As an East Coast girl, Utah blows my mind. Zion National Park, one of the most unique (and most popular) parks in the National Park System, is mesmerizingly massive with steep, red, colossal cliffs that will have you standing in absolute awe. In this post, you’ll find a list of the best hikes in Zion… plus everything else you need to know!
Whether you’re an avid hiker or would prefer to see Zion from the canyon floor, this guide is the resource you need to plan your perfect trip! With hikes ranging in difficultly (easy to strenuous), scenery (along the riverbank or atop the mountains), and accessibility (backpacking on foot or riding a shuttle), the trails can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.
Zion National Park Quick Facts
- Location: Utah, USA
- Time zone: Mountain Standard Time (GMT-7)
- Annual visitors: 4.3 million
- Entrance fee: $35/vehicle for 7 days; $20/person for 7 days; $80 annual NPS pass
- Zion Canyon is 16 miles long, formed over millions of years by the Virgin River
- Home to one of the world’s most dangerous hikes: Angel’s Landing
- Known for large temperature swings up to 30◦F between day/night
- Flash floods can occur at any time – make sure to check the weather!
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Best Time to Visit Zion National Park
Zion National Park gets very hot in the summer (average 100◦F high) and very cold in the winter (average 30◦F low). May through September are the park’s busiest months with very large crowds. Spring or fall are the best times to visit Zion, but each season has its own special allure depending on your preferences:
- Spring – days start to get longer and warmer, wildflowers begin to bloom, higher elevations may still be inaccessible depending on the winter snowfall
- Summer – long hot days with plenty of sunlight, park is fully accessible
- Fall – cooler conditions with beautiful foliage, shuttle service becomes less frequent
- Winter – cold, calm, peaceful snow-covered canyon, shuttle service suspended but accessible by car
Must-Do Zion National Park Activities
Take a stroll along the Riverside Walk and Pa’rus Trail
The Riverside Walk is a beautiful 1.0 mile trail along the Virgin River on a paved out & back trail to the mouth of the Narrows.
The Pa’rus Trail is another paved trail for a nice walk to enjoy beautiful views of the par from the ground. Wildlife and wildflowers are often spotted from this trail. This trail is shared with bicycles.
Rent bikes to ride along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
If you want to skip the shuttle lines and get some extra exercise, you can rent a bike or electric bike and cruise along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive! Riding a bicycle from the Visitor Center to The Narrows (8 miles each way) is a popular way to see the park and all of its popular landmarks. Bicycles must pull over and come to a complete stop so shuttle buses can pass safely.
Drive up to Kolob Canyon
If you want to avoid the crowds, Kolob Canyon is the place for you! On the Northwest corner of the park, Kolob Canyon is lesser known, but Kolob Canyons Road is an incredibly scenic drive to several viewpoints of the crimson canyons. At the top is Kolob Reservoir where you can take a swim or rent kayaks/paddleboards. Kolob Canyon has several hiking trails too!
Best Hikes in Zion National Park
For the adventurous hiker
The Narrows (Bottom Up) – hard – 8.9 miles
The Narrows is one of the most popular and iconic hikes in Zion, hiking in the crystal-clear water of the Virgin River. Be prepared to get wet! The Narrows hike can be up to 8.9 miles roundtrip, if you make it all the way to Big Springs (the point you must turnback if you don’t have a permit). Be sure to check the weather forecast and do not go if there’s rain in the area (can cause flash floods). Proper shoes, neoprene socks and a walking stick are recommended, you can rent some from Zion Adventures. Get in the shuttle EARLY (before the park opens) to beat the crowds.
Angel’s Landing – hard – 4.4 miles (permit required after April 1, 2022)
Angel’s Landing is one of the most dangerous hikes in the world! This is a strenuous hike that isn’t for the faint of heart with steep drop-offs and anchored chain supports but the climb is rewarded with unparalleled views of Zion Canyon for the fearless. Avoid this trail in wet or windy weather.
The Subway – hard – 9.1 miles (permit required)
The Subway is a tunnel-like gorge through the canyon walls with incredible views along the entire trail. This trail is challenging and can require rappelling and swimming through deep pools, depending on the water level. Proper shoes and neoprene socks recommended.
For the average hiker
East Mesa Trailhead to Observation Point – moderate – 7.0 miles
Don’t sleep on this trail!! The Observation Point Trail from Weeping Rock in Zion Canyon has been closed for a couple of years now due to a massive landslide but you can still get to Observation Point via the East Mesa Trailhead on the outskirts of the park. It’s a 7-mile out & back trail mostly flat through ponderosa pine trees, until you emerge out to Observation Point – hands down the best view of the canyon.
Scout Lookout – hard – 3.6 miles
Scout Lookout shares a trail with Angel’s Landing and is a good stopping point for those who do not wish to continue on. The Lookout offers some incredible views of the canyon if you can handle the switchbacks to get there!
Emerald Pools – moderate – 3.0 miles
The Emerald Pools trail is paved to Lower Emerald Pool and waterfall and a rocky trail to Upper Emerald Pool. This is a family friendly hike.
Northgate Peaks – moderate – 6.0 miles
Northgate Peaks is a quieter trail on the Kolob Canyon side of Zion, truly a hidden gem. Kolob Canyon is at a higher elevation than the rest of the park in Zion Canyon, offering some reprieve from the heat on hot summer days. This is a beautiful hike through Ponderosa trees out to the peaks.
Canyon Overlook – moderate – 1.0 mile
Canyon Overlook is the shortest hike in the park and the biggest bang for your buck. This trail is located on the Upper East portion of Zion and offers one of the best views the canyon has to offer!
Most Instagrammable Spots in Zion National Park
- The Watchman
- Angel’s Landing
- The Narrows
- The Subway
- Observation Point
- Canyon Overlook
Where to Stay Near Zion National Park
There are plenty of lodging options within the park and directly around Zion in the town Springdale, Utah. Vacancy in the park and Springdale can be a little difficult to find, being so close to such a popular park. Less than an hour drive to the West is St. George or to the East is Kanab, where you can easily find rooms at a reasonable price. Here’s a list of places to help get you started!
- Zion Lodge – hotel (only one inside the park)
- Watchman Campground – camping (inside park)
- South Campground – camping (inside park)
- Under Canvas Zion – glamping
- Zion Wildflower – glamping
- Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale/Zion National Park – hotel
- SpringHill Suites Springdale Zion National Park – hotel
- Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites – hotel
St. George Accommodations
- Inn on The Cliff St. George – hotel
- Hampton Inn & Suites St. George SunRiver – hotel
- Courtyard by Marriott St. George – hotel
- Charming Casita in Sunny St. George – AirBnB
- The Shed – Centrally Located Casita w E-Bikes – AirBnB
- Hampton Inn Kanab – hotel
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Kanab – hotel
- Red Canyon Cabins – cabins
- Kanab Casita – AirBnB
- Hubble’s Hideaway – AirBnB
Getting to Zion National Park
For most people, getting to Zion National Park involves a flight and a rental car, unless you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance.
Zion National Park Visitor Center location: 1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767
- St. George Regional Airport (SGU) is the closest airport to Zion National Park, though SGU has very limited commercial flights.
- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is about 4.5-hour drive from Zion. SLC is a good option if there are other stops in Utah you’d like to see before you head down to Zion (hint: Bryce Canyon).
- Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) is the preferred and typically most affordable option. The drive from Vegas to Zion is a little over 2.5 hours.
For my Epic & Affordable 10 Day Utah to Arizona Road Trip, we flew into SLC and flew home from LAS.
Zion National Park Shuttle
In the park, parking at the Visitor Center fills quick. From February to November, the canyon floor is only accessible by shuttle bus. The shuttle buses go along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from the Visitor Center to Temple of Sinawava (end of the road) to help you get to the trailheads, lodges, and other stops.
Private vehicles are only allowed to drive the Scenic Drive during the non-shuttle season, usually December to mid-February. There is no parking at any of the trailheads on the canyon floor.
What to Pack for Zion National Park
Your packing list for Zion National Park will be highly dependant on the time of year you plan to go. Summer gets very hot and winter gets very cold so be prepared with weather-appropriate clothing and layers!
Clothing and Shoes to Bring
- Hiking boots
- Quick dry hiking socks
- Hiking sandals
- Long sleeve t-shirts
- Tank tops
- Hiking/biker shorts
- Insulated jacket
- Fleece Pullover
- Sports bras
Other Items to Bring
- Day pack
- Hydration pack
- Fanny pack
- Hiking poles
- Reusable water bottle
- Sut hat
- Baseball cap
Zion National Park Etiquette
Leave No Trace is a national program that aims to protect the outdoors and promote responsible exploration.
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces (stay on trails and campsites)
- Dispose of waste properly (do not leave food waste, wrappers, or human waste)
- Leave what you find (do not take plants, rocks, or other natural objects)
- Minimize campfire impact (campfires are not allowed in Zion National Park)
- Respect wildlife (do not touch, feed, or approach animals)
- Be considerate of other visitors (be courteous on trails and waiting in shuttle lines)
Other Places Near Zion National Park to Explore
- Salt Lake City
- Bonneville Salt Flats
- Meadow Hot Springs
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- The Wave
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
- Vermillion Cliffs
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
- Antelope Canyon
- Horseshoe Bend
- Lake Powell
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Valley of Fire State Park