National Parks

Zion National Park Guide – Read This Before You Go

Feb 7, 2022

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Welcome to my giant Zion National Park guide! We’ll be diving into everything you need to know before your trip in this post.

Zion is an extremely popular US National Park and considered one of the “best” in the country. It’s hard to argue with Zion’s popularity with its epic hiking, canyoneering, and canyon views!

In this Zion National Park guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know before heading out on your trip. So regardless if you’re spending 2 days in Zion or a week, this guide includes all the must-know details you’ll want to consider in the planning of your trip!

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Disclaimer: blog contains affiliate links, which means that when you use my link to shop, I earn a small percentage of every purchase at no cost additional to you! If you choose to shop with my links, fabulous!

READ NEXT: 2 Days in Zion National Park

Planning Your Zion Trip – Know Before Ya Go

WOO, we have quite a bit of information to cover, so let’s just jump right into everything you need to know while planning your trip.

Best Time to Visit Zion National Park

The best time to visit Zion National Park will be late spring and early fall. Think April to November. However, summer is a good time to visit and notably the most popular time to visit Zion National Park. It’ll just be… hot if you go in the summer.

Summer

Summer is the best time to visit Zion National Park because all the trails will be open. This includes the ever-so-famous Narrows! However, it’s important to note that visiting Zion National Park in the summer means you will more than likely have to deal with crowds.

Spring

Spring can be another great time to visit Zion National Park. However, some trails may be closed due to snowmelt. So, if you want to visit in spring, you need to watch the weather to make sure it doesn’t start storming!

Winter

You still have the option to hike in Zion National Park during the winter season, but some trails might be challenging to reach because of snow and ice. Some trails might be closed, too.

The shuttle system will be closed, so you can drive your car around roads that are usually closed for shuttle purposes. 

Fall

Fall can be beautiful in Zion National Park. In various parts of the park, you will find a range of fall colors like no other! However, similar to spring, some bad weather days may prohibit you from hiking, so plan your Zion itinerary accordingly.

How Many Days in Zion National Park Do You Need?

2 days in Zion National Park is perfect! However, you can also have a wonderful time by having one day in Zion National Park. 

Truthfully, it depends on how much you see yourself doing. If you want to cross off ALL the bucket list hikes and activities, you can stay for 4 days, which will give you some rest time in your Zion National Park itinerary

Zion National Park Fees

Zion National Park fees are as follows. You can visit the official Zion National Park website for additional details!

  • $35 for a non-commercial vehicle – 7 days
  • $30 for a motorcycle – 7 days
  • $20 for a single person entering by foot or bicycle – 7 days
  • $70 Zion Annual Park Pass – one year starting at the month of purchase
  • $80 America The Beautiful – one year beginning at the month of purchase

I always recommend that travelers purchase an Annual USA National Park Pass. The America The Beautiful Pass will get you into all US National Parks without paying the $35 entrance fee. 

If you plan on visiting multiple National Parks, purchasing one of these passes is the way to go, in my opinion. 

Getting to Zion National Park

St. George Regional Airport is the closest airport to Zion National Park.

However, this is not your only option for getting there – let’s discuss this further!

Flying

Here are all of the airports closest to Zion National Park:

St. George Regional Airport
  • About 56min from Zion National Park.
  • A great option if you want to explore this area of Utah and stop at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport LAS
  • 2.5hrs from Zion National Park.
  • A great option if you’d like to save money on tickets and want to take a more extended Southwest-based road trip.
  • You can go from Zion to Page, AZ to the Grand Canyon National Park to FlagstaffSedona, take a drive from Scottsdale, and back! You can drive this in reverse too.
Salt Lake City International Airport
  • About 4.5hrs from Zion National Park
  • A good option if you plan on road-tripping through Utah and want to see Provo and SLC.
Zion National Park

Driving

Like most US National Parks, there are various ways to enter by car. Below are driving directions to Zion National Park from the official Zion National Park Service website

“From Las Vegas, Nevada (163 miles), Mesquite, Nevada (80 miles), and Saint George, Utah (40 miles):

  • Interstate 15 North
  • Exit 16 – Right on State Route 9 East (33 miles)
  • Right to stay on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah (20 miles)
  • Stay on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center is ahead on the right.

From Salt Lake City, Utah (307 miles) and Cedar City, Utah (57 miles):

  • Interstate 15 South
  • Exit 27 – Left on State Route 17 South (26 miles)
  • Left on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah (20 miles)
  • Stay on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center is ahead on the right.

From Page, Arizona (118 miles) and Kanab, Utah (45 miles):

  • US Route 89 North
  • Left on State Route 9 West in Mount Carmel Junction, Utah
  • (24 miles)
  • Stay on State Route 9 West into Zion National Park, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center is 12 miles ahead on the left.”

Where to Stay in Zion National Park

I lovvveeee talking about places to stay on trips. I’m going to include some hotel and rental property options for you!

Hotels Near Zion National Park

If you want to stay in Zion National Park, you will need to stay in the Zion National Park Lodge. The Lodge is pretty boujee, and kind of gives me cowboy cabin vibes but like, fancy? I can’t describe it. Otherwise, you should look into staying in Springdale. 

Springdale is right on the border of Zion National Park and will make getting to the park a lot easier.

What this area DOES have going for it is beautiful properties, so here’s a list of hotels to choose from. 

  • Watchman Villas – $$$ – These boujee AF vacation homes are pet friendly and 1.4mi from Zion National Park. Yes, please! You really can’t beat that view, tho.
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott – $$$ – Ummm, can we please talk about that giant floor-to-ceiling window sitch they have going on in the lobby? I don’t think I’d ever make it out to the park! This is another pet-friendly property.
  • Cable Mountain Lodge – $$$ – Now this place is fancy, booskie. You can book a spa package enjoy your room’s mini kitchen. If you want to treat yourself, you might want to consider booking here. It’s right by the park entrance too!
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale – $$ – Pet-friendly, beautiful property with all the amenities you may need like a fitness center! About 2mi from Zion National Park.
  • La Quinta at Zion National Park – $$ – Another pet-friendly property that is an excellent option for those who want to book something comfortable!

Rental Properties Near Zion National Park

If none of those hotels do it for ya, maybe one of these VRBOs will!

  • Luxury Log Cabin – $$$$ – This place is F-A-N-C-Y. If you have a large group with you and y’all wanna arrive at Zion National Park in style, this is the place. 10min from the park.
  • Historic Cottage – $$ – OMG, this property gives me fairytale vibes. It’s located in Springdale and about a 2min drive from the park entrance. Great if you want to book a home away from home during your visit!
  • Cozy Cabin Near East Zion – $$ – This charming little property is the perfect place to stay if you’re into the whole cabin vibe. It’s about 4mi from the East Zion entrance and in an excellent location for those who plan on making a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park too!

Camping in Zion National Park

Zion National Park has two main campgrounds within park boundaries. Below is some information about them! Visit the Zion National Park NPS site to read about booking.

  • South Campground – $20 per night for individual sites; $50 for group sites; there are 117 sites total! 
  • Watchman Campground – Open March to November; 176 sites; $20-$30

These campgrounds book FAST, so plan your Zion itinerary accordingly to camp in the park.

Camping on BLM Land

If you cannot get a campground in Zion National Park, you must camp outside of the park. However, boondocking within Springdale city limits is frowned upon and near impossible to get away with, so I wouldn’t bother. 

A popular free campground in the area is Kolob Terrace Road. Spots here fill up as well, so get there early! I suggest using FreeCampsites.net to check out your other options!

Zion National Park Sections 

Zion National Park comprises six sections that act as a sort of grid system for various adventures. These will be important to keep in mind as you plan your Zion National Park itinerary! The last thing you want to do is spend a bunch of precious fun time transporting everywhere.

Let’s get into the sections below!

Main Canyon (Zion Canyon) Section

The Main Canyon is home to some of the main attractions in Zion National Park. Angels Landing, Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, the Zion National Park Lodge, and the Visitor Center. This is notably the most popular section of Zion National Park. The Main Canyon is where you’ll end up from the Springdale park entrance when you get in. 

Desert Lowlands Section

Desert Lowlands is the driest part of Zion National Park, making it a great section to visit in the offseason! In addition, the Desert Lowlands are home to hikes like Chinle Trail and Eagle Crags Trail. 

Some of these hikes are known for their backpacking options and can sometimes be strenuous.

Kolob Canyon Section

Kolob Canyon is a secluded part of Zion National Park and is most famous for its pink/ red color! The hikes located in Kolob Canyon are lesser-known. All of them are out-and-back hikes which means you can turn around at any time. 

Some trails include:

  • Timber Creek Overlook Trail
  • Taylor Creek Trail
  • La Verkin Creek Trail

If you want to make these overnight trips, you will need a Wilderness Permit.

Zion Narrows Section

Who hasn’t heard of the Narrows? The Narrows is one of the most popular hikes in the world as it takes hikers through a series of canyons carved by the Virgin River. 

According to the NPS site, this is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. We’ll get more into hiking The Narrows later!

Kolob Terrace Section

Home to another world-renowned hike: the Subway! Some great campsites are here too! Unfortunately, you will not access this section of the park in winter.

Upper East Canyon Section

Upper East Canyon is one of my favorite parts of Zion because it makes for such a scenic drive! The Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel is the main attraction and is sort of like the gateway into the park. 

Along this route, you’ll have the chance to stop and take roadside photos! In addition, there are tons of rock formations and pull-offs to explore.

Getting Around Zion National Park

Unfortunately, I must admit that getting around Zion National Park is my least favorite part of taking trips there. The shuttle system in Zion can be a tad restricting. To make your life a bit easier, let’s talk about the shuttles now!

Cost of the Zion Shuttles

The Zion National Park shuttles are free! Once you pay to enter the park, you will be able to access the shuttles to get around. 

When Do the Shuttles in Zion National Park Run?

The shuttles in Zion National Park run during the popular tourism months: February (weekends only) through November. In the winter, you will need your own car to get around. Parking spaces in the park are first-come, first-serve.

The shuttles typically start running at 8am, but this can change with the season. For exact times, check out the Zion National Park shuttle schedule on the NPS site!

For a more specific answer on when the shuttles run, here is how the NPS explains it: “Shuttle season is almost all year. Typically, shuttles run March through November, weekends in February and March, and the last week in December.”

Parking in Zion National Park

Your best bet for finding parking in Zion National Park is to go early. The park gets packed…FAST. The first option you have for parking is to leave your car at the Visitor Center; otherwise, there is paid parking around the Springdale area. Your last option is to leave your vehicle at your Springdale hotel!

Most hotels will have a shuttle service that will bring you to the park entrance. And sometimes parking in Springdale is NOT free.

How do the Shuttles Work?

The critical thing to note about the Zion National park shuttles is the two main shuttle lines. Let’s talk about them now! 

Zion Canyon Shuttle

The Zion Canyon Shuttle will take you to some of the most scenic parts of Zion National Park! This is the shuttle line you’ll ride to get to popular hikes like Angels Landing, Weeping Rock, and more! The shuttle line begins at the Zion Visitor Center. 

Springdale Shuttle

Since Springdale is the neighboring town to Zion National Park, most folks choose to stay here when they visit. Conveniently, Springdale also has a Zion National Park shuttle that’ll take visitors right to the park entrance.

Getting Around Before and After Shuttle Hours

If you plan on doing some sort of sunrise hike or a sunset adventure, you can undoubtedly explore Zion without the shuttles. However, you will have to take a bicycle! 

Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation in Zion National Park. It is allowed on all park roadways and the Pa’rus Trail. You can read more about bicycling in Zion National Park on the NPS site.

Zion Shuttle Map

Here is a shuttle system map taken directly from the NPS site.

Dogs in Zion National Park

Unfortunately, during your Zion National Park itinerary, Fido won’t be able to explore any of these trails. The only exception is the Pa’rus Trail! Plan accordingly.

If you still want to enjoy the park, some folks suggest leaving your dog at Doggy Dude Ranch! This is a popular doggy daycare for folks visiting Zion National Park.

Best Hiking Trails in Zion National Park

Below is a round-up of some of the best hikes in Zion National Park. You can see how to compile these into a Zion itinerary in my 2 days in Zion blog.

  • Angels Landing
  • Observation Point
  • The Narrows
  • The Subway
  • Lower, Middle, Upper Emerald Pools
  • West Rim Trail

My Final Thoughts in this Zion National Park Guide

I hope you found this Zion National Park guide helpful! If you’re ready to start putting a trip together, make sure you check out my 2 day Zion National Park Itinerary blog.

Have a fun trip!

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  1. Mari says:

    Another great blog. Great mindframe to have when travelling. We are convinced, single-handedly by you guys, to do a national park tour on our next overseas destination.

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!