After our first initial visit to Zion National Park back in 2010, this magnificent valley in Utah had become a favorite. I have come back several times with friends to hike the Emerald Pools trail, the Narrows and to find a sense of grounding. My now adult daughter hikes, camps here with friends and even took her engagement photos in the park. Zion has been a special place for us with its tremendous sandstone monuments, green valley floor and the peaceful Virgin River that runs through it. Another reason to love this place is Zion is not far from Las Vegas, you can make it there between 2.5 and 3 hours.
Zion was recognized as a national park in 1919 and has up to 4,000,000 visitors per year. This national park is on everyone’s To-See list from all over the world. During my visits, I have heard different European languages including French and German. According to my friends from Europe, road tripping through America to our national parks is big on their bucket list.
Zion National Park has been home to different civilizations for around 8,000 years, firstly by the Native Americans. Then the Mormons settled here during the mid-1800s, which is why many of the monuments, including the park name have Mormon names associated with it. Although there are some monuments in the park that have Native American references, like the Temple of Sinawava.
Planning your day(s) at Zion is essential. I have been here several times and I suggest that you do not wing it, especially during high travel season. Depending on your hiking experience, who you are traveling with and how much time you have, will dictate your visit to Zion. You want to make sure your visit runs smoothly and you get to see everything this national park has to offer.
My recommendation is to either get to Zion before the park opens or spend the night. If at all possible, spending the night is your best option.
- Springdale: The town next to Zion is Springdale and has several hotels at various price points. There are shuttles that bring you in and out of the park from Springdale.
- Camping: Although I am big on camping, I have not camped at Zion. My daughter has done it several times and she has always enjoyed the experience. Camping reservations are required. Zion Campground Information
- Zion Lodge: This has been my favorite way to stay and experience Zion National Park. The historic cabins and lodge are settled within the park. They are comfortable, quiet and allow you parking and early park access.
Things To Do
Angels Landing – For those who are brave and able enough, the Angels Landing hike is one of the most popular climbs in Zion National Park. Have I done it? Nope. My daughter has done it as well as several of my friends, they have all said it was not for the weak at heart, but it was worth the climb!
The hike is dangerous and narrow as you can tell from the photo. During the last part of the climb, there is a chain section for you to hold on to. The climbing path becomes steeper and it narrows to a couple of feet wide.
The Narrows – Hiking The Narrows is one of the most popular activities in Zion, so I suggest that you arrive early. This section of the park is at the very end of the canyon, opposite the enterance (see map) and it will take you awhile to get there. If you are staying at the lodge or cabins inside the park, you are more than half way there. You can take an early shuttle or walk to the Narrows before everyone else arrives.
Preparing yourself for the hike in the Narrows is very important to make your experience safe and easy.
- Use walking sticks- These were a life saver for us. Walking sticks are essential for balance since the bottom of the river is uneven. You can purchase walking them on Amazon for $20+ or rent them in Springdale. I own a pair and it has been a great investment for the Narrows or on other hikes.
- Wear covered shoes- The river bed is full of uneven spots and sharp rocks, where you can stub your toe or get nicks on your feet. I own a pair of Adidas River shoes, that have openings on the sides and have sturdy traction. If you do not want to invest in a pair, a set of old trainers will work just as well.
- Quick dry clothing and layers- The weather can change on your hike, so wearing light layers is recommended. It can be cool is some parts while in the Virgin River, where you want to wear a light jacket. Then when you are back on dry land, it may warm up so a light shirt is more appropriate.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses/ baseball cap- If you are sensitive to the sun, adding a layer of sunscreen while at the park is advisable. I always wear it as well as a baseball cap, to protect my face and eyes from the sun’s glare.
- A day pack/ sling backpack- Leave your purses and large backpacks out of The Narrows! The lighter the better and always make sure you are hands free. My favorite bag to use with any hiking activity is a sling backpack because I can just slide it to the front of my body without taking it off.
- Waterproof or ziplock bags- These are always a good idea when you are in water. Liquid proof bags will keep your important items (cellphone, wallet, map) dry while in your pockets or day bag. The narrows can get deep at waist level or you may fall in!
Map of Zion Canyon
Planning in advance of what day hikes you want to do is very beneficial when traveling to any National Park, including Zion. Depending on how many days you are staying, your fitness level and the age group (with children), will dictate your day at Zion.
There are easy nature paths and strenuous hikes, so do some research prior to your visit. You can always ask the Visitors Center at the start of your day, but it is just as easy and you can save time if you view the hikes on line – Hiking Trails at Zion. Check prior to your hike on the trail conditions as they may change due to weather or natural occurrences.
My favorite hikes at Zion:
- The Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pool trails which start off easy but then change to more moderate hikes when you get closer to the pools. Stop #5 at Zion Lodge.
- Riverwalk- This is an easy and paved hike that brings you down to the Narrows. Stop #9 at Temple of Sinawava.
Parking and Shuttle Service:
There is limited parking within Zion and the car lines into the park can be very long, at either entrance. If there are no parking spots available, you will more than likely park in Springdale and take the shuttle in. This is why I had mentioned prior that I recommended spending the night inside the park or in Springdale. Unless you arrive very early before the shuttle busses begin, you will spend a lot of time finding a place to park.
Taking the shuttle within the park is recommended and needed. There are certain areas inside Zion that are only accessible by shuttle and parking is limited. If you park in Springdale, there are several shuttle stops that are in front of various hotels and parking lots.
Click here for shuttle information➡ Zion Canyon Shuttle Service
Zion National Park Lodge
Staying at the historic lodge and cabins inside Zion is the best way to experience the park, in my opinion. I have stayed in the cabins twice and I enjoyed the benefits of staying here rather than driving in for the day, which I have also done. The lodge is next to the café and restaurant, plus you are staying inside the park. This means that you have earlier access to several of the trails including the popular Riverwalk, Emerald Pools and The Narrows.
Another benefit of staying at the lodge or cabins is that you can come back and rest up in your comfortable room at any time of the day!
For lodge reservations, please visit Zion National Park Lodge
Photo Journal of Zion National Park
For park information, please visit the NPS website Zion National Park
Spending time in nature is healing energy…
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