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Zion National Park: Utah’s Desert Oasis


Zion National Park stands out as our favorite among Utah’s five national parks. While it’s a popular choice, there are compelling reasons behind this preference. Breathtaking scenery, abundant water features, and exceptional hiking trails make Zion a top-notch destination in Utah.

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Where to Stay

In our previous post about Bryce Canyon National Park, we highlighted our stay in Kanab, Utah, which served as an ideal base for exploring both Bryce and Zion. The Hitch-N-Post RV Park in downtown Kanab provided convenient access to Kanab and the surrounding national parks.

For future visits to Zion, we’re intrigued by the Zion Lodge, which offers unparalleled proximity to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from the moment you wake up. If you’ve had the privilege of staying at the Zion Lodge, we’d love to hear about your experience.

Things to Do

Undoubtedly, Zion boasts some of the most iconic hiking trails in the country, including Angels Landing and The Narrows. However, if you can’t secure an Angels Landing permit or aren’t up for a thigh-deep river hike, rest assured that Zion offers much more to explore. A single day at Zion left us yearning for 2-3 more days, such is the awe-inspiring nature of this park.

If you’re fortunate (and daring) enough to obtain Angels Landing permits, consider yourself lucky. This 4.5-mile round-trip trail ascends 1800 feet in elevation, with accessible sections such as “Walter’s Wiggles,” named after Zion’s first superintendent. Beyond Scout Lookout, a permit is required to continue to Angels Landing. This part of the hike features sheer drop-offs and chained trails to assist hikers, as seen on Instagram. The lottery permit system ensures safe hiking on this challenging trail.

Equally popular and accessible, The Narrows doesn’t require permits. It’s a 9.4-mile round-trip hike through the Virgin River. While many complete the entire hike, dipping your feet or tackling a portion is also an option. Keep in mind that starting early is wise to avoid afternoon crowds.

Another increasingly popular Zion hike is the Emerald Pools. This three-mile round-trip trail leads to three waterfalls: Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. Although we visited in July and saw decent flow, it’s likely even more spectacular in late spring. Due to trail closures, we had to take an alternate path from The Grotto shuttle stop, possibly shortening the hike.

While there are many other trails in Zion, these three are the most popular. For a comprehensive list, visit the Zion National Park Service’s website.

During your hike or at day’s end, make sure to visit the Zion Lodge for restroom facilities. The visitor center restrooms were in poor condition during our visit. The Zion Visitor Center also offers a wide selection of merchandise.

What to Eat

As mentioned earlier, the Zion Lodge has a cafe and restaurant. We didn’t dine there but did enjoy fountain drinks, including iced tea, with refills.

At day’s end, we ventured past the foot-entrance station, over the Virgin River, and visited Zion Brewery. It was a bit crowded, resulting in a 15-minute wait for a table. However, if everyone in your party is 21+, you can enter the beer garden directly. Here, we savored excellent beers, pretzel sticks, charcuterie, and a bowl of alfredo for Henry.

In Retrospect

If we could change anything about our Zion visit, it would be to allocate more time and stay within the park itself. We’d love to explore additional trails and tackle more of The Narrows in the future. Zion’s sheer beauty explains why it’s a beloved national park. For those planning a trip to Zion, consider dedicating 3-4 days to fully experience everything it offers.

TL:DR / 3 Things to Know

  1. Most of Zion National Park is only accessible via their shuttle system. Don’t plan on having immediate access to your car throughout the day, and pack in anything you will need (or you will spend an extra two hours waiting in line for shuttles). Visit the Zion National Park website for more information on the shuttles.
  2. You can hike a portion of the Angels Landing trail without a permit. The portion from The Grotto to Scout Lookout is open to anyone, but you will need to turn around upon reaching Scout Lookout if you don’t have a permit. 
  3. Beware of the squirrels. It was very clear that the squirrels at Zion are fed regularly and are extremely food aggressive. Ashlea had one jump full force at her to get her snack. Please don’t feed any wildlife at any national park, even harmless looking squirrels and birds. Animals can quickly become aggressive for food and harm humans or themselves. 

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  • Stephanie Seymore

    Love this! We were in Zion this summer too and did spend two nights in the lodge. Loved it. The Narrows is spectacular. We did about 6 miles on our last trip and it was amazing. Angels Landing too. We’ve done it in the past. Couldn’t get a permit this time. We seem to have the same National park love!


  • Meggie

    Zion is near and dear to my heart, but it’s been years since we’ve been! Thanks for sharing the information on Angels Landing (it didn’t require permits when I hiked it 8 years ago), and suggesting Emerald Pools!

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