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.
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- Best Things to Do in Zion National Park
- 2 More 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.
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
Elevation Gain: 1488′
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.
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′
**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′
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.
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
Elevation Gain: 100′
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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
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!
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.