Zion National Park in Utah is home to some of the most picturesque scenes in the state of Utah. With many trails to hike, beautiful landscapes to photograph, and the fantastic variety of geological and natural wonders, it is definitely our most favorite national park among Utah’s mighty five national parks.
Zion is only 80 miles from Bryce Canyon and most people combine the two in a single trip. The route from Bryce to Zion requires passing through the Zion Mt Carmel tunnel, a 1.1 mile tunnel that has height restriction of 13 ft 1 inch.
If you’re doing the drive in an RV, make sure your rig is well under that height or you would need to plan an alternate route. Expect to pay a $15 fee to pass the tunnel if your vehicle is more than 11 ft 4 inch tall or more than 7 ft 10 inch wide.
We spent 3 days in Zion, and that should be enough time to explore the top attractions and more. If you have extra time, there is plenty to do here and one can easily spend over a week in Zion.
Here are our recommendations for things to do in Zion in 3 days:
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Top 9 Things to do in ZION National Park
#1 Hiking The Narrows
The Narrows in Zion National Park is a hike that lets you walk up the Virgin river in knee deep waters – a very unique and enjoyable experience especially in summer. Its very crowded though as this is probably the most popular trail in Zion. Start your hike at the Temple of Sinawava via The Riverside Walk and hike upstream on the river. The hike is 10 mile round trip to the Big Spring, but you can turn around at any time. Check out our post on hiking the Narrows.
#2 Day hike to Angels Landing
Angels Landing is the most strenuous hike in Zion, with the last 3/4 mile climb being so narrow at time that it has chains to hold on to, and has 1000+ foot drops on either side. The views from the top are out of this world though and makes the climb so worth all the effort. There have been 17 deaths on this trail since 2004 from hikers falling off the steep section of the trail, so you do have to take it seriously and plan accordingly. Read our post on hiking the Angels Landing for more details.
#3 Picnicking in Kolob Terrace
Kolob Terrace area is only 40 min drive from Zion and offers amazing sweeping views of canyons, beautiful fields and a bonus secluded lake at the end of the road. And the best part – barely any tourists and visitors, so you can have it all to yourself. It is one of the lesser known hidden gems that we highly recommend to visit. You will not be disappointed with the scenic drive and the view of the canyon from the west side. Check out our post on this drive.
#4 Sunset at Watchman Trail
One thing that Zion National Park is renowned for is its beautiful sunset scenery. One of the most popular places to view the sunset is along the Virgin River looking out across a tall peak of red sandstone called the Watchman. The trail is a moderate 2 mile hike with a 450 feet ascend and offers sweeping views of the Zion Canyon. You can see the Visitor Center, the Court of the Patriarchs, and the campground from up there.
#5 Evening walk on Pa’rus Trail
Pa’Rus Trail is an easy walk along the Virgin river and is a great way to spend an evening around sunset time. It offers fantastic views of the mountain ranges on either side of the canyon. The best way to get on the trail is to get off the Canyon Junction shuttle stop and walk to trail to the Visitor Center (and then take the shuttle back)
If you have some extra time and are feeling bit more adventurous, here are some other suggested activities to do in Zion National Park. These are activities we did not include in our trip but maybe of interest to some travelers.
#6 Sunset at the Museum
Another great option for sunsets is actually at the Museum which is the next shuttle stop from the visitor center. It has a giant patio looking out over Bridge Mountain, East Temple in the Court of The Patriarchs. This patio also serves for a great place to get in some nighttime views of the Milky Way and constellations you’ve only read about in books.
#7 Canyoneering And Rock Climbing
Zion’s many canyons and natural rock formations are extremely popular for canyoneering (an outdoor activity combining route-finding, problem-solving, swimming, hiking, and even repelling to experience all a canyon has to offer) and mountain climbing. Mountain climbing cliffs range in difficulty from beginner boulders to advanced rock faces that should only be tried by experienced climbers.
#8 Rafting the Narrows
The river has a wide variety of options for people looking to do water sports. While there are some areas that are nice, flat, and wide for wading, there are also some areas that are great for kayaking and class-five whitewater rafting. Most of this is in the Narrows which requires a permit and whitewater training to attempt. Also, be prepared to survive without assistance if needed.
#9 Emerald Pools Trail
There are 3 Emerald Pools – Lower, Middle and Upper. Unfortunately for us, the Middle and Upper pool hike was closed due to rockfalls. They are all easy – moderate hikes with the Upper Pool hike being 3 miles round trip. Although the hike was pleasant, when we got to the lower pool, there was hardly any waterfall and no sign of a pool. During the peak heat of summer season when the water dries out this hike may not be the same as what it looks in the pictures.
Zion National Park in Pictures
A picture is worth a thousand words! Here are some of the best photos from our visit to Zion National Park to Inspire your Wanderlust.
Zion National Park is a small slice of Utah’s history, from prehistoric rock formations to ancient basketmakers; from Mormon settlers seeking out a more peaceful life, to modern canyoneers seeking thrills away from their peaceful lives. The Park is the oldest in Utah and has a variety of ranger hosted tours, activities, and programs, but it also provides an opportunity for those that want to strike out and conquer the landscape like the pioneers of old.
Whether your sport of choice is hiking the dusty trails, walking the scenic river, scaling the sandstone cliffs, trekking the ancient gorges, or mounting up and riding through the canyon on horseback, there is something for you at Zion National Park.
If you have been to Zion National Park, let us know in comments what was your experience like, we would love to hear from you!