to catch the free shuttle go up a lot.
In summer, it barely rains, but temperatures reach 40 degrees. Therefore, if you want to make hard walks, it is best to get up early or wait for the sunset. In any case, you have to bring extra water and sunscreen. Do not be surprised if, despite the heat, a summer storm falls: short and intense. Prices remain high at the time of school holidays in much of the world.
Everyone says that autumn is the best time to visit Zion National Park. The extreme temperatures of the summer give truce, and the autumnal colors see in the vegetation. It is a time where floods due to occasional storms are frequent. So some roads are likely closed for safety. Being a popular season, the accommodations fill up quickly.
Winter is not the best time to go to Zion National Park. It’s cold, and it’s the months with the most rains. Some roads can even accumulate layers of ice and be a danger to walkers. At the end of winter, the river goes down very hard due to the thaw, so it is advisable to go carefully. Accommodation prices are significantly lower because fewer people visit the park.
How to get to Zion National Park?
You must have a car to get to this beautiful national park. Much of its charm is driving on the road that crosses it. If you put “Zion National Park” in Google Maps, you will see that there are several points of entry to the park.
Access from Springdale
The most common if you arrive from the south is to access through Springdale, where the main visitor center of the Zion National Park is located. If you visit the park between March and November from 9 in the morning, the safest thing is that the parking area at the park entrance is full. Therefore, you will save time and nerves by leaving the car in the village. There are 8 stops of a free shuttle that leads to the park entrance. Keep in mind that the shuttle only runs from March to November, during the rest of the months it is not so common that there are parking problems at the entrance.
Access from the north
But you may also come from the south… In this case, you must enter through the road that connects the park with Mount Carmel. If you do so, you will surely save yourself a long queue in the busiest times and, also, you will get a great first impression when driving on this scenic road.
Access from Kolob Canyons
Zion National Park indeed has another annex area. It’s about Kolob Canyons. If you have time to spare you can also go through there and visit this most unexplored part 🙂
Schedules and rates of the Zion National Park
The park is open 24 hours a day, but both the visitor center and the booths to buy the entrance accessible from 8 am to 5 pm every day.
Rates to enter the Zion National Park
Entering Zion National Park has different prices depending on the option you choose. All passes are valid for 7 days.
On foot or by bicycle: $ 20 per person
On a motorcycle: $ 30 per vehicle
By car: $ 35 per vehicle
But most likely, you want to visit other national parks in the United States. In that case, it will be essential to buy the annual pass to enter all national parks for a year for only $ 80. It is valid for all occupants of the same vehicle or if coming on foot, for 4 adults.
You can buy the “Annual Pass” at the ticket office of any national park in the country or through the internet. We recommend that you have this annual pass before arriving at the Zion National Park.
How to get around Zion National Park?
Most attractions and hikes of Zion National Park depart from the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. You can circulate there freely from the end of November to March. But this main road that crosses the park is closed for visitors from March to November. The parking lots along the route have very few seats, and it would be chaos to let everyone circulate. Therefore, you can only drive to Canyon Junction, from where the beautiful scenic road connects Zion with Mount Carmel leaves.
Do not worry because Zion National Park has a bus service during those months. For all points of interest and beginnings of hiking trails. Buses run very frequently, every 10 minutes at the most. The problem is that you usually form a lot of queues to climb the entrance if you do not arrive early in the morning.