Near the city of Springdale in Southwestern Utah you’ll find the kind of place that you generally only see in movies. Zion National Park is a nature-lover’s dream, with canyons, rivers, weeping walls, and the kind of wildlife that you go to the zoo for.
The Paiute called it ‘Mukuntuweap’, which was believed to mean ‘straight canyon’, but in 1872 Mormon Pioneers explored the area and renamed it, calling it Zion. They even urged President Taft to protect this stunning location and this request was granted… resulting in 16,000 acres of what we now call Zion National Park.
It’s just as beautiful and pristine today.
Zion is a formidable competition to the most impressive marvel of North America – Banff National Park Canada.
Let’s talk about some of the places that you will want to see when you get a chance to view this marvel of Nature for yourself.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Generally the first stop for everyone visiting Zion National Park is the Visitor center and for good reason. Inside you’ll find a miniature replica of the park that can help you to determine if the Zion hiking trails which you’ve selected are going to be most strategically-located choices.
This will save a little wear and tear on your feet so be sure to take advantage!
Folks are also there to answer your questions and for the ecologically-inclined there is even an ‘Ecohunt’ that can be done where you and the kids can learn more about the many ecologically-friendly features of the center, including solar panels, shade towers, and more.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
Whether by car of if you really want a thrill, by motorcycle, the Zion Canyon Scenic drive is a 57 mile route that allows you to see some of the highlights of the park and for those of you who don’t like to plan out your trips, this is a great way to simply jump in the pool and to see where fate leads you.
It’s impossible to make a bad choice, as Nature put a lot of work into the surroundings that you will experience here.
Camping in Zion National Park
You are coming here for the nature and so you really should consider camping directly inside the park. There are some unique sounds, scents, and sights here and camping is a great way to familiarize yourself with the park. Zion National Park hosts quite the assortment of amazing wildlife and here is a taste of the kind of animals that live here:
- Over 120 Avian species, including birds like the Black-headed Grosbeak, the Acorn Woodpecker, Abert’s Towhee, and even Bald Eagles!
- Gray Foxes
- Desert Tortoises
- Ringtail cats
These are just a few examples, of course, and if you were looking for an excuse to camp here during your visit t, well, then you’re welcome!
One of the best hikes in Zion National Park is a visit to ‘The Narrows’, which is the slimmest part of Zion Canyon and well worth the trip. Getting there will require a riverside hike of about a mile from the sandstone ‘Temple of Sinawava’. Don’t go too far into the Narrows, however, unless you’ve got some solid footwear and some sort of portable boat—as your path will soon lead you directly into the Virgin River.
Canyon Overlook Trail
The Canyon Overlook trail requires only the simplest of hikes to reach, with the distance being approximately one-mile round trip. This little stroll will get you one of the most striking views in the park, and the valley seen below is a creamy orange masterpiece.
One of the most popular Zion hikes, you’ll definitely want to take some pictures here.
The Weeping Rock
One of the major park attractions, the Weeping Rock is a stone overhang with an amazing view of the clinging gardens which adorn sheer cliff walls all around you. It is called the Weeping Rock because water is constantly flowing upon it, be it a trickle, little streams, or even waterfalls! The scenery is staggering and the size of it is really something that you need to experience firsthand.
Feeling small has never felt this good, as you’ll see for yourself.
Lower Emerald Pools
The Lower Emerald Pools feature their own weeping walls, with the water collecting in small pools at its base. This gives you access to more areas and more falls, as you can proceed to the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools if you’ve got the determination and the stamina.
The paved trail will take you where you need to go and more often than not, you’ll find yourself along to take in more of these amazing views.
The Riverside Walk
A 2.2 mile hike along the river, the Riverside Walk provides you with a trail that keeps you in an almost hypnotic awe. Sometimes it will hug close to canyon walls, while other times it will lead you near waterfalls or hanging gardens. The sights keep coming and let’s face it, 2.2 miles is less than you walk at the mall!
Spring is the perfect time for this particular location and the falls will really show off for you, so be sure not to miss it.
The Human History Museum
The Human History Museum is a great way to indulge your curiosity on the Native American and Early Pioneer stories that surround this majestic location. A full-scale model of the park is present here, as well, and Park Rangers are available for those tougher questions that have piqued your curiosity about the park.
It’s a great way to cool down and wax cerebral for a space, so give it a try if you need a quick break from hiking. You’ll be happy that you did.
Some last-minute recommendations
There really is a veritable ‘grocery list’ of things that you can see here but we thought that a few quick recommendations might be the best way to conclude here. This way you’ve got a little to plan for and some delightful surprises ahead.
Horseback riding is available in some areas, as well as rock climbing, canyoneering, ATV adventures, and more! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always take the standard shuttle tour and it will hit all the basics to get you started before you retire to your camp or local hotel.
Beyond this basic advice we recommend that you plan to spend at least a few days here. There really is a lot in Zion National Park that you are going to want to see!