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Zion National Park

With over 229 square-miles, more than 35 hiking trails, cliffs towering more than 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, and more species of plants than the Hawaiian Islands, Zion National Park is a pretty incredible place. It’s an environment of magic and natural fascination that will challenge what you thought of nature’s capabilities. Coming to Zion National Park means living greater, experiencing greater, and being inspired to a greater plane. This resource will help you in every phase of planning a trip to Zion, from where to stay to what trail to hike first. Come year-round and drink in the natural beauty that is Zion National Park.

Maps of Zion National Park

The best things in life come in threes, like “The Godfather” movies, the Musketeers, and the Stooges. Just like these icons, Zion National Park has three sections: Kolob Canyons, Kolob Terrace, and the main Canyon. Sections are defined by the road access to them. All sections of the park require visitors to have a park pass even if you don’t go through a checkpoint.

Kolob Terrace

The location of the famous Subway Hike, Kolob Terrace is accessible from Highway 9 via the Kolob Terrace Road just after you pass the small town of Virgin. Most of the hiking trails in this region are longer backcountry hikes that are best suited for more advanced hikers with wayfinding skills. The scenic drive is a breathtaking experience especially during fall colors when the Quaking Aspens turn to gold.

Kolob Canyons

This upper section of Zion is sometimes referred to as Kolob Fingers due to the shape of the canyons resembling some colossus hand dragging through the region and leaving the canyons carved behind the fingers. Access to this collection of short canyons is off of Interstate 15 at exit 40. Kolob Arch and the scenic lookout from the end of the road are the highlights of this section of Zion. Stop by the small visitor center at the entrance to purchase/show your park pass and ask the rangers any questions you have.

Zion/Main Canyon

Finally, the main and most popular section of the park is accessed from Highway 9 heading east from St. George. Because of how popular this section is, it is the only part of the park that runs a shuttle to accommodate more visitors at one time. Two of the country’s most popular hikes (Angels Landing & The Narrows) can be found in the main canyon along with many other incredible trails. The visitor center and the museum offer in-depth information on the region and history of Zion National Park.  etc.

Lodging Near Zion National Park

For lodging accommodations near Zion National Park, check out these three distinct areas. Use the location filter to find your ideal basecamp.

Springdale

The arms of Zion wrap around the entire town of Springdale, immersing you in the Park while you’re within walking distance of restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, and the park itself. A free shuttle system runs the two-mile length of the town, and connects with the Zion Park shuttle. (See shuttle information below.) You can be in Zion within five minutes of leaving your hotel. 

St. George/
Washington

Only about a 45-minute drive from Zion, the cities of St. George, Washington, and Ivins offer amenities galore, and serve as a fabulous landing spot for other adventures within Greater Zion. Spend a day at Zion, but then take in theater and other performing arts, art galleries, dining, shopping and other activities. This area is the hub of activity in Greater Zion.

Hurricane Valley

In between St. George and Zion National Park is the Hurricane Valley with towns such as Hurricane, La Verkin and Apple Valley. Lodging options abound in this mecca for ATV and mountain bike enthusiasts. You’ll be at the doorstep to some of the nation’s highest quality trails for those sports, as well as having easy access to two beautiful reservoirs and state parks.

Shuttles in Zion National Park & Springdale

Updated August 1, 2020

Within Springdale

The Springdale shuttle is operational from 7 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. daily. This shuttle — St. George Shuttle-logoed buses —  will stop at the nine Springdale stops every half hour, taking visitors throughout the town and to the Zion National Park pedestrian entrance in Zion Canyon Village. The shuttle is free and independent of the Zion National Park Scenic Drive shuttle.

Within Zion (Canyon Loop Route)

After a COVID-19-related suspension of service, the Shuttle System will begin operation again on July 1, 2020 with a new ticketing system and limited seating. Please see our Travel Alerts page for up-to-date instructions on utilizing the shuttle under the current National Park guidelines. 

Shuttles are normally operational from February to November, and holiday weekends in between. Go to the Zion National Park page for specific hours and dates.

At anytime of the year, you can drive through Zion National Park and the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on UT-9. Parking is limited along this state road, but the views are still incredible.

shuttle-system-in-zion-national-park
shuttle-route-in springdale-ut-helping-visitors-get-to-zion-national-park

Biking in Zion

With scenery like Zion, be unencumbered by the confines of a vehicle, and soak it all in via bike. Bikes are welcome … If you choose to bike up the main canyon you are required to pull over to let the shuttles pass by you and each shuttle has bike racks on them so you can bike part of the way and ride part of the way. Electric bikes that have a motor assist only while you are pedaling and top out at 20 mph are allowed anywhere regular bikes are allowed. All other electric bikes are not permitted in the park. 

Hiking in Zion

Main Canyon Hikes from each shuttle stop: 
  • Visitor Center, Shuttle Stop 1
  • Zion Lodge, Shuttle Stop 5
    • Emerald Pools – Moderate one-hour hike, 2.2 miles first mile is paved round trip
    • Sand Bench Trail – Moderate five-hour hike, 7.6 miles round trip
  • The Grotto, Shuttle Stop 6
  • Weeping Rock, Shuttle Stop 7 
  • Temple of Sinawava, Shuttle Stop 9
    • Riverside Walk – Easy one and half-hour hike, 2.2 miles paved round trip
    • The Narrows (without a permit) – Strenuous eight-hour hike, 9.4 miles round trip
Hiking East of Zion: (you must drive yourself to each trailhead)
  • Canyon Overlook – Moderate one-hour hike, 1 mile round trip
  • East Rim Trail – Difficult nine-hour hike, 11 miles one way (requires two cars)
Kolob Terrace Hikes 
  • West Rim Hike – Difficult 12-hour hike, 15 miles one way (requires two cars)
  • Hop Valley Trail – Moderate three and half-hour hike, 6.6 miles  round trip
  • Grapevine Trail – Moderate half-hour hike, 1-mile round trip
Kolob Canyons (Kolob Fingers)
  • Timber Creek Overlook Trail – Easy half-hour hike, 1.1 miles round trip
  • Taylor Creek Middle Fork – Easy two and half-hour hike, 5 miles round trip
  • Taylor Creek North Fork – Easy two-hour hike, 5.2 miles round trip
  • Taylor Creek South Fork – Moderate two-hour hike, 2.6 miles round trip
  • La Verkin Creek Trail – Moderate six-hour hike, 11 miles round trip

*Seasonality, weather damage, and maintenance work will periodically close some trails in Zion. See up to date alerts on any trail closures here.

Dining in Zion National Park

Exploring Zion can always be accompanied by a delicious meal or snack. Zion has the uncanny ability to feel like it’s in the middle of nowhere and yet be near modern conveniences like 27 dining options within 15 minutes of its entrance, and along shuttle routes. There’s everything from hole-in-the-wall burger joints to coffee and ice cream shops to fine dining with the fancy napkins and everything. 

The Seasons in Zion National Park

Each season has its own unique advantages in Zion National Park. Being open year-round and accessible makes coming back for a new season a must. Regardless of when you come, you’ll have a memorable experience.

Spring

Average high/low: 58°F/33°F;  14°C/0°C 
This season of wildflowers finds cactus blooms and vibrant greens greatly contrasting the red rock canyon walls. Temperatures are ideal for more strenuous hikes. Spring rains and winter snowmelt often raise the water level of the Virgin River, making The Narrows not safe for hiking. Check the river conditions on the National Park Service Page.

Fall

Average high/low: 72°F/44°F;  22°C/7°C
September marks monsoon season, which brings sudden and strong rain, potentially creating flash floods. Be mindful of the forecast and only enter slot canyons when the forecast is clear. Fall colors come later to Zion than many places; expect the leaves to change around mid-October. 

Summer

Average high/low: 84°F/53°F;  29°C/12°C
Warm temps and lack of shade on most hikes will require you to drink plenty of water and use liberal amounts of sunscreen. Heat stroke is no joke. Canyoneering in Zion is enjoyed in the summer. Be aware of the weather conditions and never enter a slot canyon if there is any chance of rain. Flash floods are no joke either.

Winter

Average high/low:50°F/25°F;  10°C/-4°C
Most main canyon hikes* stay open all year, but some snow and ice build-up is typical. These conditions suggest the use of traction cleats, which are available at outfitters in Springdale. Higher elevation areas, like West Rim Trail or Kolob Terrace, get significant snow, often limiting access.

* The Narrows are still accessible in winter. With the proper attire of dry pants, neoprene socks, and canyoneering shoes, this bucket list hike becomes a whole new experience. 

When to Visit Zion National Park

Beautiful and stunning at any time of the year, but, as you’ll see from the accompanying chart, there are some lower visitation times where you’ll have more seclusion.

If you have flexibility in your vacation time, visiting Zion National Park during times with less visitation is strongly encouraged. Easing park impact helps create a better experience for all.  Weekends are almost always busier than weekdays. Holidays, especially Memorial, Independence, and Labor Days, along with any park sponsored “free” days are going to be peak visitation times. 

Permit System and List of Permitted Activities in Zion National Park

Some locations in Zion are only accessible by permits. The reasons for this are safety and to protect and preserve delicate areas of the park. Requiring a permit to places like the Subway makes every person aware of potential risks and the necessary gear and skills required for undertaking that route. Without proper preparation, visitors could become injured, stuck, or too overwhelmed to continue. If you are considering a permitted route, do your homework on what is needed to safely enjoy that area. 

Entrance Fees

There are a couple of different park pass options. If you plan on visiting more than three national parks in one year, the annual pass is the best option. Annual passes can be used to walk in as well as drive. 

  • Private (non-commercial) vehicle for a week pass $35
  • Walk-in pass per individual for a week $20 
  • Season pass for just Zion National Park for one year $50
  • Season pass to all National Parks for one year $80
  • Active duty military get a free annual pass to all National Parks
  • Senior annual pass to all National Parks $20 
  • Seniors 62 years of age or older Lifetime Senior Pass that never expires for all national parks $80

Be Safe in Zion National Park

The following recommendations will help you avoid taking unnecessary risks and staying safe as you explore the wild beauty of Zion National Park. Many times, being overprepared will give you the opportunity to help someone else who wasn’t adequately prepared. It’s important to remember this is a wilderness area, not a theme park and each visitor is ultimately responsible to keep themselves safe and be prepared for what mother nature will throw at them.

  • Don’t feed wildlife or approach them, maintain 25 feet of separation from all wildlife 
  • Carry a first aid kit with you, even on short hikes
  • Stay hydrated, drink one liter of water for every hour of excursion
  • Carry extra food and snacks
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat to keep the sun at bay
  • Never enter a narrow canyon when rain is forecasted and quickly exit should any unplanned rain begin to fall
  • Hiking and Canyoneering Tips:
    • Do your homework on any trail you plan to undertake, know distance and elevation gain and have a map of the route
    • Know your physical limits and don’t undertake a trail longer or steeper than you are conditioned for
    • On popular trails with lots of exposure like Angels Landing or Hidden Canyon, be patient and wait for your turn to pass narrow sections of the trail
    • Never leave the designated trail

Zion National Park Forever Project

Help support Zion National Park by contributing to its partner, the Zion National Park Forever Project. They use donations and fundraisers each year to tackle projects that the park doesn’t have the funds to handle on their own. Many trails have been improved or fixed and facilities were updated or repaired thanks to the Zion Forever Project. Make a difference for future generations that will come to Zion. Become a keeper of the sanctuary.

FAQ

Q. Can I bring my dog to Zion?

A. The only sections of Zion National Park open to dogs are the campgrounds and the Pa’rus Trail. 

Q. What does it take to hike the Subway?

A. A permit issued by Zion is required to enter the Subway. There are two ways to experience this trail: Top Down and Bottom Up. 

Top Down is a canyoneering route that requires knowledge and experience, as well as the gear for it. It is a dangerous trail without that skill set and should not be attempted unless accompanied by someone who knows what they are doing. Water levels in the slot canyon fluctuate throughout the year but several deeper pools of water are usually present and require you to fully submerse in water. Dry bags are recommended to protect valuables like cameras and phones. The route begins at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and exits at the Left Fork Trailhead.

Bottom Up is far less technical, and only requires hiking and scrambling skills. There are lots of boulders to navigate and the trail can be extremely uneven and broken up in the bottom half. The trail follows the creek in the bottom of a steep ravine and crisscrosses the creek many times. Water levels in the creek fluctuate throughout the year but generally you should only have to get wet from the knees down. The route begins and ends at the Left Fork Trailhead.

Q. Do I need a permit to hike Angels Landing?

A. No, but there are seasonal influxes of visitors to the park that result in abnormally high numbers of people trying to hike this trail. On days or weekends like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, the park will institute a queue system to control the number of people on the trail at one time, and mitigate dangerous and overcrowded conditions.

Q. Do I need a permit for The Narrows?

A. Yes and no. Most visitors to Zion only hike three miles up The Narrows from the bottom, accessing the water route from Riverside Walk and the Temple of Sinawava, which doesn’t require a permit. The top-down, 16+-mile top-down hike from Chamberlin’s Ranch does require a permit

Q. Is the park shuttle free?

A. Yes, the shuttle through the town of Springdale and the shuttle through the park is free. See “Shuttles in Zion National Park & Springdale” for updates.

Q. Is there a bus or shuttle from St. George to Zion?

A. There is not a dedicated shuttle from St. George to Zion National Park. However, various shuttle services and other transportation options are available across Greater Zion. 

Q. Are The Narrows always in danger of a flash flood?

A. No, as long as the weather is clear of rain, there is not a high risk of flash floods. Check the weather forecast the day of your hike and make sure no rain is forecasted for the entire area around The Narrows. Many times flash floods are caused by rain in the area that fills streams and rivers with runoff. 

Q. How many days should I spend in Zion National Park?

A. It has been said that 4-7 days is ideal length of stay to fully enjoy Zion National Park.

When visiting Zion National Park its important to have a basic itinerary in place to maximize your time in the park. The town of Springdale, which you drive through to get the park entrance, is worthy of 1-2 days on its own. Explore the various gift shops, restaurants, and local events to help support a tourism driven town.

Depending on where you plan on staying while visiting Zion National Park, there is a lot to do and see while staying at your hotel or campground. Plan on 1-2 days staying near the site in which you are sleeping/staying to enjoy the majestic scenery or activities provided the lodging provider.

Since hiking is a major draw for most people coming to Zion National Park its suggested to spend 2-3 days enjoying all of the wonderful hikes Zion has to offer.

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