Zion National Park is considered by many as one of the prettiest and most popular national parks. It is full of colorful canyons and narrow passages through the canyons that will certainly catch your eye. The views on the hiking trails here are insanely beautiful.
The park is split into 3 sections:
- The East End (before the Zion Tunnel)
- Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (center)
- Kolob Canyon (West).
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is where the most popular trails/attractions reside but we recommend seeing all 3 parts of the park. In order to do this, we recommend spending 3-4 days at Zion National Park. Here is our quick guide on Zion National Park.
FYI: This post was written based on a trip taken in mid-September
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What to Do in Zion National Park
Hike Canyon Overlook Trail
1.0 mile round-trip, 163 feet of elevation gain, out & back
Trailhead location: East side of the Zion Tunnel, just before the Zion Tunnel
At the end of this trail, you are afforded stunning views into lower Zion Canyon. This trail has a very brief steep climb at the beginning but levels off after that. It is not too technically or physically challenging. You get amazing views on this trail for minimal effort. We saw several families doing this trail and think this trail is a good option for families with younger children.
Tip: This trail is on the East Side of Zion Tunnel. If doing a roadtrip, it is best to visit this trail when coming from Bryce Canyon to avoid having to go through the tunnel numerous times. Please see Epic 10 Day Utah National Parks/Southwest Road Trip for more details on this trip.
Rent Bike to Ride on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
We rented bikes from Zion Outfitters and rode them onto Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. With these bikes, we were able to stop at any point along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to soak in the views or take a picture (unlike the park shuttle). The road is about 8 miles from the Visitors Center to the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava stop. The ride on this road, mainly on the ride out, does involve a small amount of elevation gain (about ~300-400 feet) but we found this to be very manageable. The ride back is nearly all downhill and feels like a breeze which was especially appreciated after a day of hiking.
Rent from Zion Outfitters
Zion Outfitters is located literally right across the pedestrian entrance to the Zion National Park. You couldn’t get any closer to the park as far as renting bikes. We researched all the different rental options in Springdale and Zion Outfitters was the closest, least expensive and allowed you to have the rentals the longest amount of time. Use them.
Detailed Zion Outfitters Bike Rental Information
Bikes are rented on a first come, first serve basis. The store opens at 7am (per staff, you should have no problem renting if you arrive before 9am) and it costs $35 for full day rental that can be used from 7am-8pm.
A helmet is included in this rental fee. No lock or tire replacement kit is included in the rental fee but if something happens to your bike, we were told they would just bring you a new one. We opted to bring our own lock from home and would encourage you to do the same. A lock not only prevents your bike from getting stolen but also makes it clear which bike is yours. There tend to be a lot of the same bikes at the bike racks in the park so it is easy to lose which one is yours.
Tip: Try to park your car at the Zion National Park Visitors Center for FREE (per staff, typically fills up by 8am) and walk across the pedestrian bridge to Zion Outfitters. Otherwise, you have to pay $25+/day to park in Springdale right outside of Zion Outfitters.
Important Park Tip: Plan Shuttle, Bike or Private Shuttle WELL In-Advance to Access Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
The only ways to access Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (road used to access trailheads for Angel’s Landing, The Narrows, Emerald Pools, etc. are located on) are:
- Riding one of the limited Zion Shuttles (that you need to reserve a ticket to ride)
- Hiring a private outfitter
You cannot drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (you are allowed to drive to the lodge if you are staying there)
We found biking to be the best option for us as it gave us the most flexibility in our schedule. Walking would lead to a VERY LONG day and could be dangerous in the heat if you are planning to do any real hiking in the park. However, if you don’t want to bike, make sure to find out the exact day that shuttle tickets (typically about a month prior) are released for the day/days you want to take the Zion Shuttle and set an alarm for 10 minutes before they become available so you buy them right away. Otherwise, you have a very small chance of getting tickets. They do release more tickets the day before but again, these tickets are limited and sell out within minutes of being released.
Hike Angel’s Landing
4.4 miles round-trip, 1000 feet of elevation gain, out & back
Trailhead location: The Grotto Shuttle Stop on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Starting April 2022, you need to apply for a lottery ticket to hike Angel’s Landing. See the NPS site for all the details here
This hike was our favorite and most memorable hike in Zion and is arguably the most famous. This trail leads to a steep landing, Angel’s landing, where you get panoramic Zion Canyon views.
Beware: This trail is not for the physically unfit or those terrified of heights as it has VERY steep drop-offs. When we hiked Angel’s Landing, the sign at the beginning of the chains section said 10 people had died hiking this trail. However, if you stay on the trail and use the chains provided to steady yourself, you should feel safe throughout the hike.
Tip: Get here early! This trail is a popular hike. With how narrow it is hiking the chain’s section to Angel’s Landing, you do not want to be dealing with a lot of human traffic. We started the trail around 8:15am and would recommend starting by this time or even earlier.
Hike Taylor Creek Trail
5.0 miles round-trip, 450 feet of elevation gain, out & back
Trailhead Location: First parking lot (after the Visitors Kolob Canyon Center) on Kolob Canyon Road.
This trail crosses back and forth over Taylor Creek continuously on your hike. It also takes you through a forest and past two historic cabins. This trail ends at a colorful and unique double arch alcove that is truly stunning and different from the other scenery you will see in Zion National Park.
Further, this trail is located in the Kolobs Canyon part of the park. Traveling to this part is a very nice change of pace from the trails on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (the busy part of the park). We loved this side of the park, as there were minimal people and you are able to hike into the Zion Wilderness. We started this trail around 7:30am and were the first ones on the trail. It was exceedingly serene and peaceful.
Tip: GO TO KOLOB CANYON
Most people who visit Zion do not even go to this part of the park. Don’t make that mistake, visit the Kolob Canyon part of the park! Also, there is a scenic drive in this part of the park that you can drive your car down (no need for shuttle ticket).
Hike The Narrows
9.4 miles round-trip, 334 feet of elevation, out & back
Trailhead location: Temple of Sinawava Shuttle Stop on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
This trail is along/through the Virgin River. The Narrows Trail gets its name as it is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The river is only twenty feet wide at points and is surrounded by gorge walls that are thousands of feet tall.
You do not have to hike the whole Narrows trail as it does not lead to a specific point. However, if you want to get away from the crowds, you definitely need to go a couple miles in. After 1.25 miles, the water becomes higher than waist deep. We opted not to go further than knee-high water. When we visited, there was an outbreak of toxic cyanobacteria in the river (potentially deadly if you ingest). If the river is free from this bacteria when you visit and you want to hike the whole length, start early and plan for it to be your main event of the day. You can also rent special socks and shoes from Zion Outfitters to do this trail which we think would come in handy if you are hiking a large majority of the trail.
Beware: DO NOT hike the narrows if it has recently stormed or is going to storm because the river is subject to very dangerous flash floods.
Where to Stay while Visiting Zion National Park
Stay in Hurricane
We recommend staying in Hurricane, about 30 minutes from the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and 20 minutes from the Kolob Canyon entrance. Hurricaine is the perfect mid-point spot to explore both of these sides of the park. We stayed at a nice 2 bed, 2 bath house with a full kitchen, laundry, and a grill. It was fantastic to have such a nice, reasonably priced, place to relax after some long days of hiking.
In our opinion, the options in Springdale (right outside of Zion) are really overpriced. It would be neat to stay at the Zion National Park Lodge, as it would allow you to walk to the Angel’s Landing trailhead in the morning before any shuttles have come into the park. However, you have to make reservations at this lodge nearly a year in advance. So if you want to stay at the Zion National Park Lodge, plan ahead!
We hope this quick guide helps you plan your trip to Zion National Park. Anything you would add to our guide? Please see Epic 10 Day Utah National Parks/Southwest Road Trip for more details on our trip. Please also visit the Zion National Park Website for additional details. We would love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
And remember, Always Have A Trip Planned!