Zion is a southwestern, Utah beauty and one of the most popular National Parks in the United States. It’s home to some of the most beautiful landscape, thrilling hikes, and the largest crowds you may ever experience at a US National Park. Use this guide to help you carefully plan your visit so that you can see all of the best views in Zion National Park.
Best Drive-Up Views in Zion National Park
Take a drive down Zion Canyon scenic drive and you’ll experience drive-by views for the entirety of your trip. Although many of the best views in Zion National Park require hiking it’s most popular trails, there are a number of stunning drive up viewpoints in Zion as well.
- Kolob Canyon: 40 miles north of the main canyon, in the Kolob Canyons section of the park, there is a 5-mile long road that winds through crimson canyons, sascading waterfalls, and has absolutely stunning views.
- Mount Carmel Tunnel: The drive to and through Mount Carmel Tunnel is incredible! When you exit the tunnel heading into the canyon from the East entrance your jaw will simple drop.
- Zion Canyon Scenic Drive – Zion-Mount Carmel Junction: Right in the very spot there is such a gorgeous view of the Virgin river from the bridge. Catch it at sunset for the most beautiful soft hues.
Amazing Hiking Trails in Zion National Park
Some of the best views in the National Parks require some legwork to get there. Although a scenic drive or short day hike can lead to some of Zion’s greatest views, the best views in Zion National Park often require some elevation gain.
The Best Hikes in Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon is the most visited part of the park with the most popular trails.
DISTANCE: .4 Miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #7, Weeping Rock
DESCRIPTION: Take the bridge over Echo Canyon creek to the trailhead information panel and turn left. This trailhead is home to a number of popular Zion hikes; we hikes all three of the trails in one trip.
This very short, easy hike on a paved path will lead you to a refreshing weeping canyon overhang. After .2 miles of a steady incline, you’ll find yourself at a lush hanging garden that is continually moist due to constant water flow from the canyons above.
DISTANCE: 1.7 Miles One Way
SHUTTLE STOP: #3, Canyon Junction
DESCRIPTION: Located at the parks entrance, this multi-use path follows the virgin river from the South entrance of Zion to Canyon Junction (Shuttle Stop #3). Think of it as a non-strenuous, 100% paved, leisurely walk along the Zion canyon floor.
This is the one trail in the park that allows bicycles and dogs, as well as wheelchair access, which allows for everyone to enjoy all the sights down this path. This riverside walk includes several zig-zagging bridges that cross the Virgin River, and multiple places with river access if you care to get your feet wet!
Emerald Pools Trail
DISTANCE: 1.2-mile round-trip loop to the Lower Pool;
2-miles round-trip visit to the Middle and Lower Pools;
or a 2.5-mile round-trip hike to all three
SHUTTLE STOP: #5, The Zion Lodge
DESCRIPTION: Enjoy a paved incline and a rather busy trail to the Lower Emerald Pool. Beyond Lower Emerald pools the trail is dirt, more rugged, and rock covered. Waterfalls, beautiful alcoves, and natural pools can be seen all around. Colossal cliffs surround the end of this trail on three sides in front of you creating a natural amphitheater. Enjoy a unique perspective with many majestic views of Zion Canyon. Be aware of frequent trail closures due to rock slides and inclimate weather.
Canyon Overlook Trail
DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
DISTANCE: 2 miles
SHUTTLE STOP: There is no shuttle to this trailhead and parking is limited.
DESCRIPTION: Considered one of Zion National Park’s essential hikes, one mile of an exciting and scenic trail brings you to an overlook of Zion Canyon.
The hike begins as a steep incline for less than a quarter of a mile before leveling out and including awesome obstacles including an awesome, hidden cave. There are railings in steep sections which I think helps make this a family-friendly hike while also providing a sense of risk and excitement.
When you reach the overlook you can watch cars travel
The Watchman Trail
DISTANCE: 3 miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #1, Watchman Trail
DESCRIPTION: This trailhead begins at the Visitor Center and steadily climbs 300 feet to the viewpoint. At 3 miles round-trip and never overly steep or strenuous, I’d consider this a family-friendly trail.
A gradual incline up a visually appealing trail is met with only one small section of switchbacks; because we had a little kid kicking/throwing small rocks over the edge, I suggest hiking with caution in this section.
Because this trail is often overlooked by visitors with their sights on the more famous trails in the park, you shouldn’t run into too many other hikers.
After a long day we decided to head up the watchman trail for sunset. We stayed to enjoy dinner up here -made in a jet boil- and enjoyed the sunset before heading back down to our campsite.
Hidden Canyon Trail
DISTANCE: 3 miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #7, Weeping Rock
DESCRIPTION: This trail gains nearly 1,000 feet of elevation in a mile and a half. Hidden Canyon is totally worth the effort and unique in that you’re able to ‘choose your own adventure’.
We decided to hit this side trail on our return from Observation Point and we were so glad we did! A great trail for those who enjoy a little uncertainty. Steep drop-offs, chains, rock scrambling, and hidden ‘arches’ are available to all who are willing to search for them!
The Narrows (Day Hike to Big Springs)
DISTANCE: 8 miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #9, Temple of Sinawava
DESCRIPTION: The first mile of this trail is paved before it opens up to the Virgin River. Hike through the river, with canyon walls towering above you, to reach Big Spring.
Start your hike first thing in the morning if you’re looking for any sense of solitude; the first ¾ of a mile becomes swamped with families and small children enjoying the virgin river by mid-morning.
Your hike through the Narrows can be as leisurely or strenuous as you’d like it to be. Definitely come prepared to get wet, there are a few spots that were chest height on me and I’m 5’9. Not to mention, you’re bound to take a spill or two if the current is decent!
We stopped at what we affectionately named ‘jump rock’ to, you guessed it, jump off large boulders into the freezing water of the Virgin River below before continuing on to Big Springs.
This magical spot is lush with small waterfalls coming right out of the canyon walls; we met a lot of overnight hikers here hiking from the top-down seeing as it is the mandatory turn around spot for day hikers.
On our way back we took a side trip up Orderville Canyon which provided a bit of extra adventure involving some rock scrambling and swimming. Don’t press your limits here and be sure to always make the decisions that are best for YOUR safety.
We can’t talk about The Narrows without mentioning the chance for flash flooding! Check the board in the visitor’s center each day for information regarding the safety of your hike. It’s important that you’ve capable of making game time decisions during your hike that keep you out of harms way.
Angel’s Landing Trail
DISTANCE: 5 miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #6, The Grotto
DESCRIPTION: Angels Landing is one of the most popular hikes in the world. Certainly, that titles makes this famous hike one of the busiest places in the park. It’s beautiful and popular, but not for the faint of heart.
After surviving Walters Wiggles, 21 steep switchbacks, you will find yourself at Scout Lookout, where the narrow, steep ledges and chains begin. Please take extra caution on this hike; travelers have died here for various reasons. You are responsible for your own safety on this trail.
It’s important to note that starting in April of 2022 a permit will be required to hike from Scouts Lookout to Angel’s Landing.
How do I get an Angel’s Landing Permit:
- You can apply for a permit before your trip. You will allow you to pick seven ranked days and times or windows of days and times you want to hike.
- YES: On the days permits are issued, recreation.gov will send you an email that says, “You got a permit and have been charged $3 for each person you registered.”
- If you cancel your permit at least two days before your hike, your $3 per person will be refunded.
- You can retrieve your permit by logging in to your account on recreation.gov
- NO: On the days permits are issued, recreation.gov will send you an email that says, “You did not get a permit and can consider applying again the day before your hike or for a future Seasonal Lottery.”
DISTANCE: 8 Miles
SHUTTLE STOP: #7, Weeping Rock
DESCRIPTION: Weeping Rock is the trailhead for a number of popular hikes, Observation Point being the longest and toughest. You quite literally gain elevation for 3.5 straight miles until the final half-mile leading across the top of the canyon to the viewpoint.
A really neat section of the hike that is slightly more horizontal than vertical is echo canyon; cooler temperatures due to the canyon walls towering around you and some really awesome scenery.
If I’m being honest, the view here is even better than the photos I’ve seen of Angel’s Landing. It’s higher and includes the whole Canyon. So epic!
We had no plans of hiking this trail on our travels. Unfortunately, Angels landing was closed due to rock fall while we were in Zion. A ranger in the visitor center suggested Observation Point as their favorite hike in the park; a better view than Angels Landing by far but a different trail experience overall. It’s so worth it to ride the first shuttle of the day to catch breathtaking views of the sun shedding its first light on the canyon.
This is easily one of thee best views in Zion National Park.
Hiking Outside of the Canyon in Zion
Although Zion Canyon is the ‘main attraction’ when it comes to Zion National Park it is NOT the only place to hike within the park. Hikes such as the semi-technical Subway Route, Kolob Arch, Northgate Peaks Trail, Middle Fork Taylor Creek Trail, and Timber Creek Overlook. You will find these areas less congested and equally as beautiful!
Where Should I Stay Near Zion National Park?
Whether you’re looking to stay inside the park or on the outskirts, there’s an accommodation option for all levels of adventurers.
Camping in Zion Canyon
South Campground and Watchman Campground are in Zion Canyon at the south entrance near Springdale. These sites boast some of the best views in Zion National Park from the canyon floor. They are very popular and often fill up by midday.
All campsites are drive-up and allow a maximum of two vehicles and only one RV or trailer is allowed, but each campground has overflow parking for excess vehicles. Each campsite allows a maximum of six people and three tents so be sure to plan accordingly; hammocks are allowed as long as t
Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with the attached grill but very little shade to protect you from the desert sun! I would suggest an Ez-Up if that’s doable for your adventures; for ours, it was not so we planned to be hiking during the middle of the day, laying down by the Virgin River, or in town grabbing a snack.
Comfort stations provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water, and trash containers, but no showers or electrical outlets. I’ll be honest what I say South Campground was probably my least favorite during my stay in Utah but it was by no means unlivable. You can make reservations here.
Campgrounds Outside of Zion Canyon
The Lava Point Campground is about an hour from Zion Canyon’s South entrance on Kolob Terrace Road. Lava Point Campground is within the National Park jurisdiction. There are 6 primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. These sites have pit toilets and trash cans, but no water. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campground. There is no charge for camping.
If you’re looking for a camping experience near Zion National Park, Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort is a popular spot! You may also find free primitive camping opportunities on BLM land.
Hotels Near Zion National Park
Zion National Park Lodge is a stunning, albeit limited, location inside the ‘walls’ of the park! However, just outside of Zion’s South entrance in Springdale there are a number of lodging options! We stayed at the Majestic View Lodge which is the farthest hotel from the entrance that still participates in the shuttle system.
We chose this hotel over others because:
– the rooms and the view from them is absolutely stunning
– it was away from the crowds of the park and the main drag of town
– it had a pool to beat that summer desert heat
– once we split it three ways, it was really affordable
We spent our last two days (of a 17-day camping trip) at this hotel in Springdale which was a real treat. We were able to do laundry, relax by the pool, and sit in the air conditioning. Honestly, watching a movie at night was a true luxury after 17 days of driving around the desert.
How Do I Get Around Zion National Park?
Zion National Park requires visitors to utilize a free shuttle system when traveling the Zion Scenic Drive from March – November. The shuttles run from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM seven days a week and is the only way to access a handful of trailhead in the park .
How Does the Zion Shuttle System Work?
Within the Canyon, your driving is very limited. Due to large crowds, Zion established a shuttle service in 2000 to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon.
Parking is limited inside Zion, and all parking lots commonly fill early in the day (often by 8:30 AM). To avoid parking hassles it is easiest to park in the town of Springdale and ride the free Springdale Shuttle to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance.
There are two shuttle loops. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive; many of the hikes that you might want to experience are accessible via one of the many trail heads found along this route.
The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale and will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You may get on and off as often as you like! Riding the shuttle is free.