Zion National Park: The Ultimate Guide

Located in southern Utah, Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in America. Zion national park is absolutely stunning there is a reason that so many tourists flock to this park.

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Zion national park

I have been able to experience this national park twice. I’ve visited once in the spring of 2019 and again in the fall of 2020. Both visits provided a different experience.

In May 2019, the park was much more crowded than my visit in fall 2020. But on each trip different trails were open so it was nice to be able to experience a little bit of everything. So here’s everything that I have learned on my two trips to Zion National Park.

Zion national park entrance


Best Time of Year to visit Zion National Park

The best time to visit Zion National Park is in the fall or the spring. Crowds can become very dense in the summer months of June to August. The weather is still very nice in the fall and spring as well. 

When I visited in the fall it was a little bit colder but definitely manageable. 

Zion national park

The winters are nice as well due to the low crowds but it can get quite cold so if you visit in the winter make sure you pack a jacket. 

The summers are beautiful although they are busy. If summer is the only time you can make Zion work I definitely recommend planning in advance. Hotels, Airbnb’s, campsites, and bus reservations fill up. It is important to play in advance for these busy months but even in the off-season months you still need to plan in advance because Zion still will attract many visitors.

How Many Days for Zion National Park

Ideally, you will have two days to spend and Zion National Park. There are loads to look at it is quite a large park. Zion works off of a bus reservation system. You can only drive yourself into the park of a couple of miles until you are required to get a bus reservation to go deeper into the park to reach those popular hikes.

Ideally, anywhere between 1-4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Zion.


Where to Fly Into?

Zion national park is so easy to reach with its close proximity to Las Vegas and Saint George, Utah. 

Saint George, UT is going to be the closest airport to Zion national park but is a smaller airport so flight prices can get more expensive. Located just under an hour away from the park’s entrance, Saint George Utah provides an accessible gateway into this larger-than-life park.

Las Vegas, NV is the best place to fly into for Zion national park as there are lots of hotels lots of flight options and lots of car rentals. Las Vegas is a quick 2 1/2 hour drive from downtown to Zion National Park. The drive is also very scenic and I would highly recommend taking it. 

To get from Las Vegas to Zion, you will take highway 15 most of the way, passing through Valley of Fire and St. George, Utah. If you have the time, Valley of Fire is a great stopping point to break up the drive and is one of my favorite places to visit outside of vegas. Check out this article on my favorite day trips from Las Vegas!

Salt Lake City, UT provides a large airport within driving distance to Zion as well. Located 4 ½ hours away from the entrance of the park, Salt Lake City offers a beautiful city with a scenic drive to the park. 

Stop by Fishlake National Forest, Cedar Breaks National Monument, or Bryce Canyon National Park on your drive to make it worthwhile!

Where to Stay in Zion National Park?

Staying or camping inside of the park is always the best option for visiting, but these tend to sell out or become quite pricey. If you are looking to visit Zion but not stay inside of the park, I would recommend staying in St. George Utah during your trip.

St.George, UT is a larger town in Utah with many restaurants shops and things to do. It’s also the connecting town and design national park and is located 45 minutes away from the park entrance. 

Springdale, UT is the closest town to Zion National Park. Although it is very small with few permanent residents, this town is fully prepared to welcome thousands of tourists every year. 

During my two visits, design and I stayed in very different areas. On my first visit, I stayed in St. George Utah. On my second visit, I stayed in a small town called Orderville just outside of Zion National Park. The location was very nice for us as we were heading north anyways, but there was minimal food and attractions nearby.

Best Hiking in Zion National Park

Angels Landing

Zion national park angels landing

Zion National Park is best known for its extreme yet photogenic hike, Angels Landing. This is an intense and extreme side of a cliff that overlooks the whole park into the canyon. It is a challenging hike but a must-do on your trip to Zion National Park. Angels Landing is known as the most dangerous hike in all of America. I will say it’s not one for those scared of heights.

The Narrows

Zion national park the narrows

The Narrows is another fantastic I can say national Park. This is a hike through the gorge of Zion National Park. You’ll be walking through water charging rocks it is a flat hike but a very difficult one do you to go and against the current in the water. For this hike, I would recommend renting out some equipment, especially on those colder days. Sandals or water shoes will not be enough you need insulated shoes to protect your feet against rocks and the cold water.

The Narrows frequently closes due to water levels, so be sure to check with the visitors center on the day you are planning to visit.

Both are absolutely fantastic, and it depends on what you’re looking for to recommend what I like to do. I’ve loved both of these hikes. Angels Landing offers a challenging hike with a great reward, an overlook over the whole canyon, and the last half-mile scramble is super fun. The Narrows is stunning. The Narrows lead you through beautiful slot canyons and provide the most unique hike I have ever done in any national park!

Along with these two hikes, there is also a plethora of other things to do in Zion National Park. 

You can take advantage of the Emerald pools trail the lower Emerald pools trail the Scout Overlook and just ride the bus through the canyon.

Zion National Park Itinerary

May 2019 Trip

In May 2019, I visited Zion with two of my college friends upon college graduation. For this trip, we spent 3 nights in St. George while visiting Zion.

Day One 

On day one, we drove from Las Vegas to St. George Utah stopping at Valley of Fire along the way. We spend the afternoon in St. George and prepare for our big days ahead.

Day Two

On day two, we decided to book ourselves an ATV excursion. We booked through ATV Adventures. I loved this excursion and had so much fun riding ATV’s over sand dunes! 

We then went from the ATV tour straight into Zion National Park.

Our first stop in Zion was the visitors center. I HIGHLY recommend stopping by the visitors center first thing every day to see what trails are open. The hike we originally planned for, hidden canyon, was closed so we had to change our hiking plans. 

Instead, we hiked the upper and lower emerald pools. These are easy, high trafficked, paved hikes that lead you up to beautiful waterfalls from the backside.

Day Three

Zion national park

Day three we woke up early and went straight up Angels Landing! What a hike! We spent the majority of our day taking in all the sights of Angels Landing and taking photos. This hike could be done as a half-day or you can make it your full-day adventure like we did!

Fall 2020 Trip

In September 2020, I visited Zion again. This time I visited with one friend and we drove from Las Vegas to Denver. We were passing through Zion so we made the most of it!

We woke up before the sun in Las Vegas and drove to Zion. This day we rented gear at the front of the park to hike The Narrows. The Narrows took a full days worth of energy out of us and in total took around 6 hours or so. We hiked about 8 miles in The Narrows and had a blast!

We then stay in Orderville, which is just north of Zion, as we were headed to Bryce the next day.

Both itineraries were wonderful and I had a different experience each time.

Whether you visit Zion for a half-day or 3 full days, you will see beautiful views and amazing hikes.

I’m Danika! A travel obsessed, Disney adult, with a knack for budgeting.

In 2020 I was furlough from my “dream” job at Disney and have pursued my first love of travel ever since. I have traveled to 33 states and 28 countries spanning 5 continents.

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