Utah’s First National Park – Bucket List!
Zion National Park without a doubt is a national treasure. Located in Utah is a must for anyone.
Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience the wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.
Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
The Zion Wilderness is a spectacular network of colorful canyons, forested mesas, and striking deserts. In 2009, over 124,000 acres of Zion National Park was designated as wilderness.
This designation will ensure that 84% of the park will continue to be a place where nature and its “community of life are untrammeled by man, a place where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Depending on your travel style, you may approach visiting a National Park, like Zion National Park, differently than other families. They range from camping, to to hotels nearby to National Park Lodges can create a difficult decision.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts are a good option when visiting Zion National Park, they seem to have great values in the area. We are always looking for clean and affordable accommodations.
Zion National Park Map
Another option within Zion National Park is the cabin portion of the Zion Lodge. The accommodations are very similar, but they have exterior entrances for and a bit more privacy. They are just as updated as the Lodge rooms, but have a bit more space and are all at ground level. Depending on you travel style and budget, this could be a good option for families with small kids, as it’s easy to enjoy the night air just beyond your door once the kids have gone to sleep.
Everybody’s budget is different when they travel. Even when we’re traveling for work on somebody else’s dime, we are careful to make budget-friendly choices and to keep with the means that we’ve always operated in.
What is Wilderness?
Wilderness is a rare, wild place where one can retreat from civilization, reconnect with nature, and find healing, meaning and significance. Knowledge, respect, and understanding for these wild and undeveloped places will ensure that they remain spectacular for years to come.
THE NARROWS – ZION NATIONAL PARK
AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE.
The indians call the canyon through which it runs “Mu-koon’-tu-weap” or Straight Canyon. Entering this, we have to wade upstream; often the water fills the entire channel, and although we travel many miles, we find no flood plain, talus, or broken piles of rock at the foot of the cliff.
The walls have smooth, plain faces and are everywhere very regular and vertical for a thousand feet or more, where they seem to break back in shelving slopes to higher altitudes;
and everywhere as we go along we find springs bursting out at the foot of the walls, and, passing these, the river above becomes steadily smaller; the great body of water, which runs below, bursts out from beneath this great bed of red sandstone; as we go up the canyon, it comes to be but a creek, and then a brook.
The Zion Narrows Hike
The Narrows, or more formally, the narrows of the North Fork of the Virgin River, has become one of the most famous hikes in the world, and for good reason.
It is Zion’s hallmark hike. For beginner and intermediate hikers, it can be quite a challenging adventure.
Fit, experienced hikers will be wowed by the soaring sandstone walls and the novelty of walking IN the river for miles at a time.
Whether done as an overnight through-hike, from the top down as a dayhike, or from the bottom up, the Zion Narrows hike is a classic not to be missed.
STAYING IN SPRINGDALE, UT
We loved our stay at the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn & Suites. Despite having the longest name ever, it was a very short distance to the Park entrance. This has been on our minds as the hotel to stay when visiting Zion National Park. Highlights of staying at the BW Plus Zion Canyon Inn include HUGE rooms, free breakfast each morning, a very nice hot tub and pool area, and fire pits for guest use. And a patio for enjoying the sunset.
The location of the hotel was exceptional. Located just outside the main Zion National Park entrance, we were surrounded by the incredible cliffs of Zion Canyon. Also, at the hotel entrance was a Springdale Shuttle Stop to take guests to the entrance of the park, so you waste no time if you only have one day in Zion.
Tip: when you’re choosing where to stay at Zion National Park, consider the parking options and proximity to shuttle stops. Cars aren’t allowed in the main Zion Canyon most of the year, so you’ll be taking the Zion Shuttle at some point, no doubt. Try to be close for ease of entry.
You’ll find many other hotels and even a few B&Bs in Springdale, so choose the option that’s right for you.
If you’re booking last minute, you may find that Springdale is fully booked. You can also look in the town of Hurricane, UT for a good place to stay when visiting Zion National Park.
HURRICANE , UT
True, you’ll have a little more of a drive, but even from the town of Hurricane, there are shuttles available into Springdale and the Zion main entrance. When you’re traveling with the family and trying to make things fit a budget, there are lots of options for hotels if you just broaden your search a bit.
On the eastern side of Zion National Park, you’ll find the small town of Mt Carmel Junction. There isn’t much there except for some small hotels, a ranch and some outfitters for tourism. This is an ideal location if you want to have one home base but experience both Zion and Bryce Canyon
Like I said, it’s not a huge town. If you want more options you can head south a bit to Kanab. This is also going to put you into the middle of some of the coolest sandstone formations in Utah. The town is bigger and has more national brand options (if you’re traveling with points). You’ll also find a much more of a town for exploring and lots of tourist options beyond Zion National Park.
The Zion Lodge. Located at the trail head for the Emerald Pools and across the street from the horse corral, when you consider where to stay at Zion National Park, if being IN the park is important to you, this is your option.
Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road.
There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Camping is permitted in designated campsites, but not in pullouts or parking lots. Camping is popular; all campgrounds are often full by mid-morning.
There are few trees to provide relief from the heat. Some campsites get shade for part of the day, but many get no shade at all. Summer temperatures exceed 95°F (35°C) and lows rarely dip below 65°F (18°C); staying cool is a challenge.
Remember these temperatures and the possibility of a sunny campsite when planning. The Virgin River runs along the edge of each campground; there are a few riverside campsites.
All campsites are drive-up and allow a maximum of two vehicles. Only one RV or trailer is allowed. Any RV including motorhomes, cabover campers and camper vans, or any trailer including 5th wheels, pop-up campers, and cargo or boat trailers are vehicles and count toward the limit. Each campground has overflow parking for excess vehicles. Each campsite allows a maximum of six people and two tents; plan accordingly. Hammocks are allowed but are limited to the footprint of the campsite. Check out time is 11:00 a.m.
Comfort stations provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water, and trash containers, but no showers or electrical outlets. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with attached grill. Quiet hours are 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Pets are allowed on a leash no longer than six feet. Hiking in the park with pets is allowed only on the roads and Pa’rus Trail.
Springdale is adjacent to Zion Canyon; pay showers, small markets, firewood, laundromats, a limited medical clinic, and restaurants are available. Springdale can be reached from the campgrounds by car, foot, bicycle, or free shuttle (February through late November).
From March through mid-November, the park-wide camping limit is 14 nights. An additional 30 nights is permitted the rest of the year. These limits apply to all park campgrounds.
There are three campground within the park, only two of which are full amenity campgrounds. If you’re figuring out where to stay at Zion National Park and camping is your goal, within the park you can either stay at the main entrance (Springdale area, West) or to the north within the Kolob Canyons entrance. DISCLAIMER: we’ve not camped within Zion NPS so cannot officially recommend either option.
Knowing the landscape of the area, camping at either the South or Watchman campgrounds is going to be quite exposed. There aren’t a lot of trees, especially not any thick, bushy trees, so even if you manage to get a campsite without a neighbor right there, you won’t have a lot of privacy.
THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY ZION NATIONAL PARK IS IN A CAMPER
MANY PEOPLE CHOOSE TO FLY TO LAS VEGAS RENT A CAMPER AND DRIVE THE 170 MILES TO ZION NATIONAL PARK
SOME BACKPACKING SUGGESTIONS
When you’re traveling with kids, dining and feeding hungry littles is at the forefront of your mind a good portion of the day. It’s important to be prepared and have a plan, no matter the gambit of activities you have planned in Zion National Park. Our number one tip: bring your own snacks, and remember that waste-free snacks are best. also there are many drinkable stream and manmade water outlets, so bring some reusable water bottles.
DINING AT ZION LODGE
There are two options for purchasing food within Zion National Park and both are located at the Zion Lodge. The Red Rocks Grill is located above the lobby in the main Zion Lodge building.
It does both a fresh buffet and salad station as well as fine dining menu style. There was a time when dining in National Parks was just as disappointing as dining in theme parks, but in places like the Zion Lodge and Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park, they’ve really stepped up their game with sourcing and operating like a normal nice restaurant would.
Also good to know, the Red Rocks Grill has a bar and serves alcoholic beverages. When you talk about visiting Utah, there are a lot of questions and conversation about alcohol laws in the state. Yes, they do have alcohol and yes, they also have weird Utah beer. Both are available at Zion Lodge.
There is also a quick service cafe attached to the Zion Lodge, the Castle Dome Cafe, located near the Zion Shuttle stop. This is good for sandwiches and burgers, but the price point doesn’t match the experience. For the same prices or cheaper you can enjoy a nice, sit-down service restaurant at the Red Rocks grill and eat out on the rooftop deck looking out at the Zion Canyon walls. You choose.
Fees & Passes
All park visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass upon entering Zion National Park. Zion participates in the congressionally authorized Federal Recreation Lands Enhancement Act. Under this program, parks keep 80% of all fees collected;the remaining 20% will be deposited in a special account to be used in parks where fees are not collected. Funds generated by the fees are used to accomplish projects the parks have been unable to fund through yearly Congressional allocations.
Your Fee Dollars at Work
Entrance Fees All park visitors are required to purchase a recreational use pass upon entering Zion National Park. Passes are non-transferable. Credit Cards accepted at all fee collection areas.
.Weekly Passes .
Weekly passes are non-transferable and are valid for 7 consecutive days including the date of purchase. Weekly passes may be upgraded to annual passes within 7 days of purchase.
Private Vehicle: $35. Valid for 7 days.
Admits private, non-commercial vehicle (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Motorcycle: $30. Valid for 7 days.
Admits one non-commercial motorcycle to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas.
Per Person: $20. Valid for 7 days.
Admits one individual with no car to Zion National Park, including both the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas. Typically used for bicyclists, hikers and pedestrians. Youth 15 and under are admitted free.
Non-Commercial Organized Groups: Valid for 7 days.
Organized groups such as Scouts, Rotary, Clubs, Youth Groups, Churches, Reunions, etc. that do not qualify for an Academic Fee Waiver are charged as follows:
$35.00 Non-commercial vehicles with a vehicle capacity of 15 or less.
$20.00 per person Non-commercial vehicles with a capacity of 16 or greater. Fees will not exceed the commercial fee for the same-sized vehicle. Youth 15 and under are free. Individuals or families with any valid Annual or Lifetime pass may use their pass for entry at the per person rate. Pass and photo ID must be present upon entry.
Other Available Passes
All of the passes listed below are available at park entrance stations.
Interagency Annual Pass – $80.00. Admission to all Federal fee areas for one year from date of purchase.
Zion Annual Pass – $70.00. Admission to Zion National Park for one year from date of purchase.
Military Annual Pass – Free. Active duty military admission to all federal fee areas for one year.
Senior Annual Pass – $20.00. Admission to all federal fee areas for one year from date of purchase. Lifetime Passes
Lifetime Senior Pass – $80.00. Admission to all federal fee areas for life, U.S. citizens 62 years or older.
Lifetime Access Pass – Free. Admission to all federal fee areas for life, permanently disabled U.S. citizensAppreciation Passes
4th Grade Pass – Free. Admission to all federal fee areas with valid paper pass. Good from September 1 through August 31 of the 4th graders school year. Also available at the Nature Center.
Volunteer Pass – Free. Admission to all federal fee areas for one year from issue date. Volunteers with over 250 hours of service are eligible.
How To Use The Shuttle System
There are two shuttle routes. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale. The Springdale Shuttle will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You may get on and off as often as you like. Riding the shuttle is free.
Buses are wheelchair accessible.
Click here for additional Traffic and Travel Tips
Tune your radio to 1610 AM for additional information.
During the busy season the free buses run from early morning to late evening, as often as every seven minutes. Times and intervals change with the seasons. Current schedules are posted at each shuttle stop, at park visitor centers, and in the
Map and Guide.
Take Your Time
Buses run frequently throughout the day, as often as every seven minutes. You do not need to rush to catch one. Take your time to plan your visit. Use the exhibits outdoors and the information inside at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to make the most of your time. Ranger presentations at the Zion Human History Museum are a great way to learn more about the park before you ride the shuttle up canyon. The bookstore has maps and publications that can augment your visit.
Easiest Ways to Get to Zion National Park
Zion National Park is just 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, 4 hours from Salt Lake City and 6 to 7 hours from Los Angeles. You can drive to the park, but during the park’s busy season (from April to November), the main canyon is accessible only by shuttle.
When traveling by plane, the closest airport near Zion National Park is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which is 170 miles from the park. Salt Lake City International Airport is the next closest, and it’s 311 miles from the park.
If you fly into Salt Lake City, you can take a connecting flight into Saint George, Utah or Cedar City, Utah. Saint George is just 49 miles from the park, and Cedar City is 60 miles from the park.
If you plan to travel by car from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Saint George or Cedar City, here are some easy and quick directions to Zion National Park.
From Las Vegas (163 miles from Zion) or Saint George (40 miles from Zion):
- Jump on Interstate 15 north
- Take exit 16 and stay right on State Route 9 East for 33 miles
- Stay right to continue on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah for 20 miles
- Stay on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park
From Salt Lake City (307 miles from Zion) or Cedar City (57 miles from Zion):
- Jump on Interstate 15 south
- Take exit 27 and stay left on State Route 17 South for 26 miles
- Stay left on State Route 9 East in La Verkin for 20 miles
- Continue on State Route 9 East into Zion National Park
For additional directions to Zion National Park, please visit our maps page.
Zion National Park Visitor Centers
Once you arrive at the park, you can stop at one of the two visitor centers to obtain all of your necessary permits, learn about park activities, receive restaurant recommendations and view transportation schedules. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located at the south entrance of the park near Springdale.
The Kolob Canyon Visitor Center is located off of Interstate 15 at the west entrance of the park.
ENJOY THIS MAGICAL DESTINATION
– A BUCKET LISTER FOR SURE –