I was researching for this post and it hit me, the national park system in the United States is really well-organized and the people don’t take advantage of this. You can buy a year pass for just $80.00 and visit any national park within the country several times!
I have been trying to cover as many parks as I can these past few years and Zion has been on the list. It is one of the most popular parks in the country with its breathtaking views and challenging hikes. The park is full of unexpected adventures, beautiful lakes, fresh air, the sound of birds chirping and tall red mountains that will take your breath away.
Best time to visit
While the park is open year-long, the best time to visit is during Summer. Generally starting from May – October. Late June – September is the flash flood season so you might need to be extra cautious.
How to get here
The park is a 2.5 hours drive from Las Vegas. You can fly to Vegas and rent a car to drive to Zion. This is the most convenient option. You could also fly to Phoenix and drive 6 – 7 hours to get here too.
Where to stay
Springdale is the closest town to the park and has a host of hotels to live in. You can choose from high budget options such as Desert Pearl Inn to lower budget options like the Zion Park Motel. We had reservations at the Cable Mountain Lodge and it was the cutest hotel with joint cozy rooms and complimentary breakfast. Either way, you won’t be spending a lot of time in your hotel rooms. You can try to get a reservation at the Zion Lodge, the only hotel inside the park (it is a bit pricey and very hard to get reservations here).
You can also reserve RV sites or regular campgrounds for a different and more authentic experience. You can choose from the Zion Watchman’s campground and Zion South Campground. Both are located very close to the entrance though.
Where to eat
Cafe Soleil is located very close to the park entrance and have really good food options and a local art gallery. There is a surprisingly good Thai restaurant called Thai Sapa that you can eat at too.
Springdale has its own grocery store (if you plan on cooking in your hotel or need to stalk up on snacks for the treks). It also has a movie theater which plays fairly new movies and if you are stuck on a rainy day like I was, this is a great way to kill some time.
Key things to keep in mind while visiting the park
Flash floods is real guys and it is as cool and unpredictable as it is dangerous. Beware!
Carry lots of water and energy bars! The many long treks will tire you.
Its better to use the shuttle service within the park. It’s free, fast and you don’t have to worry about parking! Key thing to note is you are allowed to drive your own vehicle in the park from November-March but cars are not allowed from April – October.
Don’t forget sunscreen and sturdy shoes!!
Buying grocery can be really expensive in Springdale so stock up on supplies if you plan on cooking! Even a simple bag of chips can cost $10.00!!
Things to do at Zion National Park
Length: 5.4 miles roundtrip (4 hours). Shuttle stop: The Grotto.
Difficulty Level: Strenuous.
Angel’s Landing is considered as one of the most popular, difficult and dangerous trails in the world. It is known for its devastatingly beautiful 360-degree views and the eagle’s eye scenery from the top. You do feel like Angel’s would land someplace like this scenic spot.
Since it attracts many tourists, you will bump into many many people making their way to the top or descending back from their adventures. It is a pretty hard hike and you will need really sturdy shoes to make it to the top and back in one piece. Pro Tip: To avoid the crowds, start the hike really early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Beware of the ever-changing weather though!
Pack lots of supplies to keep yourself hydrated and energized. The path is paved for about 2 miles from the start and gets steep towards the end. There are plenty of spots where you can sit and catch your breath along the trail.
As you continue with the hike, the roads start getting less defined but the view becomes more outstanding. We noticed the clouds starting to gather and the weather changing but had no intentions of turning back.
If you feel like the hike is getting too much, there is no shame to stop, take a breath and enjoy the view. There is nothing wrong with turning back and many couples with small children hike only halfway through.
The further up you climb, the roads start getting windier and steeper.
All said and done, the effort does pay off and the view does make up for the sore muscles and the early morning wake up call! This is a must do if you are in fairly normal health condition.
Length: 2 mi+ . Shuttle Stop: Temple of Sinawava
Difficulty: Depends on how far you hike
The total length of the Narrow’s is about an 8 miles round trip in knee-high water that can get quite cold even during summer. But the best part of this hike is that you can turn back at any point.
Flash floods are really common in the Narrow’s but if you have decent weather conditions, this is another very popular trail that you should go on! The water is clear and the mountains stand tall and mighty.
Since it is so easily accessible, you will find lots of families around here. The Virgin river running silently is really calming even with chaos around and sunsets here are really pretty.
Observation Point Trail
Length: 8 mi roundtrip. Shuttle Stop: Weeping Rock
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Although technically, the Observation Point trail is higher than Angel’s Landing, it isn’t quite as difficult. You do get some tricky stops along the way but it is fairly moderate and extremely rewarding.
You will have to maneuver through a series of windy roads and vertigo-inducing drops and the canyon is hidden from view till the very end of the trail. Most of the trail is a steady incline and the last mile is almost flat. It is a decent climb and won’t take too much out of you.
The many switchbacks and steady incline lead to the backdrop that could only be seen in movies. It is phenomenal and truly a gem in this park. The canyons stretching for miles with the reddish tint in the rocks is nature at her finest. This hike is definitely worth the effort.
Emerald Pool Trails
Unfortunately, we faced a flash flood and couldn’t do the Emerald pool hike but it is a really easy hike and is wheelchair accessible as well. The ponds look stunning after a shower and I am surely going to come back to the park to check this off the list.
Zion Lodge Restaurant
The only reason I added the Zion Lodge here is to talk about the incredible experience I had of facing flash floods – well flash hail storm. We had just hiked down Angel’s Landing and out of nowhere it started raining cats and dogs. The hailstones were the size of a fist! It was a very unusual experience and in 15 min the weather was back to bright and sunny!!
We took refuge in the Zion Lodge since they stopped the shuttles due to no visibility and found the restaurant here is actually pretty nice. They make a really tasty sandwich and have a variety of options on their lunch menu. Soon as the fog cleared up, the shuttles started running again and we headed off to our next destination.
Zion is a place waiting for people to witness unimaginable adventures and if you are looking to take a few days from your busy schedule to have a one-on-one with nature, this is the place to be!