Discover Zion National Park: The Ultimate Guide to Hiking, Wildlife & Breathtaking Views
Zion National Park has secured its place among my top three all-time favorite national parks due to its remarkable natural wonders and the unforgettable experiences it offers. The towering sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons and emerald pools create a landscape that never fails to leave me in awe. The exhilaration of hiking Angel's Landing and taking in the panoramic views is unmatched. The park's seamless blend of adventure, tranquility and sheer beauty has etched Zion into my heart as an all-time favorite national park.
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Where to stay in Zion National Park
Cable Mountain Lodge
A stunning retreat nestled in the natural beauty of Zion National Park, offering panoramic views, comfortable accommodations, and convenient access to outdoor adventures.
Zion National Park Lodge
Backpackers dream cabin-style lodgings in Zion with a seasonal Castle Dome Café and horseback tours.
Majestic View Lodge
Nestled amidst breathtaking landscapes, Majestic View Lodge offers a serene escape with panoramic vistas and unparalleled comfort.
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Things to do in Zion National Park
Here are four of the best hikes to experience in Zion National Park:
This iconic and thrilling hike is not for the faint of heart. It takes you along a narrow ridge with sheer drop-offs on both sides. The reward at the end is unbeatable, offering breathtaking views of the entire Zion Canyon.
Prepare to get your feet wet as you hike through the Virgin River within the narrow walls of the canyon. This unique experience immerses you in the stunning beauty of the slot canyons, with towering cliffs rising on both sides.
This challenging hike rewards you with sweeping views of Zion Canyon from above. As you ascend to the top, you'll witness stunning vistas and a sense of accomplishment. The trail is less crowded compared to Angel's Landing, providing a quieter and equally stunning perspective of the park.
Wildlife! Three best places and times to spot wildlife:
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
The scenic drive through Zion Canyon offers great chances to spot wildlife such as mule deer, wild turkeys, and various bird species. The best time to visit for wildlife viewing is during the spring and fall seasons. In the spring, you might witness deer grazing on fresh green vegetation, and in the fall, you can observe deer and other animals preparing for the winter season.
Head to the less crowded Kolob Canyons section of the park for a higher chance of spotting wildlife. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, which are commonly seen in this area. The best time to visit for wildlife sightings is during the early morning or late afternoon. Spring and fall are ideal seasons as the temperatures are moderate and wildlife tends to be more active during these times.
The Watchman Trail provides an excellent opportunity to spot wildlife while enjoying a scenic hike. Look for deer and a variety of bird species along the trail. The best time to hike this trail for wildlife viewing is early morning or late afternoon. Spring and fall are again recommended as the temperatures are pleasant and wildlife activity is higher during these seasons.
If you prefer to enjoy the beautiful sights of Zion National Park without hiking, here are two must-see places accessible by other means:
Zion Scenic Drive
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is a 6.5-mile road that meanders through the heart of the park, offering stunning vistas and breathtaking scenery. You can drive your own vehicle or take the free park shuttle to experience this scenic route. Along the way, you'll pass by towering cliffs, lush vegetation and the rushing Virgin River. There are several pullouts and viewpoints where you can stop to admire the majestic landscapes and capture memorable photos.
Canyon Overlook Trail
While technically a short hike, the Canyon Overlook Trail is accessible for most visitors and provides a magnificent view of Zion Canyon without requiring an extensive trek. The trailhead is located on the east side of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, and it's a relatively easy one mile round trip. The trail leads to an overlook that showcases the sweeping vistas of the canyon, including the famous rock formations like the Towers of the Virgin. It's a perfect spot to appreciate the beauty of Zion without committing to a lengthy hike.
Here are three day trips you can consider from Zion National Park:
Located just a 2-hour drive northeast of Zion, Bryce Canyon National Park is a must-visit destination for its unique geological formations known as hoodoos. Take a scenic drive along the park's rim, stop at various viewpoints, and embark on hikes like the Navajo Loop Trail or the Queens Garden Trail to explore the stunning amphitheaters and towering rock spires. The contrasting colors and intricate rock formations make Bryce Canyon a true natural wonder.
Although it's a longer drive, approximately 4 hours south of Zion, a day trip to the Grand Canyon is well worth it. Marvel at the vastness and breathtaking beauty of one of the world's most iconic natural wonders. Explore the South Rim, walk along the rim trail for stunning panoramic views, and visit popular viewpoints like Mather Point and Yavapai Point. For a more immersive experience, consider taking a helicopter tour or hiking part of the Bright Angel Trail.
Located about a 1-hour drive southwest of Zion, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park offers a unique desert experience. Explore the vibrant pink-hued sand dunes, which stand in stark contrast to the surrounding red rock landscape. Enjoy activities like sandboarding, hiking, or simply marveling at the picturesque scenery. It's a great place to immerse yourself in nature and capture stunning photographs."
Places to eat & drink in Zion National Park
Switchback Grille (Springdale) - Switchback Grille holds a special place in my heart. The delicious dishes made with local ingredients and the stunning views create a memorable dining experience. The cozy yet elegant atmosphere adds to the charm. Their perfectly cooked Switchback Filet Mignon is a personal favorite.
Oscar's Cafe (Springdale) - Oscar's Cafe is a beloved spot for both locals and visitors. The friendly service and comforting atmosphere make dining here a pleasant experience. The flavorful Southwestern-inspired dishes are generous in portion size. Don't miss their tasty homemade sauces and salsas.
MeMe's Café (Springdale) - MeMe's Café is a cozy spot that always starts my mornings right. The warm and inviting ambiance, paired with their delicious breakfast options, creates a perfect beginning to the day. They offer a variety of satisfying choices like fluffy omelets and mouthwatering pancakes.
Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon (Springdale) - Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon captures the essence of the Southwest. The unique blend of flavors is tasty and the selection of beers and cocktails adds to the experience. The rustic charm and friendly atmosphere make it a great spot to relax after a day of exploring.
Cafe Soleil (Springdale) - Cafe Soleil brings a touch of France to Springdale with its delightful brunch and lunch options. The authentic flavors and attention to detail create a charming atmosphere. From savory crepes to fresh salads, their menu offers a delightful array of choices.
Springdale Candy Company (Springdale) - Springdale Candy Company is a delightful haven for those with a sweet tooth. The aroma of homemade chocolates and fudge is tempting. Their assortment of treats, made with love, is simply delicious.
Deep Creek Coffee Company (Springdale) - Deep Creek Coffee Company is my go-to spot for a morning pick-me-up or an afternoon recharge. The aroma of freshly roasted coffee creates a cozy atmosphere. Their smoothies provide a refreshing option for those seeking a lighter beverage.
Flying Monkey Mesa (Hurricane) - While slightly farther from the park, Flying Monkey Mesa is worth the visit. Their creative American cuisine, including mouthwatering wood-fired pizzas, always impresses. The welcoming atmosphere and attentive service make it a memorable dining experience.
These dining establishments have earned a special place in my heart due to their delicious food, inviting atmospheres, and memorable experiences. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have during your visit to Zion National Park!
Need to Know
Looking for more outdoors travel inspo? Check out my guide, Experience Utah in Summer.
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