Wanderlust America

Explore the Zion National Park

The park has become a part of road trip legend for over a century now, due to its closeness to hubs such as Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. It was originally known as the Mukuntuweap National Monument as declared by then President Taft in 1909. The area was later designated as Zion National Park by Congress in 1919. It easily makes it into the top five most visited parks in the National Park system. This is due to its amazing, picturesque views and must-see trails. Let us give you a complete guide to Zion National Park and what to do when you get there.

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When to Visit

Zion is at its best during spring and fall, this is because the temperatures are much cooler, crowds are less and some of the best routes and trails of the park are accessible at that time. However, be sure to check on the weather before going into any high-altitude zones during these seasons. This is because snow can gather well into April and also some storms are possible during October and November. 

Despite all that, summer is the peak time during which all the visitors pile up at the national park. This is not surprising at all because kids are out of school and most adults take their summer vacation during this time. Most of the upper elevation trails are snow-free during this time and it’s the perfect opportunity to take some time off to see the park’s natural wonders. The temperature in the summer remains around 100 degrees and hiking during this time can become a very popular trek. 

Winter is easily the quietest season of all at Zion National Park. You can visit at this time if you are seeking some solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy the view with a scenic drive and take a few pictures as the entire place is infused with white snow. 

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Getting there

The park is located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale. It is at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions. The closest airport to the national park is Harry Reid International in Las Vegas which will put you close to 167 miles from the main entrance. Although there is a small regional airport in St. Georgia, Utah that has limited flights operating and will drop you off just 47 miles away from the Zion National Park. You will have to rent a car and if you like you can make a larger road trip out of it by incorporating national parks like Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon into it. 

Rock formations exposed

There are nine exposed rock formations that are part of a super sequence of rock known as the Grand Staircase. These nine are listed below.

  • Dakota formation – Located at top of Horse Ranch Mountain and has rock types of conglomerates and sandstone
  • Camel formation – Situated at Mount Caramel Junction and has rock types of Limestone, sandstone and gypsum.
  • Temple Cap formation – It is situated at the top of the West Temple with rock types of Sandstone.
  • Navajo Sandstone – It is located at the tall cliffs of Zion Canyon and the highest exposure is West Temple. The cross bedding also shows well at Checkerboard Mesa. The rock type consists of Sandstone.
  • Kayenta Formation- It is situated throughout the canyon and has rock types of siltstone and sandstones.
  • Moenave Formation – It is located at Lower red cliffs with rock type siltstone and sandstone.
  • Chinle Formation – It is above Rockville and rock type is shale, loose clay and conglomerate.
  • Moenkopi formation – Located at the rocky slopes from Virgin to Rockville and rock type is Shale, siltstone, sandstone, mudstone and limestone.
  • Kaibab Limestone – It is situated at Hurricane cliffs and has rock types consisting of Limestone.
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Things to do at Zion National Park

  • Hiking – Hiking and backpacking are the two main draws to get to Zion. There are famous trails such as Angels Landing that require a timed entry permit to hike the trail. Other than that, there are still numerous scenic paths that one can take on their own without requiring a permit. Taylor Creek and Kolob Arch are in the Kolob Canyon sections of the park, near Cedar City. There is the Canyon Overlook Trail that is on the east side of the park and offers some amazing views and the opportunity for photos on its one-mile stretch. However, if you are a long hiker and want a strenuous hike then to go on the La Verkin Creek Trail. You can even rock climb at places like Spaceshot, Moonlight Buttress, Prodigal Son, Ashtar Command, and Touchstone are the most popular ones.
  • Scenic Drive – It is only from December through February that private vehicles are allowed along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Other than this drive, there are plenty of other scenic drives available through the pines and cliffs. There is one just east of Zion’s main canyon that winds from Highway 9 to Mt. Caramel Junction and passes through noticeable plateaus. There is another picture-taking worthy view along the road through Kolob Canyons.
  • Cycling – Many visitors opt to bike as private vehicles are prohibited from spring through fall. There are Zion Cycles and Zion Peddler that rent road bikes and e-bikes in the town of Springdale. However, if you are looking for one inside the park, Zion Lodge is the place for you to go to. Keep in mind that bikes are not allowed on any paths but are permitted on park roadways.
  • Guided tours – Many people do not like to go into the wilderness on their own and prefer to have a licensed, experienced guided tour with a professional. Due to the high popularity of Zion, there are numerous guided tours available. You can embark on day trips with Canyon Trail Rides, which is a local business that has been guiding visitors for over 50 years now. Those looking to get up close and personal with the rock formations of the park can decide to join Zion’s Rock & Mountain Guides.
  • Grand Staircase National Monument – The Grand Staircase National Monument is one of the most awe-inspiring wonders and is a must see for any nature lover and one of the topmost places to visit in Zion National Park. It is made up of geological formation spanning three provinces: Chocolate Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and White Cliffs. It is located in central Utah and is 8,600 feet
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There are budget-friendly and luxurious options available for every type of person inside and around the park. You will find no shortage of places to stay at the end of your day once you are done exploring Zion National Park. Let us look at some of the important staying options.

  • Camping – The Watchman Campground has over 176 sites that include RV-friendly spots, and flush toilets and have all year-round access to them. However, the campground books up quickly especially during the weekend and the summer months. If you are looking for plan B, there is the South Campground for those looking to sleep inside the park during spring through autumn. However, for people who do not mind a long drive from the park every morning, there is Land Beyond Zion which is well-spaced and has many amenities.
  • Hotels – As mentioned above, the best in-park lodging in Zion is the Zion Lodge. It was opened in 1925, this delightful hotel and cabin was designed by the park architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood. It has been set against the sky-high canyon walls and river bends that have been drawing people to this place for years now. There is also the La Fave with its villas and suites which will leave you relaxed for the night.


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  • Zion National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the entire country with more than 4.5 million visitors every year. To avoid huge crowds, try going during the months of April-May or September-October. Also, try arriving at the park before 9 AM, this is because parking lots at the visitor center fill up around this time.
  • Shuttles and trains are very crowded in the afternoon. To avoid these large crowds try going early in the day by catching the shuttle in the park between 6 am to 7 am.
  • The groceries in Springdale are very expensive. It is best to stock up on your groceries elsewhere, like in St. George before you arrive.
  • Make sure you have proper hiking clothes with you if you are looking to hike. Wear hiking shoes that you can walk comfortably for miles in without having to change them.
  • It can get hot and humid during summer days. Make sure you pack your UV protection sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen to protect you from the dangerous Ultraviolet radiation of the sun.
  • The best way to see the best of Zion National Park is by spending a few days hiking the most popular trails.
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Zion National Park has something special for everybody- from family-friendly adventures to solo hikes and trails. It is a must-see spot for any adventure junkie and should be on their list.

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