In 2019, Zion National Park once again held its spot as the fourth most-visited national park in the country.
But while it may be a popular destination for international and domestic tourists alike, if you want to enjoy a safe, fun visit to the park, you’re going to want to do a bit of pre-planning. Keep reading to learn 7 tips to help you master your first visit to the park.
1. Plan Ahead
Southern Utah offers plenty of destinations that are perfect for a last-minute weekend getaway. But for your first visit to Zion National Park, you’re going to want to plan ahead a bit more than that.
There are plenty of reasons to plan far ahead for your first visit. To start, like most national parks, Zion is packed with hiking trails, overlooks, and other activities to enjoy. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore your options and choose the right trails for your group.
Zion National Park is unique from many parks in the way that visitors get around. For most of the year, you’ll need to hop on the shuttle in order to ride along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Because most of the park’s most popular overlooks and trailheads are located along the Scenic Drive, you’re going to want to know the in’s and out’s of using the shuttle system prior to your visit.
It’s also a good idea to research the right time for your visit before you head to the park. For instance, holiday weekends like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day are guaranteed to be busy. If you don’t want to deal with long lines and heavy crowds on your first visit, it’s best to avoid these times. Visiting during the off-season or through the week is great for sharing the trails with fewer people.
2. Be Patient
Even on a chilly winter day, Zion’s lower canyon, popular trails, and most iconic overlooks are going to draw a crowd.
While standing in line for the shuttle or waiting your turn to start a trail may be a different experience from what you’ve had in other national parks, Zion is well worth the wait. There’s a very good reason for the number of guests that make their way through the park each year; it’s truly breathtaking.
Don’t let crowds, slow traffic, or lines ruin your visit. Instead, be patient, friendly, and courteous of others. After all, everyone is there for the same reason. Remember that staff and park rangers are doing their best to keep everyone safe, and be respectful of any and all rules or closures that are put in place to manage crowds.
3. Don’t Just Head to the Landmarks
While you should certainly take a ride on the Zion Canyon Shuttle, snap a few souvenir photos of Angels Landing and the Watchmen, and stroll along the Virgin River, there’s more to see in Zion than just it’s most iconic landmarks.
If your first visit allows enough time, plan to visit some of the park’s lesser-known hiking trails and scenic areas.
One must-see is Kolob Canyons. Because you can’t reach this section of the park without driving out of Zion, many visitors never even realized that they’ve missed it. Equally as stunning as the lower canyon, Kolob Canyons features sandstone arches, red rock cliffs, and plenty of scenic hiking trails that rarely see a crowd.
4. Ask a Ranger
Planning to hike certain trails or enjoy activities like biking ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you’re prepared. Unfortunately, flash floods, rain, ice, and other weather can sometimes derail those plans at the last minute.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll be left scrambling. Instead, simply head to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and chat with a ranger. They’ll be able to help you change your plans, can recommend new trails, or offer advice for staying safe in the park.
If you’re thinking about hiking to Angels Landing or the Narrows during your visit, it’s a good idea to stop and talk to rangers first. They can let you know whether conditions in the park are safe that day and offer advice for your first trip.
5. Be Prepared
Zion National Park is a popular destination for families young and old. But like all national parks, it’s important to remember that this isn’t an amusement park. Even on shorter trails or at overlooks, you’re exploring the great outdoors. There is wildlife in the park. During the summer months, the temperatures in the canyon can soar to triple digits. Many trails, including Angels Landing, in particular, feature narrow hikes with steep drop-offs. Losing your footing could be deadly.
These tips aren’t meant to scare you out of a visit; instead, they’re to remind you to be prepared. Pack more water than you expect to use, especially if you’ll be taking on a lengthy hike. Wear appropriate clothing, including a pair of sturdy hiking boots with good tread. If you do have your heart set on hiking to Angels Landing or the length of the Narrows, make sure that you’re ready, physically. You might also want to consider some practice hikes in the weeks and months leading up to your trip.
6. Carry a Map
This goes along with being prepared for your visit. Even on shorter hikes, you should carry a map of the park. Many of Zion’s trails cross over one another or share trailheads. A map can help you stay on track so that your short one-mile hike doesn’t turn into a day-long trek.
7. Book Your Stay in Advance
Zion is a popular place for a visit, especially during the summer months. While there are plenty of lodging options, if you want to stay somewhere incredible during your trip, like The Dwellings, book your stay as far in advance as possible!
Start Planning Your First Visit to Zion National Park Today
Now that you know a few tips to make planning your first visit to the park a bit easier, it’s time to get to work!
Whether you’re planning an adventure this summer or later in the year, it’s never too early to book your stay. Check out our Dwelling options to choose the perfect one for your visit.
Related to Zion National Park: