zion national park

10 Best Things to Do in Zion National Park

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In October of 2018, I had the privilege of taking a road trip to Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks.

Zion National Park turned out to be one of my favorites. With its unique jaw-dropping views, it did not disappoint!

After spending 2-3 days in Zion, I have comprised a list of what I think are the 10 best things to do in Zion National Park.

Use this list to help plan your trip and make sure you don’t miss the best of Zion!

Update: Since some of the trails listed in this post are closed due to rockfall, I have listed two additional things to do in Zion at the bottom of this post.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through a link, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read full disclosure here.

"10 best things to do in zion national park"

Best Things to Do in Zion National Park

Below is a map of all the things listed in this post. Note that while most of these are accessible by the shuttle, some of them require a car to get to.

rock steps with chain link railing to right side, leading up to a narrow rock ledge

Angels Landing

Lace-up your hiking boots for what is probably the most popular hike in Zion: Angels Landing.

This steep trail rewards you with jaw-dropping views, and as you can see from the photo above, it is not for those with a fear of heights.

Fun Fact: Angels Landing received its name from Frederick Vining Fisher, a Methodist minister who said of the cliff, “only angels might land there.”

Location: Shuttle stop #6 (The Grotto)

Distance: 5 miles RT

Difficulty: strenuous

Elevation Gain: 1488′

river flowing over river rocks and through canyon walls

The Narrows (Bottom-Up)

The Narrows is the other super popular “trail” in Zion. Many consider it one of the best things to do in Zion National Park because it’s not your traditional hiking trail.

Hiking up the Virgin River with canyon walls towering overhead is an unforgettable experience that people of all ages will enjoy.

This is an experience you definitely need to be prepared for. Click on the link below to learn more about hiking the Narrows and how you can be prepared.

Read more about hiking the Narrows in this blog post.

TIP: Make sure to bring layers! It is significantly colder down in the canyon! I was nice and comfortable in my Patagonia pullover.

Location: Shuttle stop #9 (Temple of Sinawava)

Distance: However long you want it to be! But up to 10 miles. FYI you must hike 1 mile to get to where you enter the river.

Difficulty: easy to moderate (depends on water height & flow)

Elevation Gain: 300′

water drops fall from a concave rock cliff as they seem through the sandstone

Weeping Rock

**UPDATE: Weeping Rock is currently closed due to rockfall. Click here for current Zion conditions & what is closed.

Seeing water magically seep from this sandstone overhang makes you understand how it got its name.

The trail to this dripping rock overhang is the shortest trail in Zion.

While the trail is short, it is quite steep! But it provides beautiful views of Zion along the way.

P.S.- They say the water seeping out of Weeping Rock is over 1000 years old!

Location: Shuttle stop #7 (Weeping Rock)

Distance: 0.4 miles

Difficulty: easy but steep

Elevation Gain: 100′

water drips from sandstone, hiking trail with metal railing between sandstone wall and seeping water

Emerald Pools

This trail consists of three pools: the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools.

During my trip to Zion, the Middle and Upper Pools were closed, so I was only able to hike to the Lower Emerald Pool.

As you can see from the picture above, be prepared to get a little wet as you walk behind this waterfall!

Location: Shuttle stop #5 (Zion Lodge)

Distance: 1.2 mi RT to lower; 2 mi RT to middle, 3 mi RT to upper

Difficulty: easy to moderate

Elevation Gain: 70′ to lower, 150′ to the middle pool, 350 feet to upper Emerald Pool

**UPDATE: Lower Emerald Pool is closed for repairs until Spring 2020. The upper and middle pools can be accessed by the Kayenta Trail off shuttle stop #6. Click here for current conditions in Zion and see what trails are closed.

looking down onto a canyon in zion national park. tall rock formations on each side

Canyon Overlook Trail

This short trail with steep dropoffs protected by railings and fences provides beautiful views of Zion’s valley!

Don’t forget to bring your camera, because this is a view you will want to capture!

The top of Canyon Overlook is one of Zion’s most photogenic spots and is a place you will want to stay a bit and take in the gorgeous views.

This trail is NOT accessible via the shuttle system and requires a car to get to the trailhead. The parking lot is small & fills up quickly, but there is more parking a little on down the road.

Location: By the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, just past the ranger booth

Distance: 1-mile RT

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Elevation Gain: 100′

orange brown desert landscape, desert shrubs in foreground. desert rock formation mountains in background

Watchman Trail

This was the first trail I hiked when visiting Zion and I absolutely loved it since it was pretty easy and provided beautiful views!

Although it’s named the Watchman Trail, you are not actually climbing the Watchman.

Instead, this trail provides views of the 6545′ tall Watchman Spire.

Make sure to watch where you’re going at the top, as there are lots of desert cacti, such as the prickly pear cactus!

Location: Across from the Zion Visitor Center

Distance: 3 miles RT

Difficulty: moderately easy

Elevation Gain: 400′

TIP: This makes a great morning hike.

looking out of a tunnel at the road. rock mountain in the distance

Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

This 1.1-mile tunnel was built in 1930 to provide access to the east side of Zion, Bryce Canyon & the Grand Canyon.

While you’re driving through the tunnel, you will notice 6 windows that allow for ventilation and to let some light in.

Unfortunately, cars are no longer allowed to stop at these windows.

If you are driving an RV or oversized vehicle, you must pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel, as they have to stop traffic both ways to let oversized vehicles through.

Click here to read about restrictions regarding entering the tunnel.

3 large sandstone cliffs with trees at the bottom

Court of the Patriarchs

Named after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Court of the Patriarchs are beautiful sandstone cliffs that can be seen best from a viewpoint just a short distance from the shuttle stop.

Location: Shuttle stop #4

large off white sandstone dune that appears to have a checkerboard pattern

Checkerboard Mesa

Checkerboard Mesa puts Zion’s geology on display. Its vertical lines were caused by erosion and surface stress. The horizontal lines were formed by wind-blown sand dunes that formed into sandstone.

This is a less-traveled, off the beaten path area in Zion.

The mesa is not able to be reached via the shuttle system, so you must have a car.

Location: The east entrance of Zion National Park

TIP: Option to hike up the mesa for a bit of an adventure!

Click here to access Google Maps showing where Checkerboard Mesa is.

deep canyon among the sandstone cliffs in Zion National Park. Green trees in the canyon below.

Observation Point

This strenuous, leg-burning hike rewards you with beautiful views of Zion Canyon!

You even look down on Angels Landing.

**UPDATE: Observation Point closed on August 24, 2019 due to a massive landslide. Click here for updates on which trails/sites are closed in Zion.

There’s an option to hike to Observation Point via the East Mesa Trail. I cannot speak to this trail since I haven’t done it. But Joe at CitrusMilo.com does a great job explaining the trail and how to find it! Click here to read his description of the trail and instructions to the trailhead.

Location: Shuttle stop #7 (Weeping Rock)

Distance: 8 miles RT

Difficulty: strenuous

Elevation Gain: 2300′

2 More Best Things to Do in Zion National Park

Since a few of the places listed are closed due to rockfall, I decided to include 2 bonus places in Zion that are worth visiting.

Pine Creek Hike

small waterfall flowing into a small pool in a small canyon in Zion. Blue sky. Yellow leaf trees in background

I could not find this trail in ANY books when I was researching hikes in Zion. I found it on REI’s National Parks app and I’m so glad I did! It ended up being one of my favorite places in Zion.

There is a dirt pullout and parking lot on the east side of the first switchback on Highway 9 leading from Zion to the Mount Carmel Tunnel.

The trail starts at this parking lot. The trail wasn’t easily marked in some areas, but just keep following the sound of the waterfall and you’ll get there!

green map of zion-mount carmel highway. solid white line depicts the road. blue dotted line depicts an out and back hiking trail.

This is a great place to enjoy a packed lunch and you can even swim in the pool at the waterfall!

Note: The trail is not always easily marked & has some large boulders you must get by.

Human History Museum

Located at shuttle stop #2, this museum displays American Indian culture, how Zion was formed & much more!

Stop by to learn the history of the park that people of all ages will enjoy.

tall sandstone mountains against a blue sky with green trees and desert plants on the valley below

Hope you enjoyed this list of some of the top things to do in Zion National Park! While there are many more great things to do in Zion, these are the ones I would not have wanted to miss!

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog

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