Zion National Park
A bajillion years ago, ancient iterations of the Virgin River started wreaking havoc on the sandstone in southwestern Utah. Now there’s a faint “You’re welcome” echoing through the canyons of Zion National Park.
Zion Location & Directions
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah near the city of Springdale, not far from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or St. George. Here’s how we recommend getting to Zion.
Nearest Airports to Zion
Trying to decide which airport you should fly into to visit Zion National Park? Here are four options:
- MCCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT in Las Vegas: The nearest major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. Three-hour drive to the park.
- ST. GEORGE REGIONAL AIRPORT: The closest airport to Zion with limited commercial flights. One-hour drive to the park.
- SALT LAKE CITY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: Major airport with direct flights from many foreign and domestic destinations. Four-hour drive to the park.
- CEDAR CITY REGIONAL AIRPORT: Flights from Salt Lake City are available. One-hour drive to the park.
Driving Directions to Zion National Park
Take a look at how far Zion is from some notable nearby destinations.
- FROM ST. GEORGE, UT (54 miles): Take I-15 N toward Salt Lake City. Take exit 16 toward Hurricane/Zion National Park. Take UT-9 E to Springdale.
- FROM SALT LAKE CITY, UT (308 miles): Take I-15 S toward Las Vegas. Take exit 16 toward Hurricane/Zion National Park. Take UT-9 E to Springdale.
- FROM LAS VEGAS, NV (161 miles): Take I-15 N toward Salt Lake City. Take exit 16 toward Hurricane/Zion National Park. Take UT-9 East to Springdale.
- FROM BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK (72 miles): Take UT-12 West to Hwy 89 South. Take Highway 89 South to UT 9 and head west to the east entrance of Zion National Park.
Where to stay near Zion National Park
If you’re looking to line up lodging for your Zion vacation, Springdale has the corner on the market. It’s within spitting distance in the park and has great options on any budget. If you want to range farther afield, there are excellent lodging options in Mount Carmel, Kanab or even St. George.
View a list of nearby hotels and campgrounds
Where to eat near Zion National Park
After a long day pounding trail in the canyon, there’s nothing you want more than a small handful of nuts and a sip of carrot juice, right? WRONG. You want a meal and you deserve it. Go for Parent of the Year by letting your kids dig in at some of the area’s best restaurants. They won’t thank you till they’re older, but your stomach will thank you immediately.
View a list of nearby restaurants
Zion National Park Hours
Zion National Park is open year-round.
The park has two visitor centers that are also open throughout the year. Visitors are encouraged to stop and learn how to visit the park with minimum impact to the fragile desert environment. At the visitor centers you will find maps, brochures and books available to help you enjoy your visit.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Located just inside the South Entrance of the park near Springdale.
This visitor center is open daily during the following hours:
- Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
- Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Located one half mile north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at the park's South Entrance, the museum is open 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily with longer summer hours. It is closed November through February. Permanent and temporary exhibits display the history of Zion National Park. A 22-minute video plays every half hour to allow visitors to get a quick overview of the park.
Kolob Canyon Visitor Center
Located at the West Entrance of the park, off exit 40 from I-15. To contact the visitor center call 435-772-3256.
This visitor center is open daily during the following hours:
- Spring: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Summer: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
- Fall: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
- Winter: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m
Both visitor centers are closed December 25.
Zion Fees & Permits
The following passes allow access to Zion for seven consecutive days:
- Private vehicle: $35
- Motorcycle: $30
- Person entering by foot or bicycle: $20 (under 15 is free of charge)
- Annual Pass: $80
- 4th Grade Annual Pass: free
- Military Annual Pass: free
- Lifetime Senior Pass (62 and older): $80
- Annual Senior Pass (62 and older): $20
- Lifetime Access Pass (available for those with a permanent disability): free
- Zion Annual Pass: (Zion only): $50
Beat the Crowds in Zion
You thought you were coming to Zion for some peace and solitude, but the parking lot can be as full as a Beyoncé concert. Zion is one of the most visited parks in the whole country, but you don’t have to spend your vacation idling in an entry line. Here are a few things to know if you want to beat the system.
- The park is busiest from March to October. Expect long lines to get in and full parking lots by 10:00 a.m. Leave early to beat the rush or park in Springdale and ride the free shuttle in. (And carpooling is always good.)
- Not into the shuttle? Take to two wheels and bike into the park.
- Pack some layers and make the most of the less crowded off-season, November to February. Zion never stops being beautiful.
Best Time to Visit Zion
Don’t let the weather gods rain on your parade… err, family vacation. We’ve broken down what to expect season by season and thrown in some flash flood warnings, as well.
- Spring: If spring makes you think of bunnies, chicks and flowers, think again. Zion is a vision in March, April and May but it’s still a place where anything can happen. Warm, sunny weather is the norm (rarely over 90 degrees) but it can get rainy on a dime. Temps also vary with elevation and time of day — the swing between noon and midnight can reach 30 degrees. The wet weather peaks in March, but the snowmelt and high water levels last until May. Dress in layers.
- Summer: In the summer months, Zion gets hot enough to fry a whole omelette on the trail, with temps regularly surpassing 100 degrees. From July to September, the monsoon season is in full swing, surprising visitors with thunderstorms, lightning and heavy rain. Bring clothes for all kinds of weather conditions and check the weather report like nobody’s business — flash floods are no joke and they can build from even a small amount of precipitation.
- Fall: Fall is Zion’s golden season. Literally. Temps cool down, the monsoons let up and the trees go full Bob Ross with color. It’s a great time to visit the park, but stay alert: check the weather to steer clear of flash floods and make sure the river’s warm enough to wade in without consequence. If you have any questions, ask a park ranger. And remember, layers are a hiker’s best friend.
- Winter: Two words: cold and wet. Zion is beautiful in the winter, but rain is a regular feature and the nights often dip below freezing. Snow tends to accumulate in the upper elevations but melts quickly on the valley floor. Park employees plow the roads, but some of the trails are closed depending on weather conditions. In late winter, melting snow makes the Virgin River into a swift, angry force of nature, so be careful.
Best Hikes in Zion National Park
If Mama Zion put out a greatest hikes album, there are a few trails that would definitely make Side A. Read on for the must-see hikes of the season (or any season, really).
- Angels Landing: The concept for this hike was obviously born in a simpler, less litigious time, when scaling sheer cliffs with the aid of only a chain bolted into rock was considered top-form family fun. Your belly might drop to your toes on the ascent, but the view from the top (and the adrenaline shot) will make everything worth it. “Scared? Who, me?” you’ll lie, after you get back down.
- Observation Point: Take those Angels Landing braggarts down a notch by hoofing it up the eight-mile trail to the iconic summit of Observation Point. Aptly named, the view takes in 270 degrees of the canyon, from the white cliffs and hideaways of Echo Canyon to Angels Landing, which is directly beneath you in every sense of the word.
- Emerald Pools: See the park’s jewel collection with a trip to the Emerald Pools, a series of desert oases separated by lush vegetation, waterfalls and red rock monoliths. The trip to the first pool is quick and easy — great for kids, people in wheelchairs or the elderly.
- The Narrows
- The Subway
- Kolob Canyon
- Canyon Overlook
- View all hikes at Zion
Things to Do in Zion National Park
No off-road vehicles are permitted inside the park.
Zion’s an accepting place, but for some activities you’ve gotta have a private invite to the dance.
Remember to get permits for the following activities:
- Canyoneering (including the Narrows top-down hike)
Dogs at Zion National Park
Dogs are allowed (on leash):
- On the Pa’rus trail
- Along public roads and parking areas
- In the developed campgrounds and picnic areas
- On the grounds of the Zion Lodge
Dogs are not allowed:
- On any trails (other than Pa’rus) and wilderness areas
- On shuttle buses
- In public buildings
Service animals are permitted anywhere in the park.