Zion National Park in Utah is a park with plenty to do in terms of drives, hikes, & horseback rides. It’s famous for its red landscapes, canyons, rock formations, views, pools, & tunnels.
Use this list of top 10 things to do in Zion National Park to make sure you cover all that this park is known for.
1. Go on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
The first and foremost thing to do in Zion National Park, especially if you have very little time to spend there or it’s your first time in the park, is drive on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This drive through the Zion Canyon Highway, the national park’s main road, will take you through the middle of the park and give you a sense of what this national park is all about.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs north-south alongside the North Fork of the Virgin River and will show you the sights of the park from the canyon floor. During this 7.8-mile drive you’ll be able to see the tall canyon walls from the bottom & the views of some of the natural landmarks of the park. It’ll also take you to the places that serve as accesses to the Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail, Riverside Trail, & The Narrows.
During peak season the park has shuttles through this route. You can also bike through it. If it’s in the winter that you’re visiting, you can drive through on your own.
2. Get on the Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway
Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway facilitates another scenic drive through the park & one of the best things to do in Zion National Park. This route runs from the South entrance of Zion National Park to its East entrance. This 10-mile route inside the park goes along the mountainsides and is on a higher level than the valley drive. There’s an elevation gain of a few hundred feet & some switchbacks. The views from here include Checkerboard Mesa, Echo Canyon, seasonal waterfalls, the park’s flora, a number of rock formations, several shades of rocks, & natural stone towers. There are also many pullouts where you can stop to take in the views.
One of the major attractions on this road is the is 1.1-mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Make sure to look out for the windows that let light into the tunnel. They’ll give you glimpses of the landscape outside the tunnel.
Canyon Overlook Trail, the trail to Checkerboard Mesa, East Rim Trail, & Pine Creek Waterfall Trail are all along this route.
This road built in the late 1920s comes with some restrictions and requires you to have a pass if you’re in a large vehicle.
3. Do the Riverside Walk
One of the most popular trails of Zion National Park is Riverside Walk. This trail is 2.2 miles round trip and is pretty flat. It runs along the Virgin River and gives you views from the lower part of the canyon. It also leads to The Narrows and has several access points to the river for the water hikes.
The first 0.4 miles of Riverside Walk is paved so it’s stroller & wheelchair-friendly and the drops here are very few. As such, it’s popular with families & groups with young kids.
Look out for the Altar & the Pulpit Rocks while you’re on the walk.
4. Get on the Canyon Overlook Trail
Another easy & often hiked route of Zion National Park is Canyon Overlook Trail. Situated just after the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel (when you’re driving east), this trail is among the park’s shorter trails.
The Canyon Overlook Trail takes you on a one-mile hike and treats you to some great views of the canyon, Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway’s switchbacks, Towers of the Virgins, West Temple, & the Streaked Wall to name a few sights. These views make it one of the coolest things to do in Zion National Park. And if you can get here early, you’ll see that it’s one of the best places to catch a sunrise.
5. See the Weeping Rock
Yet another easy route to experience the rocks of Zion National Park is the Weeping Rock Hike. It’s a 0.4-mile trail (round trip) to a curved rock that seems to have water falling off it, making it look like it’s weeping. The amount of water seeping off it depends on the season. Sometimes it can be just a little bit or as much as a waterfall.
The shuttle stop to get off at if you want to walk to Weeping Rock is Stop 7.
6. Take in the views of Angel’s Landing & Observation Points
If you’re a seasoned hiker and would like a tougher hike that also offers some of the most stunning views of the area, the trails to head for are that of Angel’s Landing & Observation Point. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Zion National Park.
Angel’s Landing is a vista point that overlooks the Zion Canyon from an elevation of 1488 ft. It’s just about 5.4 miles in distance (round trip), but it can be strenuous because of the elevation gain and a part of it goes over a narrow ridge. To get to this trail get off at the shuttle’s 6th stop.
Observation Point on the other hand is a hike through Echo Canyon and onto the rim of Zion Canyon. This one also treats you to breathtaking views if you’re up to doing an 8-mile round trip, and an elevation gain of 2,148 ft. There are some steep drops. The trail starts at Weeping Rock near Stop 7.
7. Wade through The Narrows
Walking through the waters of the Virgin River is one of the most unique things to do in Zion National Park. And The Narrows is one place where you can do it!
The Narrows is a slot canyon in the park & a hike through is 9.4 miles that would take around 8 hours to complete. This hike is a seasonal one and it starts at the Temple of Sinawava, which is at Stop 9, the last shuttle stop.
(For the next level of challenge, you should try to get a permit to make your way through The Subway, another slot canyon within this national park.)
8. Hike to the Emerald Pools
While you’re in Zion National Park, you also don’t want to miss its Emerald Pools. It’s one of the things in Zion National Park that you don’t want to miss! There are 3 of them and you can see as many as your hiking abilities will allow as the difficulty keeps going up as you go from one pool to another. The walk to the first pool & more weeping rocks is less than 3 miles, both ways together. It’s an easy hike through an almost flat trail. If you’d like to go for a more moderate hike, you can continue to the second pool, also known as the Middle Pool.
If you are up for more, you can hike to the Upper Pool, which is another 0.8 miles away, and at a higher elevation than the Middle Pool. You’ll have to get down at Stop 5 to see the Emerald Pools.
9. See Checkerboard Mesa Up-close
When you take the Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway and go towards the East entrance of this national park, you’ll see cliffs of lighter shades than you see in the Zion Canyon area. Among them is an interesting-looking formation called Checkerboard Mesa, which is over 6500 ft. tall.
Checkerboard Mesa has a unique pattern of horizontal & vertical lines making it look quite like a chessboard. The area also has some trails that take you into the quieter areas of the park.
10. Venture into Kolob canyons
Yet another less-visited part of Zion National Park is the Kolob Canyon area. Situated in the Western part of the park, Kolob Canyons are part of the Colorado Plateau. There’s a scenic 5-mile drive that you can do here.
You can expect to see more dark red cliffs, box canyons, & several vista points in the area. Some attractions you might want to look out for are Timber Creek Overlook & Kolob Arch.
Kolob Canyon Road might be closed in the winter when there is heavy snow in the area.