Visiting Zion National Park, Utah

Latest visit: October 2020

Tips for visiting Zion National Park:

  • If you plan on making it to multiple national parks in a year, the Annual pass will be worth it ($80). You can purchase it at the park entrance or online (ahead of time).
  • There is a free shuttle from the cute town of Springdale to the Visitor Center of  Zion National Park : I suggest using it if you don’t want to have to deal with finding parking in the National Park.
  • The customer service people we spoke to recommended we show up before 9 am to make sure we had a parking spot in the designated area of the park, which is located beside the Visitor Center.
  • There are multiple ways of getting around the park: a park shuttle, private tours, electric bike rentals, your own bikes and walking.
    • Zion SHUTTLE: NEW COVID19 RULES: The number of people allowed in the Zion National Park shuttle is limited and there are only a few ways to get the tickets. Tickets are released in two windows, the first are released at the beginning and middle of the previous month. The second group of tickets are released at 9 am MT on the day before and I strongly suggest you create an account and log in at 8:59 am MT to be able to snag the tickets AT 9AM precisely. More information on the . WARNING: Once you are in the park, you CANNOT leave and come back later on the same shuttle ticket. You need to use it only during that window of time you reserved. Plan your water and food situation ahead! You CAN travel within the park on any shuttle throughout the day, just not the starting one from the Visitor Center.
    • Some companies, such as Zion Adventure Company, offer private tours inside the park as well as gear rental such as bikes (& electric), waterproof equipment if you plan on doing the Narrows, rock climbing courses, etc.  This was going to be our back up plan if all else failed. We tried calling and emailing them but never heard back. I suggest you show up on the first day you get to the park, as early as possible, to secure your equipment.
    • We brought our road bikes and went from the visitor center all the way to the end of the Riverside Walk, the top end of the park. You will be sharing the road with pedestrians until you get to the ‘shuttle and Zion Lodge cars only’ road, and from then on you will be sharing it with both. Once past the Lodge, only shuttles and park cars are allowed on the road. IMPORTANT: You need to stop and pull over every time you hear a shuttle coming behind you.
      • We left at sunrise and it was a false flat rise to the top… I can’t imagine biking this in the middle of summer! Bring a lot of water!
  • Zion National Park asks patrons to wear a mask when 6ft distancing is not possible… which is most of the time.
  • Hikes at Zion National Park: Bring water, snacks and have good walking shoes. Most of the trails we did were paved and hiking boots were not necessary.
    • Emerald pools: Round trip distances are 1.2 miles to lower, 2 miles to middle and 3 miles to upper Emerald pool. Cute and relatively easy hike in nature with some climbs and a mix of sand and paved trails. Can get VERY BUSY. We did the loop starting with the lower emerald pool, then upper and finishing by the middle emerald pools. I’d recommend doing it this way since the climb is smoother and the way back offered some fantastic views of the canyon!
    • Observation point: * Trail from the Grotto is currently closed due to a landslide that happened in 2019. You can access the trail from the east entrance of the park.*
      • From my trip in October 2017: this is an 8-mile hike (round trip) with steep climbs and switchbacks and some parts of it can be challenging but the observation point is well worth it! You get a view of the whole valley inside the canyon. Essentially this hike brings you from the bottom of the canyon to the very top of it.
    • Riverside walk: the shuttle will bring you to this path. It’s fully paved and accessible to wheelchairs and young kids. You have to walk through here to get to the Narrows.
    • The Narrows: * The park is currently recommending NOT TO do this trail due to Toxic Cyanobacteria Bloom in the Virgin River and the Streams of Zion National Park. More info here. *
      • From my October 2017 trip : Rent the special boots & waterproof pants at the visitor center or Zion Adventure Center. They will also supply you with a walking stick. Put all your valuables in a plastic bag and make sure the backpack you bring with you is waterproof… or don’t fall! This is more of a walk than a hike although walking through a stream in a canyon is a different type of challenge. Depending on the time of year and water level, you can get water up to your mid-thigh and can’t always see your toes clearly so you need to rely on that walking stick. You can walk through the river for 10 miles round trip, although we probably only did 1 mile. This was quite a unique experience!
    • Angels Landing : Known as ‘ one of the world’s most renowned hikes and is an unforgettable short adventure hike worthy of all bucket lists. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED. MORE FOR THE DIE HARDED.’ It only took me 3 years to get back to Zion National Park to check this hike off my bucket list, and it was well worth the wait. Due to COVID19 restrictions, we secured the 7 am shuttle (earliest one) and we were some of the first people on the trail. It was so peaceful and quiet. The first part of the trail is paved but still has some body warming climbs and switch backs. We were very happy we got there so early because the second part of the trail, the one that travels through the ridge, can be very narrow and doesn’t leave much space to turn out. We got to the top around 8:20 am, just in time to see the sun rise over Zion National Park! It was a magical moment: everyone was whispering and just enjoying the beautiful moment. Pictures do not pay justice to the stunning view this hike offers, since we were early in the morning and some of the valley was still in the shade.
      • Not to sound arrogant but I was expecting it to be more scary. Some parts of the trail got my heart pumping more than others, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. We did see a lot of people turn around once they get to the steeper part where you have to climb and hold on to the rope. If you have a fear of heights, you could hike the first half and wait for your friends to do the second. A lot of people seemed to be doing that.
      • We crossed A LOT of people making their way to the top, while on our way back down!
    • West Rim Trail to Lava Point: Half way up Angels Landing, there is a restroom stop and a junction to continue on that trail or walk in the opposite direction. After doing Angels Landing, we decided to adventure on this path, not really knowing where it would lead us. We never made it to Lava Point, because we were only looking for a long hike but weren’t prepared to hike for more that 6-7 hours. There was NO ONE on the trail. It was SO PEACEFUL and beautiful. We got to see the fall colors and it felt like we were the only ones in the park! I highly recommend walking this path, especially since you’re already pretty high up once you get to the ‘restroom’ junction. We stopped right before campsite one, to have breakfast/lunch with a fabulous view!
    • The Watchman Trail: this is a trail that you can do from the Visitor Center on a day where you didn’t secure shuttle tickets. It is HIGHLY TRAFFICKED and is a pretty easy 3.3 miles hike that offers some nice views of the canyon. We after we had driven 6 hours from LA and it was the perfect little hike to get the blood flowing again and as an intro to what was yet to come in terms of views!
    • Hidden Canyon: *Trail is currently closed due to a landslide that happened in 2019.*  It’s said to be a 3 mile hike offering nice views of Zion National Park.
    • Canyon Overlook Trail: The start of the trail is located after The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel  and parking is limited. We ran out of time to do this one because we wanted to make sure we could drive back through the tunnel (which closes at 6pm). This trail is said to be a mile short and easy: it looked VERY BUSY.
  • Book your hotels ahead of time!
    • I strongly recommend the SpringHill suites if you are feeling like a reasonably priced hotel experience not too far from the park. We stayed there with points and were very impressed by the hotel. The breakfast views were stunning and the room layout was great. Microwave, mini fridge and Keurig coffee machine included.
    • I also tried out the Fairfield Inn & Suites Virgin Zion National park which is located a little outside Springdale, a short 18 minute drive from the Park. :It was probably the nicest, cleanest Fairfield I have ever stayed at. Microwave, mini fridge and Keurig coffee machine included in all rooms and you can also ask for a room with a balcony.
    • If you feel like splurging a little bit more you can stay at Zion Lodge, which is in the park but far from the little town of Springdale.
    • As for camping, I saw the site that is next to the entrance and wouldn’t recommend it unless you don’t mind being close to your neighbors and being close to the shuttle stop. Camping along the trails, deep in the park, does look like a fantastic experience!
    • You should also check out glamping options with Under Canvas and the newly opened, very cute, WildFlower Resort.
  • The closest town to Zion is Springdale and it has everything including a grocery store, shops and restaurants.
    • Zion Pizza and Noodle is the perfect stop after a full day of hiking. Their pizzas, pastas and even salads are delicious. Their local beer selection is also on point and if you get a patio table, you’ll be impressed with the view. WARNING: this place gets VERY busy so make sure you show up before the crowds or expect to wait for over an hour!
    • FeelLove Zion Coffee shop: this is a relatively new addition (3 months old as of November 2020) to Springdale and boy am I happy about it! It’s located just before the entrance to the park and can get busy in the morning or late afternoon as they get a lot of hikers passing by. Their branding is super cute and the patio offers some spectacular views of Zion and Springdale! The oat milk cappuccino was delicious, although served a little too hot to my liking. The staff was so nice: I will definitely be back !
  • Weather: I was there twice, both times in October (early and late) and the weather was perfect for hiking. The mornings and evenings can get a little bit chilly so I would plan on a light jacket.

Impressions of Zion National Park:

Notes from my first trip:

Springdale is a very cute, quiet town. Although restaurant options aren’t abundant, they are sufficient for the size of the town. Don’t expect to find bars or a party scene… this is a town of hikers and nature lovers. Surprisingly, my friend and I were the youngest around. I’m still trying to figure out why since it’s only a 2 and a half hour drive from Vegas. Possibly the time of year?

The National Park was breathtaking. The drive from Las Vegas to Springdale was already quite beautiful but it didn’t prepare me for the beauty of this place. As the shuttle brings you through the park, you learn some history about the park and the natives and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Once you’re on the hikes, it’s almost surreal. How is it possible that you are actually part of the décor that you were just staring at from the bottom of the canyon? And with every hike, you discover a new face of the Park, whether it is with your hair blowing in the wind at the very top of the canyon or at the very bottom with your feet in the river.

Notes from my second trip:

3 years later and here I am, back in Zion to trek up Angels Landing. I was beyond ecstatic and could not wipe the smile off my face throughout our whole stay (48 hours)! The park has changed a lot due to all the COVID19 restrictions and there were obviously a lot of people on the hikes: that part I didn’t like. People blasting their speakers on the paths, people leaving trash behind, and just a lot of noise. Not my idea of a peaceful walk in nature, but it was still worth coming back to Zion for Angels Landing. The Shuttle situation can get frustrating if you are not prepared for it but all in all, it was a fabulous adventure. The West Rim trail was an amazing surprise and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for some quiet time, away from the crowds. That being said, I still think doing Angels Landing is a MUST and getting up early to be the first ones up there is very much worth it!

Driving from Vegas to Zion and Driving in Zion National Park:

Springhill suite hotel views (I forgot to take some of the Fairfield!):

Emerald Pools walk:

Observation Point:

Riverside walk to The Narrows:

The Narrows:

Angels Landing:

West Rim trail:

Watchman trail:

Other pictures:

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