Zion National Park is one of the most popular day trips from Las Vegas.
Located in southwestern Utah just 2.5 hours away from Sin City, Zion National Park is known because of its towering red cliffs that hang over the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. If you want to get away from the busy Las Vegas, Zion National Park is the perfect place as it offers cooler temperatures, plenty of shadow and amazing hiking trails for all levels.
From Las Vegas to Zion National Park
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is the nearest airport to Zion National Park. After renting a car at McCarran, head west on Highway-215 and turn north on Interstate-15. Stay on Interstate-15 for about 2 hours before you reach the town of Washington in Utah. Take exit 16 from Interstate-15 and drive UT-9 until you reach the park’s entrance.
PRO TIP: On your way to Zion National Park, you will pass the exit that leads toward the entrance of Valley of Fire State Park, the largest state park in Nevada. If you have extra time, I recommend taking at least a few hours to visit Valley of Fire because it's truly a spectacular place. You can find more information about Valley of Fire State Park here.
To Zion National Park
Zion National Park requires an entrance fee of $35 per vehicle. If you visit during summer, you will not be able to enter the park in a car and instead will be directed to the foot entrance. If you plan on visiting other national parks in Utah and other states, I recommend purchasing America the Beautiful Pass. While the price of the pass ($80) might be steep for some, it’s going to quickly pay off if you plan to visit other national parks, as the average entrance price is $35.
THINGS TO KNOW
About Zion National Park
Since Zion has become one of the most popular national parks in the United States over recent years, there are a few things you should know about it.
Visitation is on the rise: In recent years, Zion has become one of America’s top visited national parks with millions of tourists flocking to this relatively small park. If you are going to visit the park during the peak season (which lasts from May through September), prepare to share trails with lots of other visitors.
Parking can be an issue: During summer months, parking spots near Zion Canyon Visitor Center fill up by 9 a.m. If you arrive later, you will probably have to look for a parking spot in Springdale, the getaway town to Zion where you can get on a free shuttle bus to get to the park. If you are staying in Springdale, you should simply walk to the shuttle bus stop, instead of trying to move around in your car.
Driving through Zion National Park is only allowed during the off-season: If you want to take a drive along the park’s main road, you will have to wait until the off-season. Because the road that carves through the park has only one lane each way, the access to it is limited from May through October.
Food options are scarce: The only restaurant in Zion National Park is located at The Zion National Park Lodge. If you are going to spend more than a day at Zion National Park, bring plenty of snacks and water with you because the park doesn’t have any stores. The nearby Springdale has a supermarket, a number of cafes and conveniences stores, but to get there, you will have to leave the park. I also recommend bringing a refillable water bottle as it will save you money and change your plastic consumption.
Following safety precautions is a must: Zion National Park is located in high Utah’s desert. During summer, you will need plenty of sunscreen, water, and food for your trip. In addition, you should invest in quality hiking boots with good grip and proper gear such as hiking poles, a good backpack, and comfortable clothing.
For Zion National Park
While some visitors stop at Zion National Park for a day, others spend close to a week hiking some of the most challenging trails and getting away from the beaten path. The number of days you spend at the park really depends on what you want to see. Zion has a number of trails suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced hikers.
Here are some of the most popular hikes at Zion National Park:
Arguably the most beautiful ( and strenuous ) hike at Zion National Park starts at shuttle stop #6, The Grotto.
While the Angel's Landing hike is 2.4-miles one way, its continuous ascend is coupled with a number of switchbacks in the beginning and steep ledges toward the end. The last half mile of the hike requires rock scrambling along the sandy pathway. If you continue all the way to the top, you should be extra cautious as the trail is exposed to steep cliffs on both sides. Luckily, the trail has cables that you can grip onto if you need help.
The hike culminates with a spectacular panoramic view of the valley below you.
A round trip to Angels Landing takes anywhere between 4 and 6 hours depending on your pace and level of preparation. To complete the hike make sure to wear footwear with a good grip, bring plenty of water and snacks with you. And remember, the earlier you leave, the less crowded the trail is going to be.
The Narrows, part of the Virgin River located up from the Temple of Sinawava is one of the ultimate things to do at Zion National Park. The tall dark walls of the canyon above the Virgin River create magical scenery.
To get to the narrows take a shuttle bus to the Temple of Sinawava. Hike the paved trail that goes from the bus stop all the way before it reaches the river. To see the Narrows, continue going up the river.
Before going to the Narrows, are sure that you have the proper footwear. While you can bring your own shows, you can also rent proper heavy-duty boots and a walking stick in one of the shops such as Zion Adventure Company just outside of the park. I also recommend putting on your swimsuit/trunks and other clothes that don’t absorb water and dry fast.
Summer brings tons of people to the Narrows, however, as you keep walking further, the number of people will quickly recede. You can also wait until the winter when there are fewer people and the heat is less intense.
There are three ways to hike the Narrows:
- From the Temple of Sinawava – Bottom Up
If you are visiting Zion for the First Time, this is the perfect hike to get family with the Narrows and have fun.
- From Chamberlain’s Ranch – Top Down ( two-day hike )
If you are ready for some adventure, get on this 16-mile hike that begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch northeast of the main canyon. A wilderness permit is required for this route.
- From Chamberlain’s Ranch – Top Down ( one-day hike )
If you are an experienced hiker, the top-down Narrows hike is a fun adventure. The hike can take anywhere between 12-14 hours and requires a wilderness permit.
Always check the weather: When planning your hike at the Narrows, always check the weather, as the area is prone to dangerous flash floods. If the forecast calls for the rain, you should postpone your hike for another time.
5-9 hours. The Subway is home to some of the most iconic views at Zion National Park. If you plan on accessing it from the top-down, you will need some good canyoneering skills, because the hike is technically challenging. But if you want to do this hike without having to plunge in the cold water and rappel from the top down, you can access it from the bottom.
The hike begins in the Left Fork of Zion’s North Creek.
Easy to Moderate Hikes
Emerald Pool Trail
If you are looking for an easy hike with awe-inspiring views, Emerald Pools is the place. The trail starts at Lower Emerald Pools and has gradual ascent before it gets steep. The last stretch of the hike leads to a big pool surrounded by towering cliffs. The Emerald Pool trail hike is anywhere between 1.5 miles to 3 miles depending on where you want to hike. Emerald Pool Trail is easily accessible from Zion National Park Lodge.
One of the shortest and easiest hikes at Zion National Park often gets crowded especially during summer months. The half-mile trail culminates at Weeping Rock, a big rock that drips with water.
The paved 2.2-mile round trail goes along the Virgin River and provides a great overview of the park, especially for first-time visitors. During the fall, the hike has amazing foliage and during summer it provides plenty of shade.
Canyon Overlook Trail
Located just east of the Mount Carmel Tunnel off highway 9, this 1-mile hike boasts a great overview of Zion Canyon. Not many travelers know about Canyon Overlook Trail, and that’s too bad. If you don’t want to brace the strenuous hike to Angel’s Landing, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a perfect substitution.
Another less-known hike at Zion National Park is a true hidden gem. The trail meanders along the dramatic canyon and provides plenty of exercises as it climbs to dizzying heights. While it doesn’t take you as high as Angel’s Landing, it makes for a less crowded hike, since not many tourists know about this hike. To get to the Hidden Canyon Trail, get off at the Weeping Rock But Stop #7
At Zion National Park
Zion tends to get very busy during the summer months. Not only you should expect big crowds and long lines to get on a shuttle bus, but you can also expect to pay the top dollar for your hotel stay. However, if you make your reservation far in advance, you might get a better deal.
Here are some of the accommodation options for Zion National Park
- The only lodge available at Zion National Park is The Zion National Park Lodge. While the lodge can be pricey (a few hundred dollars a night), it gives you an amazing opportunity to enjoy the park early morning and late in the evening when crowds disappear. Available rooms tend to book up quickly as many visitors make their reservations months in advance.
- If you travel on a budget, Zion National Park has 3 campgrounds. However, they too, tend to be booked up from May through September. If you want to camp at Zion, make your reservation ahead of your visit.
You can find the list of campgrounds here
- There are several lodging options in Springdale, the nearest town to Zion National Park. Here you can find a number of hotels, Bed and Breakfast and Air Bnb’s.
- Kanab, Mount Carmel, and Glendale are the three towns within a short drive of Zion National Park. They also have a number of accommodations available.
Zion National Park really is one of the most beautiful parks in the American Southwest. When your visit is planned properly, Zion is an amazing experience with memories for a lifetime. If you are looking for other unknown gems around Vegas, here are other places to visit around Las Vegas that most tourists don't know about. Have fun on your trip!
About The Author – “The Discovery Nut”
The Discovery Nut is a travel blog focused on sustainability and encouraging others to get out of their comfort zone. Daria founded The Discovery Nut because she wanted to share her passion for travel with others and show them some of the coolest places she has visited. Through her blog, she hopes to inspire others to venture out into the world and discover new destinations. Follow her journey on her INSTAGRAM and her PINTEREST