Zion is a 229 square mile national park located in Springdale, Utah along Route 9 originally named Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909 and changed to Zion in 1919. There are two main areas, Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon and each has it’s own visitor center.
There are services available just outside the park, such as lodging, a Sol Foods grocery store and Subway, as well as camping in the park. There are three campgrounds, two are first come, first serve and one takes reservations. You can also do some backcountry backpacking, for more information go HERE. That is what I would do next time I visit the park to avoid the crowds.
There is a shuttle takes you up to hikes in the park because you can’t drive up the canyon in your car, normally April through October. The shuttle is free and runs regularly through the day starting early in the morning. From what we experienced, the trick would be to take a bus up BEFORE 8am. After that, the line for the bus begins to grow and by noon, it can reach outside the park. I imagine folks wait hours just to take the bus up to a hike. A round trip ride without getting off takes about 80 minutes.
At the large visitor center, you will find rangers that can answer your questions about the park. You can ask about wilderness trips and there are descriptive kiosks that talk about each stop on the shuttle route and what kind of hikes you can do from there. This allows you to select the hike that is right for you. There are also picnic tables, drinking fountains and other areas of information in addition to the normal souvenir store. Be sure and stop by for you NP passport stamp!
There are a total of 10 established hikes within the canyon and 5 others inside the park. You can also find the popular Narrows trail in Zion but hiking is seasonal, so check current conditions before going. We went in spring, so the water was too high for us to enjoy this trail through the canyon where you spend a good portion of your time wading in the water. I hear it is worth it!
There are 9 stops on the route up the canyon and I suggest taking the full loop even if you aren’t going to get off the bus at stops other than where you want to hike. Not only does the bus have a talk while you are riding (a mix of recorded information and observations from the bus operator), you get to see other parts of the canyon beyond the hike you have time for.
For example, I did the Angel’s Landing hike on the way up, getting off at the Grotto stop.
Afterwards, I rode up from there to the Weeping Wall stop and enjoyed that hike. Next, I continued the rest of the way to the end of the canyon road and then back down.
I was able to see where I hiked the trail of Angel’s Landing from below and it gave it a whole different perspective. I am not entirely sure I would have done it after it from here. I was also able to watch climbers on the steep walls of the canyon!
The Weeping Wall trail takes you a short distance up to where water seeps through the rock from above and drips down into a hollowed out cave at the base of the cliff wall. It is not only refreshing when the weather is warm but interesting to see how life takes advantage of this phenomenon. This trail is short and most abilities would find it doable.
Another thing I loved about our visit was that we drove out through the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and out the east entrance. Larger vehicles need a permit to use the tunnel, so plan your trip accordingly.
This was SUCH a pretty drive, I was glad to have it as our finale to the park.
On the other hand, I will share that when we left the parking lot near the west entrance, it had a long line of cars to get in while the east was deserted when we drove out. It may be the better entrance if you are coming in later to the park. You can also park in the town of Springdale and ride a shuttle bus into town.
Read more about our time in Zion and details about my hike to Angel’s Landing in my post, Spring Break Road Trip Day 2: Angel of Zion, Queen of Bryce and Setting Up A Tarp in The Dark. For how we camped for free just outside the park so we could get in early to hike, read my post Spring Break Road Trip Day 1: A Wave Alternative, 4 Wheeling in a Subcompact and My First Night Ever Cowboy Camping.
Zion National Park is located at:
1 Zion Park Blvd.
State Route 9
Springdale, UT 84767
For more information and current conditions in the park, visit the NP website