- Website link: Zion National Park.
- Cost: $35.00 per car.
- Accommodation in the park: Zion Lodge.
- Restaurant and seasonal cafe at Zion Lodge.
- Three campgrounds in the park.
- Shuttle. (Mandatory in Zion Canyon from spring through fall.)
- Additional lodging/camping in many locations outside the park.
- When to go: Anytime. We like September.
Ahh…Zion! One of the most popular national parks, and one of our favorites. From finding peaceful solitude, to hiking, climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, Zion has something for everyone. It is also one of five national parks in Utah. So, depending on how much time you have, a visit to Zion could lead to visits to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. Don’t worry if you don’t catch all of them on this trip. We’re going to cover them all in future posts.
Zion National Park is approximately:
308 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah — 427 miles from Los Angeles, California — 377 miles from Phoenix, Arizona — 159 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada
The closest city with a major airport is obvious. So pack your bag, stash some cash in your pocket, and get ready for a ride ’cause we’re headin’ to Vegas, baby!
Almost everyone has their favorite hotel in Las Vegas, but because we love staying on The Strip — and we are always looking for a bargain, these are our favorites:
*Recommended hotels in Las Vegas: Monte Carlo, New York New York, and Luxor.
There are many other hotels on and off The Strip, as well as downtown options. RV campsites are also available in the city. Travel tip: choose a hotel that has free parking.
*Recommended splurge restaurants in Las Vegas: Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand – 3799 S Las Vegas Blvd., and The Buffet at Wynn at the Wynn Las Vegas – 3131 S Las Vegas Blvd.
*Recommended theme-type restaurants in Las Vegas: Margaritaville – 3555 S Las Vegas Blvd., and Hard Rock Cafe – 3771 S Las Vegas Blvd.
*Recommended fast food: In-N-Out Burger – 3545 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Honestly, we’ve never had a bad meal anywhere in Las Vegas. And, as far as attractions go, there are way too many to list here. If this is your first trip to Las Vegas, we recommend that you check out the hotels/casinos on The Strip (aka Las Vegas Avenue). Each one has something different to see or do, and each one is worthy of a visit. Travel tip: take a picture at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign – 5200 S Las Vegas Blvd. There is limited parking, and you will probably have to wait in line to get your shot, but it will be worth being able to say, “Been there, done that, got the picture to prove it!”
Now, on to Zion National Park…
⇒Take I-15 North toward Mesquite, Nevada and the Arizona state line. Bonus stop: Valley of Fire State Park. The park road is a Nevada Scenic Byway. See spectacular red rock formations and petroglyphs. RV and tent camping available. Drive time between Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park: 1 hour.
⇒Continue on I-15 to St. George, Utah. Drive time between Las Vegas, Nevada and St. George, Utah: 2 hours. Travel tip: near the Arizona-Utah line, you will enter the Virgin River Gorge. This is a very scenic drive, but the road has some tight curves and hills. Traffic may be heavy and fast in this area. Use extreme caution.
*Recommended hotel in St. George, Utah or Springdale, Utah: Hampton Inn. St. George is the closest large city to Zion, and Springdale is at the entrance of Zion. Travel tip: the closer you are to the park, the higher the hotel rates.
Many camping options are available in St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale.
Destination: Zion National Park
⇒From I-15, take Highway 9 east toward Springdale, Utah and Zion National Park. We highly recommend getting to the park early in the morning. Parking can be difficult during peak tourist seasons and the parking lots fill quickly. Overflow parking is available in Springdale, and the Springdale Shuttle runs to and from the park. Hop-on hop-off shuttles inside the park run the length of Zion Canyon with nine different stops. We never waited longer than ten minutes for a shuttle in the park, however, we waited in line for almost an hour to get on one of the first shuttles of the day. Did we let that bother us? Absolutely not! The park was definitely worth the wait. Travel tip: carry a backpack with everything that you’re going to need for a full day in the park, including lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Get ready to hike.
Here are our favorites:
Riverside Walk. From the visitor center, take the shuttle all the way up the canyon to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. This is where the Riverside Walk trail begins. The paved trail, which follows the Virgin River, is easy, and it is the gateway to The Narrows. (The Narrows is a nine mile hike in the river. This is a strenuous 7-9 hour hike, but it is one of the most popular at Zion. Check with the visitor center regarding river conditions before attempting The Narrows.) After Riverside Walk, you can work your way back down the canyon by hiking other trails (check out Weeping Rock Trail) or by taking the shuttle to the next stop.
The Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge. Super easy, one mile hike, and the scenery is so much more spectacular from a trail than from a vehicle. The shuttle stop at The Grotto is also the trailhead for Angels Landing, which is another of the most popular trails at Zion. Angels Landing Trail is long, strenuous, and not for everyone, but we hear that the views are incredible.
Lower Emerald Pools Trail. From The Grotto Trail, take the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. This trail is easy, and just a little over a mile long, although, there are some inclines along the the way. Return to The Grotto shuttle stop via Kayenta Trail (moderate, 1.5 miles) for great views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon.
4. Kolob Canyons Road. Visitor Center off of I-15. This is a nice, scenic drive after a day of hiking in Zion Canyon. Great hiking here, too, and less crowded.
Obviously, we have barely scratched Zion’s surface. There are many additional hikes, short trails, a museum, ranger led programs, and much more available in the park. Zion is a place where you can (and should) find your own level of adventure. We hope you have a fantastic trip! Leave us a comment below, and let us know what made you fall in love with Zion. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.