10 Best Things to Do at Zion National Park – Must-See Highlights

Nestled in the heart of Southern Utah, Zion National Park stands out as one of the nation’s most iconic natural treasures. Visitors flock to this breathtaking park to marvel at its majestic canyons and striking sandstone cliffs.

With over five million visitors annually, Zion is a haven for nature enthusiasts of all kinds. Whether you choose to explore its extensive walking trails, gaze at the stars from prime viewing spots, or embark on an exhilarating 4-wheel drive adventure, Zion offers a diverse array of experiences that cater to every interest.

10 Activities Near Zion National Park

10. Off-Roading Adventures & ATV Tours

For an adrenaline-pumping experience, consider embarking on a 4-wheel drive or ATV tour. These off-road excursions let you explore the rugged terrain of Southern Utah efficiently and enjoyably. Tour companies offer a variety of routes that take you to breathtaking spots, such as the Peekaboo Slot in Red Canyon, Cutler Point, and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes in the Kanab area.

9. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway

The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway offers a scenic drive covering over 40 miles, including a 10-mile stretch through Zion National Park. Starting at the South Entrance and culminating at the Mount Carmel Junction with US Route 89, this historic route also features the famous Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.

Constructed in the early 20th century, this highway links Zion with Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, providing a perfect road trip opportunity.

8. Camping Under the Stars

Camping Under the Stars at Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a dream destination for camping enthusiasts. Whether you prefer a tent or an RV, there are numerous campsites to choose from. Watchman Campground and Lava Point Campground are popular choices within the park. Alternatively, campgrounds like Zion Wright Ranch Eco-Camp and Kolob Campground in the surrounding areas offer convenient overnight options.

If you’re looking for family-friendly hotels near Zion National Park, there are several comfortable options just a short drive away.

7. Visit the Historic Town of Grafton

Grafton, a former Mormon settlement from 1859, lies at Zion’s southern entrance by the Virgin River. Due to frequent flooding and harsh winters, settlers abandoned Grafton by 1907 for more secure livelihoods in nearby Rockville. Today, Grafton is a historical site, attracting visitors with its preserved cabins, homesteads, cemetery, and church building.

6. Stargazing

Stargazing at Zion National Park

Zion’s remote location makes it an excellent spot for stargazing. Free from the glare of urban lights, the night sky is extraordinary.

Top stargazing spots include Zion Canyon, the Checkerboard Mesa Pull-Off, Wildcat Canyon Trailhead, and the Timber Creek Parking lot in Kolob Canyons. Whether camping or visiting for the evening, stargazing in Zion is an unforgettable experience.

5. Exploring Angel’s Landing

Angel’s Landing is one of the most iconic hikes in Zion, offering unparalleled views. The trail is challenging, climbing over 1,500 feet in elevation with narrow paths and steep drop-offs.

Permits are required to hike to the summit, which can be obtained the day before your hike through the National Park Service website. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with panoramic vistas of the park.

4. Discover the Virgin River & the Narrows

Discover the Virgin River & the Narrows

One of Zion’s most popular hikes is along the Virgin River, particularly at its narrowest section called The Narrows. Here, canyon walls soar 1,000 feet above the river, creating a remarkable scene.

Depending on water levels, you may need to wade or swim through the slot canyon. It’s best to visit during warmer months and always consult a park ranger about the water flow rate to ensure safety.

3. Biking Trails for All Levels

Zion National Park offers a variety of biking trails, allowing you to explore the park actively. Although not all areas permit biking, trails like the Pa’rus Trail and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive are popular with cyclists. For more challenging routes, consider the Gooseberry Mesa loop, which offers intermediate to difficult trails and stunning views.

2. The Emerald Pools Trail

The Emerald Pools Trail in Zion

The Emerald Pools are must-see attractions in Zion. Situated opposite Historic Zion Lodge, these pools are accessible via a scenic trail along a stream. Three pools—Lower, Middle, and Upper—are located within the park.

The Lower Pool is wheelchair accessible, while the other pools require more strenuous hikes. Please check for any trail closures due to flooding before planning your visit.

1. Explore Nearby St. George or Cedar City

Consider extending your trip to include a visit to nearby St. George or Cedar City. St. George is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, offering trails at Snow Canyon State Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

Families can enjoy the children’s museum, carousel at Town Square Park, or an escape room experience. Cedar City, rich in culture, boasts art galleries and theater performances, providing a vibrant cultural experience.

3 Things to Know Before Visiting

1. How to Get There

How to Get to Zion National Park

Zion National Park is situated on State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah, and is easily reachable by car. Directions from nearby airports and cities are available on the official Zion National Park website.

The park is open all year round, 24/7; however, some trails or areas might be inaccessible due to weather conditions. Always check the weather forecast and park notifications for any closures.

2. Ideal Times for a Visit to Zion National Park

To experience Zion National Park with fewer crowds and pleasant weather, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of Spring (April-May) and Fall (September-October). During these times, the temperatures are moderate, and the trails are less congested.

Each season at Zion offers unique advantages. Summer is ideal for outdoor activities under warm weather, while Winter provides stunning views of snow-covered landscapes. Fall is excellent for hiking since there is minimal water runoff, and Spring is perfect for bird watching and enjoying wildflowers.

3. Entry and Tickets for Zion National Park

Entry and Tickets for Zion National Park

You need a valid pass to enter Zion National Park, which can be conveniently purchased in advance. Day passes are also available at the visitor center upon arrival. For more information on entry passes and fees, visit their website.

Once inside, make use of the free shuttle system that runs throughout the main canyon. Shuttle buses operate at regular intervals and are an efficient way to navigate the park. Be sure to check the shuttle schedule as it varies by season.

Experience Zion National Park in a New Way

For those seeking to extend their adventure beyond the usual hikes, participating in a race near Zion National Park offers a unique way to experience its beauty. Whether you opt for a fully paved half-marathon or the more rugged terrain of the Zion Ultras trail races, running by the stunning vistas can be both challenging and rewarding.

These events let you explore lesser-known trails and connect with fellow runners sharing your passion. Beyond Zion, various half-marathons in Utah, such as those at Bryce Canyon, provide more opportunities to enjoy breathtaking landscapes. Another exciting option is the Trailfest, where you can immerse yourself in some of the finest local trails.

If you’re planning trips to other national parks, consider exploring races across the country. It’s a fantastic way to stay fit while enjoying diverse natural wonders.