Zion National Park in Utah may be one of the smaller national parks in the western United States, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. The canyons and sandstone cliffs provide beautiful scenery and a great location for hikers and climbers. Located in southwestern Utah, it is within driving distance of both Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Zion Canyon is the main canyon in the park, and many of the hiking trails start at some point along the canyon. Parking within the park is limited, and a shuttle is the only way to travel throughout the main canyon unless you are staying in one of the park’s lodges. The shuttle stops at various points where you can get out for sightseeing or hiking. A separate shuttle service is also available to and from the town of Springdale, located just outside the park. Visitors who cannot find parking inside Zion can park in Springdale and take the shuttle into the park.
One of the most popular hiking trails at Zion is The Narrows, a day hike of about 8 hours that includes hiking through the shallow waters of the Virgin River, which runs through the park. The tall, narrow slot canyons provide amazing scenery for hikers. Due to the river and the very narrow canyons, be sure to check the weather before entering the narrows as flooding can happen very quickly.
Since many of the hiking trails take a considerable amount of time, you’ll want to have an idea of the specifics of each so you don’t miss out on something that you really want to see or do in your time at Zion. And if you’re interested in photographing the park, see Photographing Zion National Park for all the details and tips.
Tips for Visiting Zion National Park:
- If you enjoy hiking or climbing, plan at least a few days here. Many people visiting Zion are making the rounds between several different National Parks, and so a lot of the stays tend to be short and quick. If hiking and climbing aren’t your interests, you can easily see all of the major points at the main canyon and do some of the shorter, easier hikes in one day. But many of the hikes take several hours, so plan accordingly.
- The town of Springdale includes a number of hotels and restaurants, and it is just outside the park.
- Enter the park at Springdale, if possible. Route 9 runs through the park, but the visitors center and the start of the main shuttle are very close to the entrance at Springdale. If you enter from the east you will have to drive through the park (which is a nice drive if you have the time). Traffic can get heavy, partly because of the small Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. When we were there, even during off-peak season traffic at the tunnel got backed up by 20-30 minutes.
- The Zion Narrows hike involves a lot of walking in shallow water, so be prepared with a walking stick and shoes that can get wet.
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