Visiting Zion National Park and popular hikes
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit Zion National Park, it still is a spectacular place to visit year round and worth seeing during each season. Since the park is relatively easy to get to from Las Vegas, it has become a very popular destination for a national parks. Or if your time is very limited, it can be done as a long day trip from Las Vegas. If you have more than one day, it really is worthwhile to spend as much time in the park and stay close by so you can see more of the stunning landscape or hike some to some of the popular landmarks within the park.
Entering the park
With limited parking access throughout the park, shuttle buses are the only vehicles allowed unless you are passing through to the east entrance of the park, camping or staying at the Zion lodge. The shuttles run on a regular basis and are pretty efficient stopping at all the major vista points and attractions within the park. Once you find parking before the entrance, just follow the signs to the ticket area and visitors center on the way to the shuttle pick up spot.
Hikes at Zion National Park
Spending time outdoors and visiting the popular monuments are a wonderful way to experience the park, if you have time then taking a nice hike on any of the trails within the park. There are many scenic hikes that you can do in the park depending on what you want to see, timeframes and length of hikes. The most popular hikes within the park including: the hike to the Emerald falls, the relatively short hike to the whispering falls and the more challenging Angels Camp. For early birds, an early morning hike to the scenic observation point overlooking the entire valley is worth getting up early and enjoying this wonderful and relatively easy hike with spectacular views of the main parts of the canyon. For a more comprehensive list of hikes available in the park, check out the Zion National Park hiking website here for more details and information.
Here are some highlights of my favorite trails in Zion National Park
Hike to the Emerald Pools
This in one of Zion’s signature hikes with breathtaking scenery, forests walks, going through behind shallow caves with waterfalls spilling out in front and climbing to wonderful panoramas of the canyon area. The round trip is about 3 miles in length but you can choose to just go in one direction and have the shuttle pick you back up at the designated bus stop. There is a series of lower, middle and upper pools that you can hike up to depending on your abilities but overall this is a moderate medium hike to do in the park.
Weeping rock trail
A relatively easy hike to do, the Weeping rock trail is less than ten minutes to the seeping rocks and is considered family friendly. At the destination, you climb up to a shallow area at the base of the sandstone canyon walls where water weeps down the rocks into small waterfalls dripping across the shallow caves from hanging gardens above the canyon. Although it is relatively short, it is also steep with stairs at the end on asphalt pavement.
Wildflowers at the Weeping Rock Trail
Canyon overlook trail
The best time to be at the observation point from the Canyon overlook trail is for sunrise. This is a moderate hike about 1 mile roundtrip from the parking area. A mostly dirt and rock trail, it climbs up a canyon area through shallow caves and rocky terrain until you get to the clearing at the overlook area. On a clear sunrise, you will get an extraordinary scenic view of the entire canyon below you.
Tip: for a sunrise hike, make sure you bring a flashlight for the hike since the trail does go over rocky and unstable mountain terrain that is hard to see very early in the morning time frame.
Scenic trail uphill to the overlook viewpoint
Riverside walk to the Narrows
Called the gateway to the Narrows, the riverside walk is mostly flat and on asphalt roads. As you walk along the Virgin river, you’ll get wonderful views along the curving canyon walls which eventually start to narrow at the last point. This is where the trail head ends and you can basically continue by walking through the Virgin river into the famous Narrows of Zion National park. You can hike deep into the Narrows as far as you like or walk between 2 – 3 hours before you head into the area known as Wall Street. The entire length of the canyon goes up to 16 miles.
Tip: You will get wet either wading or swimming in certain spots walking through the Narrows on the Virgin River depending on conditions. The best times to take photographs with good lighting conditions in the Narrows would be from 10-3pm.
Entering the Narrows at Zion National Park
This uphill trail skirts the canyon walls fronting the Virgin River and connects to the Emerald pools up on top. Mostly uphill on dirt/gravel paths, the scenic views are outstanding while you are heading up the canyon towards the pools. From the Emerald pools you can choose to hike back down the Kayenta trail or head the opposite direction down to Yellowstone lodge. Total round trip is approximately 3.1 miles depending on which direction you take roundtrip or headed to the lodge and bus stop.
Tip – later afternoon time frame is perfect to capture photographs of the canyon with valley views below and beautiful light that is hitting different areas of the canyon for you to create wonderful photos
Climb up the Kayenta trail to Emerald pools
Skirting the canyon floor around the Virgin River, the Pa’rus trail is an easy hike on flat paved pathways which is also used for biking. You travel mostly through open meadows when scenic views of the Zion canyon with many of the monuments in view. The trail is about 3.4 miles in length from the main visitors center to the stone bridge scenic overlook.
Tip – you can break up your hike halfway by visiting the Zion Human History Museum or take a shuttle back directly to the campground or park main entrance.
Scenic bridges over the Virgin river and the Pa’rus trail
Tips and suggestions for planning your trip
Zion National Park is a very popular park due to its proximity to other national parks and landmarks close by, therefore you should plan and book all your accommodations, car rental and other tour activities in advance to your visit. The best airport with more airlines closest to the park would be Las Vegas International airport. It would be easy to also rent your car directly from the airport rental car centers which is just outside of the main airport.
During peak season around Zion, hotels fill up quickly and any availability gets more expensive with any open rooms. To save on costs book months to a year in advance or plan on visiting the park during the shoulder season to avoid paying higher prices. Here are some sites you can check out below to secure a room reservation in the immediate area outside of Zion.
Trip Advisor reviews and prices here of Zion hotels
Hotels.com Zion Area hotels and inns
Car Rental Information
Priceline name your price car rental
Travelocity car rentals
Flying close to Zion National Park
Las Vegas International Airport is the most convenient airport in the area with the most available flights. Here are some of the sites I recommend for you to secure your flights to the park or within a relatively short drive to the park.
Expedia.com for flight rates, check their website here for prices and availability
Travelocity for flights to Las Vegas and best prices
Priceline check flight routes and prices here
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