Visit Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park, located in the state of Utah in the southwestern United States, is one of the most beautiful national parks in America. The park is situated north of the Grand Canyon and is visited by millions of tourists annually.

Zion is one of the national parks that is often included in a road trip through the Western United States. We found it to be one of the most beautiful parks in the Western US, if not the most beautiful.

There are many sights and activities to see and do in Zion National Park. You can enjoy beautiful hikes and bike rides, but also horseback riding and canyoning. On this page, you will find all sorts of fun activities in Zion.

In addition to attractions, we tell you more about Springdale, an idyllic town at the entrance of Zion National Park. The town beautifully blends into the stunning nature of Zion. The atmosphere is relaxed, and you will find various hotels for accommodation.

Table of Contents

Hiking in Zion

Nothing is more beautiful than walking through the stunning nature that the Western United States has to offer. Zion boasts an extensive network of hiking trails for all levels, from short walks to multi-day backpacking trips. The most famous trails include Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point.

Walking through Zion

The Narrows is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, known for its spectacular views and unique hiking experience. During this hike, you partially walk through the waters of the Virgin River, which flows through the narrow canyon. The hike starts at the Temple of Sinawava, the final stop of the Zion Canyon Shuttle (the free bus that drives through Zion).

You first walk about a mile along the paved Riverside Walk Trail, which goes through a wooded area and along the river. After that, the real adventure begins when you step into the river and start walking through the water and between the high, steep rock walls of the canyon.

The water can be very deep in some places. The Narrows hike is only possible under suitable weather conditions and when there is no danger of flooding.

Angels Landing is a popular and challenging hike in Zion National Park. The hike is about 8 kilometers long and takes between 4 to 6 hours to complete. The final section of the hike is very challenging, featuring a narrow trail with steep drop-offs on both sides. Therefore, the hike is only suitable for experienced hikers who are well-prepared.

Good to know: to do the final section of the hike, you need permission, a so-called ‘Permit’. You can obtain a permit through a lottery for all people who want to do the hike, which you can participate in prior to your visit. You can read all about it on the National Park Service website.

On the map below, the starting and ending points of the Angels Landing hike are shown. If you zoom in, you’ll see the point ‘Scout Lookout’. From that point, you need a ‘Permit’ to continue hiking.

There are many hiking trails through Zion, for both beginners (Easy Hikes) and experienced hikers (Moderate Hikes and Strenuous Hikes). On the National Park Service (NPS) website, you can view various hikes by level. It clearly indicates where the hike starts, the distance of the hike, and the time it takes to complete the hike.

Sometimes, hiking trails are temporarily closed, for example, due to bad weather conditions or fallen rocks. This is also clearly communicated on the NPS website.

Biking through Zion

A very fun way to explore the National Park is by bike! Near the entrance of the park, you’ll find Zion Outfitter. From this rental location, you can easily bike into the park and ride on well-maintained paths.

This is also a great adventure for people with children. You can rent child seats or, as we did, a trailer for the bike. Our children found it to be very warm, so it’s good to keep this in mind if you’re renting a bike on a hot day.

You can bike very well in Zion, especially on the so-called Pa’rus Trail. The Pa’rus Trail is a paved path about 4 miles (6.4 km) long, starting at Zion’s visitor center.

The path is wide and flat, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and rock formations of the park. Along the way, you’ll pass picnic areas, rest spots, and some of the most beautiful places in the park, including the Canyon Junction Bridge and the Court of the Patriarchs.

During our second visit to Zion National Park in 2023, we cycled all the way to the endpoint on electric bikes, a journey of over 25 kilometers (→ view route here on Google Maps).

Towards the endpoint (towards ‘Riverside Walk Trailhead’), the rock formations come closer together, offering a beautiful view. Be sure to walk a section of the Trail as well, an easy but beautiful hike.

Hiking Riverside Walk Trailhead Zion

Scenic Drives Through Zion

Zion National Park offers several scenic routes that you can drive, such as the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This is the main route in the park and stretches for about 12.6 kilometers (roughly 7.8 miles). It offers beautiful views of Zion’s rock formations and canyons, with various viewpoints and parking areas along the road where you can stop to enjoy the scenery.

Free Shuttle Bus through Zion National Park

The Canyon Scenic Drive starts at the entrance of Zion National Park at the Visitor Center and runs up to the Temple of Sinawava. Below, you can view the route on Google Maps. The shuttle bus of Zion National Park is free of charge.

Horseback Riding in Zion National Park

Horseback riding is a popular way to explore Zion. The park offers guided horseback rides, ranging from one hour to three to four hours. Take a look at the websites of Zion Mountain Ranch, Canyon Trail Rides or East Zion Adventures for a horseback riding tour.

Having gone on a horseback ride through the mountains of Arizona, I can say from personal experience that horse riding is a fantastic way to explore nature. Even if you have no experience or affinity with horse riding, like me.

Camping in Zion

Zion National Park offers various camping opportunities. And it is an amazing experience, as you really stay overnight in the park and its beautiful nature. In Zion, you will find multiple campgrounds which can be booked through the website Recreation.gov.

South Campground is located near the entrance by the Visitor Center. It has space for both tents and campers/RVs. This campground is conveniently located if you want to use the facilities in the town of Springdale, where the bus also departs for the Scenic Drive. The campground is open from March 1st to the end of November. Check out the camping facilities and prices on the Recreation.gov website.

Watchman Campground (link to Recreation.gov) is located near South Campground. This campground is also a short walk from the Zion Visitor Center. The campground has 176 campsites and is open year-round.

Lava Point Campground (link to Recreation.gov) is a quiet and secluded campground in Zion National Park, situated at an elevation of 2,740 meters. It offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. The campground has 6 campsites and is only open from mid-May to the end of September.

Staying overnight in Springdale

Cable Mountain Lodge: Hotel at the entrance of Zion

Going to Zion? Chances are you’ll end up in the town of Springdale. Springdale itself is also a popular destination because of its charming atmosphere and friendly residents. We found the ‘vibe’ in Springdale to be very relaxed. What also certainly contributes to the atmosphere are the red rock formations surrounding the town. Springdale has a small but lively community with a plethora of local businesses, hotels, restaurants, and shops catering to tourism.

We stayed at Cable Mountain Lodge, a beautiful accommodation offering apartments and suites near the park entrance. You can hardly find a better place in Springdale. The entrance to Zion is within walking distance, as well as the Visitor Center and amenities such as bike rentals, restaurants, and the free buses (Zion Canyon Scenic Drive).

The apartments at Cable Mountain Lodge with a beautiful garden

Cable Mountain Lodge has a small but pleasant pool nestled among the mountains of Zion. The view is beautiful, and it’s a wonderful place to relax, especially after a day of hiking or biking in the park. There’s also a spa available where you can enjoy various treatments. You can reserve your massage online in advance on Cable Mountain Lodge’s special spa website: cablemountainspa.com.

Small but delightful pool of Cable Mountain Lodge

Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale

In 2023, we visited Zion National Park again. This time, we stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale/Zion National Park. Similar to Cable Mountain Lodge, this hotel is a pleasant 3-star hotel with a swimming pool.

The prices of this hotel are significantly lower than Cable Mountain Lodge, and this is due to its location. The Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale is located approximately 2.5 kilometers from the entrance of the National Park.

Despite the less favorable location, we highly recommend this hotel. The rooms are very spacious, there’s ample parking, and the swimming pool is delightful. Also, the views of the Zion mountains are fantastic.

Zion National Park Lodge: the only hotel in the national park

If you’re looking for a truly special place to stay, be sure to check out the Zion National Park Lodge. This is the only accommodation inside the national park, about 7 kilometers from the park’s entrance in Springdale. The views from the hotel are breathtakingly beautiful, and the lodge is a fantastic base for hikes in the park.

Helicopter Flight Zion National Park

Want to see Zion from the air? You can with a helicopter flight over Zion offered by Zion Helicopters. Starting at $99 per person, you can book a 10-minute helicopter flight. Generally, the longer the helicopter flight, the more expensive the tour. For instance, you can also book a 30-minute helicopter flight for $249 per person.

The most spectacular helicopter flight over Zion is the Butte Landing Experience for $469 per person. This tour includes a landing at a beautiful spot with views of the national park. The tour lasts one and a half hours, of which you’ll spend one hour in the helicopter.

Frequently Asked Questions about Zion

What is the best time to visit Zion National Park?

Generally, spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best times to visit the park due to the mild weather and lower visitor numbers. In spring, the wildflowers are blooming, and in autumn, the landscape is beautiful with the changing colors of the leaves. However, the summer months (June to August) can be very busy and hot, so if you plan to visit during this period, make sure you are well prepared for the heat and crowds.

What is the cost of visiting Zion National Park?

To visit the park, you pay $20 per person. This grants you access to the park without a vehicle. Children 15 years and younger can visit the park for free. Many tourists visit multiple national parks during their trip through the Western United States. In that case, it might be interesting to purchase an Annual Pass for $80. This pass grants you access to all National Parks for the duration of one year. Check all current prices on the National Park Service website.

How much time should you plan for a visit to Zion?

It is advised to plan 2 to 3 days for Zion. Of course, it entirely depends on the activities you want to undertake in the park. You can go hiking, horseback riding, swimming, take a bus tour, and climb. The amount of time you should plan for a visit to Zion National Park depends on your interests and availability, but generally, it is recommended to allocate at least 2-3 days to explore the park.

About the author

Author Pieter

Hi, my name is Pieter. In 2009, I made my first trip to the United States. In 2012, 2019, 2020, 2022, and 2023, I had the opportunity to travel to this special country again. On this website, I write with great passion and pleasure about one of the most beautiful wonders of nature, the Grand Canyon. On this page, you can find all my blogs.