Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is world-renowned for Zion Canyon, which runs 15 miles (24 km) long and up to 2,640 ft (800 m) deep. These striking red sandstone canyons and formations were created by the eroding forces of wind, snow, and the Virgin River over millions of years. The region was originally inhabited solely by Southern Paiute indigenous peoples and called Mukuntuweap before it was named Zion by the Mormon Pioneers that settled there. Since then explorers and outdoor enthusiasts have been attracted to the park’s unique geography which allows for desert, wetland, woodland, and coniferous forest landscapes that support a great amount of biodiversity.
The entrance cost to Zion National Park for a 7-day pass for a private vehicle/RV is $25. Entrance by foot, bicycle, or motorcycle is $12 per person, not exceeding $25 per family (under age 15 is free of charge).
Best Time to Visit
Lasting from March through April, spring is a beautiful time to visit the park and marks the beginning of the busy season which lasts until October. Wildflowers begin to bloom and weather is unpredictable. Spring sees regular warm sunny weather as well as stormy wet days. Daytime high temperatures averaging around 77°F (25°C) and nights are still cold. Facilities such as the free park shuttle and museum usually open in the spring.
Summer lasts from May through September in Zion National Park. Temperatures regularly pass 100°F (38°C) in the day with July being the hottest month of the year. Temperatures become more comfortable in the evenings at 65-70°F (18-21°C). The monsoon season lasts from July through September. Visitors should be aware of flash floods and the chance of sudden thunder and lightning storms and heavy rain in the afternoons.
Fall lasts from October through November. The autumn foliage colors begin in September and the golden season peaks in October. Temperatures become more comfortable with daytime highs around 93°F (34°C) and dropping to 63°F (17°C) in November. There are fewer visitors making this a calmer time to visit the park.
The winter months from December through February are the park’s offseason. The museum closes for the winter and the free shuttle is limited but parking lots will be emptier and lines will be shorter. This is a beautiful time to visit Zion National Park if you do not mind the cold and wet weather. Light rain or snow is common and the temperatures can fall below freezing at night. Daytime temperatures may reach 60°F (15°C) on clear days. There may be trail closures due to weather conditions.
To avoid major crowds, avoid visiting on the busiest holidays and weekends such as Memorial Day, Easter week, Labor Day, and Utah Education Association break.
Getting to Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah near the city of Springdale.
Salt Lake City UT – Salt Lake City International Airport. From Salt Lake City it is 308 miles (495 km) or a 4-hour 20-minute drive to the park via I-15 S.
Las Vegas NV – McCarran International Airport. From Las Vegas it is 160 miles (257 km) or a 2 hour 36 minute drive via I-15 N.
St. George UT – St. George Regional Airport. From St. George, it is 41.3 miles (66 km) or a 1-hour drive via UT-9 E/W State St and UT-9 E to the park.
Visitor Centers in Zion National Park
It’s always a good idea to start off any National Parks trip with a stop at a visitor center. Here you can speak to rangers, watch the park film, view exhibits, join a ranger-led program, pick up your backcountry permits, or shop for books or maps. The Visitors Center encourages travelers to stop by and learn how they can enjoy the fragile desert ecosystems with minimal impact.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located at the South Entrance of the park at 1101 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Hurricane, UT.
Kolob Canyon Visitor Center is located at the West Entrance of the park at 3752 E Kolob Canyon Rd, New Harmony, UT.
Things to Do and Main Attractions in Zion National Park
Learn about Native American heritage and the first Mormon pioneers in the area at the Zion Human History Museum.
There are many notable hikes in the park including Angels Landing, Observation Point, Emerald Pools, The Narrows, and Riverside Walk. Zion Canyon is the main attraction for most people visiting the park but Kolob Canyons is an alternative that is located 40 miles to the north. Kolob Canyon is a step away from the crowds. Here you can enjoy 2000 ft walls, majestic peaks, and less traveled hiking trails.
Park staff permit biking in the park on all roadways as well as on the Pa’rus Trail, a relaxing path that winds along the Virgin River.
Canyoneering is an activity that includes rappelling, swimming, hiking, and problem-solving as you find your way through the park’s canyons. You can arrange private tours for this activity.
Rock climbing and bouldering on the park’s famous red sandstone walls can be an awe-inspiring experience. Park staff recommend most climbing routes for experienced climbers only.
Experienced kayakers can whitewater kayak down the Virgin River. River guides offer private river tours outside of the park.
Join a ranger-led program. These programs are a free way to get an introduction to the park and learn about the areas geology, human history, flora, and fauna.
Where to Stay/Getting Around Zion National Park
Zion Lodge is the only lodging located within the park. This historic lodge was built in 1927 and has a restaurant that is open all year.
There are three campgrounds within Zion National Park, South Campground, Watchman Campground, and Lava Point Campground. South and Watchman campgrounds are both located in Zion Canyon. This area is desert and there are few shaded areas or trees to provide relief from the sun and many sites receive no shade at all. The Virgin River runs along each campground and there are a few riverside sites available. Lava Point Campground is a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. This is a more primitive campground that allows vehicles up to 19ft. Due to the higher elevation, there are cooler temperatures and more trees to provide shade.
Just Outside the Park
Springdale acts as the gateway to Zion National Park and is well equipped for tourists. Here you will find restaurants, art galleries, hotels, shops, and campgrounds. A few notable hotels include SpringHill Suites by Marriott, Flanigan’s Inn, and Driftwood Lodge all just a short drive from the park.
You are only able to drive through Zion Canyon in your own vehicle a few months out of the year, but you can always drive the Mount Carmel Highway, a 12-mile scenic road that connects the south and east entrances of the park. The Kolob Terrace road is another scenic drive that is 21 miles (34 km) to Lava Point, starting at the small town of Virgin and is closed in the winter months. Be aware that there is limited parking and hiking enthusiasts fill up spots early. The best way to avoid delays due to crowded parking lots is to park in Springdale. There is a free shuttle service that departs from the Springdale Visitors Center to the park regularly.
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