Zion National Park boasts some of the most incredible canyon lands in the United States. The park features 232 square miles of deep, but narrow slot canyons, 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs between the canyon walls, the Virgin River, waterfalls, hanging gardens, and high plateaus.
Located in Springdale in southern Utah just one hour from St. George and four and a half hours from Salt Lake City, Zion National Park offers a mecca for canyoneering, backpacking, climbing, camping, hiking, scenic drives, and river trips.
The park has an undeniably diverse ecosystem and topography with approximately 5,000 feet in elevation change from its lowest point at Coal Pits Wash to its highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain.
Zion National Park History
Human history in Zion Canyon and on the Colorado Plateau (also known as the Mukuntuweap region) dates back almost 12,000 years. Dating back from the Archaic days from approximately 7,000 to 300 BC, from Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) tribes, and the Southern Paiute culture dating from AD 1250 to the present day. European colonization occurred, and Mormon pioneers began settling in southern Utah to farm in the 1850s. You can witness fascinating archeological artifacts from the land at the on-site museum curated by the National Park Service.
Things To Do at Zion
Zion National Park provides a wide array of outdoor recreation opportunities for those looking to discover all the park has to offer. Navigate the famous slot canyons, drive along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive or the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway, explore the plethora of hiking trails, or take a backpacking trip in the backcountry.
When planning a backpacking trip to Zion, be sure to consider the ability of your group and the amount of time you have for your adventure. Then, follow the reservation protocols to schedule your permit, apply for a reservation, and obtain your backpacking permit.
Please note that as of March 2021, the Weeping Rock Trail is closed indefinitely. Additionally, it is not possible to connect the West Rim and East Rim trails at that time.
A great alternative to taking the free shuttle buses, biking is a popular option to take in the beauty of Zion National Park. Biking is allowed on all park roadways and the Pa’rus Trail. Please note that other trails, off-trail routes, and the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel do not allow bikes.
Zion offers three campgrounds for those looking to experience the park at night. The South and Watchman Campgrounds are in the Zion Canyon, while the Lava Point Campground is 1 hour away on Kolob Terrace Road. Make reservations online or call 877-444-6777.
Combining navigation, swimming, hiking, and rappelling, Canyoneering is a diverse sport that Zion is very well known for. For those considered beginners, a great trip to start with is the slow canyons at the lower end of The Narrows above the Temple of Sinawava. For advanced cannoneers, check out The Subway and Orderville Canyon. A Wilderness Permit is required for all technical trips in the canyons.
Hikers from worldwide flock to Utah year-round to enjoy the wide array of hiking trails the area provides. Hiking at Zion can be strenuous, and the climate can be unforgiving. A majority of the hikes are only accessible by using the free shuttles at designated stops as the parking lots can fill up quickly and are very limited. Additionally, restrooms and water filling stations can be found at most of the visitor centers.
The most popular hikes are in the main canyon, Zion Canyon, and include the well-known Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Be advised that even though there is low yearly precipitation in the park, thunderstorms and flash floods occur here and can be deadly. Hike to the Emerald Pools by hopping on the #5 shuttle at Zion Lodge and going either to the lower pool and waterfalls, or all the way to the middle and upper Emerald Pools for a more moderate hike.
In the northwest corner of the park, you can explore the Kolob Canyon, where the Timer Creek Overlook Trail features wildflowers in the summer and a small picnic area near the trailhead. In the East Rim Wilderness, hike the Canyon Overlook trail near the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel to the observation point for Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon.
How to Get to Zion National Park
To reach Zion National Park, you can fly into Salt Lake City, Utah, Phoenix, Arizona, or Las Vegas, Nevada. Rent a car and drive to the south entrance of the park, which is off State Route 9 in the town of Springdale. If you are in the area, be sure to visit other nearby attractions that include Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
As far as accessibility in the park, the visitor centers, museum, restrooms, shuttle buses, Zion Lodge, and picnic areas are accessible. There are several campsites also designated for those with disabilities. Service dogs are permitted on a leash throughout the park.
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