Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the southwest and west of the United States. I would not compare it with the Grand Canyon, as that is something completely different. But Zion can be compared to Yosemite National Park, even though it is less well known. It has similar picturesque cliffs and waterfalls as in Yosemite, great hiking trails and well established infrastructure for tourists. So, definitely worthy of a dedicated visit lasting several days, if time and money permit.
How to get to Zion National Park
Arriving at Los Angeles, Las Vegas or St George airport, you can rent a car and continue your journey through the national parks of the southwestern United States. Kanab is the nearest city from which it is easy to reach Zion National Park by car.
In Kanab, you can spend the night on a budget and in the morning in less than an hour get to the park via a very scenic road. From Kanab, the entrance to the Zion National Park is less than 50 km.
It is very convenient to combine a trip to Zion national park with the Grand Canyon and other parks in Arizona and Utah, for example, traveling along this route.
Closest airports to Zion National Park
- Utah St George Airport is 70 km away from Zion National Park
- McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas is more than 200 km away from Zion National Park
- Salt Lake Sity’s Airport is 450 km away from Zion National Park
We traveled through Los Angeles and then traveled by car.
Best time to visit Zion National Park
Zion National Park is open year-round and 24 hours a day.
The peak of attendance is traditionally in the summers from June to August. Summer season in Zion Park is hot and dry. Sometimes it may suddenly begin to rain, which will intensify the waterfalls located here. Showers usually begin in the second half of July and continue periodically until mid-September. The park is located at an altitude of about 2000 meters and in the summer the sun rays can be quite intense. so sunscreen and plenty of fluids are necessary even if you sit in the hotel in the shade. Summer air temperature can rise up to +40°C.
The best time to visit Zion National Park is in spring and autumn, from April to mid-July and mid-September to October, due to the decreasing number of visitors and comfortable weather that is not hot. In the same period, accommodation and food prices are slightly reduced.
In winter, from November to mid-March, the park is open, although some tracks and tourist programs are closed. That said, winter is a great uncrowded time to see the beauty of Zion canyons.
It should be remembered that the weather in Zion National Park is unpredictable and can change at any moment. The weather forecast along with a map of Zion Park can be obtained at the Visitor Center from the rangers of the park free of cost.
Read also: Best time to visit Grand Canyon
Traveling within Zion National Park
You can enter your Zion by car, as a rule you can park near interesting places about which I will discuss below. Parking usually works from 10 am to 3 am. Also in many locations parking is available along the streets, watch for signs.
During peak seasons, there are traffic jams at the entrance and limited parking spaces are available. If you come to the park for the whole day, the best option is to leave the car in the town of Springdale as there are many parking places there.
Free shuttles run from Springdale to Zion National Park , making this option very convenient. The nearest shuttle stop is near the pedestrian entrance to the park. Then you can move between park locations on the internal shuttle buses, that are free for everyone.
Moving between the attractions in Zion National Park is also possible in your car. An exception is that driving along the beautiful panoramic Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles. You can only travel this road on free shuttles, which stop often and run regularly throughout the park. Near the beginning of the road there is a large parking for private vehicles.
Other roads, such as Zion Mt. Carmel Highway, Kolob Canyon Roads and Kolob Terrace Road are open for private or rented vehicles.
Free shuttles run through the park in the summer only until October 25 and on weekends in November.
In summary, the you drop the car in the parking lot, transfer to the shuttle with a map in your hands and exit in the place you like. Then you can walk along the pedestrian track and return to the same place or in another and again take the shuttle. You can do this endlessly until you have seen all the most major points of interest. Note that Zion’s attractions are marked on the map. There are also signs and information for tourists. No conductors are needed. Even a child will understand.
As elsewhere in the US national parks, in Zion National Park, the infrastructure is well developed for both pedestrians and motorists, for those who come for one day and for those who stay here for a week. Marked hiking trails, parking lots everywhere, cafes, restaurants, lodges, campsites and hotels are all present. And most importantly, everywhere you can pay by a credit card.
The gas stations and car service stations nearest to the park are located in the cities of Kanab and Springdale.
How much does it cost to visit Zion Canyon National Park
Entrance to the park with your own or rented car costs $30 and the ticket is valid for 7 days. For cyclists or pedestrians, an entrance ticket for 7 days costs $15, motorcyclists must pay $25 for a 7-day ticket to the park.
A separate fee of $10 is charged for visiting Kolob Canyons.
Permits are necessary for night hikes and camping nights. Depending on which part of the track you intend to go through, you must obtain special permits for trips to Narrows, Kolob Creek or Subway slot canyon. It is also necessary to obtain a permit if you are planning to go climbing. The number of daily permits is limited. You can receive permits at the Visitor Center upon arrival.
The maximum number of people in a group cannot exceed 12 people. In places like Subway, Mystery Canyon, Narrows and West Rim, the number of permits in the high season is extremely small.
Permit price –
- $10 for one or two people
- $15 for three to 7 people
- $20 for eight or more people
Mobile Communications in Zion National Park
Good reception of mobile communications is only possible in the city of Springdale and punctually in some places of the Zion national park. Public telephones are available at Campground, Watchman Campground, Zion Canyon Visitor Center, Zion Lodge, and Zion Human History Museum.
What to see and do at Zion National Park
The best part about Zion national park is that you can drive a car or go on a free shuttle to all attractions with short trips in the most beautiful places within 3-5 hours. If you intend to stay longer, you can explore the park by choosing long routes, slowly soaking in the beauty of the wild.
You can start from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and gradually move towards the Temple of Sinawava.
1. Zion Canyon Visitor Center
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located near the south entrance just inside Zion National Park. It is the starting point along the route to Zion Canyon. There is a picnic area, toilets, an information stand with maps, attractions and routes, and many other useful things. Rangers are at hand to answer your questions and give out the backcountry permits that are required for all night hikes and technical climbs located within the national park’s boundaries. Here you will also find information about the status of trails and weather conditions.
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is open from 0800-1900 hrs in the summer months. The operating hours are shorter in rest of the year when there are fewer visitors. The building is open for visitors every day except on 24th December, the Christmas day.
2. Zion Human History Museum
Many Americans love museums, we drove along the entire route but didn’t drop into the museum to save on time on our short trip. The museum has an outdoor exhibition, toilets and a bookstore. There is also an information center and you can fill the bottles with drinking water for free.
3. Canyon Junction
This is the point where the scenic Zion-Mt.Carmel Highway and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive intersect . From here are beautiful views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon can be seen. From this place you can go on a track along Pa’rus Trail, which is also available for cyclists .
4. Court of the Patriarchs
A short and steep climb to the view point with views of the peaks of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the mountains Moroni and The Sentinel.
5. Zion lodge
Historic lodge in Zion Canyon , quite expensive. The conditional center of the national park with restaurants, bars, toilets, drinking water, souvenir shops and other tourist amenities. Here you can take a break before new tracks, which from this point diverge quite a lot.
The most popular routes are Emereald Pools Trail, The Grotto trail and Sand Bench Trail . Nearby is a picturesque Virgin river along which you can meet wild deer and other smaller animals.
6. The Grotto
Next to the lodge is the shuttle bus stop – Grotto, there is a large picnic area, toilets, drinking water. Views of the Virgin river and Angel Landing (Angel Shelter) – an observation deck that is worth a walk. Access to the Grotto Trail, Kayenta trail and West Rim Trail trails.
7. Weeping rock
From this place you can climb to the rock from which dripping water sources formed hanging gardens. Views of Angel Landing and Big Bend . Exit to Weeping Rock and East Rim Trail (East Cornice), Hidden Canyone Trail and Observation Point Trail routes . We left late, after 16:00 and reached the observation points by sunset, we returned almost in the dark. Do not repeat the mistakes, start all the routes BEFORE dinner , then there is a chance to walk along one or three routes in one day and see the maximum.
8. Big bend
The bend of the Virgin River and the picturesque overhanging cliffs around it, offer views of the Virgin River, Angel Landing and The Great White Throne.
9. Temple of Sinawava
The final part of the shuttle bass route, but not the end of the national park. Behind the Temple of Sinawava , a route begins to a place called The Narrows – a narrow crevice along the canyon along which the route is laid, and also a Riverside walk – a hike along the river bed. Everything is only accompanied by rangers-guides and with a separate permit.
Trekking along the The Narrows trail is over 20 km away. along the river sometimes along narrow crevices, hence the name of the route-locality. It takes a whole day, this must be considered when planning. A separate permit is required for this route, see How much it costs to visit Zion National Park.
The best highways in Zion Park with a panoramic view
The aforementioned route along Zion Canyon is a small part of Zion National Park . You can’t see the whole park in any situation, but you can see the main places by driving along the steepest species roads of the park. There are only three of them.
1. Kolob Canyons Road
Located in the northwestern part of the park (Interstate 15), this 5-mile road runs along the red cliffs of Kolob Canyon and ends with the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint.
2. Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway
This 12-mile panoramic road connects the southern and eastern entrances to the Zion National Park, which is prohibited for large trucks.
3. Kolob Terrace Road
This steep 20-mile road starts in Virgin and rises north to where the park can be accessed from Lava Point. The road is often under repair and is not recommended for heavy trailers and cars with a trailer because of its steepness and sharp bends.
Where to stay near Zion National Park
There are lodges and several hotels inside Zion Park. The price of accommodation in them is high due to constant high demand, more than $ 200 per room. To lower the sleeping costs, if you do not want to sleep in tents on campsites, the best option is to find a hotel in the neighboring cities of Springdale or Kanab.
We liked the town of Kanab – from there, in addition to Zion Canyon, you can get to such interesting places as The Wave or White Pocket. In this city you can find inexpensive and comfortable housing for about $60- $100 for two.