Zion National Park - Top Five Things to Know Before You Go

Author: Mark Wade
Zion National Park is filled with beauty to behold. Here is a simple guide to five things to know about Zion National Park before you go.

Zion National Park

Most important things to know before you go. Zion National Park - Stars Zion National Park - Milky Way

1- Location and Access

The Zion Narrows The Zion Narrows - Zion National Park Zion is located in the southwestern corner of Utah and is just three hours from Las Vegas, and four hours from Salt Lake City.  The park is approximately the same size as Yosemite National Park at 30 miles in length and nearly 15 miles across, at its widest point. Access to Zion National Park is from four points; 1- Springdale, Utah (Scenic Highway 9 - Southwest Gate). This gives access to the main canyon. 2- East Zion National Park (Scenic Highway 9 - East Gate). This gives access to the east side of the park, and the main canyon. 3- Virgin, Utah (The Kolob Terrace section of Zion - No Gate/No Fee). This is a paved road that crosses the middle section of the park, and enables access to a few unique trails such as the West Rim, Subway, and just a couple of other lesser known trails. 4- Kolob Fingers (From Interstate 15 near New Harmony, Utah).  This section is a five-mile paved road that you can travel in/out, with no access to other sections of the park. There are several canyon trails found here varying in length and difficulty.

2- Zion National Park Shuttle

For approximately 10 months of the year the main canyon of Zion is accessible only by shuttle, unless you are staying at the lodge in the main canyon.  Park your vehicle in Springdale area parking spaces, or at the Zion Visitors Center and then board the shuttle which travels through Springdale and then up to the main canyon.  Shuttles are coming every 10-20 minutes to each stop and are either headed up or down the canyon, so you can jump off at desired points and get back on as desired. This shuttle system information is an important part of the Top Five things to know before you go to Zion.

3- Weather/Times Of Year

Winter Zion National Park Winter weather (light snow) Zion National Park Winter weather in the main canyon of the park (4,000' elevation) offers temperatures that are generally quite mild with cold nights but temperate 50 to 60 degree days. Snow can come to the park, but is rarely significant in the main canyon. Summers in the main canyon are generally hot and dry with daytime temperatures ranging over 100+ degrees.  Summer temps on top of the Zion plateau are usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the main canyon.  Destinations such as Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, at 6,500', on the eastern border of the park can be great options for avoiding the worst of the summer heat. Nighttime summer temperatures can be in the 60's and 70's on the east Zion plateau.  Spring and fall are generally mild and pleasant, but it's important to check the weather forecast for rare rainstorms, and to bring warm clothing just in case it is needed.

4- Visitor Numbers / Crowds

Zion National Park - Utah Zion National Park - Utah Zion National Park is one of Utah's most popular destinations and the park can get very busy.  Plan ahead, arrive early, and look for lesser known trails to experience.  There can be long lines at the Springdale (southwest) entrance. For a more quiet experience Zion is great in the winter season.

5- Hiking and Photography Points Of Interest

There are more trails in Zion National Park than you can experience in multiple visits but there are a few trails that are most popular, and for good reason.  This information is a great part of the Top Five things you should know before you go to Zion. Angles Landing:  This trail is accessible by permit only.  Visit the Zion page on to learn more.  This trail winds up onto a 1,500' sandstone fin where your final viewpoint enables you to look down on the Virgin River as it wraps around the rock fin.  The first stages of this hike are wide winding switchbacks. The center section of Angels Landing leads up some narrow switchbacks that go nearly straight up to Scout Lookout, and the last section is a part where, at times, you will hold chains as you ascend to the top of Angels Landing. Angels Landing Angels Landing- Zion National Park The Narrows:  The last shuttle stop in the main canyon, Temple of Sinewava, is your starting point for this trail.  There is a one-mile paved path to follow along the Virgin River as you gently ascend toward a point where you can either walk back the way you came, or begin hiking upstream in the Virgin River.  As you walk the Zion Narrows of the park begins to literally become more narrow.  Sandstone canyon walls range high on either side of you as you walk upstream, against the current as far as you have energy to go, and then return the way you have come.  Be aware that you may be walking in the river with hundreds of other visitors, and that this upstream walk in the Zion Narrows may not be accessible during months of spring run-off. Zion Narrows The Zion Narrows - Zion National Park Observation Point:  This may be the best view of Zion National Park and this is only accessible from the east side of Zion National Park. Exit the east gate and travel two miles east to the North Fork road and travel five miles up this road to Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.  Because parking is very limited at the Observation Point trailhead, Zion Ponderosa offers a shuttle from their recreation center to the trailhead (three mile distance). The trail is 3.25 miles each direction, and leads through a pine-filled forest until the last mile where you'll descend approx. 500' to Observation Point.  The overlook enables views down canyon toward the southwest entrance of the park and at Observation Point you are standing 2,500' above the valley floor, literally looking down on top of Angels Landing which is 800' lower in elevation.  There is plenty of parking at Zion Ponderosa and they offer other great adventures such as Jeep Tours, Guided Hiking, Horseback Riding, Slot Canyon Tours, and more. They also have a restaurant and a food-truck on property with delectable fare, coffee, beer, wine, and more. Observation Point Trail - Zion Observation Point - Zion National Park There are more trails such as Lower Emerald Pools / Upper Emerald Pools, Canyon Overlook, The Watchman, and more hiking trails that are found within the main canyon of the park. Other popular hikes such as The Subway, and others are found in different sections of the park. Read more on our main Zion National Park page. Wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and bring plenty of water and snacks, along with your camera to enjoy these top five things that you now know before you go to Utah's Zion National Park. By The Way - there are plenty of lodging, camping, dining and guided outdoor adventure services available in the communities that surround Zion.  Make reservation in advance, as lodging, campsites, and guided adventure activity slots will fill up quickly during much of year, especially on weekends.