|Zion National Park encompasses some 150,000 acres of wild canyon country east of St. George, Utah, including the narrow, multicolored Kolob Canyons to the north and many miles of largely impenetrable mountain wilderness. However, the vast majority of visitors come only to see Zion Canyon, probably the most immediately spectacular of the many geological wonders in Utah, where sheer red and white sandstone cliffs tower up to 2,500 feet above the North Fork of the Virgin River, and gradually become closer together upstream until only 30 feet apart in places.
Here are found most of the visitor facilities, the grandest viewpoints and many hiking paths, ranging from extended backcountry trails to easy 10 minute strolls to places of interest. Zion offers probably the best, most varied hiking of all national parks, including the famous Narrows Trail along the upper stretches of the Virgin River. There are many other scenic side canyons that invite exploration.
The main canyon in Zion is reached by a turning off state highway 9; the through road continues east via a dramatic tunnel into more open land en route to Mount Carmel Junction and onwards to Bryce Canyon National Park. There are few official trails in the southeast section of the park but all the land is scenic. The rock formations are subtly different; more varied and on a more intimate scale.
The Kolob Canyons of the northwest have a separate visitor center and a short scenic drive leading to a high viewpoint, unlike that in Zion Canyon which follows the river along the valley floor. This region is equally spectacular, on a slightly smaller scale. Again there are good hiking opportunities, and the region is much more tranquil and less-visited. Even less well known is the high country along the Kolob Reservoir Road, a land of forests, meadows, cliffs and more narrow ravines.
As with other Southwest national parks including Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, overcrowding is becoming a serious problem in Zion Canyon - the general solution is to reduce the traffic by closing some roads to private vehicles and using shuttle bus services to transport visitors. Even so, in all these parks it is only a tiny section that is usually visited and always there are vast areas of wilderness that may be explored in peace. The year 2000 saw introduction of such measures to Zion National Park and visitors now use free shuttle buses, starting from the town of Springdale or the main visitor center, where extra parking has been constructed.
Entry for Zion National Park costs $25 per vehicle and $12 per person (pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, etc); these are the highest NPS fee, the same as other top locations like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.
Hiking in Zion National Park
Zion has a good network of maintained trails, both long and short, and also many recognized routes along narrow canyons; some of these require ropes and technical expertise, but many can be seen, at least in part, by regular hiking. Featured trails are listed below.
Featured Zion Trails
Angels Landing Trail★★★★★
2.5 miles, 1500 feet
One of the most spectacular trails in any national park, the route to 5,785 foot Angels Landing climbs steeply up the cliffs on the west side of Zion Canyon for a panoramic view over the surrounding landscape
Canyon Overlook Trail★★★★★
0.5 miles, 160 feet
This easy, popular path - the only official trail in the southeast section of Zion NP, along UT 9 - offers hikers a grand view down the deep valley of Pine Creek
Emerald Pools Trail★★★★★
1.5 miles, 350 feet
Another of the more popular paths in Zion Canyon is the route to the upper, middle and lower Emerald Pools - three pretty ponds beneath sheer sandstone cliffs
Hidden Canyon Trail★★★★★
1.1 miles, 800 feet
The lower end of the cool, shady narrows of Hidden Canyon may be reached by a short though quite strenuous trail, part of which involves a traverse of a sheer cliff face with the aid of chains
10 miles, 2600 feet
The route to Observation Point is a candidate for the best hiking path in Zion National Park, passing varied scenery of high mountains, narrow canyons, forests and meadows
Taylor Creek, Middle Fork★★★★★
3.1 miles, 700 feet
Most enclosed of the Finger Canyons of the Kolob; a narrowing, vegetation-filled valley containing a small stream, eventually becoming sheer sided, though gaining height steeply via boulders and falls
Taylor Creek, South Fork★★★★★
1 miles, 200 feet
Path along the floor of a narrowing, riparian canyon containing much vegetation and a variety of wildlife
1.4 miles, 450 feet
From the Zion Canyon Visitor Center near Watchman Campground, this path climbs into a small ravine then bends back westwards to a promontory overlooking the Virgin River valley
Weeping Rock Trail★★★★★
0.25 miles, 60 feet
Weeping Rock is one of Zion's most photographed places - a curved cliff face that continually seeps water at the junction of two sandstone strata (the Kayenta and Navajo layers), sustaining a curtain of ferns, moss and wildflowers
West Rim Trail★★★★★
14.5 miles, 3600 feet
Longest trail in the national park, linking Lava Point with the floor of Zion Canyon
0.5 miles, 50 feet
Long drainage on the east side of the park, running close to UT 9; not generally very enclosed, but forming good, short stretches of easily-accessed narrows
1.6 miles, 1100 feet
Spectacular deep and dark slot canyon with extravagantly sculptured walls, tinged with green moss in many places
1.2 miles, 120 feet
Minor drainage on the north side of Clear Creek, containing three narrows sections
2.6 miles, 1800 feet
Major tributary of the Virgin River, flowing through a deep, long slot canyon
9 miles, 1400 feet
Mostly shallow drainage of two branches, forming short slots between longer open sections, ending with a 30 foot dryfall into a deeper and darker canyon
North Creek, Left Fork★★★★★
3.4 miles, 1200 feet
Popular, oft-visited narrow canyon that includes The Subway, where the creek flows through a long, tubular passage with only a narrow opening above
8.4 miles, 1700 feet
Spectacular, long and very deep gorge joining the Zion Narrows
3.9 miles, 1400 feet
Typically deep and narrow Zion canyon, formed by the East Fork of the Virgin River, very similar to the famous Zion Narrows but harder to reach
15.6 miles, 1200 feet
The most famous narrow canyon hike in the Southwest, following the North Fork of the Virgin River past near vertical walls up to 2,000 feet high
0.4 miles, 40 feet
Most popular of Zion's technical slot canyons, deepening rapidly via chokestones and dryfalls that require rappels of up to 60 feet
Zion National Park Hotels
|In the center of Springdale, the Best Western Zion Park Inn has a pleasant location surrounded by gardens and trees, overlooking the North Fork of the Virgin River and with sweeping views over the tall red cliffs of Zion Canyon. The entrance to the national park is just 1.5 miles away along UT 9, served by the NPS shuttle bus system. Fine dining is available from the hotel's restaurant, Switchback Grill, and other facilities include an outdoor pool & hot tub, sun deck, basketball/volleyball/badminton courts, gift shop and guest laundry.
Check rates at the Best Western Zion Park Inn
Other Hotels near Zion:
Main (south) entrance - Springdale (1 mile), Hurricane (24 miles), Washington (35 miles), St George (42 miles).
East entrance - Mount Carmel Junction (13 miles), Kanab (30 miles).
Kolob Canyons entrance - Cedar City (21 miles).
||Huge sandstone cliffs and narrow, sheer-walled canyons, perhaps the most spectacular scenery in Utah. Visitation is concentrated in Zion Canyon; away from here are large areas of high elevation backcountry, reached by long trails
|Nearest city with hotels:
||Springdale, 1 mile
||37.200, -112.986 (visitor center)
||All year. The higher areas are covered by snow in winter. Most narrow canyons are accessible from spring to fall
Zion National Park - Regions
The destination for most visitors, viewed along a ten mile scenic drive that passes towering red and white cliffs, and culminates in the Zion Narrows
Atmospheric 'ghost town' just south of the park, bordering the Virgin River near Rockville along Hwy 9
The southeast section of the park, separated by a long road tunnel; colorful slickrock and several easily-accessed narrow canyons
The little-visited northwest corner of the park, with more high red cliffs and narrow ravines
Long scenic route through the middle of the park leading to Lava Point, a forested viewpoint at 7,890 feet
Zion National Park - Wildflowers
Photographs and descriptions of flowering plants found in the national park