Home to diverse terrain, breathtaking colors, an abundance of wildlife and plant life, numerous hiking trails and other adventures, it’s no surprise why Zion National Park attracts millions of visitors each year.
But with all there is to see, do and know about Zion National Park before your first visit, planning your trip can seem like an intimidating task. It doesn’t have to be, though. And thanks to our helpful list, you can easily plan and check off everything you need to do to ensure a well planned and thoroughly enjoyed trip to one of America’s most beautiful national parks.
- Book your lodging.
First things first, you want to make sure you have a place to stay after a day spent traipsing Zion’s trails. Especially if you plan on visiting during the peak season—April through October—the sooner you book your lodging at Zion National Park, the better. Large groups would enjoy a comfortable stay in a vacation home, while the more outdoorsy types can rest their heads in a cabin, furnished wagon or even try out glamping.
- Know the area and current conditions.
If you’ve never been to Southern Utah, there’s one thing to know about the weather—it’s extremely diverse. In the summer, temperatures can easily climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so most Zion National Park visitors will check out the hikes and sights in the early mornings and late evenings to avoid immense heat. Spring and fall have the best weather conditions. Temperatures typically stay between 60-90 degrees, but cool, rainy weather is more likely during these seasons. Also, water levels in the canyons can quickly rise during the springtime, forcing some hiking trails to close. Fall brings with it mild temperatures, clear days, gorgeous autumn colors and lower water levels.
Use the National Park Service’s website to check the current conditions of Zion National Park. It keeps you updated on weather, river, trail and road conditions, as well as any park closures.
- Decide what you want to see and do.
Once you know the season’s conditions, you can better plan what Zion National Park adventures you’re going to cross off your bucket list this visit. There’s a profusion of things to see and do, so don’t plan on seeing and doing everything this trip, but the following is a summary of the top Zion National Park attractions and activities.
- The Narrows: If you like water, tight spaces and adventure, you’ll love this slot canyon journey. Its canyon walls stretch up to 2,000 feet high, while some of the slot spaces are only a few feet wide. You can either hike the full, 10-mile round trip distance through the Virgin River or just hike it for an hour and still have a fun experience.
- Angels Landing: This hike isn’t for first-time hikers. It’s a vigorous, 5.4-mile climb upward that will test your feet, your heart and your fear of heights. Our advice, definitely hike this one in the morning.
- Canyon Overlook Trail: Families and less-experienced hikers love this trail because it’s only 1 mile and provides a breathtaking view of the area, especially at sunset.
- Emerald Pools Trail: The cool thing about the Emerald Pools Trail is that it gives you options. There are three natural pools you can hike to, and whether you do one or all three, you’ll be led to rushing waterfalls and picturesque scenery without putting forth much effort to see it.
- Observation Point: According to some, Observation Point offers the best view of Zion National Park of all its lookout spots. Bring your camera for this one.
There are plenty of other attractions to see and activities to take part in, such as horseback riding, Jeep tours and canyoneering. It’s up to you to decide what you prefer to experience in the time you have.
- Pack your bag of essentials.
You’re not ready for a day exploring Zion National Park unless you’ve packed a backpack of essentials to prepare you for whatever the day might bring. To keep you safe, hydrated, energized and free of burns and insect bites, be sure to include the following in your hiking bag:
- Sunglasses and/or brimmed hat
- Insect repellent
- Travel size first-aid kit
- Snacks (i.e. power bar, trail mix, etc.)
- At least 1 gallon of water
You also want to make sure you have the right clothing and shoes for hiking Zion’s trails. If you’re hiking the Narrows, bring a wet suit. For all other hikes, wear sturdy hiking boots and clothes that fit the season and different temperatures you could experience throughout the day.