A. Visiting Zion National Park: A Beginner’s Guide
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah. Known for its sheer red cliffs, emerald pools, and waterfalls, it is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. With a multitude of hiking trails, it is ideal for individual travelers, families and all age groups. Use this guide for the first time when visiting Zion National Park to discover accommodation options, must-see hiking trails, and learn how to get around the park.
1. Visiting Zion National Park: A Beginner’s Guide
Zion National Park has always been on my wish list. In fact, it was national park number one on my list. When I received an invitation to a wedding in Las Vegas, I realized that I would be a couple of hours drive from Zion because it is in southern Utah, near the Arizona state line. I knew the time was right, so we started planning.
Zion National Park has become a popular travel destination over the years. When people see the amazing photos of Zion Canyons, they want to experience them firsthand too. Zion National Park is even more beautiful than what can be captured in a photo. During our visit, my family noticed that what we were seeing with our own eyes seemed unreal. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited (and that means a lot).
2. When to start planning
National parks in the US are popular destinations for family travelers. It is always advisable to book in advance, especially if you plan to stay near the park. Some accommodations are booked months in advance. If you are looking for places to stay in the park, you should start planning as soon as possible. However, if you have a visit soon and you haven’t started planning, don’t worry. Our visit was planned only 3 weeks in advance. We stayed outside the park for 10-15 minutes (in the off-season) and really enjoyed our stay.
3. Best time of year to visit
As mentioned earlier, parks can get very crowded during the summer months. We traveled in early September and found this to be the ideal time of year to visit. We didn’t have to face crowded paths or long queues for transportation within the park. The park recommends that the visit take place between May and November. We spoke to fellow travelers during our visit who said the bright fall colors are best seen in late October.
4. Where to sleep
Zion Lodge is a great place to stay if you want to stay in the park. This has advantages, the biggest being the breathtaking panoramic view and the proximity to all hiking trails and activities. Springdale, Utah has many lodging options and is right outside the park’s south entrance. The prices for these accommodations vary. There were also plenty of restaurants and shopping options in this area. Make sure you eat at Cafe Oscar; it was wonderful! There is also an east entrance to Zion National Park along Route 9.
Our family stayed at a new La Quinta Inn & Suites in La Verkin, Utah. I highly recommend this hotel. It was a short drive to the national park and we loved the town of La Verkin. There is also a beautiful viewpoint just a short drive from the hotel. Every evening we drove to the viewpoint at sunset. This was by far one of our fondest memories of our visit.
If you are traveling with the family, consider traveling to Zion National Park. We recently rented an RV trailer and it opened our eyes to how amazing this form of travel is. If you avoid driving because you are tired of hearing your kids scream “she touches me”, traveling in a trailer can change the game for you. Check out the trailers available for rent near you here, then read “The Top 10 Camps and Trailer Parks Around Zion National Park”. For my next trip to Zion, I’m flying to Las Vegas and renting a trailer there. Flights to Las Vegas are cheap, so I can check my accommodations while I’m traveling.
5. Tips for your visit
Don’t forget to get a map at the visitor center when visiting Zion National Park. We use ours all the time during our travels. You can pack a picnic and have fun in the park. There are restaurants too if you prefer. There is a beautiful tall tree outside of the Red Rock Grill, and underneath is the perfect spot for a picnic. Many families gathered to relax, eat, and enjoy the scenery.
6. Day hikes for children
Always check the National Park Service website to see which trails are open during your visit. Certain paths can be closed by various things, e.g. B. flash floods, rockfall damage and more. It is a good idea to ask at the park entrance on the day of your visit to see if there are any hiking trails to avoid.
The first part of the Emerald Pools Trail (Lower Emerald Pool) is good for young children. Be careful when visiting the Middle and Superior Emerald Pools. Our family went to the three Emerald Pools and we loved it; However, the walk to the upper emerald pool was definitely more intense with some steep slopes and is not recommended for young children unless they are experienced hikers.
The Narrows are one of the park’s most popular hikes. We didn’t walk the Narrows but you can see them from the Riverside Walk. To hike the Narrows, cruise the Virgin River. Your feet will get wet, but kids can enjoy playing in the water, especially in the hot summer months. The best way to get to the Narrows is to start your walk at the Temple of Sinawava on the Riverside Walk. The Canyon Overlook Trail produces some of the most beautiful photos ever taken in Zion. It’s a 1 mile loop trail that is suitable for children.
7. Hiking trails to avoid with children
Knowing which hiking trails to avoid is also helpful when visiting Zion National Park with kids. One of these tracks is Angels Landing. Of course, this is the trail that Zion National Park is known for. So if you are planning a visit without kids this is the trail you want to take. Lookout Point is eight miles long and offers 2,300 feet of climbing and some of the best views in the park.
Other things you might want to see when not with kids:
- Visit the table checkerboard
- Slot Canyons – If you really want to discover something new and are ready to dive into the world of canyoning, check out this guide.
- The West and East Rim Trails
- The Subway – A license is required to walk on the subway.
- Cycling in Zion – Cycling is allowed on all park roads and on the Pa’rus Trail
8. Other gorges nearby
Zion National Park isn’t the only place in the area where you can see canyons. In fact, Kolob and Bryce Canyons are an hour’s drive from Zion. Did you know the Grand Canyon is only a 4-hour drive from Zion National Park? It can be worth it to spend an entire vacation visiting the canyon!
B. 5 Things To Know Before Visiting Zion National Park
Zion National Park and its epic hiking trails have become an extremely popular travel destination in recent years. This is a spectacular travel destination and one of our most popular national parks in the United States. However, because of the crowds, trail closures, and cyanobacteria in the Virgin River, Zion has become a challenging park. Here are 5 things to know before visiting Zion National Park.
1. Some Hiking Trails Are Closed
Currently, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point and Weeping Rock are closed due to a rock fall. All three hikes start from the same trailhead, the start of the East Bank Trail. These paths have been closed since August 2019 and there is no forecast when these paths will be reopened.
There are two alternative routes to get to the lookout point. The shortest option is the East Mesa Trail, a 7-mile circular tour. On this hike, you will start outside the park and walk to the lookout point. You can also get to Observation Point on the East Rim Trail, which starts near the east entrance of Zion National Park. This hike is 20 miles so it’s a massive day hike. Find out more about hiking to the viewpoint here.
If you dream of a hike to the Hidden Canyon or Weeping Rock, you have to wait for the trail to be repaired. Even if you don’t plan on doing these trails, the closure may still affect your visit. With fewer trails open, there are limited opportunities for hikers to spread out in the park, increasing the crowd on the trails that remain. In 2019, before the park visit calmed down a bit due to COVID-19, the crowd at Angels Landing hit a record high, enough to temporarily close the path for safety reasons.
2. Toxic Cyanobacteria Flower In The Virgin River
Toxic cyanobacteria have been detected in the Virgin River since summer 2020. This was first discovered when a dog died after drinking water from the river. Cyanobacteria produce toxins that affect the nervous system, causing rash, numbness, pain, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and death. Children and dogs are the most vulnerable. It can be absorbed through the skin, eyes and mouth.
3. You May Not Happen In The Close Of Your Visit
As you walk through the Narrows, you are walking the North Fork of the Virgin River through a vast canyon. Narrows are closed during periods of high flow. The strait can also be closed during floods. This is most likely to be the case in the summer months.
The bigger the current, the more difficult it becomes to walk on the Narrows as the water level is high. From May to December the water level drops gradually, so the later you are in the year, the easier the hiking conditions become. There is some fluctuation due to rain and storms, but in general this is the trend. Late summer and early fall are the best times to hike the Narrows. Flow rates are generally low and temperatures are comfortable. We walked the Narrows at the end of October and it was a phenomenal time to be in the park.
4. Shuttle zion
Park at the visitor center or take the Springdale shuttle to the main entrance. The shuttle route begins at the visitor center and follows the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive until it ends at the Temple of Sinawava. If you are walking in the park make sure you know the correct bus stop for your walk.
From the morning onwards, the queues to board the Zion Shuttle can be very long. We’re talking about an hour or more of waiting. For the best experience, schedule one of the first two buses of the day. During high season and bank holiday weekends, plan to queue at least 30 minutes before the first bus. I know it’s early, but if you want to hike Angels Landing you will have a much better experience going early as you can walk the stretch of creek with no oncoming traffic. It’s worth starting early!
5. Quantity control at angels landing
Angels Landing is the most popular hike in Zion National Park. The crowd was so high in 2019 that the National Park Service started thinking about how to control traffic on this trail. So the pandemic brought its own changes. In the summer of 2020, the section of the hiking chain was closed for reasons of social distancing. The longest route that hikers were allowed to walk was the Scout Lookout.
If the rush is very high, there may be a queue at the Scout Lookout and even the Angels Landing Trailhead. On Memorial Day weekend 2021, the crowds in Zion National Park were huge. Park rangers managed the queue, sending out small groups of hikers every few minutes. At some point you had to wait 2 hours to start walking.
I’m not writing any of this to change your mind about visiting Zion, it’s an amazing national park but due to road closures, crowds and high levels of bacteria in the Virgin River, this park is facing some challenges right now. These are all things to consider before planning a visit here. If it were me I would wait I would give some time to clear the rockfalls and repair the trails. There are many other national and state parks to explore.