ZION NATIONAL PARK
“A man can worship God among these great cathedrals…
…as well as he can in any man-made church. This is Zion.”
— ISAAC BEHUNIN (FULL ACCOUNT HERE)
Welcome to the Ultimate Zion Trip Planning Guide
Zion National Park is one of the most exciting and adventurous parks in America! You will be in awe of the red rock formations, the beautiful Virgin River, and the diversity of desert plants and animals that make up this fragile landscape.
The Mormon pioneers who settled the area named it Zion, meaning “promised land or a place of safety and refuge”, and it truly feels like a sanctuary within the desert. Millions of people have found peace and solitude within these canyon walls, and now it’s your turn!
What It’s Famous For: Soaring red rock monoliths and epic hiking trails.
Highest Elevation You Can Reach by Road: 8,000 feet above sea level (Kolob Terrace Road)
Established: November 19, 1919 — this is national park #16 but the first one in Utah
Size: 148,732 acres — this is a relatively small national park
Crowd Levels: High, with around 4.5 million visitors each year — this is the 4th busiest national park.
COMMON ZION TRIP PLANNING QUESTIONS
Where is Zion, and how do I get there?
Zion is in Southern Utah, about 4.5 hours from Salt Lake City and 2.5 hours from Las Vegas.
I suggest flying into Las Vegas or St. George. In this article, I share details about the best airports and roads in the area.
Is Zion open year-round?
Zion is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — but that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do everything you’re hoping to do.
Learn more about the weather, hours, and common closures that may affect your trip to the park.
How many days should I spend in Zion?
You’ll want at least two full days in Zion, but if you have three, you’ll get to experience a whole lot more!
See my recommendations for the amount of time to spend in the park, as well as how to split your time between multiple parks.
When is the best time to visit Zion?
If you’re just getting started with your Zion trip-planning, but are unsure of the best time to go, I’ve got you covered!
When choosing the best time to visit Zion, you’ll want to consider things like the weather, what’s open, and crowd levels.
Here are my suggestions if you’re hoping to:
- Beat the crowds: October or November
- Travel during the summer: mid-late June
- Go backpacking: May or September
- Save money: January or February
- Have a unique adventure: November or December
This article provides a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect in Zion — including information on weather, closures, crowds, and which points of interest will be open.
THINGS TO DO IN ZION
10 Things You Can’t Miss on Your First Visit
This popular article outlines each can’t-miss spot in Zion in great detail. You’ll learn about the important things you need to know about each stop, and driving directions are included.
The Best Things to Do in Zion:
IF YOU LOVE RANGER PROGRAMS
- Guided walks
- Evening programs
- Daily talks
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Jr. Ranger program
- Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HIKE
- Zion Canyon Shuttle
- Scenic drives
IN A WHEELCHAIR
- Pa’rus Trail
- Human History Museum
- Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
This massive list of things to do in Zion will cover the travel needs of your entire group.
In addition to the items mentioned above, this post also includes high adventure activities, things to do with a dog, biking, things to do in winter, best hikes, and more. There’s something for everyone!
The Best Easy Hikes
Looking for good beginner-friendly, kid-friendly, or wheelchair-friendly trail options? This list details the best easy hikes in Zion.
Learn about all the places you can bring your dog in and around Zion.
The Narrows Trail Guide
The Narrows is one of the most famous hikes in America! Learn all about this exciting route through the Virgin River.
Do you LOVE to have a plan while traveling?
You’ve probably been spending a lot of time and money to make your trip possible. But don’t forget about the most important part — the day-to-day details!
When you get to Zion, will you have all the information you need to confidently navigate around the park and avoid the crowds?
This hour-by-hour itinerary will make sure you see the best of the park — no more research needed!
LODGING IN ZION
Where Should I Stay?
This article provides information on the gateway towns and lodging options in the Zion area.
All About Camping
Learn all about the campgrounds in Zion and how to snag a site.
GETTING AROUND ZION NATIONAL PARK
You can drive to some viewpoint and trailhead parking areas with your own car, but not all. All points of interest along Highway 9, the Kolob Terrace Road, and the Kolob Canyons Road can be accessed by car.
If you want to get to the activities along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, you’ll need to take the required free park shuttle — private vehicles are not permitted in this area for most of the year.
Be advised that traffic jams are extremely common in Zion and parking lots are almost always filled to capacity! If you’d like some help planning your day so that you can get parking without having to circle parking lots, take a look at this itinerary.
Zion is a small national park with limited parking. If you are in an RV, bus, van, or are towing a trailer, it will be extremely difficult to find parking. Many parking lots aren’t big enough to accommodate oversized vehicles, so I would suggest parking in Springdale or at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and renting an ebike or making use of the free shuttles.
If you will be driving along Highway 9 to get from Springdale to Mt. Carmel, you will need a special permit to get your oversized vehicle through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
The Kolob Terrace Road is not suitable for oversized vehicles — it is narrow with limited parking and turnaround spots. The Kolob Canyons Road is RV-friendly. You can learn more about all of these roads here.
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!
Thanks for using the Ultimate Zion Trip Planning Guide
You may also be interested in one of these nearby national parks:
Disclosure: This Zion Trip Planning Guide may contain affiliate links, which means that (at no extra cost to you) I receive a small compensation if you make a purchase. I don’t recommend anything that I don’t personally love and use myself! Thanks for your support. — Ash