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10 Best Things To Do in Zion National Park

What are the 10 best things to do in Zion National Park? Without a doubt, the best thing to do in Zion is hiking. And in this article, we will tell you which trails are the most beautiful and exciting, including their difficulty. You will also learn what hikes require a permit. But we are also giving you a list of other exciting things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking. And most importantly, we advise you step by step on how to prepare for a visit to this park: where to stay, how to get there, how to prepare for the hikes, and more. We’ve been to Zion National Park more than 8 times and now share our experiences.

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Table of Contents show

10 Best Things To Do in Zion National Park – Introduction

In Zion National Park, you will encounter cliffs, narrow canyons, reddish walls, the sound of water, deer, squirrels, and much more. Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks in Utah. But it is also one of the most crowded and popular. So we tell you some hints on how to prepare for the visit. We love hiking trails in Zion, like the Narrows, Angels Landing, and the Subway. But we also show you things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking. We share our experience from this park: where to stay, how to get there, and how to prepare. Use the table of content for more straightforward navigation.

Zion National Park is one of the most popular and most visited national parks in the U.S. In 2021 had more than 5 million recreational visits. So plan your trip ahead, especially your accommodation. Go early for hikes and for sightseeing. Check all our tips below, as we have visited it many times.

Where is Zion National Park & How To Get There

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah near the picturesque town of Springdale. The Park has the 229-square-mile (590 km2), and its unique feature is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 feet (800 m) deep. The canyon walls are reddish, and the tan-colored Navajo Sandstone is eroded by the Virgin River, which makes the Park the most photogenic. The Park’s highest peak is Horse Ranch Mountain which is 8,726 ft (2,660 m) tall.

How to get to Zion by Air?

The most convenient airports to get to Zion National Park are Las Vegas International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and St. George Regional Airport. You can find the best flights on TripAdvisor or Skyscanner.com. You can also check our ready-to-go Utah National Parks Itinerary from Las Vegas.

How to get to Zion by Car?

Car is the best option to get to Zion National Park. If you plan to rent a car, we recommend Alamo. We have been using this company for many years, and it is our favorite one. However, it’s also worth comparing prices and rules. So you can use Rentalcars, an award-winning car rental comparison website.

  • From Salt Lake City, take I-15 S. It’s 308 miles and at least 4 hours and 30 minutes of driving.
  • If you drive from Las Vegas, take I-15 N. It’s 160 miles and about 2 hours and 40 minutes of driving. You can check our Utah itinerary from Vegas, or if you plan to stay in Vegas, check our detailed Las Vegas itinerary.

Shuttle Bus in Zion

In the Park, cars must be left at the parking lot, and visitors must use the shuttle bus, which is a very convenient solution. The Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles during the shuttle season, March through November. You do not need a permit or reservation to ride a park shuttle.

TRIP TIP: You must use the shuttle bus system from March through November. The shuttle provides access along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to areas including Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail and Angels Landing, the Riverside Walk, and the Narrows. The shuttle bus will take you to the trails in the park. You can get on and off the bus at any stop—details you can check on the official NPS website.

Zion National Park Entrance Fee

A private vehicle is $35 per week—a person entering by foot or bicycle: is $20 (under 15 is free of charge). But if you plan to visit more than two or three national parks, the best idea is to buy America the Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass, for the reason that it costs only $79.99 per year, and you have access to more than 2,000 National Parks and federal recreation sites in the United States. The pass is valid for 1 year from the month of purchase! It covers entrance for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas or up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person (kids 15 & under get in free).

Zion National Park Permits

Some activities in Zion National Park require a wilderness permit, which can be obtained on the Zion website. Also, to do some hikes, you need permits. For season 2023, you must have a permit to do the famous Angels Landing Hike. You can apply for a permit on the official website. We are lucky, as we got permits for each of those hikes, and we made those hikes, so we share our experiences.

Zion National Park

Getting Around Zion – Zion Shuttle Bus & Springdale Shuttle Bus

Zion Shuttle Bus through Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

First of all, the most important road in the Park is Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and it is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava, which is named for the coyote god of the Paiute Indians. Most of the year, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only accessible by a shuttle bus to protect wildlife. Zion Canyon Road is served by a shuttle bus from March to October. As a result, you have to leave your car in the car parking next to Visitor Center and take a shuttle bus from the parking.
The buses ride every 15 minutes or more often and start services at 6 am.

When can you drive in your own car via Zion Canyon Scenic Drive?

  • You can only drive your car on this road if you go through the tunnel to East Entrance. So you must take a right in Canyon Junction (bus stop number 3).
  • Or you can drive this route if you have confirmed accommodation in Zion Lodge (stop number 5).

Above all, see the shuttle schedule on the Park website for the times and dates of this service. The coaches are wheelchair accessible and have room for backpacks, climbing gear, and bicycles.
While in Zion Canyon, you may get on and off the shuttle as often as you like.

Springdale Shuttle Bus

If you are staying in Springdale, you can also take a shuttle bus from Springdale to Zion. In coordination with the Zion Canyon Shuttle, the Springdale Shuttle will pick up and drop off passengers in the town of Springdale. To avoid parking hassles, park in Springdale, and ride the shuttle to the park’s pedestrian entrance, the closest stop to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You can check the hours and stops from Springdale here.

shuttle bus in Zion National Park

Zion National Park – 9 Shuttle Stops

There are 9 stops on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Therefore, you can take the bus and get off at any stop. Buses ride every 15 minutes or even more often. Below you will find information on which trailhead starts at each stop and what are the best views. See the detailed rules on the NPS website.

Visitor Center

1. One of the best things to do in Zion National Park is to start visiting the park from Visitor Center. The Visitor Center building is located inside the park’s South Entrance, near Springdale. It’s worth starting your visit from the Visitor Center. You can take the latest maps, check the weather, and get information about the trails and safety on the trails. Furthermore, you may check whether the trails have not been closed due to the weather conditions. Finally, you can get wilderness permits here. The visitor center is open daily during the following hours:

  • Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.;
  • Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.;
  • Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.;
  • Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    But check updates on their website.
Zion: The Complete GuideDay Hikes of Zion Map-GuideZion Trails Illustrated MapHiking Zion and Bryce Canyon
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2. One of the top attractions in Zion National Park is the Museum. Zion Human History Museum is at the second stop. Located a one-half mile north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, the museum is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily with longer summer hours. It is closed from November through February. You can see permanent and temporary exhibits displaying the history of Zion National Park. A video about the Park, bookstore, and water bottle filling station is also shown. Finally, from this stop, you have views of the Towers of the Virgin and Bridge Mountain and access to the Pa’rus Trail.

Canyon Junction

3. Canyon Junction is the third stop. From this point, you can take Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to East Entrance to 8 and 89 to Mt. Carmel Junction, Grand Canyon National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park. There is a tunnel on this road. Furthermore, no bikes or pedestrians are allowed.

The Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was built in the 1920s when large cars were less frequent. From Canyon Junction point, you have views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon and access to the Pa’rus Trail.

TRIP TIP: Vehicles 11’4” tall or taller, or 7’10” wide or more full, require one-lane traffic control through the tunnel. Visitors requiring traffic control through the tunnel must pay a $15 fee per vehicle and the entrance fee. Vehicles not permitted in the tunnel include the following: vehicles over 13’1” tall; Semi-trucks and commercial vehicles; Vehicles carrying hazardous materials; Vehicles weighing more than 50,000 lb; Combined vehicles or buses over 50 ft.

Court of the Patriarchs

4. Court of the Patriarchs is the fourth stop. From this stop, you have to take a short and steep trail to the viewpoint with views of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Peaks, Mount Moroni, and The Sentinel.

Zion Lodge

5. At stop number 5 is located the famous Zion Lodge. One of the best things to do in Zion is visiting this Lodge. Even if you don’t stay here for a night, stop for a while. It is a historic lodge with restaurants, a bookstore, restrooms, and water bottle-filling stations. You can get here by private car only if you have a reservation at the Lodge. This stop lets you view Lady Mountain, Heaps Canyon, and the Virgin River. Finally, from this point, you have access to the famous Emerald Pools Trails, The Grotto Trail, and Sand Bench Trail.

things to do in zion national park

The Grotto

6. Stop number six is The Grotto. It is a shaded picnic area among cottonwood trees, with restrooms and water. You have excellent views of the Virgin River and Angels Landing from this stop. From this stop, you can access The Grotto Trail, Kayenta Trail, West Rim Trail, and the famous Angels Landing Trail via West Rim Trail.

Weeping Rock

7. Stop number 7 name is Weeping Rock. Dripping springs create hanging gardens. From this stop, you have views of Angels Landing and Big Bend. Furthermore, there is access to the Weeping Rock Trail, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point via the East Rim Trail.

Big Bend

8. Stop number eight is Big Bend. You can view the Virgin River, Angels Landing, and The Great White Throne from this stop.

Temple of Sinawava

9. The last stop of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is known as the Temple of Sinawava. First, this point is the gateway to The Narrows, one of the best Zion hikes. There are restrooms and water bottle filling stations at this stop. You can access the Riverside Walk with beautiful views, the Virgin River, and The Narrows from this stop. The Narrows gorge is only 20 feet (6 m) wide and up to 2,000 feet (610 m) tall. One of the best things to do in Zion National Park is to take the Riverside Walk and admire the surroundings of the Virgin River. Even if you don’t plan the Narrows hike, do Riverside Walk. It’s an easy and short walk with spectacular views.

PRO TIP: One of the best books about Zion, which we can recommend, is : Zion: The Complete Guide. It describes all the trails in the park. It not only tells you all the things to see and do in the park- but it has tons of information on the park’s ecology, plants, animals, and the history of Zion. James Kaiser is an award-winning author and photographer whose work has appeared on the cover of National Geographic. Buy it here.
If you are looking for a good map of Zion National Park, our favorite is Zion National Park Trails Illustrated Map.
But if you are planning to visit other parks in Utah, it is most profitable to buy a set of 5 maps for Utah’s Mighty 5.

The Narrows in Zion National Park

Zion National Park Weather

The weather in Zion National Park can be surprising. So, always check the Zion weather and alerts on the Park website before your visit. Always be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. Temperatures in the park can vary dramatically with changes in elevation and the time of day. The best idea is to dress in layers to prepare for temperature changes. Take also a lot of water and extra food. So, what is the best time to visit Zion National Park? In our opinion, it is Fall and late Spring.

Spring in Zion National Park

You should have warm, sunny weather (rarely over 90 degrees), but it can get rainy often, especially in March – mid-May, so be prepared for the rain. Furthermore, temperature also varies with elevation and time of day. It is best to dress for a hike in layers. The snowmelt and high water levels last until May, so check the weather before the hike and if the trail is open (it might be closed because of the weather condition).

Summer in Zion National Park

In the summer months, Zion gets hot, with temperatures regularly surpassing 100 °F/38°C. Higher elevations may have temperatures above 90°F/32°C. The monsoon season is from July to September, surprising with thunderstorms, lightning, and heavy rain. As a result, some trails, like The Subway or The Narrows, might be closed due to weather and high water level. Bring extra clothes and check the weather before your hike. Finally, remember that flash floods are often and can be built from even a tiny amount of water.

Fall in Zion National Park

Fall is the best season for visiting Zion. Temperatures cool down, it’s dry, and the trees go full of fall color. It’s the most beautiful season for hiking and taking pictures. But as always, check the weather before your hike. Be prepared for chilly mornings and evenings.

Winter in Zion National Park

It might be cold and wet. Furthermore, some trails might be closed, and roads too, so check alerts before you go. It might be icy, even freezing, so wear warm clothes.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park Lodging – Where to Stay in Zion?

Zion Lodge

First, Zion Lodge is the only “in-park” lodging in Zion. It’s located next to bus stop number 5, about 4.8 miles to Springdale center and 3.8 miles to Zion National Park South Entrance. It’s a fabulous hotel with excellent reviews. It has cabins, hotels, rooms, and suites. As a result, it’s not cheap because of its unique location and history.
Furthermore, if you stay in this hotel, you can drive to this place in your car. But after this point, you must take a shuttle bus in front of the hotel to get to stops 6 to 9. Finally, Zion Lodge enjoys a lot of interest among tourists, so we advise you to book it several months in advance.

We recommend staying in Springdale because it is a beautiful town with exciting restaurants and shops, where you can have a great time after visiting the park. And what’s more, accommodation prices are for any budget.

Lodging in Springdale, Utah

Springdale, Utah, is a charming little town. Incredibly picturesque, surrounded by the red walls of Zion Canyon. Furthermore, the city has beautiful aesthetic architecture, too. Finally, accommodation, restaurants, and souvenir shops will be found here. And most of all, you will find here outdoor equipment rentals if you need climbing equipment, bikes, or water trekking equipment for hiking the Narrows. Most noteworthy, we advise you to book hotels well in advance. Always check the reviews before making a reservation on Booking.com.

Below you will find hotel suggestions with the highest guest rates and the best value for money for any budget. But it is not easy to find a cheap and pleasant room in Springdale. So it is worth checking out towns 30-40 minutes drive from Zion National Park. Accommodation prices are much lower in Hildale or La Verkin. So if you are looking for budget options, check out these towns. On the map below, you will see the current accommodation offers and the precise location of the hotels, making it easier for you to decide which hotel to choose.

Budget Hotels in Springdale – the entrance to Zion National Park

Zion Park Motel is set in Springdale, 1 mile from Zion National Park, and is 92 meters from the shuttle to Zion National Park. This 2-star motel offers barbecue facilities. The property provides a children’s playground.
Red Rock Inn Cottages offers a terrace and mountain views. Red Rock Inn Cottages is located in Springdale. Free breakfast is served daily. Zion National park is 1.2 miles from the property.

things to do in zion

Mid-Range Hotels in Springdale – the entrance to Zion National Park

Driftwood Lodge is less than 2 miles from the entrance to Zion National Park. It features a seasonal outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a picnic area. Access to the Virgin River is also available. Free WiFi is provided.
La Quinta by Wyndham at Zion Park is just 3 miles from Zion National Park. A seasonal outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, and fitness center are provided at Zion Park La Quinta Inn and Suites.

Luxury Hotels in Springdale – the entrance to Zion National Park

Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites is our personal choice. So, we highly recommend it. We like its high quality. It is located just outside Zion National Park. They are within walking distance to the park, restaurants, and shopping. There is a bus stop for the shuttle service into the park and around town. Mountains surround the hotel, so you can relax on your balcony and enjoy the views. SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel is surrounded by the canyons of Zion National Park. Every hotel room has a view or partial view of the canyon or Eagle’s Craig.


Hotels near Zion National Park

Apart from Springfield, you have several other towns with attractive accommodations in the area of Zion National Park. Furthermore, the prices are much better. And it’s not so far from the Park, too. So it’s worth considering lodging in Virgin, La Verkin, Hurricane, Hildale, and Kanab. Finally, you can find budget options, but luxury and original lodging are possible too.

We often stopped in Hurricane, Kanab (our favorite town, as Kanab offers fantastic outdoor activities), or La Verkin to save on accommodation. We set off to Zion National Park early in the morning to find a parking place and avoid traffic jams before the park. The differences in the price of accommodation, especially in the high season, are significant. Therefore, if you care about savings in the holiday budget, one of the following towns is worth considering.

Lodging in Virgin

Virgin Utah is around 15 miles from Zion National Park. It’s only 20 minutes driving. A good choice is Zions Tiny Oasis featuring mountain views, free WiFi, and free private parking.
Under Canvas Zion offers a unique lodging experience as incredible and unique as the park. It provides luxury tents. The camp seamlessly blends in with its dramatic surroundings (the majestic red rocks that make the park so famous), and the three options of luxury tents allow guests to enjoy Utah’s spectacular desert without giving up the comforts of home.

Lodging in La Verkin

La Verkin, Utah, is 20 miles and 30 minutes drive from Zion National Park. You can find Best Western Plus Zion West, which is our favorite hotel chain. Or the cheaper Hotel Zion.

Lodging in Kanab

Kanab is our favorite town in Utah. We love to stay overnight in this charming town. Also, it’s only a 30- and 40-minute drive to Zion National Park. We like its atmosphere and hiking possibilities. We spent there a few weeks. Our lodging choice in Kanab is Best Western Red Hills. Check out also Historic Parry Lodge in Kanab. If you plan to stay in this city, check out the best things to do in Kanab, as this place is worth visiting.

Lodging in Hurricane

Hurricane Utah is 23 miles and around 35 minutes drive from Zion National Park. Budget hotels with good quality are Motel Super 8 by Wyndham Hurricane and Days Inn by Wyndham Hurricane.

Lodging in Hildale

Hildale, Utah, is around 47 miles from Zion National Park (50 minutes driving). If you are looking for original accommodation, luxury tents are worth considering. You have two options in this area:
Canaan Cliffs Glamping offers tents with a terrace. This tented camp has a garden and free private parking. It is the best location in the area. It is situated on the side of the mountains where you can see incredible sunsets (and beautiful starry nights).
Zion Luxury Camping offers luxury tents with mountain views featuring a bathroom and shower. This property has a patio and free private parking.

things to do in zion national park

Zion National Park Campgrounds

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South Campground and Watchman Campground are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on Kolob Terrace Road. Camping is permitted in designated campsites but not pullouts or parking lots. Camping is popular; all campgrounds are often full by mid-morning. From mid-March through late November, the campgrounds are full almost every night. So, to make reservations at South Campground and Watchman Campground, visit www.recreation.gov if you want to guarantee a camping spot.

RV Camping near Zion National Park

Zion Canyon Campground & Zion Campfire Lodge is located in Springdale. It’s only 0.5 miles from the South entrance to Zion National Park and has excellent reviews.
In Virgin, you will find Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground surrounded by majestic mountain views. It’s a great place!
WillowWind RV Park is located in Hurricane, a great home base for Zion, Bryce & Grand Canyon Parks.

Moon Zion & BryceZion & Bryce Canyon50 Best Short Hikes in Utah's NP5 Utah National Parks
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Camping on Public Lands – BLM area

But if you don’t need any amenities, water, electricity, or a toilet, you may use the Utah BLM area. If you are looking free overnight stay, you can use the BLM area in Utah (Bureau of Land Management) and park in the public lands. Before you park on public land, check the BLM website for the conditions and rules of where and how long you can park. When we traveled by RV, we often camp on public lands.

things to do in zion
things to do in zion

10 Best Things to Do in Zion National Park – Hiking

1. Go For a Hike in Zion

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Zion National Park. We have visited many national parks, but Zion is one of the best when it comes to hiking trails.

First, there are a lot of hiking trails. Second, they are well-signed. And third, they have very different levels of difficulty. That’s why Zion National Park is an excellent place for families. There are very easy routes here for older people, people with limited mobility, and small children or parents with strollers. But there are also challenging and demanding routes. Of course, there are also hikes without marked trails, where you can easily get lost and need a permit.

Below you will find a list of our favorite routes, sorted by difficulty. This will make it easier for you to plan the route considering your needs and possibilities. Choose at least one of the hikes from our list below.

Best Hikes in Zion National Park

The three best hikes in Zion National Park are Angeles Landing Trail, The Subway, and The Narrows. In separate articles, you will find details about these three hikes with maps and all the necessary information. Below you will find basic info about the most exciting hikes in Zion. They are divided into easy, moderate, and demanding trails.

TRIP TIP: If you are planning holidays in Utah, check our detailed Utah Photography & Travel Guide, where you can find the most exciting & must-see places in Utah and valuable hints for trip planning. Check also our ready-to-go Utah Mighty 5 road trip itinerary!

things to do in zion national park
things to do in zion national park

Best Easy Hikes in Zion National Park

Pa’rus Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 1
Hike Location: Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Round Trip Duration:
2 hours, 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Elevation Change:
50 feet (15 m)
Trail Description:
Easy, paved trail follows the Virgin River from the South Campground to Canyon Junction.

wildlife in zion national park

Lower Emerald Pool Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 5
Location: Zion Lodge
Round Trip Duration:
1 hour, 1.2 miles (1.9 km)
Elevation Change:
69 feet (21 m)
Trail Description:
A nice paved trail leads you to the Lower Emerald Pool and waterfalls. Connects to the Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pool Trails.

Weeping Rock Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 7
Location: Weeping Rock
Round Trip Duration:
0.5 hour, 0.4 mile (0.6 km)
Elevation Change:
98 feet (30 m)
Trail Description:
It’s a short but a little bit steep hike. This paved trail ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs, which looks impressive.

Weeping Rock Trail in Zion National Park

Riverside Walk in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 9
Location: Temple of Sinawava
Round Trip Duration:
1.5 hours, 2.2 miles (3.5 km)
Elevation Change
: 57 feet (17 m)
Trail Description: We love this easy trail. It’s the essence of Zion. A paved trail follows the Virgin River along the bottom of a narrow canyon. It offers beautiful views, the sounds of the river, and wildlife.

zion national park wildlife preparing for winter

Best Moderate Hikes in Zion National Park

Upper Emerald Pool Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 5
Location: Zion Lodge
Round Trip Duration:
1 hour, 1.0 mile (1.6 km)
Elevation Change:
200 feet (61 m)
Trail Description:
It’s a sandy and rocky trail that climbs to the Upper Emerald Pool at the base of a cliff. It’s a great idea to connect it with Lower Emerald Pool Trail.

Kayenta Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 6
Location: The Grotto
Round Trip Duration:
1.5 hours, 2.0 miles (3.2 km)
Elevation Change:
150 feet (46 m)
Trail Description:
It’s an unpaved climb to the Emerald Pools. Connects The Grotto to the Emerald Pools Trails.

The River, Zion National Park

Best Strenuous Hikes in Zion National Park

Angels Landing via West Rim Trail in Zion National Park

Shuttle Stop: 6
Location: The Grotto
Round Trip Duration:
4 – 5 hours, 5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Elevation Change: 1488 feet (453 m)
Trail Description:
We love this hike, so you can find details with the map in a separate article. The last section is a route along a steep, narrow ridge to the summit. YOU MUST HAVE A PERMIT for this hike. Check details on this post.

The Angels Landing Trail in Zion

The Narrows via Riverside Walk

Shuttle Stop: 9
Location: Temple of Sinawava
Round Trip Duration:
up to 8 hours, 14.0 miles (22.5 km)
Elevation Change:
334 feet (102 m)
Trail Description:
We love this hike, so you can find details with the map and how to prepare for it in a separate article.

The Narrows in Zion National Park

The Subway Hike in Zion National Park

Trailhead Location: Begin on the Kolob Reservoir Road about 8.2 miles above the town of Virgin.
Round Trip Duration:
8.0 miles, 8 to 10 hours
Trail Description:
We love this hike, so you can find details with map, and how to get a permit in our separate article. YOU MUST HAVE A PERMIT for this hike.

The Subway in Zion National Park

Best Things to do in Zion National Park besides Hiking

2. Explore the Sights along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from Shuttle Bus

Be sure to take the free shuttle bus both ways. You can hop on and off freely at any of the 9 stops. This is a great tour and the best option if you don’t have much time to explore Zion. Be sure to get off at stop number 9 and walk at least a bit along the Virgin River.

3. Take a Riverside Walk

As mentioned earlier, the last stop on shuttle bus #9 is the Temple of Sinawava. This is the start of the Riverside Walk, a scenic 2.2-mile loop trail. It’s an easy, paved path but offers breathtaking views along the river. You don’t have to go all the way to enjoy this part of the park. Walk as far as you can. At the end of the trail, the hike to the Narrows begins. Taking a Riverside Walk is one of the best things to do in Zion.

4. Admire Wildlife and Birding Watching in Zion National Park

Zion is home to 291 species of birds. While walking in the park is worth observing the trees and rocks to spot birds. It’s also home to 78 species of mammals, 37 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 8 species of fish. You can encounter peregrine falcon, California condor, yellow warblers, lizards, Mule deer, wild turkeys, Western rattlesnakes, gray foxes, mountain lions, red-spotted toads, porcupines, and much more. Check the official website for the list.

5. Learn about the area at the Zion Human History Museum

Make sure to visit this Museum, as it’s a pretty exciting place. You learn a lot about the park and the surrounding area. Exhibits include geology, plants, animals, survival, and community.

6. Make a Picnic in Zion

There are several beautiful picnic spots within the park. You can relax in a natural setting and enjoy a meal with friends or family. They are Visitor Center Picnic Area, Grotto Picnic Area, and Kolob Canyons Picnic Area. Make sure to keep food away from wildlife. Use recycling bins for aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

7. Get your feet wet in the Virgin River

Even if you don’t plan to make the Narrows trail, one of the fun things to do in Zion is wade in the river water. In summer, the water is warm enough to wade with your feet in the river. However, it’s worth having neoprene shoes or waterproof sandals. We did the Narrows hike in November. It was already cold, and the water was frigid, so we needed more preparation. For details, see this article.

8. Enjoy Springdale

Make sure you take some time to walk around Springdale. The town is charming, you will find excellent shops and restaurants, and you can also go on exciting trips.

9. Admire Sunset in Zion National Park

It’s worth waiting in the park for the sunset. Due to the orange, rusty and red colors of the rocks, the sunsets in Zion are simply spectacular. They are breathtaking.

10. Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which runs east through the park from the south entrance, is as scenic as the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. It winds above the valley and offers dramatic views as the road is next to the cliff face. The route passes through a narrow, 1.1-mile tunnel. Vehicles taller than 13 feet and 1 inch aren’t allowed in the tunnel. So check all the rules and fees on the park’s website before taking this ride.

Best Things to do in Zion National Park in One Day

If you have only one day in Zion National Park and would like to see the beauty of the Park, the best idea is to take a shuttle bus at the Visitor Center and drive to the last stop of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive: 9. Temple of Sinawava.

Then get off the bus and go on Riverside Walk. It’s one of the best things to do in Zion, as it’s stunning scenery. It takes you about 1.5 hours, and the views are spectacular. Go to the and of the path, where The Narrows starts. Return to the bus.

Then get off at point 6, at The Grotto. From this point, you can get to Angels Landing Trail (you must have a permit). You can go to the top, or you can go to the platform where you have spectacular views too. You can find details in a separate article. If you don’t have a permit, or you don’t want to climb high and prefer easier hikes, take Lower Emerald Pool Trail (bus stop 5) or Weeping Rock Trail (bus stop 7). Finally, return to the bus and get off at the 3rd stop. You have a beautiful view of the river and Zion from the bridge next to the road. It is an excellent point for the sunset. If you don’t have a permit for this hike, choose one of those that we recommended above. All hikes in Zion are spectacular!

13 Essentials for Your Day Pack in Zion National Park

Whether the trail is short or long, easy or demanding, you must always be prepared for your hike in Zion National Park. Accidents happen, or the weather can change dramatically in a few minutes. That’s why we pack carefully, even for shorts and leisurely walks. Below is a list of our essentials, the most necessary things you must have on the trail. So we pack the essentials even on day hikes. We do not use most of them but take them just in an emergency. If you are hiking responsibly and carefully, you should have them. They might save your life or someone else life. These items could be essential to your survival if something happens on the trail.

These are items that we always have on hiking trails with us. But if you need a more detailed hiking packing list, you can check out our comprehensive Day Hiking Packing List.

Water is most important even during short hikes, so bring a sufficient amount of water, and extra water in case of emergency. Always carry a water treatment method, f.e.tablets. Check before the hike if there any water sources on the trail. The best idea is to take a light water reservoir.
Take a salty snack, as high energy protein bars and beef jerky or other high - calorie meals, as nuts and sandwiches. Always take extra portions.
Always take a trail map. You can use App with your hike, but remember that there is no coverage often on the trails, so you should have printed maps too.
GPS watch or GPS device allows you to find your location on a digital map accurately. They are waterproof and robust. Another option is to use a smartphone with a GPS app, but often there is no connection on the trails. If you have a phone, remember not to use its battery. Finally, monitor your battery power.
First aid kit with blister care, duct tape. It will help you handle unexpected moments (includes CPR Mask, Bandaids, Blanket, Tourniquet and more)
Headlap or flashlight with spare batteries. Yes, we take it with us even if the hike is lasting only a few hours during the day. A long time ago we lost during the day and then we had to come back through the wilderness at night. You never know what will happen, that's why we always have headlamp with us.
Emergency sleeping bag, which serves as your emergency blanket, survival shelter, and emergency bivy sack all-in-one.
Pocket Knife with Multitool it's ideal for outdoor activities like camping, and hiking. It's essentail for gear repair, food preparation, first aid.
Fire Starter, because in case of an emergency, you need to have reliable supplies with you for starting and maintaining a fire.
Emergency Whistles is must-have, too. Battery in the cellphone will run down, or there will be no coverage on the trail, and this is the only way you can call for help.
Sun protection. Always pack with you and wear sunglasses, sun-protection hat and sunscreen.
Always carry some type of emergency shelter to protect you from wind and rain in case you get stranded or injured on the trail.
Extra Clothes. Even for short hikes, we dress in layers. We always have high trekking shoes with reliable traction, and we use trekking poles, too. But we always put it in the backpack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. We add a warm hoodie, raincoat, gloves, a hat, and socks,in case of weather breakdown.

Hiking Tips for Visiting Zion National Park

Balance Water and Food

Do not force yourself for fluids. Drink when you are thirsty and stop when you are quenched. Snacks are also important during your hike. Because over-hydration can lead to hyponatremia. So take high-protein snacks and balance water and food during your hike.

Knows the Signs of Hyponatremia, Hypothermia and Heat Illness

Signs of Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a low sodium concentration in the blood. It is caused by over-hydration. So you should always balance hydration with salty and high-protein snacks and meals, or electrolytes, or protein bars, and you should rest frequently. Mild symptoms include a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, difficulty walking, and poor balance. Severe symptoms include confusion, seizures, and even coma.

Signs of Hyphothermia

Hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F) in humans. Symptoms depend on the temperature. Hypothermia is when heat is lost faster than the body can produce it. It occurs when someone is exposed to external factors that lower body temperature for a long time, e.g., ice water or in the cold. Signs of hypothermia: uncontrolled shivering, exhaustion, and confusion. The best idea is to take extra dry clothes, like thermal underwear (for men or women), and put on dry clothing. Drink warm water and liquids, and protect yourself from cold, wind, rain, or snow by using warm clothes (such as waterproof layers, warm hoodie) and an emergency shelter or emergency sleeping bag.

Signs of Heat Illness

Heat illness is a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure human body to heat. It includes minor conditions such as heat cramps, heat syncope, and heat exhaustion, as well as the more severe disease known as heat stroke. Signs of heat illness are headaches, dizziness, vomiting and nausea, cramping, and decreased urine output. So remember that hydration is most important during your hike, take a lot of water, but you should balance it with high-energy foods, as high protein bars or beef jerky. Rest in the shade, and remember to protect your head and body from the sun.

Take Care of Your Body

Watch your body while hiking. Even experienced hikers have weaker days. If you start to feel dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, take a rest. Drink and eat a salty and high-proteins snack and rest as long as you feel better.
If you are cold, put on extra layers and eat. If you are hot, drink more water and rest in the shade. Protect your body from the sun.

Restore Your Energy & Avoid Heat

We use much more energy during the hike. So eat more before you start hiking, even double your average intake.
And take extra snacks for the trail. Calories play an essential role in regulating body temperature and affect our behavior during hiking.
Start hiking early in the morning if you go on the trail in the summer months. You will avoid heat. During noon take more extended breaks in the shade, relax and enjoy the views, but avoid exhausting hiking at noon.
Always take extra clothing. Even in summer, you can cool down the body. Be prepared for the weather changes.
During winter, take extra clothes too, especially waterproof and windproof and extra socks. Always take a warm hat, gloves, and thermal underwear.

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  1. Thank you for the heads up as we’re planning to visit and totally forgot about securing wilderness permits. The boys are so excited to go canyoneering. Will make sure to visit the Canyon Junction. 

  2. As a hiker, the Zion National Park has been on my list for a long time as i also love to take scenic landscape shots with my camera. Looking at the variety of hiking trails you have mentioned, I can’t choose which one I would do first but would love to try them all. Fantastic tips also for people on what to take on a hike. Its amazing how many times I have known other hikers not having the right equipment. I also sometimes forget things. 😛 

  3. I love the rugged, rocky scenery in this park – it looks like the kind of place I could easily spend a week – or maybe even more.  I also like that there’s a shuttle bus stopping at a good cross-section of park attractions – it’s a great way of keeping some of the traffic off the road.  I’m a big fan of supporting the locals when I’m visiting an area, so would definitely take the option of staying in one of the towns – your favourite sounds like a winner!  

  4. We loved our visit to the Utah parks in 2019.  We spent on day in Zion and it was easy to see that there was so much more to do.  I did not know we needed a wilderness permit for some parts of the park.  We didn’t stay in Springdale.  But having a shuttle from there might make that a better choice next time.  We really wanted to stay at the Lodge but we left our planning until too late.  Thanks for taking me back!

  5. Zion is one of the places I visited briefly on a family trip in the 1980s and really want to return to and explore more. It’s useful to know you are allowed to drive the Scenic drive only if you are staying at Zion Lodge, or sing the East Entrance tunnel. And your summary of the various trails is also super helpful. 

  6. Wow! This is quite a comprehensive post. I had never heard about Zion National Park but now your pictures and the detailing have got me interested. I would prefer to take the shuttle.  It will help to identify all the important pit stops and make the most of it. The weeping rock and Temple of Sinawava have got my eye. 

  7. Zion National Park looks like a great place for hiking. It is good to know that Zion National Park has both easy and moderate hiking trails. I particularly liked the Narrows Trail. The photographs are awesome and had me in. The Subway trail also sounds nice with walking down the waterfalls. As a hiker, I love to explore this kind of places. Hope to visit this part of the world some day.

  8. Looks like you definitely need more than a day to take in all the sights. If I ever visit, I’ll definitely have to take up your suggestion for the 1-day itinerary to make sure I get to see all the main sights of the national park. Thanks for all the details! 

  9. Great post!! As an adventurist, I have always loved me a great hike, and any hike in the canyon fits just perfect to me. I never thought that the national park would have so many options and places to see. I would love to get some pictures of these pristine canyons, I love hoe amazing the weeping waterfall looked.

  10. Zion was one of my very favourite USA National Parks visited with my family when I was a kid (back in the 1980s) and made a huge impression on me, visually. Great to read some current tips on how to make the most of a visit today!

  11. I could look at photos of Zion National Park all day, and the more I read the more it climbs my bucket list. I wasn’t aware that they had a shuttle bus or that you needed permits, those are super helpful tips. Short hikes are always my favorite and one like Weeping Rock would be exactly my cup of tea, or Upper Emerald Pool. But, for the Subway Hike I htink I’d copnsider leaving my “2 miles or less” preferances behind to experience something so unique!

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