America's Best History ... Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Situated in southern Utah, in a corner of the world that is surrounded by amazing national parks and historic vistas, from that Grand Canyon to its south to Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon to its north, sits Zion, the national park known for its awesome sites.  Whether you are a national park fan for its beauty and nature, one who hikes their way through trails and canyons, or just a tourist on vacation looking for the next place to visit, you will be astounded at the opportunities and sights that await you at Zion National Park.  (Photo above right) View from the Canyon Overlook Trail. Photo NPS.   (Photo above) Court of the Patriarchs.  Photo courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Zion is Utah's first national park, and many think it's the best.  Over 2 million people visit the 146,000 acres of the park each year, which includes both the original Mukuntuweap National Monument acres as well as the Kolob Canyon section.  Due to its popularity, the park shuttle now provides free transportation around the Zion Canyon section of the park from April to October, taking the visitor to nine locations where they can sightsee, hike, or listen to a ranger point out the nature and history of the area.  It also connects to parking facilities and lodging in Springdale, Utah.  There are other roads that traverse predominantly the perimeter as well as the Kolob area for private vehicles.

The colors at Zion and Kolob are fantastic.  And the cliffs rise up to 3,800 feet above you as you view.  There are deserts and plateaus, the Virgin River among its 160 miles of streams and rivers, and those canyons.  Zion is a great place to hike, watch birds, colors, ride bikes or beasts, and ride with a ranger.  And a great place to visit if you're in the Grand Canyon and four corners area of the southwest USA.

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Take the free shuttle tour (running in the summer season) that takes you to nine spots along the six miles Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.  It's been running since 2000, and from April to October is a mandatory ride along this route.  Roundtrip takes 90 minutes.  There are ranger guided shuttles, too.  Yes, they're called Ride with a Ranger.  Ask about them at Zion Canyon Visitors Center. Held both in the morning and the evening.  Program is free, but tickets are limited.

2.  Yes, be one of the over 30,000 visitors who take in a ranger walk or talk.  You'd think that number were higher and it should be.  These guys know their stuff and provide a detailed and interesting take on the history and nature of the park.  They are offered daily at various park locations from both visitor centers, the Zion Human History Museum, and Zion Lodge.  During the summer season, there are evening programs at Zion Lodge and Watchman Campground.

Zion National Park Poster

Zion National Park poster from the National Park Service, 1938.  Photo courtesy LOC.

What is There Now

Visitor's Centers
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
- At the south entrance. Includes exhibits, ranger tours and talks.  The Zion Human History Museum is nearby and includes a free 23 minute video.

Kolob Canyon Visitor Center
- 45 miles north of Springdale.  Exhibits and ranger tours.

Lodging and Camping

Lodging in Zion National Park
Although there are a variety of hotel, motels, cabins, and campsites surrounding the park in Springdale, Rockville, Mt. Carmel Junction, Kanab, and elsewhere (visit the local visitors bureau or your favorite travel site to check out one that's best for you), but there are three campgrounds and only one lodge within the park boundaries.  The Zion Lodge is run by Xanterra and includes historic cabins and motel rooms.  It is open year round.

South Campground, Zion Canyon, 127 sites.  Near Springdale.   Desert area along Virgin River.

Watchman Campground, Zion Canyon, 152 sites.  Near Springdale. Desert area along Virgin River.  

Lava Point Campground, Kolob Terrace, 6 sites.  1 hour drive from Zion Canyon. - Free Shipping on ALL orders

Zion National Park Links

Zion National Park
Zion Canyon Visitors Bureau
East Zion Tourism Council

Nearby Attractions

Utah Travel Site
Arizona Office of Tourism
Grand Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Rainbow Bridge National Monument 
Cedar Breaks National Monument

Zion Then and Now

Zion National Park

Zion Then

Visitor Services- Vacationers have stayed in Zion for many years, dating prior to the designation as Mukuntuweap National Monument in 1909.  Name was changed to Zion in 1919.  And as people came to know the beauty of the area, its popularity grew from less than 4,000 visitors in 1920 to over 2.5 million today.  Above you can see the Zion Lodge Cabins circa 1929 with the Temple of the Sun, east wall of the canyon in the background.  The original Zion Lodge was built in the 1920s by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, but destroyed in 1966.  It was rebuilt.

Zion History- It started with mommoth tracking 12,000 years ago, and continued with the Anasazi and Paiute some 800 years ago.  Settlement from Mormons began in the area in the 1860s.  Shortly after that, John Wesley Powell came to Zion to explore it science and nature.

Zion Now

Zion National Park

Hiking the Zion
- Perhaps one of the best ways to see Zion National Park is on foot.  There are many choices for the novice to the experienced hiker among its 120 miles of trails.  Remember, this can be difficult terrain and the temperatures in summer soar, so bring the necessary food, water, and other items.

Zion Canyon
Pa'rus Trail - 3.5 miles.  Easy.  Paved.
Weeping Rock - .5 miles.  Steep.
Riverside Walk - 2 miles.  Easy.  Paved.
Lower Emerald Pools - 1.2 miles.  Easy.  Paved.
Middle Emerald Pools - 2 miles.  Moderate with some steep sections.
Canyon Overlook - 1 miles.  Moderate to steep.
Watchman - 2 miles.  Moderate.  Best early/late in day.
Hidden Canyon - 2 miles.  Moderate to steep.  Narrow canyon.
Angels Landing - 5 miles.  Steep.  Narrow.
Observation Point - 8 miles.  Steep.  Excellent views.
Lower West Rim to Cabin Spring - 10 miles.  Steep.  Full day hike.

Kolob Canyon
Timber Creek Overlook - 1 mile.  Easy.
Taylor Creek - 5 miles.  Moderate along Taylor Creek.
Kolob Arch - 14 miles.  Steep.  Full day hike.

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Visitor Statistics

Zion National Park
2,807,387 visitors

#27 Most Visited National Park Unit

Park Size

Zion National Park
143,068 acres (Federal)
146,592 (Total)

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Zion National Park Entrance Fees

Individual (Hike, Bike, Motorcycle) - $12 for 7 Day Pass

Vehicle - $25 for 7 day pass

Tunnel Escort - $15 per vehicle (2 trips)

Fees subject to change without notice.

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Zion Weather

Hot days (95-110 degrees F) and pleasant nights (65-70 degrees).  July normal high/low 100/68 degrees.  Common afternoon thurderstorms may produce flash floods.

Mild with light snow in the canyons; heavier amounts at higher elevations.  January normal high/low 52/29 degrees.

Zion Transportation

Inside the Park

Shuttle System
- Runs April through November.  It runs from Springdale, Utah and the Canyon Loop stops at eight locations, including the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.  The shuttle is free and run as often as seven minutes between runs.