Zion National Park

8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park

Have you decided to visit Zion National Park in Utah? Better yet…

Are you ready to do some spectacular things at Zion National Park?

Arguably the absolute gem of the National Park system, Zion will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience!

The towering red rock, the evergreen trees, and the glittering Virgin River exquisitely come together to create one majestic and formidable landscape. With so many things to do at Zion National Park, it’ll be easy to please all ages and physical abilities. You’ll just have to find the time to fit them all in!

So, grab your America the Beautiful Pass and let’s go! 🙂

8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park

8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park
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1. Drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway.

This drive is an absolute must. In fact, you should plan to drive it a couple of times! Prepare yourself for an impressive, incredible, and even imposing drive with monster slabs of gorgeous rock towering over you on all sides.

Zion National Park

If possible, plan to arrive at the park from the Mount Carmel side of Route 9, which is easy to do if you’re coming from Bryce National Park.

If you’re staying at the campgrounds or in Springdale, this first introduction to Zion will likely leave you wide-eyed, mouth agape.

Its majestic beauty tells you loudly and proudly you’re not in just another National Park in the same way you’re not looking at just another portrait when you marvel at Rembrandt’s brilliance.

Zion National Park

The road winds, dips, and ducks into tunnels for 12 miles. Traffic moves slowly, as road and weather conditions, the number of cars, and wildlife demands attentive driving. There are no bathrooms or other services along the route. 

If you’re renting a car, consider asking for a four-wheel-drive vehicle. 

Plan to have the water and food you need for the time you’ll be out on the drive. In fact, you should be prepared on any road trip you’re planning to take. 

Zion National Park

There are scenic pull-offs, but they’re small and often come up suddenly. Drive slowly to not pass one by because U-turns are all but impossible.

While stopped, spend time taking in and exploring the terrain. You might even come across a herd of mountain goats grazing on low shrubs and plants!

Zion National Park
The herd we came upon had 10 babies (!) and at least as many adults.

2. Stop to see Checkboard Mesa.

As you drive along the Zion-Mt. Carmel scenic highway, be sure to make Checkerboard Mesa one of your pull-offs. Its light grayish color stands out from the orange layers of sandstone forming the nearby mountains.

Not to mention its namesake display of a perfect checkerboard line pattern. Checkerboard Mesa has its own viewpoint and for good reason. It deserves much more than a drive-by.

Zion National Park

Unlike Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, driving within Zion is largely restricted for much of the year, besides for the scenic road mentioned above. Instead, you’ll need to use the free shuttle system to go to and from the park.

Another option some visitors prefer to do instead of the shuttle is a Zion Canyon bike and hike tour so they can be completely outdoors, stop more freely, and pull off in places where the shuttle doesn’t make stops.

Depart from the Springdale Visitor Center and take the shuttle the full length of the drive to get a fuller sense of the park’s vast landscape.

Along the way, sights like the Court of the Patriarchs and the Virgin River can be seen and photographed from the road or by walking along short paths to scenic viewpoints.

Shuttles run frequently in both directions. I never waited for more than a couple of minutes. The hikes listed below can all be accessed from the 9 shuttle stops, except for the Canyon Overlook Trail.

Zion National Park

3. Walk along Zion’s Virgin River.

Beginning with the last shuttle stop, Temple of Sinawava, the Riverside Walk is a must. The path is paved and mostly flat. You’ll wind along the Virgin River with opportunities to veer off the paved path and get closer to the water.

The walk is 2.2 miles roundtrip and suitable for everyone. It’s not as flashy as some of the other hikes in Zion, but the walk through the trees with the mountains on either side of the river is peaceful and really lends itself to a relaxed pace as you take in your surroundings.

I found the Riverside Walk to be one of the prettiest spots in Zion.

Amazing view of the Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah.

4. Hike the Narrows.

It’s also from this part of the park where people come to hike the Narrows, one of the most iconic Zion National Park hikes. The Narrows is not a trail, but rather a steep canyon through which the Virgin River flows. Much of the hike is done by wading through the river.

The day hike is roughly 10 miles out and back, although you can also go out and back for a shorter distance and have equally as memorable of an experience. If you do the full 10 miles, plan on it taking the full day. To go further, you must get a permit.

If you’re an experienced hiker, check with shops in town and at the Visitors Center about renting gear like wading shoes/boots and walking poles.

Also, check Zion’s website and again with the park when you arrive for the most up-to-date information about water levels and conditions. Flash Floods are a real danger and heavy spring snowmelt strengthens the river’s current. Both of these events will most likely close down the hike.

Hiking the Narrows is an incredible experience, particularly because the terrain is unique and, of course, because Zion is breathtaking. For those of you who don’t want to miss out on this experience but have never done a hike like this before, I recommend hiking the Narrows with a guide. An expert will help make sure you have the right gear and will understand the conditions of the river and the slot canyon leaving you to just enjoy the experience!

Let’s hop back onto the Zion National Park shuttle and head towards stop 8, Big Bend, and stop 7, Weeping Rock.

Big Bend is a popular photo-op spot for the Angel’s Landing trail, high above. You’ll actually be able to see hikers along the rocky cliffs, as well as an excellent outline of the hike.

Visiting Zion National Park soon?

We had a fantastic stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Zion’s gateway town, Springdale. Search and book more great hotels on TripAdvisor or Booking.com.

5. Visit Weeping Rock.

After capturing a few photos at Big Bend, head toward Weeping Rock by making the short, steep climb.

The rock has a constant drip or flow of spring water coming out of it. This creates a moisture-rich environment for plants and “hanging gardens” to develop. In spring, when I visited, these “gardens” were just beginning to grow.

Zion National Park
The view from underneath Weeping Rock

6. Let Angel’s Landing take your breath away!

Following the shuttle stops back, number 6 is the Grotto and the place to get off for the popular Angels Landing hike. If you plan to hike to Angel’s Landing, arrive earlier to avoid significant crowding, especially along the last bit of narrow ledge rock scrambling.

At 2.7 miles of one-way steep, uphill walking and climbing, Angels Landing is more strenuous than not. Follow the series of switchbacks to weave your way up the mountain. My Angels Landing guide (link above) is dedicated solely to this hike, but it’s important to note here this hike is NOT for young children or anyone afraid of heights.

At its highest points, you’ll be rock scrambling on all fours to get to the top with a steep drop-off on either side of you. The hike and the accompanying views are absolutely spectacular, but all precautions must be taken. The risk is real so make sure you have the right gear. 

ProTip: If you want to hike Angels Landing or another trail in Zion but would feel more comfortable with a guide, these experts can tailor a hiking experience that’s just right for you.

Zion National Park
My view from Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah. I made it!

7. Consider the Canyon Overlook Trail instead.

As an alternative to Angel’s Landing, many people opt for the shorter (just 1-mile round trip) and much more moderate hike along the Canyon Overlook Trail.

The tricky thing about this hike is actually the parking, which is a small pull-off area along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway. As with all the pull-offs, the parking area fills quickly, so arrive early!

8. Hike to see the Emerald Pools.

The Zion Lodge is at the 5th shuttle stop. Here you’ll find bathrooms, a place to refill on water, and even a small cafe. The horse corrals are across the way and lead regular horseback riding excursions through the park. (Although, I think it’s best to enjoy the overlooks and hiking trails within the park and opt for a horseback excursion just outside the park on another day.)

You can also access the Emerald Pools hiking trails here. The Lower Emerald Pool hike is more like a pretty walk and takes just about an hour. To go longer, you can continue on to the Upper Emerald Pool and the Kayenta Trails for more of a trek.

Zion National Park
Water falling off the rocks near the Emerald Pools

Light waterfalls form as water flows from the upper pools to the middle and lower pools. The constant moisture makes the area especially lush, and on a sunny day, the Virgin River sparkles! The Emerald Trails are popular. Be prepared to share the trail and the views.

Zion National Park
The shimmering Virgin River

Looking for More Fun Things to Do at Zion National Park?

There’s so much to do and enjoy while you’re in the Zion National Park area. Some of it just happens to be just outside the park’s boundaries. Not to worry, though! Zion National Park’s beauty doesn’t end at the park’s exit…far from it! 😉

Many national parks regulate the types of activities that can happen within the protected park area. This helps both the animals who live there and the park’s visitors. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the fun, unforgettable activities possible in the area. I’ve listed a few below to help your Zion National Park planning.

Springdale Canyoneering Experience

All that red rock in and around Zion National Park is just begging to be climbed. A half-day canyoneering excursion makes it possible for even complete newbie (or wannabe) climbers to go on a climbing adventure!

You’ll hike, climb, rappel your way to areas and canyons you wouldn’t be able to access on your own, all with an expert guide who provides you with the right gear and support. Not to mention, just think of how rewarding it will be as you take in the awesome views over Zion National Park!

Off-Road Jeep Adventure

Explore the untamed terrain of East Zion in an open-air Jeep adventure. On this excursion, you’ll cross backcountry territory and climb 2,000 feet all from the back of the Jeep.

From this vantage point, you can take in the sweeping Zion National Park views including Checkerboard Mesa and the Narrows. Along the way, keep an eye out for some of Zion’s wild residents like mule deer or even a black bear.

This is an exciting adventure for families and also a great way to take a break from the hiking trail while still exploring gorgeous southwestern Utah.

East Zion Horseback Tour

Another great way to enjoy the outdoors just beyond Zion National Park’s borders is on a horseback tour. You’ll spend a couple of hours on the trail winding up past Pine trees and desert forest before topping out at a high peak with spectacular views over Zion National Park.

Mountain Biking Adventure

If climbing and canyoneering aren’t for you, why not get out onto some of the best mountain biking trails in southwestern Utah with an expert guide to show you the way.

Think winding canyons, epic red rock cliffs, and, of course, those incredible Zion National Park views! The adventure can be tailored to suit your level so not to worry if you’ve never mountain biked before but just can’t resist getting out among the gorgeous mountain scenery!

Are you planning a visit to Zion National Park? Be sure to know the tips you need for a successful Zion visit!

Looking for ways to save money on National Park visits? Consider the America the Beautiful Pass and check out my 5 money-saving tips!

What things would you most like to do at Zion National Park? 

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8 Spectacular Things to do at Zion National Park
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47 thoughts on “8 Spectacular Things to Do at Zion National Park”

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      The hiking is really great at Zion, Mellissa. The park has more forested areas than other Utah National Parks, which provides good cover in the Utah heat. Combine that with the gorgeous scenery and you just can’t go wrong! 😉

  1. I’ve always read (and seen) how great Zion is. Just one of the many reasons why we are excited to head back state-side and exploring all the gems and national parks of the country!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      How great, LeAnna! The U.S. has really gorgeous National Parks and Zion is right up there at the top. Enjoy exploring!

  2. I LOVE Zion National Park! Your list made be realize how many locations and activities I missed when I visited. Like you, I did not get to hike the Narrows, but it was due to a lack of time. I must get back before too long and immerse myself fully in the experience!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      It’s certainly an incredible park you could spend a ton of time exploring, Howard! I really think Zion is in the top 3 U.S. National Parks and is worth a revisit for any reason.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      My thoughts exactly, Brianna! Glad you’ve had the chance to experience Zion!

  3. I’ve read several articles about Zion national park recently and it has gone from being somewhere I knew little about to somewhere high on my travel wish list! It really does look incredibly beautiful. Great tips and recommendations, thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Awesome, Katja! Zion is definitely a top 3 U.S National Park. I hope you can make it soon!

  4. Absolutely magnificent. How fun to see the mountain goats…was it scary? Need to check out Zion National Park at some point. Great shots by the way!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Rosemary! Not scary at all, in fact. The goats eyed us cautiously, at first, because there were so many babies! But, we just sat and stayed pretty still just watching. Hope you can make it to Zion soon! Magnificent is the perfect word. 🙂

  5. Ok, we definitely need to plan another trip to Zion! We were only able to stop for an afternoon visit, so we did Angels Landing–it was so awesome and the views were fantastic! Glad you enjoyed the hike as well–looking forward to reading more about your experience on the hike! One of the hikes I want to do most on our next visit is the Narrows. I would love to just drive around the park and stop here and there to check out the scenery. Such a gorgeous park!!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      An afternoon is surely not enough, Jenna, but you did Angel’s Landing saw the magnificence up close. The Narrows is on my list, too. Check back this week for my Angel’s Landing post. 🙂

  6. As much as I worship all those views you’ve showed us, that shot at Angel’s Landing is the one that pushed me to put this place down on my list of ASAP’s. When I go there, I’ll definitely prioritize the riverside walk and I’ll probably go with my BFF!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      The views from Angel’s Landing are just stunning, Karla! I hope you can make it to Zion soon!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      It’s a must if you want to see the best of the best in U.S. National Parks, Holly!

  7. When I was planning our Las Vegas to Denver road trip, I tried to fit everything that I possibly could into the itinerary: Zion was one of those places that I wanted to visit SO badly, but just couldn’t get the timing and driving distances to work out. I cannot wait until we get to head back to Utah and explore Zion in the (hopefully very near) future!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Your road trip sounds like a ton of fun, Natalie. It might be better that Zion didn’t work out, as now you can plan a trip dedicated to the Utah National Parks. That is never a bad thing! 🙂 Hope you get back out there soon.

  8. Paul Konikowski

    There is a fantastic BLM trail network on nearby Gooseberry Mesa. It is a little tricky to find, and only accessible by dirt roads which become very dangerous when it rains so check the weather first. I usually drive in from the south side off of Highway 59, before you get to Apple Valley, coming from Hurricane, take a hard left near the gas station. Be careful about asking for directions, you are in Poly Country! The southern route to the top is a slightly better road than the northern approach from Virgin / Highway 9, near Zion Resort. My Acura has made it up and down twice so not too bad. Once you get to the top there is a huge parking lot for annual mountain bike races, but most times of the year, you probably won’t see anyone for a few days. There is a pit toilet and primitive first come first serve free camp sites, but nothing else. Bring everything, no stores nearby except that gas station which is too far for snacks. The mountain biking is top notch but hikers would also be pleased with the North and South rim trails. Lookup Gooseberry mesa mountain biking on youtube biking for footage.

    1. Paul Konikowski

      Smithsonian Scenic Byway is the name of the “road” that links Zion to Gooseberry Mesa

    2. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      This is fantastic info, Paul! I really appreciate you sharing with such detail. I’m sure others will find it helpful and I’ll research that footage before heading back to Zion. 🙂

  9. We will be there February 14-15, 2019. Do you know if the bus tour still runs and the Narrows hike is still accessible?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, TGuff. Zion in February is the least crowded month but you should still expect people. February is still technically, non-shuttle season. SO that means traffic can drive into Zion Scenic Canyon, but that also means parking is limited and that traffic won’t be allowed in once all parking spots are taken. The Narrows is open all year round except if the weather or water level prevents it. You should check the Zion NPS website for the latest openings and closures when it gets close to your trip. But, if it’s just cold and sunny and the water is low, I’d expect the Narrows to be open. Have a great trip!! 🙂

  10. When is the best time to visit Zion? We are flexible and have heard the best time may be September to avoid the larger crowds yet still have great weather and viewing of the park?

    Is this true?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Joel. Yes, Fall is the best time to visit Zion. There are fewer people, the water in the Narrows is at its warmest, and depending on your timing, some of the leaves may actually be changing colors. 🙂

  11. Jackie, thank you for this great information. I’m taking my parents (who would not be able to do too much walking). You’ve given me the alternative options I was looking for.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Jun. I’m so glad the guide was helpful for planning your trip to Zion with your parents. Hope you have a great trip and make fantastic memories. 🙂

  12. Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for the great read. I am planning to visit Zion for Spring Break, but there will be some small children in our group. Do you have any suggestions for activities with little ones in and around Zion? Thank you.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Kennedy. The Riverside walk near the start of the Narrows is an easy walk and great for families. I’d also recommend the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools trails. The last is near Zion Lodge and both are accessible via the park shuttle. 🙂

  13. We will be there next weekend and it’s really helpful to know about the trails as we will be coming with 2 toddlers.

  14. Thanks for the great tips. I am travelling with a pulmonary patient who cannot take high elevations. Do you know the elevation of Zion National Park? Is most of the park elevated or some of the great places mentioned can still work for us?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Maggie. I’m not a doctor so can’t say for sure if the park will work for you. But, when I checked, Zion’s elevation is at around 3,000 feet. Hikes would gain in elevation. I’d take time to consider if the scenic drive would work for you. Also the riverside walk at the last stop on the Zion Shuttle. The walkway is relatively flat and perfect for strolling versus hiking.

  15. wondering about the first hiking spot u mentio you said it was flat and paved- would an electric scooter work here? traveling with someone who uses a mobilty scooter

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Crystle. Yes, the Riverside walk is suitable for someone with a mobility scooter, as is the Zion shuttle bus. 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Kelly. You could do the things listed here in 2 days not including the Narrows Hike. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went. If you do this, as well, add a day to your time in Zion. Enjoy!

  16. Although I am 70 years old, I am in relatively good shape and would like to to do Angel’s Landing hike but I am concerned about having to scramble on all fours. I could manage the scramble for a short time (~ 15 minutes) but is there a need to scramble for more than an hour?
    And lastly, are careful hikers safe from the drop-offs or is that a very real risk even for an experienced hiker?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Gordon. You definitely won’t have to scramble for a long period of time. The need to scramble comes in bits and spurts. As for the risk, know that there are chain link grips on certain parts of the trail for you to hold onto as you climb. There are no barriers on either edge to prevent falls, though. The earlier you go the better off you will be because there will be fewer people on the trail and therefore, less congestion of people trying to move in either direction. I think this alone makes it safer. Enjoy Zion and the views from Angels Landing. They’re spectacular.

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