Zion National Park Travel Tips
Zion is Utah’s first and oldest park located in the southwest part of the state. It’s also the most visited park in Utah and is ranked in the top 10 most visited National Parks in the United States by National Geographic. The park is gorgeous in all seasons and visitors keep coming back to enjoy this little piece of heaven. The easiest way to get to the park from the south is from I-15 via Highway SR-9. The town of St. George is about an hour away, with Springdale being the closest town to the entrance from the West. If you’re coming from the East, you’ll take US-89 which will connect with SR-9. The park is opened year-round, with both Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer offering different sights and preparation guidelines.
For maps, books, information, and souvenirs, visit the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. They will be more than happy to help you plan your visit with information on hiking trails, horseback riding, picnic areas, Zion Canyon Theatre, and other park activities.
There are 7 day entrance passes for $30 for vehicles and $25 for motorcyclists. The fee is $15 for bicyclists, pedestrians, and hikers. For those who are under 15, the entrance is free. All visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass to enter the park. There are also passes available for group tours. Credit cards are accepted.
To help avoid congestion, Zion offers a free shuttle service from late-March through the end of October. The shuttle offers two routes. One route goes through Springdale and ends at the park entrance and the other route goes through Zion Canyon with 9 stops. These stops include: The Visitors Center, the Zion Human History Museum, Court of the Patriarchs, Canyon Junction, Big Bend, Weeping Rock, Zion Lodge, Grotto, and the Temple of Sinawava. The shuttle buses are equipped with bicycle racks for transporting those who only want to travel part of the way.
Angels Landing – 2.4 mile hike (5 miles round trip)
Canyon Overlook – 1 mile hike (2 miles round trip)
Emerald Pools – 2.4 mile hike (5 miles round trip)
The Narrows – 2.4 mile hike (5 miles round trip)
Weeping Rock – .5 mile hike round trip
Riverside Walk – 1 mile hike (2 miles round trip)
Canyon Overlook – .5 mile hike (1 mile hike round trip)
Watchman – 1 mile hike (2 miles round trip)
Observation Point – 4 mile hike (8 miles round trip)
West Rim to Cabin Spring – 5 mile hike (10 miles round trip)
During the fall, beginning in September, the colors are beautiful and the climate is warmer in the daylight and cooler at night. It’s the best time to visit Zion. The average high temperature in September is around79°, so shorts and a light t-shirt should be comfortable. The average low is about 48°. Always carry a light jacket, just in case. October and November is a little cooler, especially at night. As you get up into the higher elevations, the temperature will also be cooler. Jeans, a long sleeved-shirt, and a heavier jacket are recommended in the late fall. Winter can be cold, with rain, ice and snow. The average high temperature in December is 43°, with the average low of 21°. December tends to be the coldest month. It’s wise to dress in layers, with a warm jacket that is wind resistant.
It’s great to have Cut-off pants so when it gets hot, you can shed the bottom half. You’ll need a nice pair of gloves, a hat, comfortable hiking shoes or boots, and a walking stick or hiking pole. In the winter, you’ll want to have rain-proof clothing and snow boots with warm socks. If you’re planning a lengthy hike, be sure to carry plenty of water in your backpack. You’ll also want to pack a compass, map, flashlight, knife, sun protection, light snacks, and a first aid/blister kit. In the winter, you’ll want to include a survival blanket, just in case, along with a fire starter and matches.
What to watch out for
Zion is a favorite place to go for rock climbing and hiking. When hiking, be especially careful around the rocks as there are rattlesnakes that may be hidden under a boulder. Scorpions may also be hiding in moist, dark places. It’s also not uncommon to see bighorn sheep, squirrels, petite kangaroos, mules, deer, foxes, wild turkeys and bats. There are over 200 species of birds found in the park and over 40 species of reptiles and amphibians. Be especially careful hiking around loose rocks. Use your walking stick to help keep your balance when climbing or walking downwards on one of many of Zion’s trails. During the winter, the higher elevations will be covered in ice or snow. Be prepared for snow drifts and slides. Some roads and trails may be closed because of the snow for your safety. Visitors are advised to call 5-1-1 on your cell phone for current road conditions.
If you’re visiting Zion in the spring, you should wear clothing similar to what you would wear in the fall. Summers can be very hot, so it’s important to wear light colored clothing with built-in sun protection. Temperatures can get higher than 100° at times.
You’ll want to bring similar hiking gear for the spring and summer as for the fall. Be sure you have plenty of water as it is easier to get dehydrated in the heat of the summer months.
What to watch out for
Since much of the snow will be melting in the spring, you are more likely to see higher water levels in the rivers and canyons. During the summer, Zion is also known for its monsoons which will increase the likelihood for flash flooding and waterfalls. The Visitor Center posts weather conditions, so be aware of any possible flash floods. Also, be extra careful about getting too close to the edge of cliffs.
Scenic Drives and Places to See
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is a 6-mile road through Zion Canyon which will take you past some of the most magnificent rock formations in the world. You’ll see colorful sandstone cliffs rising up to 3,000 ft.
Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is a 14-mile road connecting the south and east entrances. A highlight along this route is the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
Kolob Terrace is a beautiful remote area off SR-9 at the small town of Virgin where you’ll turn onto the Kolob Reservoir Road. It’s located 21 miles at the end of the park boundary at Lava Point.
The Narrows is a favorite hike accessible from Zion Canyon. It follows the North Fork of the Virgin River and has spectacular scenery, as well as opportunities to wade in the river.
There are several places to stay when traveling to Zion. Springdale is nearby and offers several hotels. Many love to come to Zion for camping or to bring their RV. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the clean, crisp air and revel in the beautiful scenery. You may only plan to stay one day, but once you’re there, you’ll see that one day isn’t enough to see everything Zion has to offer.