Zion National Park: the Must-Do's
Updated: Mar 27
If you've been following my blog the past few months, you'll know I said that out of all the parks we've hit on this roadtrip, the Grand Tetons were my favorite. Welp, Zion just might have inched them out of the lead. I love every park we have visitied, but Zion was just breath taking. The views were so incredible on some hikes, I seriously couldn't believe I was even on the same planet. If you've been thinking about visiting...DO IT!
Best Time to Visit
While summer is when most people opt to travel, especially those with kids, winter is really the best in my opinion! Zion is open year round and so are all of their hikes. We didn't see much snow the week we went, so we were fine in just our hiking boots, but if the conditions are icy, get your self some crampons, ask the rangers to make sure conditions are safe, and you'll be good! One of my favorite resources for up to date hiking info is Alltrails.com. People are constantly logging the date and time they hiked, and whether spikes were needed or not. We like to keep them in our hiking backpack incase the summit is icy and the rest of the hike isn't. The temperature wasn't too low when we visited and on Scout Lookout/Angel's Landing I was down to leggings and a sports bra 1/3 of the way in because I worked up such a sweat. I don't think I could complete that hike in the summer heat. Another benefit of a winter visit is that the crowds are much smaller. Most hikes in Zion don't have huge parking lots to begin with, even during winter we waited for spots. I don't want to know what the lines are like during peak season!
views from scout's landing
Of course, these recommendations are based on my opinion and experience. I obviously wasn't able to do every hike in the park so if you've got some other recommendations - comment below! To me, these hikes are what made Zion my all time favorite national park (so far).
#1 pick - Scout's View / Angel's Landing
Let me start off by saying this hike is extremely difficult. You hike upwards for 1,115 feet before you summit if you're stopping at Scout's View which is the plateau before Angel's Landing's final stretch. If you include Angel's Landing add another 500 feet of elevation gain. Everyone on the hike was struggling, even the locals. Not like, "this is not worth it" struggling, but definitely wasn't a piece of cake for anyone. If you do a lot of cardio or HIIT workouts, you'll be able to complete this, but if not I would not recommend it. It takes about 2 hours to get up at an easy pace, and only 1 or less to get down depending on what you're comfortable with. A lot of people start this hike and give up 1/3 of the way through...so if you don't think you can handle this, no problem. There are plenty of other hikes in Zion with less e.v. gain and beautiful views!
#2 pick - Zion Canyon Overlook
We did this our first day in Zion since we arrived around 3pm. We didn't know what to expect, but we knew the trail was short, so what did we have to lose? I'm so glad we did because it ended up being one of my favorites in the park. The hike is only 1 mile, and the views are phenomenal. Some of the best in the park. Since we went around dusk, the lighting was beautiful over the canyon and we saw a family of bighorn sheep eating dinner on the mountain top. We saw lots of families on this hike, and people of all ages. It's rated moderate on Alltrails.com and voted as one of the best, and I completely agree!
#3 pick - The Watchman Trail
This trail is very different from the other two, it's a nice moderate (in my opinion) hike that offers views the entire time. In the summer there's a small waterfall and stream running alongside the hike, and in the winter, even though it mostly freezes up, you can still hear the stream trickling...I thought that added a peaceful element to our hike. Almost like a spa waiting room. The hike ends at a plateau that's perfect to stop and eat lunch at. You overlook the valley right at the end of the park, and it's beautiful. This hike is the perfect amount of "challenging". The total e.v. gain is 646 feet so it gets your heart-rate up, but nothing extreme. There weren't many people on the trail when we went, which made it all the more serene.
Where to Stay
There are a couple towns surrounding the Zion area, so you have plenty of choices. We stayed in Kanab, which was about 45 minutes to the entrance, and we were fine with that. Springdale is another popular option, it's much closer but not as affordable, at least when we looked. I'd recommend staying in Springdale if you can, it's literally a few miles from the park! There's plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and cabins around the park. If you visit in winter, at least in Kanab, mostly hotels were open. You cannot camp, and some of the cabin rentals were closed for the season. The town itself isn't much of anything, there's a few restaurants and shops but nothing to write home about. You're more there to see the parks! That being said, the locals are very friendly and give great recommendations.
I hope this post will help you plan your travels, and leave you just as in awe of Utah's beauty as I was!
Till next time,