A bajillion years ago, ancient iterations of the Virgin River started wreaking havoc on southwestern Utah. Now there’s a faint “You’re welcome” echoing through the canyons of Zion National Park.
Zion National Park is like the set of a movie that’s so grand you know it’s fake, but you don’t care because it’s delicious to look at; the kind of flick where the art director was given carte blanche and didn’t worry about believability. The Utah.com crew put together a guide full of Zion tips for all ages and abilities, from mild meanderings along Pa-rus Trail to wildly spectacular views from Angels Landing (which now requires a hiking permit, BTW). And, of course, a “hidden gem” where you can escape the crowds is included because we’re cool like dat. Read more...
- Where to Stay (Camping and Lodging)
- Fees and Permits
- Top Things to Do at Zion
- How to Beat the Crowds
- When to Visit Zion
- Dogs and Accessibility
- Nearby Destinations
Nearest airports to Zion
Trying to decide which airport you should fly into to visit Zion National Park? Here are four options:
- MCCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in Las Vegas: The nearest major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. Three-hour drive to the park.
- ST. GEORGE REGIONAL AIRPORT: The closest airport to Zion with limited commercial flights. One-hour drive to the park.
- SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. Four-hour drive to the park.
- CEDAR CITY REGIONAL AIRPORT: Flights from Salt Lake City are available. One-hour drive to the park.
Photos of Zion National Park
If you’re looking to line up lodging for your Zion vacation, Springdale has the corner on the market. It’s within spitting distance in the park and has great options on any budget. If you want to range farther afield, there are excellent lodging options in Mount Carmel, Kanab or even St. George. Of course, if you like to be right in the middle of the action, you’ll want to stay in-park at the Zion Lodge, wearing dark glasses and pretending to be famous.
Lodging near Zion
Some of our favorite lodging options include:
- Individual sites: $20/night
- Group sites: $50/night
- Individual sites (reservable): $20–30/night
- Group sites (reservable): $50–130/night depending on group size
View a list of nearby hotels and campgrounds.
Zion Park Hours
Zion National Park is open year-round.
The park has two visitor centers that are also open throughout the year. Visitors are encouraged to stop and learn how to visit the park with minimum impact on the fragile desert environment. At the visitor centers, you will find maps, brochures, and books available to help you enjoy your visit.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Located just inside the South Entrance of the park near Springdale.
This visitor center is open daily during the following hours:
- Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
- Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Located one-half mile north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at the park's South Entrance, the museum is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily with longer summer hours. It is closed November through February. Permanent and temporary exhibits display the history of Zion National Park. A 22-minute video plays every half hour to allow visitors to get a quick overview of the park.
Kolob Canyon Visitor Center
Located at the West Entrance of the park, off exit 40 from I-15. To contact the visitor center, call (435)772-3256.
This visitor center is open daily during the following hours:
- Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m
Both visitor centers are closed on December 25.
Zion National Park Fees & Permits →
The following passes allow access to Zion for seven consecutive days:
- Private vehicle: $35
- Motorcycle: $30
- Person entering by foot or bicycle: $20 (under 15 is free of charge)
- Annual Pass: $80
- 4th Grade Annual Pass: free
- Military Annual Pass: free
- Lifetime Senior Pass (62 and older): $80
- Annual Senior Pass (62 and older): $20
- Lifetime Access Pass (available for those with a permanent disability): free
- Zion Annual Pass (Zion only): $70
The following activities require a wilderness permit, which can be obtained here:
- Narrows (top-down)
- Subway (top-down AND bottom-up)
- Overnight backpacking
If Mama Zion put out a greatest hikes album, there are a few trails that would definitely make Side A. Read on for the must-see hikes of the season (or any season, really).
- Angels Landing: The concept for this hike was obviously born in a simpler, less litigious time, when scaling sheer cliffs with the aid of only a chain bolted into rock was considered top-form family fun. Your belly might drop to your toes on the ascent, but the view from the top (and the adrenaline shot) will make everything worth it. “Scared? Who, me?” you’ll lie, after you get back down.
- Observation Point: Take those Angels Landing braggarts down a notch by hoofing it up the eight-mile trail to the iconic summit of Observation Point. Aptly named, the view takes in 270 degrees of the canyon, from the white cliffs and hideaways of Echo Canyon to Angels Landing, which is directly beneath you in every sense of the word.
- Emerald Pools: See the park’s jewel collection with a trip to the Emerald Pools, a series of desert oases separated by lush vegetation, waterfalls and red rock monoliths. The trip to the first pool is quick and easy — great for kids, people in wheelchairs or the elderly.
Other awesome hikes
Other Things to Do in Zion National Park
No off-road vehicles are permitted inside the park.
You thought you were coming to Zion for some peace and solitude, but the parking lot can be as full as a Beyoncé concert. Zion is one of the most visited parks in the whole country, but you don’t have to spend your vacation idling in an entry line. Here are a few things to know if you want to beat the system.
- The park is busiest from March to October. Expect long lines to get in and full parking lots by 10:00 a.m. Leave early to beat the rush or park in Springdale and ride the free shuttle in. (And carpooling is always good.)
- Not into the shuttle? Take to two wheels and bike into the park.
- Pack some layers and make the most of the less crowded off-season, November to February. Zion never stops being beautiful.
Don’t let the weather gods rain on your parade… err, family vacation. We’ve broken down what to expect season by season and thrown in some flash flood warnings, as well.
- Spring: If spring makes you think of bunnies, chicks and flowers, think again. Zion is a vision in March, April and May but it’s still a place where anything can happen. Warm, sunny weather is the norm (rarely over 90 degrees) but it can get rainy on a dime. Temps also vary with elevation and time of day — the swing between noon and midnight can reach 30 degrees. The wet weather peaks in March, but the snowmelt and high water levels last until May. Dress in layers.
- Summer: In the summer months, Zion gets hot enough to fry a whole omelette on the trail, with temps regularly surpassing 100 degrees. From July to September, the monsoon season is in full swing, surprising visitors with thunderstorms, lightning and heavy rain. Bring clothes for all kinds of weather conditions and check the weather report like nobody’s business — flash floods are no joke and they can build from even a small amount of precipitation.
- Fall: Fall is Zion’s golden season. Literally. Temps cool down, the monsoons let up and the trees go full Bob Ross with color. It’s a great time to visit the park, but stay alert: check the weather to steer clear of flash floods and make sure the river’s warm enough to wade in without consequence. If you have any questions, ask a park ranger. And remember, layers are a hiker’s best friend.
- Winter: Two words: cold and wet. Zion is beautiful in the winter, but rain is a regular feature and the nights often dip below freezing. Snow tends to accumulate in the upper elevations but melts quickly on the valley floor. Park employees plow the roads, but some of the trails are closed depending on weather conditions. In late winter, melting snow makes the Virgin River into a swift, angry force of nature, so be careful.
Where to eat near Zion National Park
After a long day pounding trail in the canyon, there’s nothing you want more than a small handful of nuts and a sip of carrot juice, right? WRONG. You want a meal and you deserve it. Go for Parent of the Year by letting your kids dig in at some of the area’s best restaurants. They won’t thank you till they’re older, but your stomach will thank you immediately.
- Oscar’s Cafe
- Zion Pizza and Noodle co
- Springdale Candy Company
- Bit ‘n Spur
- Switchback Grille
- The Spotted Dog
- Cafe Soleil
- Deepcreek Coffee Company
- The Riverside Walk is accessible for the first 0.4 miles
- Pa’rus Trail: The Pa’rus Trail is a 1.5 mile, paved trail with minimal grade change
- Watchman: Site A-24 and A-25 are reserved for disabled use
- South: Sites 103, 114 and 115 are reserved for disabled use
Dogs at Zion National Park
Dogs are allowed (on leash):
- On the Pa’rus trail
- Along public roads and parking areas
- In the developed campgrounds and picnic areas
- On the grounds of the Zion Lodge
Dogs are not allowed:
- On any trails (other than Pa’rus) and wilderness areas
- On shuttle buses
- In public buildings
Service animals are permitted anywhere in the park.
You can never get enough red rock and Zion is definitely not the only show in town. As with almost every area in Utah, there are mind-melting sights within a stone’s throw of this national park. So tack an extra day onto your trip and hop, skip or jump to pay a visit to Zion’s scenic siblings.
Nestled into a lesser-known part of Zion, Kolob is every bit as scrumptious. It’s name means “residence closest to heaven” in Mormon scripture and it more than earns the title, with soaring sandstone cliffs, waterfalls and a warren of canyon offshoots in ample backcountry. Just off I-15, it’s the perfect stop for a scenic drive or quick hike.
Want to feel like a modern Moses? Walk on this massive red sea of shifting sand dunes and raise your arms to the sky. The sand will shift, but not because of you — the howling winds that funnel through a notch in the nearby mountain ranges deposits sand grains here and can shift the dunes up to 50 feet per year. When you’re done having your majestic moment, play, hike, or ride ATVs up and down the slopes.
This stunning Mars-scape of pink and white cliffs, slickrock and black lava rock is located a short drive (or bike ride!) away from St. George. Boasting rock climbing havens, 15 hiking trails, a bike path and horseback riding trails, you might just shack up and never leave this paradise.
TRAVEL BUREAU INFORMATION
ST. GEORGE TOURISM OFFICE
1835 Convention Center Drive
St. George, UT 84790
KANE COUNTY OFFICE OF TOURISM
78 South 100 East
Kanab, UT 84741
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