How to best experience Zion National Park

Where to hike, camp, and grab breakfast

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Created by cindi.allenkieke - February 1st 2022

With its mountains, canyons, and greenery, Zion National Park truly offers the best of everything, in one of the most spectacular settings on Earth. Whether you're looking for a challenging hike or a peaceful retreat into nature, you'll have a hard time finding a more stunning place for it than Zion.

Looking for more tips for your trip to Zion? We've got you covered.

Photo of Zion National Park

State Rte. 9, Springdale, UT, US

Zion National Park

Some quick tips for visiting Zion:

  • The park may be famous for its hikes, but it's also great for canyoneering, scrambling, climbing, and rappelling.

  • Spring and fall are the busiest times, thanks to the comfortable climate. But if you happen to experience a thunderstorm during your visit, make the most of it by taking in the waterfalls that form.

  • The Zion Canyon Visitor Center at the south end of the park has some really detailed exhibits on the natural and human history of the park.

  • There's a shuttle that goes around the park, making it easy to access various trailheads without having to find parking.

Photo of Walter's Wiggles

Zion National Park, Springdale, UT, US

Walter's Wiggles

Walter's Wiggles is a series of 21 steep switchbacks that make the hike to the top of Angels Landing a bit of a challenge. Once you make it past the hairpin curves, you'll reach Scout's Lookout, which is where many people turn around. If you stay on the trail toward Angels Landing, prepare for narrow trails and steep drop-offs lined with chains for grip.

Photo of Checkerboard Mesa

Utah Route 9, UT, US

Checkerboard Mesa

You can appreciate the unusual beauty of Checkerboard Mesa from the road, or you can decide to hike it. Until 1938, the multi-colored slick rock mountain was known as "Rock Candy Mountain," until the Zion park superintendent gave it its more dignified current name.

Photo of The Narrows

Springdale, UT, US

The Narrows

You can see the Narrows from the paved Riverside Walk trail, but if you want to go inside, you should be prepared to get wet. Hike to the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk and then you'll have to get into the Virgin River and walk upstream.

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Photo of Angels Landing

37° 16.16', 112° 56.92' Zion National Park, Springdale, UT, US

Angels Landing

The view from the top of Angels Landing is iconic, and one of the must-see features of Zion. The intense 5-mile hike can usually take around five hours to do, but the feeling of hiking along the rocky fin nearly 1,500 feet up is pure exhilaration.

Photo of Observation Point - Zion National Park

Zion National Park, UT, US

Observation Point - Zion National Park

Head to Observation Point for the best view of the canyon in all of Zion. It's an 8-mile out-and-back hike, but the views are worth it.

Photo of Weeping Rock

Zion National Park, UT, US

Weeping Rock

One of the park's more interesting features is Weeping Rock, a sandstone rock that has water oozing out from its sides, creating a waterfall of sorts, with a lovely hanging garden and a little stream below. It's a quick walk here from the trailhead, which is easily accessed by the shuttle. If you have kids with you, this is a great hike to try.

Photo of The Subway, Zion Nat'l Park

Zion National Park, Springdale, UT, US

The Subway, Zion Nat'l Park

In order to hike the slot canyon known as the Subway, you need a permit. To get the permit, you'll have to enter a lottery three months in advance, or you can try your luck at the last-minute lottery, a few days to a week in advance. There are two routes, both of which require hiking through water, scrambling, swimming—and maybe even some rappelling.

205 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT, US

Café Soleil

If you need a quick breakfast, a lunch on-the-go, or some coffee or snacks to refuel, Cafe Soleil is the place to find it. Everything is fresh, local, and organic, and the cafe showcases art and music by locals.

428 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT, US

Spotted Dog Café

The Spotted Dog Cafe is a funky bistro that offers slightly more upscale food. The space is nice but casual with some lovely outdoor seating. Get a nice bottle of wine to treat yourself after all that hiking.

Photo of Watchman Campground

UT-9, Springdale, UT, US

Watchman Campground

National parks and camping go together like macaroni and cheese, and you can take full advantage of Zion's gorgeous scenery by camping here. Watchman Campground is close to the South entrance of the park, has more than a few sites, and can accommodate both RVs and tents.

1212 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT, US

Bit & Spur Restaurant & Saloon

For a great dinner or lunch in a fun, casual atmosphere, try Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon for some BBQ and Tex Mex grub. Chile verde, sopes, tamales, and more add flavor to the menu, and don't miss the carne asada. Tons of craft beers to choose from, too.

Photo of Grafton Ghost Town

Rockville, UT, US

Grafton Ghost Town

Grafton is a ghost town right outside the park. One of the most photographed in the West, it was featured in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Founded as a cotton-growing community by Brigham Young, the town quickly fell on hard times and was abandoned by the 1920s. Today it's been restored and makes for a fun stop outside the park.

Hot and rainy in the summer, cool and snowy in the winter, Zion is probably at its best in the spring and fall—just be prepared for the crowds. If you visit Zion in the summer, hike in the morning and evenings, and head into Springfield to beat the heat during the hottest part of the day.