Zion is for Adventurers

Zion is for Adventurers

By Ann Whittaker
April 13, 2016 | Updated November 14, 2023

Itinerary for Weekend Warriors

Hard core? Pshaw. Of course you are. You consistently pull up to camp at 1:00 a.m. because you were busy being awesome in the city, and got outta dodge as soon as you could pack up your super organized gear bins in the back of your Tacoma truck. Boom. Adventure number 34 of the year has commenced.

Zion is epic. You're epic. It's sorta the perfect match. Climbing, biking, running and slack-lining extravaganzas are in order.

*Note: adventure is for families. Bring yer teenagers who think nature is boring and prove them wrong. So wrong.

Mystery Canyon into the Virgin River Narrows, Zion National Park

Night One:

Travel: Thursday night arrival because you'll get a campsite before the other weekenders show up

Salt Lake City to Zion: 4 hours 23 minutes, 308 miles | Las Vegas to Zion: 2 hours 33 minutes, 160 miles

Basecamp Options in Zion:

Day One: Canyoneering Mystery Canyon

Mystery Canyon, Zion National Park

First things first: you need a permit. You can apply for an advance lottery permit here. Or you can take your chances with the last minute drawing application (taken between 2 days and 7 days in advance). Only 12 hikers allowed in each day.

*Check the weather for flood warnings

Time commitment:

5 - 8 hours (average time is 8 hours)

Gear List:

  • Helmet
  • Webbing and rapid links
  • Rope (140 feet and a pull chord of equal length or two 140-foot ropes) — longest rappel is 135 feet
  • Harness
  • Descending equipment
  • Emergency ascending equipment
  • Emergency overnight gear
  • WATER. Lots of it.

Approach and Distance:

  • Option One: East Mesa Trail | 6 miles | You'll need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle for this approach. If the road is wet, it may be impassible.
  • Option 2: Weeping Rock Trailhead | 7.5 miles

Learn more about permits for Mystery Canyon.

Want a Guide?

Alternate Canyons:

Day Two: Climb Moonlight Buttress

Moonlight Buttress is one of Zion's most classic climbing destinations. Located on the left side of Zion Canyon just after Angels Landing, it has all the pretty views.

The Routes:

  • The Moonlight Buttress (Clean Aid): 5.8 C1, Trad, Aid, 10 pitches, 1200'
  • Lunar Ecstasy: 5.10 C2+, Aid, 9 pitchesSheer Lunacy: 5.11 C1, Trad, Aid, Grade IV
  • Sheer Lunacy (Free): 5.12b, Trad, 8 pitches, 800'
  • The Moonlight Buttress (Free): 5.12+, Trad, 10 pitches, 1200'

Consider This:

  • Get started early in the morning before it gets hot on those sandstone cliffs.
  • You have to ride the shuttle up Zion Canyon February to November.
  • Be courteous to other climbers — this is a popular area ... for good reason.
  • You don't need permits for day climbing. If you plan an overnight trip up the sandstone, you'll need to get a permit.
  • Plan on staying the night on a portaledge if you're a slow climber — which means you'll need a permit.

Day Three: Mountain Bike Gooseberry Mesa

North Rim Trail on Gooseberry Mesa just west of Zion National Park, Utah

Are you tired? Heck no! Weekend Warriors gotta pack it in, amiright? Hopefully you were able to fit all your gear in your Tacoma truck — pro packing to the max. On your last day, you'll want to hit the trails at Gooseberry Mesa, just outside of Zion, to mix things up a bit.

Now you can plan to go back again and again doing the same rad activities in Ye Olde Zion National Park:

  • Day 1 - Canyoneering
  • Day 2 - Climbing
  • Day 3 - Mountain Biking

Read more about Zion National Park