Just 2.5 hours drive from Las Vegas and you are in the beautiful Zion National Park. Zion was once home to the ancient Native Americans and then Mormons settled here in the 1860’s and renamed it Zion (meaning a place of peace and refuge). Zion is one of the most scenic and popular national parks in the US and is a paradise for hikers and spiritual people. It is simply incredible, with unique scenery found nowhere else on this world! I spent one day in Zion – I had the best time and got to see so much. Read on to discover how to have the best 24 hours in Zion National Park.
Zion’s best hikes:
Angel’s Landing and The Narrows are Zion’s most famous hikes.
Angel’s Landing (5 miles round trip ~ 4 hours)
It is true that the best views often come from the most challenging hikes, and the Angel’s Landing hike is no exception. Angel’s Landing is one of the world’s most dangerous hikes with steep drop-offs hundreds of feet down. It is a strenuous climb up but the views are incredible, with 360degree views of Zion from the top. I must admit, it wasn’t as difficult as people had made it out to be, it is just the last bit that is challenging as you are literally hanging onto chains and pulling yourself up them 1,500feet above the ground to get to the top, with cliff edges on either side of you. This hike is definitely not for the faint hearted, and sadly several people have fallen and died trying to get to the top. Dangerous? Yes. Amazing? Absolutely !! 😃
The Narrows (9.5 miles round trip ~ 8 hours)
If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, hike The Narrows trail: a knee deep hike through the Virgin River that takes you deeper into the canyon through the narrowest section of the canyon with the rock walls towering hundreds of metres above you. You don’t have to do the whole hike – you can turn back at any time, so you can go for a short walk or head upstream for hours. Whilst the full hike is pretty strenuous, it is fun and plenty families take their children here to play in the water near the beginning of the hike!
Other Hikes in Zion National Park
One of the great things about Zion is that there are hikes with varying levels of difficulty, so there is a hike to suit everyone. One of the shortest and easiest hikes to do (1 mile long round trip ~ 45 minutes), with incredible views over Zion Canyon is Canyon Overlook Trail – a must do hike when you are in Zion National Park. This is also the only hike that you can drive to, although bear in mind there is limited parking there. To drive to the start of the trail you pass through the 1 mile long Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, carved through a mountain in the late 1920’s to make travel easier between Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.
Another brilliant hike in Zion National Park is the West Rim Trail – although at 15 miles long this is one of the longer hikes so it is best done if you have a couple of days at Zion!
How much is entrance fee to Zion National Park?
Entrance fee to Zion National park is $30 per vehicle, valid for one week. Or you can buy the National Parks annual pass for $80 (valid for one year) which grants you access to all the National Park Services in the US, so you will save money if you plan to visit at least 3 parks within one year.
Transport inside Zion National Park
Zion National Park is always busy with tourists. In a bid to control the amount of traffic through the park, cars are not allowed to drive through the park as there would just not be enough parking available. Instead, you leave your car at the carpark by the entrance and utilise the super convenient free shuttles offered by the park. Shuttle buses arrive every 10 minutes or less, and you can learn about the history and geology of Zion Canyon by an audio narrator. The hop-on hop-off shuttle makes several stops throughout the Park, you can get off and on at whichever stop you like. There are stops at all the hiking trails, all of which are marked on the map provided at the Visitors Center.
Best time to visit Zion:
Spring/early summer and autumn is the best time to visit Zion National Park (less crowds and more moderate weather). During the summer it is super busy and super hot plus there is the risk of flash floods so it should be avoided. During winter it will be quieter but roads and trails may be closed due to snow/ice.
You can camp at Zion or stay in one of the nearby hotels in Springdale but you need to book in advance. Stargazing after dark here is amazing as there is no light pollution.
Top tips for Zion:
– The best piece of advice I can give you is to get to the park as early as possible, as by 10am it is already incredibly busy (over 4million people visit this park each year). I got there at sunrise and would definitely recommend to come this early not only to avoid the crowds on the hikes, but also to avoid hiking during the intense midday heat.
– If renting a car in Vegas, rent it from a hotel on the strip and not from the airport, which is a lot more expensive.
– The nearest town is Springdale, but stock up on food items before you get here as the one convenience store in town is pretty expensive.
24 Hours in Zion National Park
Of course, 24 hours is not enough to explore Zion National Park: 2-3 days would be ideal. But if you only have one day, make sure to get to the park early (ideally after sunrise) and stay until evening. During that time you can easily fit in 2 or 3 hikes and still have plenty of relax time there. You just need to work out how much you want to hike in one day! I managed about 15km, including Canyon Overlook (easy hike) Angel’s Landing (strenuous hike) and the Emerald Pools Trail (moderate hike). Whilst other popular hikes with great views are Observation Point and The Narrows, they both take up almost a whole day and are very strenuous. I will just have to save them for next time!
I was completely blown away by Zion, it exceeded my expectations x1000! It was seriously one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and special places I have ever visited. I feel the photos can’t even do it justice, and I know I will definitely be back one day. Me and my dad have said next year we will do a roadtrip around the southwest to visit the National Parks and Canyons and I’d love to take him to Zion.
Other nearby National Parks
The great thing about this area is that so many National Parks are close together: Zion to Bryce Canyon is just 1.5 hours drive, and The Grand Canyon, The Wave, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park and several others are just a few hours drive away. If you will be doing a road trip around Utah check out this 7 day Utah road trip itinerary.
Kolob Canyon area is also another part of Zion National Park that I would like to visit next time. It is accessed through a different entrance on the northwest of the park, is quieter than at Zion Canyon (the main part of Zion National Park) and it also has the worlds second largest natural arch and lots of big peaks.
Whilst all these areas are well known, Southern Utah also has many beautiful hidden gems for those of you who wish to escape the crowds!
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