Zion National Park is an exhilarating place, complete with red-rock cliffs, life-giving water, and some of the most exciting hikes in any park — it’s the perfect place to take a vacation!
Where should you stay while visiting Zion? If you want to be able to walk out of your room and see the sunrise over the park, stay at the Zion Lodge. But if you don’t mind driving a few extra minutes, you’ll find some great lodging options in Springdale.
My name is Ash, and I’m a former park ranger. I’m also from Utah, so I’ve spent a lot of time in this park! I’m excited to help you decide where to stay while visiting Zion, so let’s talk about your options.
Zion Map, Entrances, and Nearby Towns
First, let’s get the lay of the land around Zion. This park only has three official entrances, so you’ve got some good options for places to stay while visiting Zion.
South Entrance of Zion (Springdale)
The South Entrance of Zion is the main entrance into the park. The town of Springdale is literally steps from the park entrance and Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Staying close to this entrance is my preference when visiting Zion due to its convenient location for accessing all the main points of interest in the park.
Springdale has a bunch of hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You’ll also find a couple of gas stations and a small grocery store. There’s a free shuttle that runs through town — it will pick you up and take you to the pedestrian entrance of Zion that leads right to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
The South Entrance of Zion is where you’ll catch the mandatory Zion Canyon Shuttle that travels along the beautiful Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (with trailheads for Angels Landing, the Narrows, and Emerald Pools). It’s also where you’ll find the main park campgrounds and visitor center.
East Entrance of Zion (Mt. Carmel Junction)
The East Entrance of Zion is a small entrance on the park’s east side. There’s not much outside of the East Entrance, except the Zion Ponderosa and a few small ranches. If you drive a little further east to the Mt. Carmel Junction, you’ll find a couple of gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and shops but that’s about it. From Mt. Carmel, you can drive along Highway 89 to get to either the Bryce Canyon area or the town of Kanab.
The east side of Zion has the beautiful Checkerboard Mesa and a few small hikes. You’ll pass through the amazing Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel as you make your way down toward the South Entrance and the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. If you’re staying on the east side of the park but you want to catch the shuttle to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, you’ll need to drive all the way to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle from there.
Kolob Canyons Entrance of Zion (Cedar City)
The Kolob Canyons Entrance of Zion is located about 45 minutes from the main part of the park. You’ll take I-15 to a small exit about 17 miles south of Cedar City to reach this entrance station and visitor center. From here, you can drive along a scenic 5-mile road that takes you to several trailheads in the Kolob Canyons area of Zion.
Kolob Canyons is a beautiful section of Zion, but activities are limited and it doesn’t connect by road to the rest of the park. If you’re hoping to see the best of Zion, don’t stay near this entrance. I only suggest driving out here if you have extra time and have already completed all that you wish to do in the main Zion Canyon area near the other two entrances.
Staying Inside of Zion National Park
Most of Zion’s main points of interest are condensed into a small section of the park. There are only a few main roads that travel to the most popular hikes and viewpoints. I recommend staying inside of the park if you want to be within minutes of the most popular hikes and viewpoints — you’ll be able to catch the free Zion Canyon Shuttle directly from here.
The Zion Lodge
The Zion Lodge is the only hotel in the park, and its proximity to the spectacular red rock cliffs is unparalleled. This lodge is located right in the heart of Zion Canyon along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, so all it takes is a short walk from your hotel room to be hiking Angels Landing or Emerald Pools in a matter of minutes. You can also catch the mandatory Zion Canyon Shuttle directly from the lodge, so there’s no need to fight for a parking space at the visitor center to catch the shuttle for the day.
Experiencing Zion Canyon before everyone gets there or after everyone has left is the very best thing about staying right in the park!
National park lodges typically aren’t known for their amenities or comforts…you’re usually paying for location and ambiance. The Zion Lodge is an exception to that — you’ll find air conditioning, television, and wifi in the hotel rooms here in addition to the fabulous location and ambiance.
Zion has three campgrounds to choose from. The South and Watchman Campgrounds are perfectly situated for exploring the main part of Zion. The Lava Point Campground is located in a more remote area of Zion, and I don’t recommend staying here if you’re hoping to explore the main part of the park.
If you decide to stay in the South or Watchman Campgrounds, you won’t even have to move your car to catch the mandatory Zion Canyon Shuttle. The pick up point is at the visitor center, just a quick walk from both of these campgrounds. It’s worth staying here just to not have to deal with finding parking for the shuttle!
To learn more about your camping options, read all about camping 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!
Staying Outside of Zion National Park
Because Zion is a relatively small national park, it’s easy to stay close to the park without actually being in the park. I recommend staying outside of Zion if you want nicer amenities, more variety in pricing, or more dining and activity options.
Staying in Springdale
The town of Springdale is located just outside of Zion’s most popular South Entrance. As far as national park gateway towns go, this is one of the better ones! My favorite thing about Springdale is all of the delicious restaurant options. You’ll find a lot of hotels, shops, and activities here as well. If you’re looking for activities outside of Zion, you can tube the Virgin River or join a canyoneering adventure right from town.
Springdale has its own shuttle service that picks up from various places around town and drops off at a small pedestrian entrance to Zion National Park. After getting dropped off, you’ll cross a bridge over the river, pay at the entrance station, and then walk right to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. This is where you’ll pick up the Zion Canyon Shuttle that takes you to the main points of interest in the park. You can leave your car in town and take the shuttle into the park if you don’t want to deal with trying to find parking at the visitor center (which I highly recommend).
If you want to drive your own vehicle, it only takes 5 minutes to get to the park visitor center from town, but parking can be difficult.
Springdale is my favorite place to stay when visiting Zion National Park. Click here to see lodging options in Springdale.
Staying at the Mt. Carmel Junction
The Mt. Carmel Junction isn’t a very big place so if you opt to stay near the East Entrance of Zion, you won’t find much by way of amenities. If you stay here while visiting Zion, you’ll be about 45 minutes from the main sights in the park, but you’ll be close to Checkerboard Mesa and the dropoff point for the Narrows Top-Down Route (permits required).
Mt. Carmel Junction has a couple of restaurants, gift shops, and places to stay. This is the quiet side of Zion, so you’ll have a more relaxing and less touristy experience here. You can drive up to Orderville or down to Kanab for a few more amenities and activities. Click here to see lodging options near the Mount Carmel Junction.
Staying in Hurricane
Hurricane is the nearest town with several decent-sized grocery stores and more amenities, but it’s located about 30 minutes from Springdale and the park’s South Entrance. Hotels here are cheaper than the other towns closer to Zion, so if you want to save money, Hurricane is a good choice for that. Otherwise, it’s much more convenient to be closer to the park. Click here to see lodging options in Hurricane.
Should I Stay in One Hotel to See Both Zion and Bryce Canyon?
I don’t recommend staying in one hotel to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. If you want to take advantage of your time in Zion, I suggest staying near Zion.
Some people day trip from Zion up to Bryce Canyon, and that’s fine if it’s the only way you can make time to see the park. It’s about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Zion each way, and that will cut in significantly to your sightseeing time in Bryce Canyon.
If you have the time, it makes more sense to book separate hotels for each park.
I hope you find an amazing place to stay while visiting Zion National Park — happy trails!
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