Zion National Park Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best U.S. National Parks
Credit

Courtesy of Johannes Wienke / EyeEm/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Zion National Park

Zion National Park brims with awe-inspiring views and outdoor adventures. Travelers can experience the burnt umber-colored canyons along any one of the park's hiking trails, such as Angels Landing or Observation Point, which offer bird's-eye views. For a different perspective, adventure junkies can walk through the canyon by wading through the Virgin River via the Narrows. And if visitors would rather enjoy the scenery from a car or shuttle, they can hop on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated March 28, 2019

  • #1
    Things to do in Zion National Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The slimmest section of Zion Canyon is known as the Narrows, and it's one of the park's most popular hikes. To experience it, set out from the Temple of Sinawava along the Riverside Walk for a one-mile, wheelchair-accessible hike that offers a good view of the Narrows. But if you want to go any farther, you'll be wading or even swimming upstream since the footpath turns into the Virgin River. Along the way, you'll enjoy towering views of the striated, orange-red canyon.

    Recent travelers recommend sealing any valuables in a waterproof bag, as the water can rise as high as your waist in some places. According to reviewers, you'll also need to rent or bring waterproof shoes as the rocky, slippery terrain cannot be traversed with bare feet. Hikers also suggest getting to the Narrows early to avoid the crowds.

  • #2
    Zion Canyon Visitor Center
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    #2 in Zion National Park
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Likely a traveler's first stop in Zion National Park, the visitor center contains a large bookstore, a miniature model of the entire park and knowledgeable park staff who are more than happy to answer questions. Plus, it's also a "green building," complete with solar panels, cooling towers and outdoor shade structures, among other eco-friendly elements. In fact, visitors can go for an "ecohunt" inside the visitor center to find out more about its green features.

    One traveler describes the visitor center as an invaluable place to pick up maps and information about the park on your way in. On the way out, it's a great place to purchase mementos and books for further reading.

  • #3
    Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
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    #3 in Zion National Park
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you'd rather experience Zion National Park's grandeur from the safety and comfort of your car, then the 57-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is for you. The route takes you past the Virgin River and many of the park's famous landmarks but only from December to February. During peak season, you can catch a free shuttle for the portion that runs through the park. But even the route that extends outside the park is magnificent, traveling through the Grafton ghost town (near Rockville), which was featured in the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and Utah's Quail Creek and Sand Hollow state parks.

    Travelers who have traversed this thoroughfare describe it as a "white-knuckle drive" with relatively few guardrails and numerous sheer cliffs. Still, it rewards you with beautiful views of the park and wildlife like bighorn sheep. Reviewers also warn that the drive shouldn't be taken at night or during rain showers, since the hairpin turns can be difficult to maneuver.

  • #4
    Canyon Overlook Trail
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    #4 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the easiest and most photographed trails in Zion National Park, Canyon Overlook Trail is also one of the busiest. Only 1-mile round trip, this trail will take hikers 100 feet from the parking lot to the overlook, where expansive views of Zion Canyon can be enjoyed.

    Most travelers suggest starting your hike early due to limited on-site parking. Others say that although the trail is relatively short, there are some narrow, rocky sections that might be difficult for young children to manage.

  • #5
    Observation Point
    View all Photos
    #5 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    When you crest the Observation Point trail, you'll find yourself at an elevation of 6,521 feet atop Mount Baldy and enjoying a bird's-eye view of just about all of Zion National Park's top attractions, including Angels Landing. Because hikers will ascend 2,000 feet during this 8-mile, round-trip hike, it's not for the faint of heart. Make sure to wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water, since some of the trek will expose you to full sun.

    One traveler recommends hitting the trail early to avoid high temperatures and also suggests pacing yourself for the strenuous uphill hike and the return hike's descent. Bringing a packed lunch isn't a bad idea either, since the trek will likely take you three to four hours.

  • #6
    Watchman Trail
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    #6 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The 3-mile round-trip Watchman Trail doesn't ascend the red, 6,545-foot-tall Watchman Spire but rather affords a spectacular view of it, as well as the expansive valley beneath it and some desert cacti and greenery along the way. As the trail only ascends about 400 feet, it's a good trail to start out on for those new to hiking.

    Previous travelers called this a "nice moderate hike," though some recommend doing it early in the day to avoid the direct sunlight that bears down at midday. Because the trailhead is near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, one visitor recommends skipping the long lines of the free shuttle in favor of hopping on this trail first.

  • #7
    Pa'rus Trail
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    #7 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Pa'rus Trail, with its wide paved path, is probably the easiest hike in Zion National Park. But it's also just a great way to reach various sites throughout the park, such as campgrounds and park offices, without having to rely on the shuttle, which can be quite crowded in the summertime. Plus, its pleasing views of the "bubbling, tumbling waters" of the Virgin River, for which it derives its Paiute name, are incredibly enjoyable, too.

    Visitors say the paved Pa'rus Trail is ideal for strollers, bicycles or wheelchairs, while others add that it's one of the few places that leashed dogs are allowed. Recent travelers also say that "the beautiful bridges" that span the Virgin River are some of the trail's best attributes.

  • #8
    Angels Landing
    View all Photos
    #8 in Zion National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Like its name alludes, the Angels Landing trail concludes at an elevated perch. Travelers will ascend 1,488 feet during the 5-mile round-trip hike, some of which features sheer cliffs and steep switchbacks that might make it mentally challenging to those with an aversion to heights. Those hikers should turnaround at Scout Lookout (which is also where the trail's restrooms are located), as the last bit of the trail to the landing involves grasping chains to keep your footing on the sheer drop-offs.

    This is a strenuous five-hour hike that's not ideal for children or anyone with a fear of heights, according to recent travelers. Reviewers also suggest tackling the hike midweek, since the trail gets crowded on weekends.

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