Zion National Park
Zion National Park is Utah’s oldest national park, designated in 1919. Zion’s soaring towers and monoliths offer a quiet grandeur. With nearly three million visitors per year, Zion is Utah’s most heavily used park. In spring of 2000, in order to ease congestion in the 6.5 mile Zion Canyon, a new transportation system was implemented. It provides multi-passenger shuttle vehicles as the only motorized transportation in the park loop. The trams allow visitors to enjoy Zion’s lofty formations such as Kolob Arch -the world’s largest arch – with a span that measures 310 feet, The Great White Throne, The Watchman, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock. The Transportation System includes a “town loop” that eliminates congestion in the streets of Springdale at the park’s south entrance. Visitors can still use private vehicles to tour the park on state Hwy 9. Oversized vehicles are subject to some restrictions however, and a fee is charged for escorting them through the narrow Long Tunnel. Click here for information on Zion National Park.
There are several easy, self-guiding trails in Zion, including the Gateway to the Narrows Trail, which is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs with assistance. More adventurous or strenuous hikes are also found in the park. Two entrances to Zion National Park are 33 miles east of I-15 or 12 miles west of US 89, both on Utah Hwy 9. The northern Kolob Canyons section of the park is accessible off I-15, 18 miles north of Cedar City. Zion National Park visitor centers are open year round as are in-park campgrounds and the historic Zion Lodge.
Wildlife such as mule deer, golden eagles, and mountain lions, also inhabit Zion National Park. Mukuntuweap National Monument proclaimed July 31, 1909; incorporated in Zion National Monument March 18, 1918; Zion Canyon was established as a national park on Nov. 19, 1919. For more Zion National Park information be sure to get a Zion Travel Packet! Also view lodging opportunities in Zion National Park.
Zion has the richest diversity of plants in Utah—almost 800 native species. Differences in elevation, sunlight, water, and temperature create “microenvironments,” like hanging gardens, forested side canyons, and isolated mesas. The variety of mountain and canyon environments makes Zion an excellent location for wildflower walks in the spring and summer and brilliant leaf color in the autumn. Take on of the many hikes through Zion Canyon and you will see why Zion can be considered a “paradise”.
Evening primrose native to the north temperate zone is a perennial herb with en erect hairy stem and rough hairy leaves generally 3-6 inches long. Yellow flowers bloom in umbrellas and are 1-1/2 inches across. The evening primrose also has medicinal purposes. The oil received from the plant is used to help with many medical problems. The oil has helped with: premenstrual syndrome, benign breast disease, cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and some skin conditions.
Larkspur is a winter annual native to southern Europe that has adapted well all over the country. Larkspurs are distinguishable by the backward projecting spur formed by the upper petal of the flower. They can be found in in well drained soils out in the sun. Tightly compact blossoms area arranged on spikes in shades of white, pink, and deep blue.
The ponderosa pine also known as the western yellow pine, can be identified by its asymmetrically shaped bark plates, and its needles are 5-10 inches long and come in bundles of three. These trees are mostly found on the west rim of the canyon and can be seen in the Kolob Canyons also.
Cottonwood trees are found throughout Zion Canyon providing shade for hikers, picnickers and mountain bikers. In the late spring, the trees release its seeds in a cotton-like substance that floats through the air and covers the ground making it look as if it snowed.
Zion National Park has become increasingly popular with visitors, both local and international. Most arrive by car, RV, or tour bus. The park is being overwhelmed. Traffic congestion, lack of parking places, air and noise pollution, and damage to natural resources are frustrating problems the park was experiencing.
Visitation to the park is 2.5 million people a year and increasing. Solving these problems is crucial to protecting the park and providing a quality experience. To reduce traffic and to improve the park experience, a new bus transportation system began operation on May 26, 2000. It will run during the busy season, March through October, and peak periods. One loop will include eight stops in Zion Canyon, and a second will include six stops in the town of Springdale. Parking will be available throughout Springdale and inside the south park entrance. It will be possible to leave your vehicle in town and ride the shuttle to the new Zion Canyon Visitor Center or park right at the visitor center. There, exhibits and audio visual presentations will help you plan your visit.
The visitor center will be the start of the Zion Canyon loop into the park. Shuttles will depart each location often throughout the day. You may get on and off the shuttle as many times as you wish. Riding the shuttle on both loops is free. The cost of the shuttle system is included in the park entrance fee. All visitors, except those staying at Zion Lodge, will use the buses to access Zion Canyon. You will still have the option of biking or hiking along the canyon’s scenic drive. The Pa’rus Trail connects Zion Canyon to the new visitor center and both campgrounds. The east side of the park will remain accessible by private vehicle.
Schedule: Shuttles will operate beginning at 6:30 a.m. every 30 minutes, increasing to every 15 minutes and then, during the busy part of the day, every 6 to 8 minutes. Toward evening, the shuttles will scale back to 15 minutes, then to 30 minutes. The last shuttle will leave the visitor center at 9:30 p.m. This schedule is subject to change. A complete round trip will take a minimum of 90 minutes. Please no eating, drinking, smoking or pets allowed on the bus.
For a day-trip on the shuttle, you should take:
- Walking shoes
- Sunscreen / hat / sunglasses
- Camera /binoculars
- Dress for the weather!
The Geology of Zion National Park is amazing. Many visitors traveling through the park wonder how such massive stone structures came to be. The answer dates back 250 million years ago when volcanoes were erupting and spewing ash all over. Dinosaurs left tracks in the ash leaving behind fossils which are still around today.
The sandstone which makes up most of the rock in Zion National Park was formed by the compacting of sand about 150 million years ago. This occurred when cementing properties of compounds such as calcium carbonate compacted the sand which covered the huge desert of the west. Dunes were at that timed formed into the present day Navajo Sandstone.
Zion National ParkThe next stage of creation occurred starting close to 4 million years ago when streams running of the Colorado Plateau caused the Virgin River to flood. As the river flowed through the current Zions, it eroded the rock away taking boulders, sand, and pebbles with it. Over time it formed, or rather carved the canyon we see today.
Interestingly enough, Zion National Park is actually very young from a geological standpoint. This is because Zion didn’t develop its current characteristics until just the past few million years. As Zion keeps changing, as it does every year, some day far in the future it will become nothing but a flat plain.
Zion National Park has many trails which range from an easy 10-minute walk to strenuous multiple day backpacking trips. The best time to hike while you are in Zions is in the early morning and late afternoon because of the intense heat during the summer. Hiking during the middle of the day is recommended during the colder months. Free backcountry permits are required to camp on a hiking trip. These permits are issued at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center as well as the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center.
The Narrows is one of the favorite hikes at Zions, and probably the best known and most popular hike in the park. The Narrows, which requires at least one full day of hiking is a strenuous hike which requires you to walk, or rather wade, much of the time through the Virgin River. It is 16 miles in length and may be closed at times because of the threat of flash floods.
Zion Canyon Trails
- Weeping Rock – Beginning at the Weeping Rock parking lot, this easy trail is 1/2 mile long and will take around 1/2 hour to complete.
- Canyon Overlook – Beginning at the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway just east of the long tunnel, this easy trail is 1 mile long and will take around 1 hour to complete.
- Emerald Pools – Beginning at the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive opposite Zion Lodge, this easy to moderately strenuous trail is 1.2 miles long and will take around 1 hour to complete.
- Riverside Walk – Beginning at the Temple of Sinawava, this easy trail is 2 miles long and will take around 1.5 hours to complete.
- Watchman – Beginning at the service road east of Watchman Campground, this moderately strenuous trail is 2 miles long and will take around 2 hours to complete.
- Hidden Canyon – Beginning at the Weeping Rock Parking Lot, this moderately strenuous trail is 2 miles long and will take around 3 hours to complete.
- Angels Landing – Beginning at the Grotto Picnic Area, this strenuous trail is 5 miles long and will take around 4 hours to complete.
- Taylor Creek – Beginning 2 miles from the Kolob Visitor Center, this moderately strenuous hike is 5.4 miles long and will take around 4 hours to complete.
- Kolob Arch – Beginning at Lee Pass on the Kolob Canyons Road, this strenuous trail is 14.4 miles long and will take around 9 hours to complete.
Extended Backcountry Trails
- Easy Rim – Beginning at the Weeping Rock Parking Lot, this strenuous trail is 11.6 miles long and will take around 7 hours to complete.
- West Rim – Beginning at the Grotto Picnic Area, this strenuous trail is 14 miles long and will take around 12 hours to complete.
Canyoneering. Permits are required for all through hikes of the Narrows and its tributaries, the Left Fork of North Creek (the Subway), Kolob Creek, and all canyons requiring the use of aid. The Subway is limited to 50 people per day. Other hiking permits are available at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center beginning at 8:00 a.m. up to one calendar month prior to the date of the hike. Cost is $5.00 per person for Subway and Narrows. There is no fee for other canyons. The maximum group size is 12, including all leaders.
Climbing. Climbing on Zion’s sandstone requires appropriate hardware and techniques. Information on climbing is available at visitor centers. Climbing and rappelling is prohibited on the cliffs above Middle and Lower Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock. Some routes may be closed to climbing when Peregrine Falcons are nesting. A permit is required for overnight climbs. There is no fee for overnight climbs. Visit the Backcountry Permit Desk for additional climbing routes and information.
Utah’s oldest and most visited national park, Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah. Most of the park’s 147,000 acres are located within Washington County; however, the extreme eastern section of the park is in Kane County, while the park’s northern tip extends into Iron County. Zion Canyon is located on the southern part of the Markagunt Plateau. It is cut by tributaries of the Virgin River which have left eroded canyon walls and monoliths that are beautiful and overpowering.
Zion Canyon presents a diverse collection of nature’s wonders that include such features as the towering and magnificent 2,200-foot Great White Throne, the park’s most famous landmark; the Court of the Patriarchs; the Sentinel; the Watchman; Checkerboard Mesa; Kolob Arch, at 310 feet the world’s largest known natural span; and the Narrows of the Virgin River, where a person can walk upstream to places so narrow that both sides of the canyon walls can almost be touched with one’s outstretched hands.
One early visitor to Zion Canyon, Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, an artist who had been with John Wesley Powell on his second trip down the Grand Canyon in 1872, spent part of the summer of 1903 painting in Zion Canyon. The paintings were exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and an article about Zion Canyon, “A New Valley of Wonders,” was published by Dellenbaugh in the January 1904 issue of Scribner’s Magazine. In the article, Dellenbaugh described his first view of the Great Temple, which stands at the entrance to Zion Canyon: “One hardly knows just how to think of it. Never before has such a naked mountain of rock entered our minds. Without a shred of disguise it transcendent form rises pre-eminent. There is almost nothing to compare to it. Niagara has the beauty of energy; the Grand Canyon of immensity; the Yellowstone of singularity; the Yosemite of altitude; the ocean of power; this Great Temple of eternity.”
Zion Canyon was occupied by the Anasazi people from about 1,500 to 800 year ago. Their abandoned cliff houses, rock art, and chipping sites are scattered throughout the park. The Paiute Indians occupied the canyon when Nephi Johnson arrived in 1858. The first Mormon occupant of Zion Canyon was Isaac Behunin, who built a one-room log cabin at a site near the location of Zions Lodge. Behunin named his new home Zion Canyon. He was soon joined by a few other settlers who established farms along the narrow valley floor. Later, in 1900, David Flanigan began to build a system of cable works which would provide the means to lower virgin timber to the valley floor from the high mountain forests nearly two thousand feet above the canyon.
In 1872 John Wesley Powell surveyed the area and recorded the canyon’s Indian name, Mukuntuweap. It was under this name that the canyon was designated a national monument on 31 July 1909 by a proclamation signed by President William Howard Taft. In 1918 it was renamed Zion National Monument; a year later, 1919, it became a national park. The first automobile road was constructed into the canyon in 1917 and the first lodge was built in 1925. The original lodge was destroyed by fire in 1966 and a new building was constructed that year. During the winter of 1989-90 the exterior of the lodge was restored to its historic architectural look.
The park’s most impressive construction project, the 1.1-mile-long tunnel cut through solid sandstone, was begun in 1927 and completed in 1930 at a cost of $2,000,000. At that time many of the hiking trails within the park were undertaken, including the famous “Walter’s Wiggles” section of the trail to Angels Landing, completed in 1926. Other trails and improvements in the park were undertaken by Civilian Conservation Corps crews during the 1930s. In 1937 the Kolob Canyon region was designated as a national monument, and it was incorporated into Zion National park in 1956.
Zion Canyon is especially popular with hikers and drivers, who follow the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to its terminus at the Temple of Sinawava and the Gateway to the Narrows, and then return to take the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, with its tunnel, to the top of the canyon. The park has two visitor centers, one at the entrance to Kolob Canyon and the main visitor center at the south entrance to the park.
The beauty of Zion Canyon has gained worldwide recognition, with over three million visitors coming to the park in 1993. However, because of the severe and growing automobile congestion inside the park, the National Park Service recently announced plans to limit private vehicles in Zion Canyon by providing a public transportation system that would restrict private vehicles to areas outside the park.
Visitation. Highest in the summer and lightest during the winter months.
Location. Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The area to the south of Zion is known as Utah’s Dixie. The area found on the north and east of Zion is known as Color Country.
Zion National Park
Springdale, UT 84767
435-772-3256 This line offers 24-hour recorded information
• South Entrance: East on Route 9 off I-15 north or south
• East Entrance: west on Route 9 off east Hwy 89
• Kolob Canyon Entrance: Exit 40 off I-15 (does not access the rest of the park)
Entrance Fees. Entrance to the park is $25 per vehicle, $10 per pedestrian or cyclist (not to exceed $20 per family). The fee for commercial vehicles is based on capacity and ranges from $35-$190. Please contact the park at (435)772-3256 for more information and rates. Entrance fees are waived with a Zion National Park Pass ($40 annually), annual Golden Eagle Passport, Golden Age Passport or Golden Access Passport. You can obtain these passes at any national park, monument or recreation area, including any Sequoia or Kings Canyon Park entrance.
Reservations and Permits. Campgrounds are both first-come, first-served and by reservations if you have any questions just call the reservation phone or talk to a ranger at a visitor center. Reservations can be made by calling: 1-800-365-CAMP(2267).
Backcountry Camping – Permits are required in Zion for all camping outside designated campgrounds. The cost is $5.00 per person and parties are limited to 12 persons including leaders. Permits and more information is available at both visitor centers.
Operating Hours. Visitors centers are open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the spring, fall, and winter, with extended hours in the summer. Some visitor centers are closed on some federal holidays.
For current updates call the 24 hour number at (435) 772-3256
To Park: Commercial airlines fly into Cedar City, St. George, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas, NV. Greyhound /Trailways serves St. George and Cedar City and you can either rent a car or take a taxi from either city. Amtrak serves Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
In Park: Rental cars are available at the airports and other locations in Cedar City, St. George, Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. A free shuttle is available in the Giant Forest during the summer months. Zion Lodge provides tram tours of upper Zion Canyon. A hiker shuttle is also available for transportation to backcountry trailheads. Call (435) 772-3213 for prices and details.
Weather. The climate in Zion is quite mild and very pleasurable. In the summer temperatures range from the 60′ into the 90’s. During the winter, temperatures range from the 20’s into the 50’s. The spring can bring storms without warning and the possibilities are common in the summer also. The winter can bring rain to the valleys and snow to the higher elevations. Be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. Temperatures vary with changes in elevation and seasons. Day/night temperatures may differ by over 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lock valuables in your car out of sight.
- Let someone know of your itinerary when hiking in the backcountry.
- Prevent blisters by wearing comfortable boots or shoes which fit the terrain.
- Be prepared for any weather condition. During the summer temperatures can reach or exceed 100ºF. Wear sunscreen and a hat. Carry plenty of water. Hike in the earlier hours of the morning or later in the afternoon. Bring the proper equipment in the winter.
- Prevent hypothermia by wearing layers. If you find yourself shivering and feel disoriented, seek shelter and drink warm liquids. Hypothermia can develop and is a serious condition requiring medical attention.
- Watch for mountain lions(also known as panthers, cougars, or pumas.) If you encounter one, back away slowly; if attacked, wave, shout, and throw rocks. DO NOT RUN. Watch children closely.
- Watch where you are stepping and reaching because you may encounter a poisonous western rattlesnake, which is commonly found below 7000-foot elevations and occasionally up to 11,000-foot elevations. Even though snake bites are rarely fatal, they do require a doctor’s attention. If you are bitten, avoid moving, which spreads the venom, and send for help immediately. Snakes are a native species to the park and should not be disturbed.
- Do not feed or touch ground squirrels or other rodents. They can carry disease.
- Giardiasis, an intestinal disorder, can result from drinking water from the streams or lakes in the mountains. Carry sufficient water. Purify water taken from the lakes and streams using a Giardia-rated water filter, or by boiling it for three to five minutes.
- Zion is very prone to flash floods. Check with the nearest visitor center before entering any of the canyons.
Visitor Centers and Exhibits. When you arrive in the park, stop at a visitors center for an overview of the park by watching a slide presentation and viewing the exhibits. Park rangers can be found on hand to answer questions. Backcountry permits, ranger-guided walks, maps, books, and other park literature is also available. You will also find rest rooms and water fountains.
- Zion Canyon Visitor Center, South Entrance – open year round
- Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, Kolob Canyon Entrance – open year round
Exhibits can be seen at both the centers. Zion Canyon Visitor Center is the only center open during the winter.
- Zion Canyon Visitor Center, South Entrance
Exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the area.
- Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, Kolob Canyon Entrance
Exhibits explain the geology of Zion National Park.
Lodging and Camping Facilities. Lodging in Zion National Park is operated by Amfac Parks & Resorts. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially during summer and holidays.
- Zion Lodge – open year round
- Other lodging can be found in the surrounding communities
Campgrounds in Zion. Zion has three campgrounds. Two are on a first-come, first-served basis. To make reservations or for more information, call 1-800-365-2267.
- South Campground – Open April through October. First come first serve, no hookups, no showers. – $14.00 or $7.00 with a Golden Age/Access card.
- Watchman Campground -Open year-round – Tent: $14.00 or $7.00 with a Golden Age/Access card, Elec.: $16.00 night ($8.00 w/G. Age – Access) Group: $3.00 per/person, per/night, no showers.
- Lava Point – open June-October – No Fee, first-come, first-served, primitive campground with only 6 sites and no water. Lava Point is about 1 hour from main canyon of park.
Food and Supplies. Food service and groceries available in the park at Zion Lodge and in surrounding communities.
Recommended Activities. Drive through Zion Canyon and take advantage of all the short trails and overlooks. Stop at the visitor centers to learn more about the park. Enjoy the view of the canyon and from the canyon overlook shortly after the tunnel on Route 9. Take a little extra time and hop over to Kolob Canyons. Learn about the geology of the park at the visitor center and follow the road into the canyons where you will find the trail to on of the world’s longest arches, Kolob Arch.