This national park truly has something for everyone. Famous for its massive canyon that averages 2,000 feet deep, its other attractions include the fascinating history of the land, plus the many opportunities to explore all of its nooks and crannies on foot, horseback, by bicycle, or for the more adventurous, tethered to a line while canyoneering. Let’s explore Zion National Park!
Canyons and Peaks of Zion National Park
Zion Canyon is the most famous canyon in the park, known for its extreme depth at 3,000 feet in places. It merges with Pine Creek Canyon. The stunning view from Angels Landing is famous for the hike to get there and the view of Zion Canyon from the landing. The Kolob Canyons are part of Zion National Park, but they are located north of Zion Canyon. There are over 20 miles of hiking trails in Kolob Canyons where you can experience peaks of Navajo limestone, canyon streams, and picturesque scenery. There’s also a slot canyon in the Kolob Terrace area.
Other prominent features of Zion National Park include the Great White Throne, a monolith made of Navajo Sandstone; the Court of the Patriarchs, a sandstone cliff; and the Sentinel measuring over 7,000 feet.
Brief History of Zion National Park
Small populations of Native Americans inhabited the area more than 8,000 years ago. Some of these groups were the Basketmaker Ancestral Puebloans who settled in permanent communities. By 1300 those early settlers were replaced by Southern Paiute subtribes. Mormons settled the area in the early 1860s and gave the name Zion to the area, which means “refuge” in Hebrew. It was established as a national park in 1919, and the Kolob Canyon section was incorporated into the park in 1956.
Things to Do
It might be more accurate to ask what you can’t do at Zion National Park because the list of activities is so long. If hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, canyoneering, rock climbing, bicycling, or stargazing are things you enjoy, then you’ll love Zion National Park. You can also join ranger-led hikes, take river trips, or just enjoy the vast wilderness of the area. It’s also a great place for bird watching, with 291 species of birds on the list, and other wildlife viewing.
Things to Know
Reservations are not required to enter Zion National Park. There is a park admission fee, but if you have an Annual, Access, or Lifetime Pass, simply present that at the entry point and start enjoying the park.
Some of the trails like Hidden Canyon Trail and part of the hike to Angels Landing can be harrowing for those who are afraid of heights. On the other hand, those hikes might simply be considered adventurous by others. Be aware that some hikes are more strenuous — and scary — than others and plan accordingly. The visitors center has information about the hikes in the park, so take some time to figure out what will be fun for you.
As with many other national parks, dogs are not allowed on unpaved hiking trails but they can accompany you on paved surfaces. Leashed dogs are allowed on Pa’rus Trail, near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, and in campgrounds and picnic areas.
There are three campgrounds in Zion National Park, but if you plan to camp there, make reservations as far in advance as possible. The campgrounds are first-come, first-served, but they fill up quickly. Nearby areas have motel rooms, cabins, and suites. Snacks are available in the visitors center but there are no restaurants in the park.
Most visitors arrive in the summer months even though this is the hottest season. If possible, plan your trip for fall or spring when the weather is more favorable and there are fewer visitors. The park is open in the winter but you might find some roads and trails closed due to snow and ice. Whatever time of year you arrive, plan on wearing sunscreen and be sure to take water with you.
How to Get There
Zion National Park is located near Springdale, Utah, near I-15. Las Vegas is the closest large airport at 170 miles away, while the Salt Lake City airport is 300 miles away. If you’re flying, you might want to transfer from one of the larger airports to Cedar City, Utah, which is 57 miles away, or Saint George, Utah, which is only 40 miles away. If you plan to drive and park in the national park, be aware that the parking lots fill up quickly.
An alternative is to catch the shuttle in nearby Springdale, Utah. The shuttle runs from March to November and stops at every major trailhead along the canyon drive. No permit is needed to ride the shuttle; just hop on. But note that pets and drinks other than water are not allowed on the shuttle.