Zion National Park: The Complete Guide for 2021

Lauren Allain

Seattle, WA, USA

If you love: crying out of sheer happiness, seeing something so beautiful that you take 80 pictures of basically the same thing, and the Milky Way, Zion National Park is the place for you. From extreme hikes for those who don’t mind heights to leisurely paved strolls along the Virgin River, at this uber-famous Utah national park, there’s something for every type of adventurer.

Where is Zion National Park?

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion National Park is in the southwestern part of Utah, smooshed between the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin National Park, and the Colorado Plateau. The nearest town is Springdale, located at the southern entrance to the park. Although it’s a small town, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, bars and shopping.

At 163 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada, and 307 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah, Zion is an easy addition to any Southwest National Park adventure. From the park, you can continue on 86 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park, 126 miles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, or 175 miles to the entrance of Capitol Reef National Park.

Driving From Las Vegas to Zion National Park

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion is an easy 163 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada. Simply get onto Interstate 15 North to exit 16. Take a Right on State Route 9 East for 33 miles. Another Right to stay on State Route 9 East in La Verkin, Utah for a further 20 miles. The Zion National Park Visitor’s Center will be on your right.

Zion National Park Weather

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion sees its highest number of visitors between June and August, with July being the peak. The average high temperature in July is 100℉. Spring months of April and May see lower crowds and comfortable hiking temperatures. October and November is another great time to visit Zion with fall foliage colors. With a few layers for warmth in the morning and evening, fall is a great time to visit the park.

Zion National Park Hours

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion National Park is open year-round, with the visitor center open daily from 8 am to 5 pm and the gift shop open from 8 am to 6:30 pm. Zion National Park is under limited operations due to COVID-19. Some facilities may not be available and staffing may be limited.

Zion National Park Entrance Fee

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

All visitors to Zion National Park are required to purchase a pass in order to enter the park. The best pass for you will be mostly determined by your age, vehicle type, and how often you plan to visit national parks in the next year. For current and detailed information, check their website.

If you plan on visiting even a few National Parks this year, the best bet for most people is the Interagency Annual Pass, affectionately called the America the Beautiful pass which offers unlimited access to all Federal fee areas for one year from the date of purchase. The standard fee for this is $80, but is discounted for seniors and free for active duty military, those with disabilities, and kids in the 4th grade.  

Zion National Park Facts

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion became an official US national park on November 19, 1919. Today it’s one of the most iconic parks in the country, averaging over 4 million visitors per year. The park spans 232 square miles, contains 97 miles of river, and altitudes range from 3,666 feet to a soaring 8,726 feet of stunning red rocks. The word “Zion” is Hebrew and was interpreted by early Mormons to translate to “a place of refuge.” The area gained that name in the 1860s. The park has archeological evidence of housing inhabitants for at least the last 8,000 years.

Zion National Park Lodging

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Hotels Near Zion National Park

  1. Zion National Park Lodge (In the Park)
  2. SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park
  3. Majestic View Lodge
  4. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Virgin Zion National Park
  5. Holiday Inn Express Springdale
  6. La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham at Zion Park/Springdale
  7. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort
  8. Zion Mountain Ranch
  9. The Driftwood Lodge
  10. Desert Pearl Inn

Zion National Park Camping

  1. South Campground (in the Park)
  2. Watchman Campground (in the Park)
  3. Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort
  4. Lava Point Campground (in the park)
  5. Zion Crest Campground & RV Park
  6. Zion Wright Family Ranch
  7. Zion River Resort
  8. Hi-Road Basecamp
  9. Bryce Zion Campground
  10. Under Canvas Zion

Airbnb Zion National Park

If camping or hotels aren’t your thing, the Springdale area has plenty of Airbnb options to suit every style and budget. From Springdale, it’s a simple ride to the entrance of Zion on the free shuttle bus, or a short drive to the park’s designated lots.

One of our top Airbnb picks is the Nama Stay suites and cabins.  The property has adorable studios and cabins perfect for relaxing after a long day of hiking. You can also choose to rent the entire location for groups. We also love the Historic Rose Cottage for its charm and backyard patio. The park’s southern entrance is about half a miles from the cottage, so you could even walk if you need to get those last few steps in.

Zion National Park Tours

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Zion generally offers a wide range of ranger-led activities and tours of the park mostly between March through November with a limited offering during the off-season. The Zion newspaper is the best place to check what’s being currently offered. These range from walks, talks and presentations, youth camps, as well as more unusual offerings such as a variety of evening events.

A favorite of many to get to know the park is the “Ride with a Ranger” shuttle tour. Between Memorial Day and September 29th, you can make a free reservation to take a full two-hour loop of the park shuttle with a ranger helping you to get to know the park, its current conditions, details of the offerings at the many stops, history, geology, and the flora and fauna found throughout this majestic park. This is the perfect way to get familiar with the whole park in a short time and a wise first-day activity to help plan the rest of your time in the park,

Zion National Park Landmarks

Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, Angels Landing
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

The adrenalin seeker’s paradise in Zion National Park is the hike that leads to Angel’s Landing. Named so because it’s where angel’s might land – way in the sky. Start this hike after coffee because the trail can get crowded. At times the trail becomes a one-person-at-a-time lane, so hiking later in the day may mean a line to get to the top. Allow about four hours for this hike. If you’re not comfortable with heights or hiking on narrow ledges, pick a more comfortable hike like the Watchman Trail which offers incredible views, as well.

The Narrows

The Narrows, The Narrows
The Narrow, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

The Narrows hike involves getting wet. This hike takes you directly into the shallow Virgin River and up a beautiful slot canyon with towing red rock on both sides. The “path” is between 20 to 30 feet wide. Depending on water levels, you may be knee to waist deep during some parts of the hike. This one-of-a-kind hike (really, have you ever hiked up a river before?) should only be attempted with proper gear and checking the water level of the river. Flash floods can occur here. Check in with the visitor center for tips on where to rent gear and when it will be safe to hike The Narrows.

Zion National Park Shuttle

Zion National Park,
Shuttle Bus, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

While this sounds less adventurous than most other activities at Zion, hop on the shuttle bus with a ranger for a full tour of the park. The ranger will explain everything you’d want to know about the park and what it offers. The Ride with a Ranger shuttle runs from Memorial Day until September 29. This is a great first-day-at-the-park activity to get your mental mapping down and make notes of which hikes/attractions you want to include in your time at Zion and ask any questions you might have about the park.

Zion National Park Hikes

Zion National Park,
Zion National Park, Utah, US.
  1. Watchman Trail
  2. Angel’s Landing
  3. The Narrows
  4. Lower and Upper Emerald Pools Trails
  5. Riverside Walk
  6. Weeping Rock Trail
  7. Pa’rus Trail
  8. Observation Point
  9. Taylor Creek Trail
  10. East Rim Trail

Things to Do in Zion National Park

Explore The Narrows (after checking the water level of the Virgin River is safe)

The Narrows, The Narrows
The Narrrows, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Hike the Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools,
Emerald Pools, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Climb Angel’s Landing

Angels Landing, Angels Landing
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Catch sunrise or sunset from the park’s Museum patio

Zion Human History Museum, Springdale
View from Zion Human History Museum, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Stay up stargazing for a possible appearance from the Milky Way

Zion Human History Museum, Springdale
Milky Way, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook Trail, Hurricane
Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Hop on a free “Ride with A Ranger” Shuttle Bus Tour

Zion National Park,
Shuttle Bus, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Check out the crystal clear pools at the Subway

The Subway, Hurricane
Subway, Zion National Park, Utah, US.

Take a sunset stroll on the Riverside Walk

Temple of Sinawava,
Riverside Walk, Zion National Park, Utah, US.