Park Guide: Zion National Park

Park Guide: Zion National Park

In this post, we will help you find your way around Zion National Park. We will go over some highlights you won’t want to miss, as well as discuss where you can stay.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through our links we may earn a commission which helps to support our testing.

At the southwest corner of Utah, you will find Zion National Park, which is world-famous for its dramatic slot canyon.

Originally, the name of the park was “Mukuntuweap National Monument,” as it was named by President William Howard Taft. That name translated to “straight canyon.”

Although we are not fans of the cultural bias that was involved in the name change to “Zion,” there is no denying that the poetry of the current name is in some ways a truer fit for the park. As you explore its 146,597 acres, you will swear you have entered the Kingdom of Heaven.

In this post, we will help you find your way around Zion National Park. We will go over some highlights you won’t want to miss, as well as discuss where you can stay.

Zion National Park: Things to See and Do

While you are planning your trip to Zion National Park, here are a few things to add to your bucket list:

  • Court of the Patriarchs: This is a wide open area where you can marvel at three dramatic peaks named Isaac, Jacob and Abraham. There is a short trail you can use to reach an overlook, as well as access here to the Sand Bench Trail.
  • Angel’s Landing: This is the name of a challenging but popular hike in the park. You will climb 1,488 feet and traverse 5.4 miles (as a round trip). It takes about 4 hours on average, and you do need a permit.
  • The Narrows: The most famous part of Zion National Park is the Narrows. As you might guess, this is where the canyon becomes narrow, and you get to see the smooth, colorful walls carved by flash floods. You will be hiking through water, so it requires a fair bit of endurance (and the right attire and footwear). If you take the bottom-up hike starting at the Temple of Sinawava, you do not need a permit. If, however, you do the 16-mile through-hike starting at Chamberlain’s Ranch, then you do need a permit.
  • Zion Mt. Carmel Highway Scenic Drive: While you need to use the park’s shuttle to access some areas, this drive is one you can take in your own automobile. It is not very long, but the entire route is spectacular, and likely will be among the most memorable drives you ever take in your life.
  • Lava Point: While you are visiting the Kolob Terrace area, you will want to stop by this viewpoint. The views are stunning, and the crowds are not too dense in this area. If possible, try and time your visit for sunset.
  • Canyon Overlook: If Angel’s Landing or the Narrows sound like a bit more hiking than you are prepared to do, you could instead try the trail to Canyon Overlook. It is just 1 mile as a round trip. It is not particularly steep, and is therefore less fatiguing and easier on a technical level than some other Zion trails. But the view you will get to enjoy at the end will blow your mind.
  • Rock formations: Along with the Court of the Patriarchs, some other incredible rock formations to check out at Zion include Checkerboard Mesa, Beehives, Bridge Mountain, Mountain of the Sun, Lady Mountain, the Great White Throne, the Spearhead, the Towers of the Virgin, and the Pulpit.

While in Zion, you can hike, cycle, go canyoneering, climb, ride on horseback and more. You will also want to be on the lookout for wildlife. You may spot mule deer, Western rattlesnakes, wild turkeys, gray foxes, Mexican spotted owls, California condors and more.

Where to Stay in Zion National Park

If you want to camp in Zion National Park, you can stay at any of these three campgrounds:

  • Watchman Campground
  • Lava Point Campground
  • South Campground

Outside the park, there are some additional campgrounds you can consider as well. Wherever you are planning to stay, be sure to look up the amenities available on-site so you know what to pack. Make your reservations well in advance to ensure you get a spot.

On the official park site, NPS points out that there are not a lot of trees around Watchman Campground and South Campground. During summer, it can get to be quite hot. That means that a pop-up canopy tent can be a huge help. It will provide you with some much-needed shade, while still offering comfortable open airflow, giving you somewhere pleasant to relax at your site.

If you do not want to camp (perhaps because it is too hot), another option is to book a reservation at Zion Lodge. Although it is not the historic original, it was designed to be similar to that structure.

There are also some hotels and motels near the entrance of the park, as well as in nearby St. George. Some of these lodgings are very affordable, so you have a ton of options for where you will sleep while you are visiting Zion National Park.

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Zion

To wrap up our post, here are answers to some common questions visitors ask about exploring Zion National Park.

Q: Can I drive through Zion without paying?

A: No. Even if you just want to drive through Zion National Park without stopping, you must purchase a pass. Don’t worry—it is absolutely worth every penny, even if you will only be spending a couple of short hours in the park.

Q: Can I enter Zion National Park any time?

A: Zion National Park is open in every season. At the time of this writing, we see no indication that timed entry is required.

Enjoy Zion National Park  

Now you know what to expect when you visit Zion National Park. With its awe-inspiring rock formations, its exciting plant and animal life, and numerous activities to enjoy, you will love every minute you spend exploring one of the world’s most breathtaking desert parks.

Latest Articles

View All
social media

Follow us and learn more