We covered Zion National Park several years ago. This is a new post with enhanced content and updated information.
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 because our first stop is Las Vegas!
For first time visitors to Las Vegas, we recommend checking out the hotels/casinos on the Strip (officially Las Vegas Avenue). Each hotel has something different to see and do, and each one is worthy of a visit. Less expensive accommodations can be found off the Strip as well as downtown, and there are many RV campgrounds in and around the city.
Restaurant recommendations are difficult because we’ve never had a bad meal in Las Vegas. However, we think Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand and the buffet at the Wynn Las Vegas are definitely worth mentioning. As far as attractions go, there are too many to list here, but here’s a great link for things to do in Las Vegas.
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. Exit I-15 at Crystal, Nevada then take the Valley of Fire Highway to the park’s entrance. The park road is a Nevada Scenic Byway, and the park features hiking trails, spectacular red rock formations, and petroglyphs. RV and tent camping are available. Drive time between Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park: 47 minutes.
⇒Continue on I-15 to St. George, Utah. Drive time between Las Vegas, Nevada and St. George, Utah: 2 hours.
Numerous hotel, dining, and camping options are available in St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale, Utah. Drive times to the park:
- From St. George: 1 hour
- From Hurricane: 32 minutes
- From Springdale: 3 minutes. The park provides free shuttles around the town of Springdale and to the park for visitors who wish to use them.
Travel tip: the closer the hotel is to the park, the higher the rates.
⇒From I-15, take Highway 9 east toward Springdale, Utah and Zion National Park.
Destination: Zion National Park
Ahh…Zion! From finding peaceful solitude, to hiking, climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, Zion has an adventure for every visitor. 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.
- Website link: Zion National Park.
- Accommodation in the park: Zion Lodge.
- Restaurant and seasonal cafe at Zion Lodge.
- Three campgrounds in the park.
- Free shuttle. (Mandatory in Zion Canyon from spring through fall.)
- When to go? Anytime. We like September.
- Advance permits by lottery are required for hiking to Angels Landing. Check website for details.
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 you will need for a full day in the park, including lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Now get ready to say “Wow” about a million times!
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 ten to sixteen-mile hike in the river, and it is strenuous, but it is one of the most popular hikes at Zion. Check with the visitor center regarding river conditions before attempting the Narrows. After Riverside Walk, work your way back down the canyon by hiking other trails (check out Weeping Rock Trail) or by taking the shuttle to another stop.
The Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge
This is an 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 one of the most popular trails at Zion. Angels Landing trail is long, strenuous, and not for everyone, but we hear the views are incredible. Advance permits are required for Angels Landing.
Lower Emerald Pool Trail
From the Grotto trail, take the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This trail is just a little over a mile long, and it’s easy, though there are some inclines along the way.
Return to the Grotto shuttle stop via the Kayenta trail (moderate, 1.5 miles) for great views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon.
Drive time between the park’s Springdale/South Entrance to Kolob Canyons: 47 minutes via Hurricane, Utah and I-15.
This underrated section of the park, which is much less crowded than Zion Canyon, features:
- Visitor Center with restrooms and a water filling station.
- Breathtaking scenery in a designated wilderness.
- 20 miles of hiking trails for all levels of hikers.
- Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway – scenic drive. The road is five miles long with viewpoints and trailheads.
- Kolob Terrace Road – another scenic road that begins in Virgin, Utah and runs for 21 miles in and out of the park. There are no services along this road.
Adventurous hikers may want to venture into Kolob Canyons’ backcountry to view Kolob Arch. The arch, which pans 287 feet, is one of the longest natural arches in the world. The 14-mile roundtrip hike is rated strenuous. Check with the visitor center for recommendations on other hikes in Kolob Canyons.
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 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.