Updated: Aug 10
Zion National Park in my opinion is by far the most beautiful national park I have ever seen. Now don't get me wrong, I do not want to offend anyone on their favorite, I have not been to them all, but seeing that I'm from the East Coast, the wild west is just so magical to me. Leaving from Vegas and driving up to Zion, the drive is breathtaking. Turning from desert to beautiful mountains, spotting some Joshua Trees, and then into a lush landscape, it's just amazing to see. I mean you can't see elk and big horn sheep in Vegas, but you can here.
At just under 3 hours away from Vegas, it makes for a good day trip, but a long one. Honestly to see everything you want to see, extend your trip and explore the area for a couple days. You can find cheaper places to stay outside of the Zion area, For $35 you get a 7 day pass to the park. If you are interested in turning this into an annual pass for here and all other national parks you can. That way you can go see Bryce National Park on the same trip.
Safety is a big concern at Zion, over the past few years you hear of deaths at this park b/c of reckless behavior or accident on very difficult trails. So always head the warning and don't go in areas that are closed, and if the trail is labeled difficult, please know your limitations if you can't do it, don't try it.
Now let's get away from talking about accidents and death, you are on vacation. Let's have fun and explore. Pictures of this area do not do justice to how beautiful it truly is.
There are 3 easy to moderate hiking trails close together that area great, Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pool Trails, these are where I hiked on my trip. They are actually wheelchair accessible which was so nice to see, and close to the Lodge for bathroom breaks and gift shop area. Depending on what time of year you go, parts of these trails, as with other whole sections of the park can be closed due to weather. So always double check on their website before you go, or at the entrance where you pay. I like to go in the winter or very early spring, so several areas are closed.
There are 4 other easy trails. Pa'rus Trail, The Grotto, Weeping Rock, and Riverside Walk Trail.
*Riverside is wheelchair assessable. and is the start of the trail called The Narrows (a very strenuous trail. More on the Narrows later. But Riverwalk is very nice, especially looking at the Virgin River (not to be confused with the show on Netflix) lol, its 2.2 miles long and takes about an hour and a half.
*Weeping Rock, is short trail at .04 miles and can only take a half hour. But it is steep and has a major drop off at end if you are able to do it, I am not.
*The Grotto is a short.05-mile, half hour trail that travels by the road, also near the Lodge and shuttle stops.
*Pa'rus is near the visitor center near the beginning of park, it is 3.5 miles long and follows the Virgin River. It also is wheelchair accessible.
There are several hard trails in Zion, I will not deep dive into them because I have not done them (even though I would love to do The Narrows), Maybe one day I will walk 20 steps into The Narrows. My love of this trail started from a video game. Fallout New Vegas came out years ago, so at least my character was able to walk the Narrows. lol
*The Narrows- starts at the end of the riverside walk trail. You will get wet on this trail b/c you are actually walking up the Virgin River into the slot canyon. At times of the year it will be closed due to the river depth, snow melt. rain causing flash floods will cause the closures. Check out the website to make sure it is not closed.
*Angel Landing, you have to have a permit to go here and will be asked to show it at the Grotto or Scout Lookout. To get the permit takes planning, you cannot get them the day you go, you must apply ahead of time. Check out the website to plan ahead and apply for permit. This is a very strenuous hike.
This park is extremely busy in the summer months, and when summer rolls around you can't drive deep into the park, you use shuttles. You don't have to make reservations, or pay for passes for shuttles, but you will still have to pay for parking. If you don't get there bright and early, you will have to park in Springdale a town on the outside of Zion and catch the shuttle from there. There are 9 shuttle stops in Springdale, and 9 shuttle stops inside of Zion. Waiting for shuttles can be time consuming. Be mindful of the Shuttle schedule and do not wait till the end of day to try to leave Zion as the shuttle maybe full, If you miss the shuttle, depending on where you are in the park you could have a 9 mile walk out of Zion.
Now that I have talked about shuttles, during the summer or winter you are still able to drive through part of the park if you are trying to gain access to drive the Zion-Mount Caramel Highway. The beginning of this drive is a bit overwhelming, climbing the mountain with lots of sharp turns. It definitely had my anxiety going. Once you get to the top and start going it gets better, but if it is snowing, I would avoid at all costs. Keep a watch on the weather and website to make sure there isn't any road closures. There are neat things to see on this road and is very scenic, so it is a must. This road will take you to Kanab, Bryce Mountain, and Grand Canyon North Rim (which usually can't be accessed in winter).
Drive through the Mount Caramel Tunnel and immediately on right is the parking lot that gives you access to a trail called Canyon Overlook, which is breathtaking. No shuttle service here, you must drive, and parking is limited. The trail is considered moderate and has some elevation gain. There are uneven surfaces and exposed ledges, but railing is up for safety in some areas. You will even get to walk through a tiny cave. It will take about an hour to do this 1-mile hike. From the parking lot for Canyon Overlook, you can also access the upper end of a slot canyon, by walking down the sandy banks at the far side of the parking lot. Check it out, so you can see the canyon, but to actually do the whole hike, you must be experienced b/c it is extremely difficult with rope climbs and repelling that will have to be done. In another post called route 9, I will be giving you more things to see and do in the area, and not all hiking related.
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