Zion National Park

What You Need to Know for a Successful Zion National Park Visit

Are you planning to visit Zion National Park? 

Prepare yourself, both for the WOW factor and with the tips you’ll need for a successful trip. 

You’re in luck! 

In this guide, we’ll share all the things you need to know to make your visit to Zion National Park a success. 

What you Need to Know For a Successful Zion National Park Visit
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What You Need to Know for a Successful Zion National Park Visit

Impressive, imposing, intimidating, incredible are the words that swirled through my mind as I drove along the Scenic Highway through Zion National Park.

The winding, narrow road weaves its way past checkered mesas, rocky gorges, and jagged mountaintops.

Zion National Park

The bright orange rock formations look as if they’re made from flowing lava that suddenly stopped running and solidified instantly capturing a moment in time rather than showing millions of years of slow geologic activity.

Zion National Park
Layers of sandstone…Looks like hardened lava to me!

Evergreen trees and shrubbery dot the rocky landscape. Deer and mountain goats spring across the road with the same spontaneity that I’m even driving this road after putting together this last-minute road trip.

I haven’t planned for Zion’s majesty. Even after just visiting Arches, Canyonlands, and Bryce National Parks, you’ll be unprepared for how Zion’s grand introduction sweeps you off your feet and shows what it means to have reverence for nature.

Continuing on (mouth agape), I plunged into deep darkness as the road snaked through the 1.1-mile Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel carved through a seemingly impassable block of rock in what has to be a truly notable engineering feat.

Not realizing how long the tunnel was at first, I was sure our rental car was swallowed by the towers of rock and would just become another layer added onto the stunning formations.

In just the first few moments, it’s easy to see why experiencing Zion National Park ranks high on many a bucket list. And, it’s undoubtedly a must on any Utah National Parks road trip

How do I get to Zion National Park?

The closest major airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas to Zion National Park is a 2 1/2-3 hour drive.

You can rent a car from all the major companies at the airport, just be sure to search on a site like Kayak because it compares prices on multiple websites at the same time. It’s a top car rental hack to finding the best deal.

Zion National Park
Checkered Mesa

If you’re already in the area visiting other Utah National Parks, Bryce National Park is about a 1 1/2 drive. Capitol Reef National Park is just under 4 hours by car. Driving from Arches or Canyonlands National Parks would take about 5 hours.

If you’re coming from Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon, plan on 4 hours of road time before arriving at Zion National Park.

Are there hotels near Zion National Park?

The gateway town of Springdale is just outside Zion’s entrance and Visitor Center. The town has several hotels, B&Bs, and inns just minutes from the National Park entrance. 

I had an excellent stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale. The free Zion Shuttle stopped right out front! You can also search and book Zion National Park hotels at the best rate using the search box below.

The Zion National Park Lodge is the only lodging available within the park. Several hiking trails begin at the Lodge. The horse corral across the road offers horseback riding excursions. The Zion Shuttle stops at the Lodge to transport guests throughout the park.

As one of my readers pointed out, staying at the Zion Lodge allows you to experience the tranquility of the park in the morning and evenings before and after all the day visitors have come and gone.

Zion National Park
Stroll along the Virgin River.

Reservations for the Lodge can be made up to 13 months in advance. Starting with the 1st of each month, the calendar opens for that whole month in the following year.

The Lodge books quickly. If this is where you’d most like to stay, make reservations as soon as you know your plans. Bookings can be canceled for free or modified (depending on availability) up to 2 days prior to your arrival.

Zion National Park also has 3 campgrounds. From spring to fall, the campgrounds are extremely busy. If possible, make reservations ahead of time or arrive in the morning to (hopefully) snag a spot!

Can I drive into Zion National Park?

The driving and parking situation in and around Zion National Park is extremely busy. You want to have a plan and get it right in order to make the most of your time.

The Zion National Park-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway cuts through the mountains along Route 9 between the towns of Mount Carmel and Springdale. This road is open for park visitors, as well as drivers passing through.

There are park entrance booths at either end of the highway requiring all drivers to pay the entrance fee or show a park pass. If you’re visiting multiple National Parks, consider getting the America the Beautiful Pass to save money on park entrance fees.

Zion National Park
The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway is a must-drive!

This is the only road visitors are allowed to drive on between March and the end of October. 

While there are some small pull-offs and a few parking spaces along the Scenic Highway for photos and the few trailheads that start here, you should plan on NOT driving into the park for the day.

Instead, park along the main road in Springdale and use the free town shuttle to the Zion Visitor Center.

The earlier you arrive the better success you’ll have at finding parking in Springdale. If you’re staying at a hotel in Springdale, do not move your car. Simply walk to the nearest shuttle stop along the main road and take it to the last stop, the park entrance and visitor center.

Zion National Park
The shuttles are easy, no-stress ways to get around Springdale and the park.

After entering the park, board another shuttle and head into the main area of the park where private vehicles are restricted. The park shuttle makes 9 stops for popular park destinations like Angel’s Landing or the Narrows. The shuttles are efficient, easy to use, and run every few minutes.

What do I need for a day in Zion National Park?

Zion National Park
Welcome to Zion National Park!

You should prepare for as long as you plan to be out in the park.

This means bringing enough food, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and any supplies needed for the day’s activities. Refill your water supply at the Visitor Centers, the Zion Lodge, and campgrounds within the park.

Zion Lodge also has a cafe serving basic breakfast and lunch options. Springdale has a supermarket, convenience stores, and cafes providing takeaway snacks and sandwiches.

Pro Tip – Planning on doing some hiking? Make sure you’re prepared on what to wear and what to bring on a hike!

How much does it cost to get into Zion National Park?

The pass for a private vehicle and its passengers costs $30 and is valid for 7 consecutive days. If you plan to visit more than 1 National Park, the America the Beautiful Pass is the best way to save money for most visitors.

You can also find out how to save money on park fees if you’re a senior, active military or have a 4th grader.

Zion National Park
Magnificent, towering rock!

What are the best things to do in Zion National Park?

There’s no shortage of activities for all interests and age groups in the park. Some of the Zion National Park hikes are even world famous! This guide details 8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park!

For just a glimpse to get the ideas flowing for how to best spend your time in Zion, think about hiking Angels Landing or the Narrows. Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel  Scenic Highway. Visit the Emerald Pools or watch for wildlife…just to name a few!

No matter what you decide, it’s certain your trip to Zion National Park will be unforgettable!

Are you planning a trip to Zion National Park?

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What You Need to Know for a Successful Zion National Park Visit
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52 thoughts on “What You Need to Know for a Successful Zion National Park Visit”

  1. “I was unprepared for how Zion’s grand introduction would at once sweep me off my feet and show me what it means to have reverence for nature.” – Utah did this to me over and over again when we visited, and we haven’t even been to Zion (yet). I’m so happy to know that we have lots more exploring to do in this beautiful state.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I’m biased for sure, but Tara, you’ve saved the best for last! Zion is truly magnificent! Hope you can visit soon.

  2. I’ve never been to Zion national park, but it’s definitely a place that is on my bucket list. Hopefully I can make it out there one day and do some of the hikes or even a bit of horseback riding. It sounds like you had a nice time!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Natalie, Zion NP is so worth the trip! It’s a perfect mix of mountains, river, forest, and desert. πŸ™‚

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Ha, Brianna! You mean typing into the wee hours of the night bleary eyed? I get it! Zion is definitely one of my favorites, too! πŸ˜‰

  3. That is such a beautiful part of the states. I have never traveled to Utah and my husband and I are hoping to do a road trip similar to this next year. Definitely the Arches is my #1 spot to see but they are all so unique and gorgeous!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I hope your road trip happens, Melody! Utah is such a gorgeous state! If you make it to Arches, Canyonlands NP is just 20 minutes away and Zion and Bryce are just 4-5 hours in the car. They’re all so worth it if you have the time!

  4. I loved our time at Zion National Park – it was the first US NP I visited and has a special place in my heart. I loved the Riverwalk and got almost to the top of Angels Landing – but missed out on the very top section because it was too windy! Thanks for sharing these tips to help others on their visit!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      What a grand introduction you had to the US NPs, Vicki! Zion is a true gem in the NP Service. Too bad about the wind, but better to be safe than sorry at Angel’s Landing!

  5. I have visited Zion National Park a few times. But every time I go, there is always some new place I hadn’t visited previously or a hike I haven’t done before. It really is one of the best of the US NPs.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You said it, Christina. Zion NP is truly one of the best NPs in the US. I can’t wait to return and, like you, find more to explore!

  6. I haven’t explored much in this part of the country, although I did spend some time in Arches. Your guide is very helpful, and your enthusiasm is contagious so I can’t wait to go and explore Zion next.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You and Buddy will just love Zion, especially if you’ve already gotten a glimpse of Utahs’s beauty at Arches. πŸ™‚

  7. I cannot wait to make a trip out west to visit all of the national parks – Zion being near the top of my list. I’m not sure how much I’d love driving through a tunnel but the scenic drive looks amazing.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You just can’t miss Zion because of a tunnel, Sky. I know you could do it! πŸ˜‰

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Perfect, Trisha! I’m sure you will love it and glad the tips will be useful!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I think September is a perfect time to visit, Sally. The crowds will be smaller and the weather still warm. Enjoy Zion! It’s gorgeous. πŸ™‚

  8. Thinking about going at the end of July but the weather during the day seems like it might be too hot. Do you know if it is cooler within the park than weather forecasts? Wondering if we should just wait to go another time of the year.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Yara. Southern Utah and Zion definitely get hot in the summer. I’d say spring and fall are the best times to visit weather-wise. Fall is also great because of the foliage. Hope that helps you decide! πŸ™‚

  9. Hey there! I have a few more tips to add to your great list if you’re interested πŸ™‚ I live 30 min from Zion’s and spend at least one day there a week….
    Oftentimes, Zion’s is overlooked in the winter but the park is actually phenomenal in January and is esssntially empty. The tourism is getting so overwhelming in the summer months that it is often an hour wait just to get into the park-sometimes longer! It’s also ridiculously hot in the summer- early spring or late fall is ideal. Angels landing isn’t nearly as frightening as people make it sound but is a great hike… if you want a longer, lightly-trafficked hike, observation point has the best views of the canyon.. just a few thoughts! Enjoy the gorgeous area πŸ™‚

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Liz! I appreciate you adding your local tips to the guide. I’d love to check out the park in winter. πŸ™‚

  10. We hit the mighty 5 plus, Hoover dam, Grand Canyon and Goblin Valley state park this past Summer on my daughters 5th grade national park pass. In my opinion Zion was either the best or tied with arches, and goblin for the best overall stops. My top tip for people flying into Vegas and staying in Springdale is to stop at the Hurricane UT Walmart and stock up. While we loved our accommodations at the mom and pop Zion Park Motel, Springdale is a tourist trap where everything costs more than your used to. When/if we go back in a few years when my son is in 5th grade we will be much better prepared.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Jason. Such a great tip about stopping at Walmart. You are right in that Springdale knows you don’t have many other options for buying things so it can be expensive compared to elsewhere. Glad you and your family had a great trip! πŸ™‚

  11. We only have time to go to Zion the first two weeks of August. It sounds like it may be too hot to make the most of it. Should I wait til we can go at another point in the year?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Kathy. It could be pretty hot then. If you have the flexibility, I’d go in the spring or fall. Summer and fall give you the best chance to hike the Narrows if that’s on your to-do list, though. Either way, don’t miss Zion. It’s a gem!

  12. If we decide to shuttle thru the park, how long would that take? We have to make arrangements for our dogs.
    Or, can we drive it with our dogs?
    Thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Laurri. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the Zion shuttle or in most of the National Park. As for timing, it depends on what you’d like to do at each stop. If you’re just riding the shuttle and then turning around and returning, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours. But, if you’re hopping off at stops to hike or take photos, it’ll take as long as you’d like it to take. You can easily spend an entire day hopping off the shuttle at various spots throughout the park. Hope that helps and you enjoy Zion!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Liliana, and for sharing! I’m so glad you had a great trip to Utah. πŸ™‚

  13. What would you recommend if we are driving from Vegas to Zion National Park and want to go horse riding? Is there somewhere we can park the car near the horse riding lodge? Is the lodge far from the shuttle?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Daniel. Unless you’re staying at the Zion Lodge, you won’t be able to access that part of the park with your car. However, you can look for parking in Springdale and then take the shuttle to the riding lodge. The shuttle is free and right in town. Enjoy Zion!

  14. Justin Priddy

    Hi, I am looking at staying at the Holiday Inn like you suggested and would like to know about where to go for a good day hike, nothing super crazy, beginners. [Email address edited out for privacy]

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Justin. I would recommend the Canyon Overlook Trail, the Emerald Pools, the Riverside Walk, and Weeping Rock. Theses hikes won’t take all day, so it’s possible to do a few in a day using the shuttle to get around.

  15. I’ll be in Vegas for a wedding and want to spend a few days to a week exploring. It will be only my daughter and I and Zion is on my list. I wanted to do the Narrows. We are not hikers and not in the best of shape. If the Narrows reopens (it’s currently closed) do you think this is doable? Is it worth the expense to stay in the Lodge? So glad to come upon your website.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading Elizabeth. πŸ™‚ The Narrows is considered a moderate hike because the terrain includes walking through the river. However, if you start from the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk, you can start the hike and turn around when you feel like you’ve gone far enough. It doesn’t need to be far and you can do what’s best for your physical ability. Just be sure to have the right footwear and a walking stick. I can’t speak to the Lodge because I didn’t stay there. I can say, staying in Springdale was super easy and the shuttles have you into the park in minutes. Hope that helps and you have a great Zion visit!

  16. Great article! Thanks for sharing.
    We are going to be middle august 1 day in the grand canyon and 2 days in Zion.
    We are looking to do cool hikes and some extreme activity with the family. What do you recommend? What can be done alone and what activities should be booked guided? We are family of 6, youngest is 14 and all very sporty.
    Thanx!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Nathalie! Check out my Grand Canyon and Things to Do in Zion guides. I definitely recommend Angels Landing in Zion. Canyoneering is also popular to do in Zion, as is hiking the Narrows. With 1 day in the Grand Canyon, I’d stick to a hike and seeing the canyon itself. However, whitewater rafting down the Colorado River is a popular and extreme activity. Enjoy!!

  17. We were at Zion in early April and it was wonderful. We stayed in part of the original lodge cabins. We had a small herd of deer bed down right outside our porch each night. We hiked some of the trails you suggested but did not do Angel’s Landing because we were inexperienced hikers. We started our hikes early morning before the crowds arrived. By afternoon there were filled shuttle buses every time. Always take along a water bottle per person and wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes. The hiking poles were very helpful. It is magnificent to experience. It truly makes a person humble in his/her soul to see the beauty created on our Earth.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Lori,

      So happy you enjoyed Zion! Great idea starting the hikes in the early am & YES! it’s so humbling to take in the beauty.

      It left me speechless.

  18. We are visiting in about a month. I’m hoping things will be less crowded in early November (9th-12th). For the perfect 3 day trip, do you suggest the narrows, angels landing and canyoning? Or, are there some short hikes or sunset type of activities that would be good to fill out the trip? Thanks

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Brian. That sounds like a great plan for 3 days. A couple of other things to consider, Weeping Rock and the Emerald Pools hiking trails just off the Zion shuttle are short hikes worth doing if you have the time. It’s likely Angels Landing doesn’t take all day…Think more like half a day. I’m not sure if you’ll have a car but drive the Mt. Carmel-Zion scenic road in the park. It doesn’t take long and could be a good end of day activity. The rock formations are fantastic. Enjoy Zion!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Kerry. Thanks for that. I have a bad habit of incorrectly using those names interchangeably.

  19. We are thinking of going for the day on November 25 from Las Vegas. We are seniors and not up to hiking. Can we still enjoy the park from the shuttle and the stops? Thank you!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Marcia. Yes, you can still enjoy the park from the shuttle and the stops. In particular, the last stop is a flat, pathway along the river that’s nice for a stroll. Also the stops for Weeping Rock and the Emerald Pools are popular and generally good for all ages. Weeping Rock is an uphill walk but it’s a short distance to get there. Be sure to drive the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, too. Lots of beauty with a few pull-offs like to see Checkerboard Mesa. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

  20. I am taking 3 kids ages 13, 11and 11 in either Mid March or mid April and I read that the Narrows might be closed at this time. Is that true? If it is, can we still get to some of it from the Temple? I don’t want to miss it.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading the blog, Melanie. You are right. The Narrows could very well be closed in Mid-March or Mid-April. The melting snow from the mountains can make the river unsafe at that time of year. Even from the last stop on the shuttle, Temple of Sinawava, it would be inaccessible. Conditions are always up to Mother Nature but spring is generally the time of year when it’s not possible to hike the Narrows. Zion still has so much to see and do that time of year. Plus, the weather is more pleasant than summer and the park’s animals have had their babies. Hope you enjoy your time in Zion!

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