Zion National Park
Short and sweet, below are the best hikes and sites to see in Zion National Park. I would also highly, highly recommend hiking Kanarra Creek Falls, which is just an hour outside of the park. The trip guide for Kanarra Creek Falls can be found HERE. Here are some general tips for the park:
- If you don't reserve a campsite in advance, the park has a first come, first serve campground called South Campground. Get there early in the morning and wait in the line of cars for your chance to get a camping space. Camping spaces fit 2 cars and 3 tents max. There's toilets, sinks and drinking water but no showers. However, there is a nice cold river that runs through the campground that you can dip into after a long hike. You can also pay for a shower in town.
- Reserve your permit for the Subway hike (described lower on this page) in advance. Click HERE for all the info you'll need.
- Plan to either rent gear or bring water shoes for the Narrows hike (described lower on this page). I highly recommend renting gear as it will keep your feet warmer to be able to stay longer and see more of this amazing hike.
- If you get tired of camp food, there's a few grocery stores in town and a handful of restaurants. I'd recommend eating some Mexican at Casa de Amigos - its run by Mexicans (authentic), it tastes GREAT, they give you huge portions, its affordable, the staff are super friendly and they have my favorite local beer, Evolution Amber Ale.
- Most of the year, you will need to catch a shuttle to get to the various trailheads around the park. You can catch the shuttle as early as 7am. On busy days, the line for the shuttle at the visitor center can be super long. If that's the case, consider walking (less than mile along the river) or driving to the next stop at the Zion Human History Museum. You'll have much less of a line to wait in.
- A map of the park can be found HERE.
Angel's Landing: A 5-mile round trip hike with 1,500 feet of steep elevation, this hike will get your blood flowing and your heart pumping. With numerous switchbacks, steep drop offs on either side and a spectacular, one of a kind valley view at the top, this hike is a true adventure.
Tips: Go early to avoid the crowds. If you're afraid of heights, this is NOT the hike for you. Always keep a good hand on the chains on your way up.
The Subway: New York, move over - this is nature's subway, and the only train coming through is a few lucky hikers that score a permit. Along the way, you'll get to see cascading waterfalls and if you can brave the cold water - the waterfall room. The rewards of this 6.5-mile roundtrip hike are well worth it!
Tips: If you can't get a permit for this hike in advance from the online permit system, make sure to get up bright and early to try and grab one from the visitor center - there's always a chance that some folks will cancel. Make sure to bring water shoes and a hiking stick - it'll be wet and slippery in some parts. It'll be cold, but jump in the water at the end of the trail so you can experience the little known waterfall room.
The Narrows: Hiking in a river, surrounded by HUGE canyon walls that are glowing orange and red from the sun - this one is a no brainer.
Tips: If you visit during the summer, you should be able to get away with only renting water shoes/waterproof socks and a hiking stick from one of the outdoor gear rental shops in town. The water shoes you can rent provide a much better grip than any water shoes you currently own. The hiking stick will give you some great stability to prevent you from taking a dip in the river when you cross a strong current. Keep in mind that you can't always clearly see what's under the water, so you'll be hiking much more carefully and slower if you don't have a hiking stick. You could also rent a waterproof backpack if you have any valuables you're afraid of getting wet. If you visit outside of the summer season, I'd also recommend renting waterproof pants. Many people hike in and come back out within a half-hour because the water is so cold that their feet and legs start feeling numb. If you REALLY want to explore and stay a while, rent some gear that will make you comfortable.
Observation Point & Hidden Canyon: The hike for Observation Point starts at Weeping Rock, is 8-miles long (roundtrip) and has an elevation gain of 2,200 feet with very few places to stop for some shade from the sun. In other words, you better start early and bring a good amount of water. There are several cool features of this trail: 1) it will lead you to a high point of the park with a view above Angel's Landing, 2) you get to hike alongside a slot canyon for a section of the trail (that you can even wander into), and 3) the trail connects to Hidden Canyon.
Hidden Canyon will be an additional 2 to 3-miles roundtrip with a bit more elevation gain. Some of the Hidden Canyon trail will remind you of Angel's Landing with a steep drop-off and some chains to hang onto. At one point the hike involves a beautiful sandstone wall on one side and a green fern filled wall on the other. There's also a small arch at the end of the trail.
Tips: I can't stress this enough - bring enough water. Observation point is a long strenuous hike and you must be in decent physical shape to complete it.
Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive: I wouldn't normally recommend a scenic drive, but this location is an amazing place to watch the sunset. Although Kolob Canyons is part of Zion National Park, you'll have to drive about an hour outside of the main entrance to get there. The scenic drive is a total of 5-miles long and is worth the drive.