Zion National Park

Zion National Park, known for its 229 miles of massive canyon walls, brilliant colors, eclectic plant and animal life, unique landscapes and narrow passageways; Zion is truly something magnificent to experience. From desert sands to lush gardens and natural aqueducts, its diverse geology has provided a rare combination of natural environments welcoming to many forms of life.

Complement your Grand Canyon vacation with a side-trip to Zion National Park in southern Utah. We've gathered driving directions, a map, popular hiking and activities and camping & lodging information for Zion National Park all in one place.

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Driving Directions to and from Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park:

To & From the North Rim:

Directions from Zion National Park to Grand Canyon North Rim:
Take Highway 9 east to Mt. Carmel Junction. Take Highway 89 through Kanab, UT and Page, AZ continuing south to Highway 67. Take Highway 67 south directly to the North Rim. (Total: 131 miles (211 km) — 3 hours, 12 minutes)

Directions from Grand Canyon North Rim to Zion National Park:
Take Highway 67 north out of the North Rim. Take Highway 89 north through Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. Take Highway 9 west from Mt. Carmel Junction to Zion National Park. (Total: 131 miles (211 km) — 3 hours, 12 minutes)

To & From the South Rim:

Directions from Zion National Park to Grand Canyon South Rim:
Take Highway 9 east to Mt. Carmel Junction. Take Highway 89 through Kanab, UT and Page, AZ continuing south to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 west to the east entrance of the South Rim known as Desert View. (Total: 251 miles (404 km) — 4 hours, 54 minutes)

Directions from Grand Canyon South Rim to Zion National Park:
Take Highway 64 east out of the east entrance of the South Rim, known as Desert View. Take Highway 89 north through Page, AZ and Kanab, UT. Take Highway 9 west from Mt. Carmel Junction to Zion National Park. (Total: 251 miles (404 km) — 4 hours, 54 minutes)

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When you think of staying overnight at Zion National Park, perhaps you automatically think of staying at the Zion Canyon Lodge. Limited lodging is available at the Lodge or elsewhere in the park, so make your reservations as close to 12 months in advance as possible. Reservations for this historic lodge's rustic cabins can be made through the Xanterra Parks & Resorts online.

More options are available outside Zion National Park. In the towns of Springdale and Rockville, just outside the south entrance of Zion National Park, you'll find motels, cabins, bed & breakfasts and other lodging. Other nearby cities like St. George, Mt. Carmel Junction, Kanab, Cedar City and Hurricane are great options within an hour or so drive.

Rather than booking a hotel, why not camp at Zion National Park for a couple of nights? You'll experience a little bit of why civilizations like the Anasazi made this a sanctuary for their people for hundreds of years. The two available campgrounds near the South Entrance from Springdale are the South Campground and the Watchman Campground. Both sites fill up quickly in the summer, but arriving before noon usually helps secure a site, except on holiday weekends. Restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, fire grates, RV dump stations, electricity are available on selected sites.

South Campground: This is the more popular site. Campsites are $16/night. Reservations not available; this is a first-come, first-served basis.

Watchman Campground: Reservations for campsites at Watchman Campground for camping from March 1, 2013 through December 1, 2013 may be made six months prior to your arrival date online at www.recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777 or by visiting http://recreation.gov. Tent sites are $16 per site per night. Sites with electricity are available for $18 per site per night. Designated riverside sites are $20 per night. (Rates are subject to change.)

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There are several ways to explore this Utah National Park: biking, horseback riding and pleasant strolls through the canyon while gazing upward and majestic monoliths. You will find deep gorges in the pink, red and white sandstone, carved by the Virgin River. Lovely shaded, park-like areas are found along the canyon floor, while drier desert-like vegetation dots the higher ground accessible by several hiking trails. To the visitor, it becomes very clear why canyon walls and mountain formations bear names like the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava; you can't help feeling that you're being watched over by ancient gods.

Zion National Park Visitors Center
Definitely make a stop at the Zion National Park Visitors Center near the south end of the park. Open daily year-round from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Visitors Center offers exhibits, books, maps & a film that help visitors understand the natural and cultural history of the park. Rangers are available to answer questions and issue backcountry permits.

Shuttle Information:
The Visitors Center is the beginning of the Park loop of the Zion Canyon Shuttle which runs daily year-round. and allows visitors to hop-on-hop-off at points all along the six-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and back (see green road on the map below.)  The first shuttle of the day departs the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at 5:45 a.m. The last shuttles of the day leaves the Temple of Sinawava at 11:00 p.m. and the Zion Lodge at 11:15 p.m. Parking at Zion National Park is limited, so we encourage you to park at the Visitors Center and use the shuttle system during your visit.

Driving, Bicycling & Horseback Riding at Zion Canyon
If you want to experience Zion Canyon without pulling on your hiking boots, try a scenic drive, bicycle ride or horseback adventure.

Scenic Drives:

Zion Canyon Drive — This six-mile drive stretches up the main part of Zion National Park from the Visitors Center to the Temple of Sinawava.

span style="font-style: italic;">Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway — Also known as Highway 9 (and the east-bound route out of Zion National Park and headed to the Grand Canyon) the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is a beautiful 10-mile scenic drive ending in the small town of Mt. Carmel at the junction of Highways 9 and 89. For many, the highlight of the drive is the 1.1 mile-long tunnel through the mountain.


Thanks to the new park shuttle system, auto traffic has been reduced, making Zion National Park much more rider-friendly. Favorite paths for bicyclists are the Pa'rus Trail and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Shuttle buses are equipped with bike racks for those who want to ride a little or a lot.

Horseback Riding:

Guided horseback rides are available from March through October from Canyon Trail Rides. Reservations are strongly encouraged — (435) 772-3810. Tours can be purchased at the Zion Lodge trail rides desk. Off season, please call (435) 679-8665.

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Most Popular Hikes at Zion National Park

zion canyon national park mapThere are several easy-to-moderate, paved and unguided day hikes in Zion National Park. For good "leg-stretcher" walks or hikes, try the following:

  • Pa'rus Trail — Easy — 3.5 miles (5.6 km) — 1.5 hours — Paved & Wheelchair Accessible
    • Easy, paved trail follows the Virgin River from the South Campground to the Zion Canyon junction. Sights to see: Zion Canyon Visitors Center and the Canyon Junction.
  • Riverside Walk — Easy — 2 miles (3.3 km) — 1.5 hours — Paved & Wheelchair Accessible
    • Easy, paved trail follows the Virgin River along the bottom of a narrow canyon. Located in the area known as the Temple of Sinawava. Sights to see: hanging gardens of wildflowers in spring & summer; trailside exhibits.
  • Weeping Rock — Moderate (short but steep) — 0.5 miles (0.8 km) — 30 minutes — Paved
    • Short but steep paved trail with minor drop-offs ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs. Hanging gardens of wildflowers decorate the walls in spring and summer. Sights to see: Trailside exhibits.

Here, three of our favorite more-strenuous day hikes that are highly recommended for intermediate to advanced hikers.

  • The Narrows — Difficult — 2 to 16 miles (3.3 to 25.7 km) — In the water
    • Perhaps the most famous — and due to flash flood danger, treacherous — hikes in Zion National Park is called The Narrows. For the casual day hiker or families or those looking for a relatively easy hike, drive and park or take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawa and walk the one-mile paved Riverside Walk to the trailhead. The "trail" for The Narrows IS the Virgin River, so be prepared to hike in the water up the river between the narrow canyon walls. Casual hikers may hike up the river a mile or two enjoying the cool, clear waters. No backcountry permit is required for this limited hike length.
    • For advanced hikers, The Narrows is a 16-mile hike and under the best conditions can take up to 12 grueling hours to complete from the bottom of the river canyon to the top. At points, The Narrows lives up to its name, at times allowing just 20 — 30 feet between canyon walls. The hike in its entirety is quite advanced and dangerous and is not recommended for casual hikers. A backcountry permit is required.
    • Sights to see: Beauty around each new bend in the river.
    • Safety warning: Even day hikers must be cognizant of the sudden and unpredictable flash floods that can occur; the flash flood danger peaks from mid-summer through mid-fall but can happen anytime. Hike at your own risk.
    • Sturdy shoes, preferably with ankle support, are absolutely essential for hiking The Narrows. You'll be hiking against a swiftly moving river, whose bottom is covered in smooth, algae-covered and thus very slippery river rocks. Hiking the Narrows is akin to hiking on bowling balls. Bare feet, water shoes and sandals are insufficient and can result in serious injury. For more detailed lists of what to bring, especially for those embarking on the full 16-mile hike, clickhere for Zion National Park site's article on The Narrows.
  • Angel's Landing — Difficult — 5 miles (8 km) — 4 hours
    • This strenuous hike, with its long drop-offs and narrow trail is not for the faint of heart of those afraid of heights. However, the reward is certainly worth the effort. After a steep hike, the last half-mile of which follows a steep, narrow ridge flanked with a chain railing to aid hikers, the trail ends at summit high above Zion Canyon appropriately named Angel's Landing.
      • Emerald Pools Complex (includes Lower, Middle & Upper Emerald Pools) — Partially Paved & Wheelchair Accessible
        • Lower Pools — Easy — 1.2 miles (1.9 km) — 50 minutes  — Paved
        • Middle Pools — Moderate — 2 miles (3.3 km) — 2 hours — Unpaved
        • Upper Pools — Difficult — 2.5 miles (4 km) — 2.5 hours — Unpaved
    • All ability levels love this trail network leading to exquisite Lower and Upper Emerald Pools and small waterfalls. The .6-mile paved trail to Lower Emerald Pool is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. From there a steeper trail with steps, continues .25 mile to Middle Emerald Pool. The trail to the Upper Pool experienced a severe flash flood in 1987. As a result, the trail is loosely compacted. Please stay on the designated trail to minimize erosion. Sights to see: Two small waterfalls with pools below (Upper and Lower Emerald Pools); Views of Lady Mountain, the Great White Throne, Red Arch Mountain and other majestic cliffs in all directions; cottonwood, box elder and Gambel oak trees as well as yucca, cacti, Scrub oak and pinyon-juniper.
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A Day At The Canyon from John Burcham Photography. John Burcham is a commercial, editorial photographer based out of Flagstaff, AZ. You can see more of his work at www.johnburcham.com