Zion is an adventurer’s dream full of slot canyons, river hiking, and dramatic cliffs. There is so much to do in this captivating area full of vibrant red rock and spectacular vistas.
My name is Ash, and I’m a former park ranger and Utah native. I’ve grown up visiting this national park, and I’m excited to share the best things to do in Zion with you.
This article includes information on family activities, hiking, biking, winter activities, and so much more.
Keep reading (or if you want to fast-forward, click on the links below) to find the perfect activities for your specific interests!
The Top 10 Things To Do in Zion
When you visit Zion for the first time, you want to be sure to see all of the highlights! Combat your fear of missing out with this list of the top things to do in the park.
If you make it through this top ten list, you can relax knowing that you’ve had a well-rounded, complete tour of Zion!
When you are ready for more detailed information on the top things to do, including driving directions and trip planning help, click over to this list of things you can’t miss on your first visit to Zion.
Emerald Pools Trail
Finding water in the desert is a special experience, and the Emerald Pools Trail takes you to three different pools of water (you can even walk behind a waterfall)! This is a great place to find wildlife and an increased variety of plants that you don’t see in other parts of Zion.
The Emerald Pools Trail consists of two parts — the Lower Pool and the Upper Pool. The Lower Pool Trail is mostly flat and goes to the Lower Pool and waterfall. The Upper Pools Trail requires stair-stepping and more elevation gain and travels to the Middle and Upper Pools. The whole trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip with about 300 feet of elevation gain.
Zion’s Riverside Walk is a lovely trail that follows the Virgin River as it meanders through the tall canyon walls. It’s 2.2 miles to the end of the trail and back, but if you continue on past the end of the trail, you can enter the river and hike the famous Narrows Route. This area is always buzzing with activity and excitement, but it is possible to find a quiet spot near the river to enjoy a picnic or relax.
Weeping Rock is a beautiful hanging garden in Zion National Park — the water actually seeps directly out of the rocks! Because of all the water that flows here, you’ll see an abundance of desert plant life clinging to the sandstone. This is also a great place to go if you need to get wet and cool off on a hot summer day.
The trail to Weeping Rock is 0.4 miles roundtrip with 100 feet of elevation gain.
Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway Tunnel
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway Tunnel is an exciting and historic point of interest in Zion. This tunnel is 1.1 miles long, which was the longest of its time when completed in 1930. It’s fun driving through the mountain and looking out the viewing windows that have been carved in the rock!
You’ll drive through this tunnel if you’re traveling from the main Zion Canyon area to the park’s quieter East Side. Be aware that this tunnel is narrow and low, so there are large vehicle restrictions.
Canyon Overlook Trail
The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of Zion’s most adventurous short and family-friendly hikes. You’ll follow the edge of the canyon rim, cross over an exciting bridge, and hug the red rocks as you make your way out to a beautiful overlook. This trail is 1-mile roundtrip and it gains 163 feet of elevation.
Checkerboard Mesa is a brilliant display of the art that wind and water can create! This large chunk of rock has a criss-cross pattern all over it (like a checkerboard!) and is one of Zion’s most unique formations. As a bonus, to see Checkerboard Mesa you get to drive to the east side of the park and experience a totally different side of Zion.
Angels Landing is one of the most famous hikes in any national park, and you’ll find it here in Zion! This trail climbs up the side of a mountain until you reach the notorious chains, a half-mile section of the trail that is so narrow and high that you actually have to hold onto chains for safety. If you are adventurous enough to complete this hike, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular birds-eye views of Zion Canyon.
This trail is 5 miles roundtrip and gains about 1400 feet of elevation.
Court of the Patriarchs
The Court of the Patriarchs is a recognizable group of red rock monoliths named after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Bible (a nod to the religious influence of the early settlers in the Zion area). This is a quick stop, but it’s a fantastic place to capture the beauty of the towering Zion cliffs.
The Pa’rus Trail travels along Zion’s valley floor as it follows the Virgin River. You’ll get great views of the formation known as The Watchman as well as other red rock formations and cliffs from here. This trail is paved and mostly flat — it’s best known as the only bike-friendly and dog-friendly trail in the park.
The Narrows is an epic route that travels through the Virgin River as it snakes through an impressive narrow canyon! The trail is the river, so you’ll need some extra gear for this one. Hiking the Narrows is an unforgettable experience — you won’t want to miss this if you love to hike and are feeling adventurous.
For more trip-planning information (including driving directions) on each of these stops, check out this list of things you can’t miss on your first visit to Zion.
How long does it take to see the top ten things in Zion?
You’ll want at least two full days of sightseeing to get through this list, but you’ll have to move fast! I suggest at least 2.5-3 days to see the top 10 sights in the park. If you’re able to give yourself three full days, you’ll be able to see the best things in Zion without any stress.
If you’d like more help, I have a whole article devoted to helping you figure out how many days to spend in Zion.
Planning a trip to Zion can be overwhelming.
How do you make a solid plan if you’ve never been to the park before? How do you keep everyone in your group excited and engaged?
You can spend hours on the internet searching for things to do, but you still won’t find the insider tips and first-hand knowledge that I’ve gained from working as a park ranger.
If you’re hoping to see the best sights without getting stuck in traffic, circling parking lots, or being surrounded by people, check out this Zion Itinerary.
You will see all of the can’t-miss spots, plus get lodging and dining guides, driving directions, and insider tips!
Zion National Park has an adventure for every age and skill level! Now that we’ve covered the top 10 things to do in the park, it’s time to dig deeper into your own personal interests.
Things to Do in Zion With Kids
Zion is a kid-friendly national park, but I would say it’s even better if you have older kids (tweens and teens) so that you can complete the big adventurous hikes that make this park famous.
That being said, you’ll find several fabulous short hikes and several easy-to-get-to viewpoints if you’re traveling with young children.
The Canyon Overlook Trail, Pa’rus Trail, Emerald Pools Trail, and Riverside Walk are the easiest trails in the park. To learn about these trails, as well as some other fantastic options just outside of the park, check out the best easy hikes in Zion.
If you’re looking for the best viewpoints in the park for kids, I suggest driving along Scenic Highway 9 to get to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. You’ll pass some great views along the way, but the tunnel is unforgettable! That’s the only thing I remember about my trips to Zion when I was little, and it’s a favorite spot for my young kids now!
Don’t forget to pick up a Jr. Ranger book at the visitor center. These books have activities that your kids can complete to earn their very own ranger badge. This is a great way to keep them engaged and excited about Zion — you’ll probably even learn something too.
Things to Do in Zion if You Love to Hike
If you love to hike, you’ll be thrilled with Zion’s longer trail options. Angels Landing, the Narrows, Observation Point, the Subway, and the West Rim Trail are some of my favorite longer hikes in the park!
If you have extra days in the park that you’re looking to fill with a longer hike or two, consider adding in the Subway or Observation Point. The Subway requires permits — there is a technical route that requires ropes and a longer hiking-only route, but you’ll need route-finding skills for either option.
Observation Point provides the best view of Zion Canyon. Right now, the main route to Observation Point is closed due to a large rockfall that destroyed the trail. However, there is a backway to reach this viewpoint which you’ll find near the Zion Ponderosa Ranch on the park’s east side.
The West Rim Trail is a fantastic option if you’re hoping to backpack in the park. This trail travels approximately 15 miles from the top of the Kolob Terrace down into Zion Canyon, ending at the Grotto. The scenery from here is phenomenal, and you’ll pass right by Angels Landing if you want to combine both hikes into one.
If you’re looking for some off-the-beaten-path hiking options that will provide beautiful views and lots of solitude, this Zion itinerary includes several “secret” hikes that you won’t find on the park map.
Do you love to have a plan?
Get the inside scoop for your upcoming vacation —> this itinerary is the most detailed, epic, and easy-to-follow guide to the park!
Things to Do in Zion if You Don’t Want to Hike
If hiking isn’t something you’re able to do or wanting to do in Zion, you can still see a lot of the park! Taking the shuttle in Zion Canyon, riding an ebike, or enjoying a scenic drive are some great alternative options for your time here.
You’ll find several fabulous scenic drives through Zion. Be sure to drive to the east side of the park via Highway 9 (to Checkerboard Mesa). Other scenic drives you might want to consider are the Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive and the drive to the Lava Point Overlook via the Kolob Terrace Road. You can find more information about each of these roads here.
Winter Activities in Zion
Winter in Zion National Park provides a quiet experience with magical views, mild temperatures, and an occasional dusting of snow! If you’re looking for a park with decent weather and low crowds during the winter months, this is a great option.
It does snow in Zion, but usually not enough for traditional winter activities like snowshoeing, sledding, or cross-country skiing. The snow usually melts out of the bottom of Zion Canyon (where most of the popular viewpoints and trails are) within a few hours, but it will stay snowy and icy in the higher elevations of the park (including Angels Landing, Observation Point, and the West Rim Trail).
Instead of planning snow activities, you can go hiking! It’s possible to complete most of the can’t-miss activities in Zion on a year-round basis. Some roads and trails close down when icy — you can find out more about what to expect during the winter here.
Things to Do in Zion if You Love Ranger Programs
Participating in ranger programs can greatly enhance your experience in Zion National Park. You’ll learn interesting facts, meet other travelers, and connect with someone who loves the park and knows it well! Zion has fantastic ranger programs, including daily talks, guided hikes, and evening programs.
Evening programs are held nightly at the Watchman Campground or the Zion Lodge. These programs can range in topics, and you’re guaranteed to learn something interesting. Stop in at the visitor center to see the schedule and topics available while you’re there.
Be sure to pick up a Jr. Ranger book for your kids — there are special programs just for them as well!
You can find out more about all of the ranger programs in Zion here.
Wheelchair-Friendly Things to Do in Zion
You’ll be able to enjoy many of the majestic red rock views if you’re visiting Zion in a wheelchair!
The best wheelchair-friendly trail in Zion National Park is the Pa’rus Trail. This trail is about 3 miles roundtrip, paved, and mostly flat as it travels along the Virgin River. You can find out more about this trail, and other trails in the area, here.
The campgrounds, visitor centers, picnic areas, and restrooms in the park are accessible. The free Zion Canyon Shuttle (that travels to some of the most popular parts of the park) is wheelchair accessible. If for some reason you are unable to get your wheelchair on the shuttle, special permits are issued so that you can drive your own vehicle into the canyon. You can find more information about this here.
Things to Do in Zion With Your Dog
Zion’s campgrounds, picnic areas, and the paved Pa’rus Trail are all dog-friendly destinations in the park.
For more information on things to do with your dog in Zion National Park, check out this detailed article: Is Zion Dog-Friendly?
High Adventure Activities in Zion
If you’re looking for something to get your adrenaline going, consider ATVing, canyoneering, or taking a helicopter tour in or near Zion National Park.
ATVing is extremely popular in this area, and you can bring your own, rent one, or go on a guided tour. If you sign up for a guided tour, check out ATV and Jeep Adventure Tours based near St. George, UT. Note — ATVing is not permitted in the national park, but there are lots of trail options nearby.
Canyoneering is another popular way to experience the Zion area. This adventure typically involves a little bit of hiking, climbing, and rappeling through a beautiful red rock slot canyon! Take a look at Zion Guru for a great canyoneering tour. Note — guided canyoneering tours are not permitted in the national park, but there are lots of trail options nearby. Tour companies will not be able to take you through the popular Subway Route.
If you’d love to see Zion from the air, strap on your seatbelt and head out on a helicopter tour of the area. You’ll get spectacular photo opportunities as you enjoy this truly unique way of seeing the park.
Things to Do in Zion if You Love to Bike
If you love to bike, you’ll find several great options in and near Zion National Park. Check out the Pa’rus Trail, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Gooseberry Mesa, or the JEM Trail for some epic biking!
If you want to go biking within the Zion National Park boundaries, you’ll be limited to the pavement (mountain biking is not permitted). The Pa’rus Trail is the only bike-friendly trail in the park, but you can also bike the popular Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Class 1 ebikes can be used on park roads, so many people like to rent one here and then bike around Zion Canyon!
You’ll find some fabulous mountain biking trails just outside of the park. One of the country’s best mountain biking trail systems, Gooseberry Mesa, is located just a few miles west of Zion. For something a little bit easier, check out the nearby JEM Trail for an exhilarating ride.
Things to Do Near Zion
The area around Zion is full of places to see and things to do. If you’re hoping to see a few more national parks, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon are close by! Other places that might pique your interest include Valley of Fire State Park, Kanab, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Most people combine Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in the same trip because they are only separated by 1.5 hours of driving! Bryce Canyon has epic views, amazing hiking trails, and unforgettable astronomy programs. Don’t skip Bryce Canyon when you’re in the Zion area.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 2.5 hours from Zion. This quieter section of the Grand Canyon is my favorite part of the park, and you’ll find a beautiful lodge and fabulous hiking here.
You’ll pass Valley of Fire State Park as you drive from Las Vegas to Zion, so definitely plan a stop if you’re driving this route. This is one of my favorite state parks in the country! Hike to the Fire Wave, discover 2,000-year-old petroglyphs, spend a night under the stars in the beautiful campground, and enjoy the dramatic desert views.
Kanab is a small Utah town just a short drive from Zion’s East Entrance. This town is a great jumping-off point for exploring the Grand Staircase, hiking in slot canyons, or playing in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is located near Page, AZ, about 2.5 hours from Zion. You can go boating on Lake Powell, hike or kayak to the famous Horseshoe Bend, or visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The extremely popular tours through the Antelope Canyon Slot Canyon begin in this area as well.
I hope you have an amazing time working your way through these things to do in Zion. Happy Trails!
More Zion Trip Planning Information
Zion Itinerary — a detailed hour-by-hour sightseeing schedule.
How to Get to Zion — the best airports and roads in the area.
How Many Days Should I Spend in Zion? — itinerary ideas.
The Best Time to Visit — what to expect during each month of the year.
Weather, Hours, and Closures — important weather info and common closures.
Where Should I Stay? — the best options in and around the park.
All About Camping — learn about the park’s campgrounds and how to get a site.
10 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Visit to Zion — the top 10 spots.
The Best Easy Hikes — the perfect trails for kids, wheelchairs, and beginners.
The Ultimate Zion Trip Planning Guide — everything you need to know.
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