Zion National Park is truly one of the most beautiful & magical places in Utah and quite possibly in the USA! Check out our 7 must-know tips that will make your family vacation the best ever! Here are the tops things you need to know before planning your road trip to Zion.
I’ve been to A LOT of places in the US…
The Outer Banks
The Smoky Mountains
Sequoia National Park
The Grand Tetons
And honestly, I thought I had seen the best parts of our country, and boy was I WRONG…with a big ole’ Capital W!!
Holy Smokes! If you have not ventured to Zion, Utah, then you have been missing one of our coolest national gems!
if you haven’t been yet, put IT on your BUCKET LIST…you will thank me later, I promise!
When we visited Zion National Park in late July of 2020, we were about 5 months into the Covid-19 pandemic, so there were definitely some adjustments made for safety.
There were also quite a few things that I wish I had known before we went that would have made our trip so much smoother!
So lucky you… if you are reading this and planning to go to Zion anytime in the near future, I will break down my top tips here!!
TOP 7 TIPS FOR ZION NATIONAL PARK
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SEASON
During the summertime, it is HOT in Zion, so if you are a person who cannot handle the heat, I would recommend planning your trip during another time of year.
2. PLAN AHEAD
Due to safety concerns for Covid-19, the seating on the Zion Park Shuttles that take you to the hikes in the scenic drive area of the park (which are not accessible by private vehicles) are very limited. It is the best route to reserve shuttle seats weeks in advance at https://www.recreation.gov/search?q=zion
3. MAXIMIZE ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES
If you are unable to reserve shuttle tickets weeks in advance, you can make reservations 24 hours before your day of needing the shuttle starting at 9 AM online at the website REC.GOV
Those reservations are very limited so do your best to get them before your trip!!
Because our trip to Zion was a last-minute idea, we actually went this route and got tickets online right at 9 AM (If you are going this route, I’d recommend creating a user profile on the rec.gov website sometime before 9 AM so you are ready to make the checkout quicker and easier!) when the portal opened for our family of 5 for the following day (but boy, was I sweating it that we might not get tickets! Whew!).
* (TICKET BONUS TIP BELOW)*
4. BE AN EARLY BIRD
If it is summertime, I recommend getting earlier Zion Shuttle tickets due to heat, crowds, and possible flash floods. We got ours for 7-8 AM and were so happy with our timing.
Had we gone later in the day, we would have been met with a thunderstorm and a probable flash flood…talk about vacation buzz kills!!
5. DITCH THE CAR
In the research I had done online before we took our trip, there was quite a bit of concern about the lack of parking at the Zion Visitor Center (where you enter the Zion National Park and get on the Zion Park shuttle).
Luckily, there is a FREE Springdale/St George Shuttle that will take you to the Zion Visitor Center so you do not have to stress about getting parking if you are staying nearby in the Springdale area.
We stayed at the Springhill Suites by Mariott and were very happy with our location and accommodations.
I mean, seriously check out this photo…could it not be more stunning??
You cannot beat that backdrop!
The shuttle comes about every 15 minutes, so it’s a great option to be car-free and to avoid parking lot congestion!
I was a bit anxious about the transportation/parking situation prior to our arrival, but with the free shuttle, it was super easy and convenient!
If you are not staying in Springdale, (we stayed at the Springhill Suites Mariott and were very happy with our location and accommodations) there are several pay parking lots in Springdale where you can park and hop on the free shuttle to avoid the limited parking situation at the Zion Visitor Center.
6. KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS
When you enter the Zion National Park you will need to purchase a pass. That pass is good for a week. When we went it was $35 for our entire family for the week.
*(TICKET BONUS TIP BELOW)*
7. EXPLORE ALTERNATIVES
If you are unable to get tickets for the Zion Shuttle, there are plenty of hikes you can do that do not require getting there by the paid shuttle that I will list below.
Also, I HIGHLY recommend that you download the APP “All Trails” that will help you find the perfect hike for you!
If you have your heart set on hiking The Narrows (I’ve written more about hiking “The Narrows” here) and are unable to get Zion Shuttle tickets, you can hire a private company to take you, but it is quite a bit more expensive.
Even if you do not get tickets to the Zion Shuttle for the scenic route, you can still drive through Zion National Park in your car, and I highly recommend that you take some time to do that while you are there, no matter what!!
Our drive through the park was magical…we were in awe of the beauty and got to see some gorgeous creatures up close and personal!
Check out these beauties that literally came right up to our car as we were driving!!
Be sure to take photos of any “tickets/receipts” you may have digitally. In the park, cell service is limited and you do not want to have difficulty getting into the park or onto the shuttle because you are not able to access your pre-purchased tickets electronically.
You may also want to save any trail info in the notes section or in your photo reel because the “All Trails” app may not be accessible with no cell coverage.
Recommended Hikes Outside of Zion National Park
(You can look up these specific hikes on the All Trails app for more detailed info)
- Eagle Crags Trail (Hard)
- Huber Wash Trail (Moderate)
- Coalpits Wash Trail (Hard)
- Smithsonian Butte Trail (Moderate)
- Gould’s Wash via Three Falls Trail (Moderate)
- West Cinder Knoll Trail (Easy)
- Grandpa’s Pond Trail (Easy)
- Babylon Arch Trail (Moderate)
- Dino Cliffs Trail (Moderate)
- Yant Flats Trail (Moderate)
- Moqui Cave (Easy)
Recommended (Non-Shuttle) Hikes in Zion National Park
1. Par’us Hike (Easy)
2. The Watchman Trail (Moderate)
3. Zion Canyon Overlook Trail (Moderate)
Honestly, our trip to Zion just might be one of our best family trips ever, and I cannot wait to go back again!
If you have any specific questions about our trip, feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment, and I’ll share whatever I’ve learned!!
AND…be sure to put “ZION NATIONAL PARK“ on your bucket list!!
*Side Note* – At the time of our trip, there were warnings about harmful bacteria in the Virgin River. So we were extra careful not to submerge our heads in the stream or drink any of the river water.
At the time of our visit, no people had reported getting sick from the Virgin River, but be sure to check local authorities at the time of your trip!
More information can be found at: https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/news/cyanotoxin.htm
WANT MORE ZION?
If you are looking for insider tips for hiking The Narrows, check out my blog article, The 9 Essential, Must-Know Tips for Hiking “The Narrows” in Zion National Park, Utah
Until next time, cheers to you and cheers to living your bucket list dreams!