Every year Zion National Park welcome over 2.6 million visitors – many of them on Labor Day Weekend, which is in a few days – and it’s no wonder: Zion contains 150,000 acres of some of the most incredible landscape in North America. It can be a little daunting to form a plan to see the best that the park has to offer, after all 150,000 acres is a lot to cover. So we at the Lodge thought we’d lend a hand and suggest our Top 5 Things to do in Zion National Park.
This list is primarily for those who have never visited the park before. So we’ll focus on the greatest hits, and save our more off-beat suggestions for another post.
Number 5 – The Zion Mount Carmel Highway
This is a great way to see some of the less-popular areas of the park. The highway begins near the visitor center and ascends up the cliffs in the dramatic Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. The tunnel is very long and very impressive, especially considering it was constructed in the 1920s. (Which you can read all about here.) On the other side of the tunnel is Checkerboard Mesa. It’s well worth your time to drive the entirety of this scenic highway – it’s only 25 miles long – and explore some of the cool spots and trails in the Checkerboard Mesa area of Zion. After that head back the way you came, toward the visitor center.
Number 4 – Emerald Pools
If you’re looking for something low-key, on your Zion trip, then maybe just hang out on the Emerald Pools trail. The first pool, Lower Emerald Pool, is easily accessed on a paved path, making it perfect for kids, wheelchairs, and strollers. Plus, it’s got a waterfall. Middle and Upper Emerald Pools are a moderate hike up the hill. It’s only one mile roundtrip to the Upper Pool. The cool, green, shaded trail makes for an excellent summertime hike. It will be crowded, so if you want to beat the rush, start the trail in the early morning. You’ll be heading back down while the majority of people are starting to arrive around 10am.
Number 3 – Kolob Canyon
This is an often overlooked area of Zion, which is understandable, considering Kolob Canyon is not really connected to the main part of the park. In order to access it, you will need to drive up Interstate–15, until you almost reach Cedar City. There is a turn off a few miles out of town, marked here on Google Maps. Kolob Canyon is a red sandstone canyon with huge, rising cliff walls. A scenic drive will take you to the top of the canyon, where there is a nice picnic area and an easy hike to be found call Timber Creek Overlook. Mostly it’s nice to check out this part of Zion to escape those crowds and chill (especially if you’re there on Labor Day Weekend.) There are also some other trails that are worth checking out in Kolob too.
Number 2 – The Narrows
Let’s get to the popular attractions! And top of the list is The Narrows. It’s the most popular hike in the park (yes, even more popular than Angel’s Landing). It’s truly something that has to be experienced in person. The Virgin River has cut through hundreds of feet of rock, creating a channel through eons of geological time, and marking a trail for you to marvel at. Hiking in the Narrows will require you to get wet, sometimes even soaked, depending on the water levels. We’ll just put a big plug in for The Narrows, but let the official Zion page inform you about the best routes and the important safety information. Hiking in The Narrows should not be a last-minute decision, so plan ahead.
Number 1 – Angel’s Landing
If you know anything about Zion National Park, then you know that Angel’s Landing was always gonna be our number one suggestion. Even if you’ve never been to Zion, you know Angel’s Landing. You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of the hike, and that famous chain section, and the views from the top on social media. And it’s all for good reason. While Angel’s Landing is a very strenuous hike, it’s well worth the effort to make it to the top. We promise you’ll never forget it. The trail is 5.5 miles roundtrip, with large, steep elevation changes. There are intense drop-offs along the hike, so don’t attempt it with children or with those who are afraid of heights.
Also, and this in a fairly new development, you will now need a ticket to hike Angel’s Landing. Issues with trail crowding, and environmental degradation, forced the park to mandate a lottery system to limit traffic. So head to this page here to enter to hike. Read the instructions carefully to understand how you need to enter.