Planning an adventure to Zion National Park? Here are the 11 best hikes Zion National Park has to offer, along with information that will help you easily plan your trip to the park!
Zion National Park is truly an awe-inspiring place to visit. Stunning views, incredible adventures, and a plethora of wildlife are a few of the amazing features the park has to offer. It’s no surprise that it is the third most visited National Park in the U.S.
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah. Zion became a National Park in 1919. The park offers sightseeing, hiking, camping, backpacking, climbing, and more. Zion NP provides so much diversity and beauty. There is truly something for everyone to love.
Quick List: Best Zion National Park Hikes
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Riverside Walk
- Lower Pine Creek Falls
- Angels Landing
- Lower Emerald Pools Trail
- Taylor Creek Trail
- Pa’rus Trail
- Watchman Trail
- Observation Point via East Mesa Trailhead
- The Narrows
- Timber Creek Overlook Trail
- The Subway
If you plan to visit multiple parks, it is worth getting an American the Beautiful Pass ($80/year)
Sections of the Park – Zion Canyon & Kolob Canyon
Zion Canyon – This is the part of the park most people visit and are familiar with. The south entrance station is accessed from the town of Springdale and is the main entrance that most people enter through. The visitor center is very close to this entrance.
The east entrance is the other entrance station in the Zion Canyon area of the park. This entrance brings you into the upper part of Zion Canyon.
Kolob Canyon – This section of the park is MUCH less visited and less well-known. It is very beautiful, less crowded, and has its own visitor center. Kolob Canyon is north of the main Zion Canyon and is accessed via the Kolob Canyon entrance. Kolob Canyon Road often closes in the winter as it is at a higher elevation and gets more snow and ice.
Many of the hikes on this list are located along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. When the shuttles are running (which is most of the year), the Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles. So you must either take the shuttle or bike/walk to access the hikes and sights along the Scenic Drive.
The shuttle is boarded at the Visitor Center and stops at 9 different stops along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
The wait for the shuttle can be hours long during peak season. I highly recommend getting to the park right when the shuttles begin to run to avoid massive crowds and long lines.
The shuttles typically run weekends only in February, daily in March-November, and daily during the last week of December.
There is also a separate shuttle that leaves from the town of Springdale and takes visitors into the park. This shuttle can be helpful during crowded times of the year when parking is difficult to find.
When To Visit
Zion National Park is open year-round. There are pros and cons to visiting during each season. Spring and fall are mild during the day and colder at night. Summer days can reach 100 degrees, and snow and frigid temperatures are common (especially at higher elevations) in the winter.
Spring: Early spring may have fewer crowds. Spring typically has mild weather. You may be able to see wildflowers. One downside to visiting in the spring is that winter snowmelt can cause water levels to be high/too strong, causing some of the popular trails to be closed.
Summer: Crowded and can be very hot. The water hikes in the park would likely be more enjoyable/comfortable in the summer. The summer monsoon season is July-September and brings the potential for dangerous flash flooding.
Fall: Ideal temperatures, less crowded, more likelihood of all trails being open. Fall is overall the best time of year to visit in my opinion.
Winter: If you don’t mind dealing with colder temperatures, winter can be a wonderful time to visit the park because it will be far less crowded. The shuttle system does not run during the winter, meaning the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is open to private vehicles. One downside is the potential for some trails and roads to be closed due to icy conditions.
How to Get There
You can either road trip to the park or rent a car if you fly to one of the nearby airports.
Closest International Airports:
- Las Vegas, Nevada Airport (LAS) – 170 miles
- Salt Lake City, Utah Airport (SLC) – 300 miles
Closest Regional Airports:
- St. George, Utah Airport (SGU) – 49 miles
- Cedar City, Utah Airport (CDC) – 60 miles
*Important Note: There is a large tunnel (Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel) on the east side of the park. According to the National Park website, vehicles 11’4″ or taller in height and 7’10” or wider in width will need to have an escort through the tunnel.
Where to Stay
Lodging: Zion Lodge is the only lodging within the park. It fills up quickly during the peak season (March-November), so try to book as far in advance as possible if you plan to visit then.
There are many other hotel and vacation rental options around the park. Springdale is the town right outside the park. It is an extremely beautiful & charming town but can be very crowded and expensive during peak season.
- La Verkin & Hurricane – these two towns are very close together and depending on where you stay within the towns, you will be about 20-25 miles from both Zion Canyon south entrance and the much less visited Kolob Canyons section of the park. These towns are a good option if you want to save a little money and be close to both sections of the park.
- St. George – about 41 miles from the Zion Canyon south entrance, St. George is more of a drive, but it is a MUCH bigger city with many more options for shopping, dining, lodging, etc.
- Kanab – Kanab’s motto is “The Greatest Earth on Show”. We LOVE this beautiful and charming town so much that we built an Airbnb here! This town has so much to offer, and it is truly an adventure hub. Kanab is a perfect place to stay if you want to visit other National Parks and attractions in the area. The town of Kanab is 30 miles from the Zion Canyon east entrance.
Camping: Zion National Park has 3 campgrounds – Watchman Campground (open year-round), South Campground (closed in the winter), and Lava Point Campground (1 hour from the main section of the park, closed in the winter).
The campgrounds are full almost every night during peak season (mid-March-late November), so reservations could be helpful.
Looking for a unique stay near Zion?
11 Best Hikes in Zion National Park
1. Canyon Overlook Trail
Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
Location: East of the main Zion Canyon on the east side of the Mt. Caramel Tunnel (not on the shuttle road)
Kid-Friendly: Yes, but be aware of drop-offs – keep kids very close
Our Rating: 10/10
This hike is not on the shuttle road, so you can drive to it, but there are only two very small parking lots. You may have to drive back and forth waiting for parking if you go during peak times.
This hike is really fun! There are many neat features, and the view at the end is stunning.
If you are short on time and can only do one hike, Canyon Overlook is your best option of all of the Zion hikes, in my opinion!
2. Riverside Walk
Distance: 2.2 miles
Location: Zion Canyon – Shuttle Stop #9
Our Rating: 8.5/10
This is a wonderful trail for families. Calming and beautiful, this paved trail runs along the Virgin River and leads to the entrance of the famous “Narrows”. This trail is very busy during peak season. We happened to go at a time when the shuttle road was open to vehicles and we had it almost completely to ourselves, which was incredible.
3. Lower Pine Creek Falls
Distance: 0.7 miles roundtrip
Location: Zion Canyon (not on the shuttle road)
Kid-Friendly: Yes at the beginning – possibly for older kids depending on the water level as you get closer to the falls
Our Rating: 10/10
This is a hidden gem hike that many people do not know about and therefore it is significantly less crowded than other hikes in the park! The hike is unmarked and not advertised by the National Park.
There is a pull-off for this hike just before the big curves heading up toward the Zion Mt. Caramel Tunnel if you are heading east, and just after the big curves if you are heading west. Here are the coordinates for the parking at the trailhead: 37°12’59.9″N 112°57’56.0″W
We have done this hike 3 times, and the difficulty was different each time because of varying water levels. The second time we tried it we could not get to the waterfall because of high, dangerous water levels. DO NOT attempt to do this hike if there is rain in the forecast or water levels are high. Flash flooding can be deadly at Zion NP.
There is a lot of climbing required if you don’t want to get wet even when water levels are fairly low. I feel like Spiderman when I do this hike, and that is part of the reason we love it so much. It is an absolute blast!
Small children probably cannot make it to the waterfall unless the water levels are low, but even doing part of this hike is worth it as it has so much to offer! We have seen wildlife every time that we hiked this trail.
4. Angels Landing
Distance: 5 miles
Location: Zion Canyon – Shuttle Stop #6
Our Rating: 10/10
Easily the most famous hike in the park, Angel’s Landing is iconic. This hike is very difficult. Even before getting to the notorious “chain section”, this hike is full of switchbacks and climbs in elevation, making it a very good workout.
It is important to make sure you are prepared for this hike. Wear hiking shoes with good traction, and bring plenty of water.
If you don’t want to do the chain section, you can hike to Scout Lookout, which is about a 4-mile round trip hike. Scout Lookout is a viewpoint before the final half-mile chain section of the hike, and it offers incredible views.
I would never attempt the chain section of this hike if it was wet or icy. I thought it was scary even in good conditions. This hike also gets very crowded, which can be very dangerous. Because of this, the National Park Service has implemented a permit system to help manage crowds.
Many kids have completed this hike, but I would personally never bring my children on the chain section of this hike. Older kids could hike to Scout Lookout and turn around there.
This hike was difficult and nerve-wracking, but it was incredibly beautiful and thrilling. It was a truly amazing experience. I would only attempt to do the chain section if you feel confident and comfortable. There is NO shame in turning around at Scout Lookout.
5. Lower Emerald Pools Trail
Distance: 1.2 miles
Location: Zion Canyon – Shuttle Stop #5
Our Rating: 6.5/10
This trail has a slight incline, but it is short and sweet. The falls can vary greatly depending on recent rainfall. The ground around the falls can be slippery, so use caution.
This isn’t our favorite trail in the park, but still a good family option with nice views!
You can continue on to the middle and upper emerald pools if you’re looking for a longer hike that is a bit more strenuous.
6. Taylor Creek Trail
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Location: Kolob Canyon – Taylor Creek Trailhead on Kolob Canyons Road
Kid-Friendly: Yes, if they can handle the distance
Our Rating: 8.5/10
We did this hike in mid-March, and it was snowing the whole time we were hiking. This created some very mystic and beautiful views!
There are 2 historic homestead cabins along the trail, varying terrain and vegetation, and multiple creek crossings. The hike ends in a sunning double arch alcove.
We want to go back to the Kolob Canyon section of the park when the visibility is better.
7. Pa’Rus Trail
Distance: 3.5 miles roundtrip
Location: Zion Canyon – near Visitor Center, adjacent to the South Campground (not on the shuttle road)
Kid-Friendly: Yes – stroller accessible
Our Rating: 8/10
The Pa’rus trail is paved and mostly flat making it wheelchair and stroller accessible. This easy hike follows the Virgin River and offers beautiful views.
This is the only trail in the park that allows pets and bicycles.
We did this hike with our 1-year-old. It is super flat, scenic, and very family-friendly, and we love that we can use our stroller.
Zion National Park Hikes On Our Bucket List
We had to include these hikes on the list because we are REALLY excited to try them out on our future visits to Zion National Park, and we think you would love them too!
8. Watchman Trail
Distance: 3.3 miles
Location: Zion Canyon near the Visitor Center
We plan to hike this trail when we visit the park this spring with our 1-year-old. This hike is not on the scenic drive, so you don’t have to worry about riding the shuttle.
Watchman Trail has about 500 feet of elevation gain, making it a decent workout, but not too difficult. Reviewers say that it has wonderful views and is great for any age/experience level.
9. Observation Point via East Mesa Trail
Distance: 7 miles
Location: east side of Zion National Park
Kid-Friendly: Yes – if they can handle the distance
Observation Point might offer one of the best views in Zion National Park. It looks down on Angels Landing!
Observation Point was previously also accessed from the Zion Canyon shuttle road via East Rim Trail. However, that route has been closed for over 2 years due to major rockfall and will be closed until further notice.
There is another way to access Observation Point, and it is much less steep and less strenuous. We are going to try this hike with our 1-year-old this spring. We will let you know if we make it all the way!
10. The Narrows via Riverside Walk
Distance: Up to 9.4 miles round trip (you can turn around at any point)
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard depending on water level, flow, & distance hiked
Location: Zion Canyon – Shuttle Stop #9
Kid-Friendly: Possibly for older kids
There are 2 access points to the Narrows. This access point via Riverside Walk is known as “bottom-up” and does not require a permit.
This is an out-and-back hike. You can go as far as you like up to Big Spring (about 4.7 miles in). You must turn back around at this point unless you have a permit.
A majority of the hike requires wading through or even swimming through water. Water levels can be quite deep in some sections depending on the time of year. This hike is slippery and is more difficult when the water is flowing fast.
It can be very helpful to have a walking stick for balance. There are many places around the park where you can rent waterproof shoes, pants, and suits, as well as neoprene socks. If you are attempting to hike the Narrows when the water is cold, neoprene socks and water shoes/suits are essential in my opinion.
The hike closes when conditions are dangerous. Always check for rain in the forecast before attempting this hike. Flash flooding is common in the area and can be deadly.
11. Timber Creek Overlook Trail
Distance: 1-mile roundtrip
Location: Kolob Canyon – end of Kolob Canyons road
Reviewers say this hike is family-friendly and offers spectacular views. You can also see wildflowers if you hike in the spring or early summer months.
Hidden Canyon Trail and Weeping Rock Trail would be on this list as well, but unfortunately, both trails have been closed since 2019 due to major rockfall. Both trails remain closed until further notice.
The Subway is another hike we are very interested in trying, but it has a permit system and is a difficult hike.
BONUS: Explore Off-Trail
One of our absolute favorite things to do at Zion National Park is exploring off-trail along one of the many pull-offs on the east side of the park.
East of the Mt. Caramel Tunnel in the upper part of Zion Canyon, there are dozens of places to pull off the road and park. Pick a few of these pull-offs and just start exploring! Make sure not to go too far and ensure that you will be able to find your way back.
We have found slot canyons, waterfalls, wildlife, and incredible views exploring the areas near these pull-offs. This is a great way to find solitude in this incredibly popular park!
Have you done any of these hikes in Zion National Park?
I hope you are feeling inspired and excited to add some of these hikes to your bucket list!