Best time to visit: Year Around
Recommended Hikes: Angel's Landing, the Narrows, Hidden Canyon, the Subway, Kanarra Falls
Ideal For: Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Canyoneering, Rock Climbing, Biking
Where to stay: Campgrounds in or near the park, towns of Springdale or Hurricane, UT
Zion is the most popular national park in Utah and perhaps even the country. The main canyon is the highlight of the park - it features towering sandstone cliffs that converge to form a massive slot canyon called "the Narrows". Zion is year-around destination - winters are cold and summers are hot.
The entire main canyon is a must-see. All the shuttle stops are cool and worth jumping off at if you have time.
Angel's Landing - one of many signature rock formations in the main canyon. The best place to enjoy Angel's Landing from the canyon floor is at shuttle stops 7 and 8. The hike to the peak of Angel's Landing is outstanding - read more about it in the hiking section below.
the Narrows - A slot canyon of monumental proportions. The Narrows in its entirety is 10 miles long, with sections of canyon that are just 30 feet wide and 1,000 feet high. Hiking up the river is the best hike in the park - read more about it in the hiking section below.
Shuttle Stop 8 - the "Big Bend" shuttle stop offers views of vertical sandstone cliffs in every direction. There is a short trail between shuttle stops 8 and 7 that is incredibly beautiful and tranquil. This is the best place to see Angel's Landing and the Great White Throne from the canyon floor.
Highway 89, which runs from the south entrance to the east entrance of the park, goes through a 1 mile tunnel with low clearance - oversize trailers and RVs require escort which is available throughout the day, but not at night. Read more about it here.
The main Zion canyon is accessible via shuttle ONLY for nine months a year. Visitors need to park their cars near the visitor center or in the town of Springdale and use the shuttles to access the canyon attractions mentioned above. There is no charge to use the shuttles - it is included with the park entrance fee. Parking fills early every morning.
Flash floods are lethal in all of Zion's slot canyons including the Narrows and the Subway - the park monitors storms and closes the Narrows when there is flash flood potential. Cell service is non-existent in deep canyons and flood water can rise fast. Check at the visitor center for the latest information.
You can rent water shoes, hiking sticks, and bikes at stores just outside the park's south entrance. Biking the entire length of the Zion Canyon is a great way to spend the day.
Drinking water is available throughout the main canyon and at the visitor center in Kolob Canyon, bring your water bottle to fill up.
Where to Stay:
There are two campgrounds in the park, the "Watchman" campground can be reserved online in advance here - book as early as possible. The "South" campground is first-come-first-served. Cars can line up to enter the South Campground as early as 5 AM.
There is a private campground just outside the park's eastern boundary called the Hi-Road Campground (Zion RV & Campground). This is a great option if the Watchman and the South campgrounds are full. The campsites are small but right next to the park, and they have showers and laundry. Their website is here.
There are hotel options in Springdale and Hurricane. Springdale is a tiny town just outside the park's southern boundary - the options here are more quaint and more expensive. Hurricane is a larger town about 30 miles from the parks south entrance that has budget hotels.
Hiking in Zion:
Angel's Landing - The must-do hike in Zion. Angel's Landing is a challenging hike with a steep summit ascent, assisted by chains bolted to the rock for support. This hike is very crowded, especially on the steep sections near the summit. Get an early start to avoid the traffic jams! Read more about the hike here.
the Narrows - The crown-jewel of Zion National Park. The Narrows are closed whenever the Virgin River is flowing at 150 cubic feet per second (click here for current water-flow levels). This happens throughout the spring months as winter snow melts off and occasionally in summer, fall, and winter during major rain storms. Fall and winter are great times to hike the Narrows with reduced crowds. Summer is the most popular time to hike the Narrows but beware of huge crowds and potential monsoon rainstorms. Tough, water-proof shoes are crucial and hiking poles or a walking stick are really helpful. Waterproof suits are required if hiking during the winter. You can rent all Narrows gear at stores near the park entrance.
Hidden Canyon - this is a gem of a hike. The trailhead starts at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop and climbs mostly on paved switchbacks before reaching a short section with a huge cliff drop-off and chains to hold onto. After this section, you can climb back into Hidden Canyon which is a quiet oasis compared to the rest of the park. If you walk all the way to the end, you'll find a small arch. I am a big fan of Hidden Canyon and I highly recommend it! Read more about the hike here.
Observation Point - This is a really popular hike to a viewpoint high above Angel's Landing. The hike is long for a single viewpoint, but there is some cool scenery on the way, especially near Echo Canyon. Read more about it here.
the Subway - Day-hikers can access the lowest tier of the Subway with a long hike for which permits are required (reserve online here). Permits are available for the spring through fall months but they are very limited. Do not attempt this hike with shoes that can't get wet - hiking in the creek is often the easiest route. Read more about the hike here.
Kanarra Falls - a really cool slot canyon with a photogenic waterfall. Kanarra Falls is outside the Zion park boundaries but its close to the Kolob Canyons section of the park. You can see Kanarra Falls and catch the Kolobs for sunset in a single day. The hike is partially in a creek so bring shoes that can get wet. Read more about the hike and finding the trailhead here.