At Zion National Park, you can follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
My name is Rob Decker and I’m a photographer and graphic artist with a single great passion for America’s National Parks! I’ve been to 47 of our 61 National Parks — and Zion is an amazing place and well worth the visit. I have explored almost every area of the park — so I’m ready to help! So if this is your first time to the park, or your returning after many years, here are some of the best things to do in Zion National Park!
The Zion Wilderness is a world-renowned destination that offers opportunities for solitude and adventure. With over 90 miles of trails, dozens of designated backpacking sites, multiple at-large camping areas, and 124,406 acres of designated wilderness, Zion National Park offers a variety of unique backpacking opportunities.
Bicycling is permitted on all park roadways and on the Pa’rus Trail. All other park trails, off-trail routes, and the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel are closed to bikes. The Pa’rus Trail and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive are accessible to bicycles. The park shuttles also have bike racks.
Zion is home to 291 species of birds. What is great about visiting Zion National Park is that the park has always been an important part of this vital recovery effort. The peregrine falcon, the California condor, the Mexican spotted owl, and the bald eagle are all found here. This place of protection and sanctuary harbored these birds with a safe haven where their needs for food, nesting, and habitat never changed. Bird checklists are available at the visitor centers.
Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. The Lava Point Campground is about a 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road. There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Camping is permitted in designated campsites, but not in pullouts or parking lots. Camping is popular; all campgrounds are often full by mid-morning. From mid-March through late November the campgrounds are full almost every night. Reservations at South Campgroundand Watchman Campground (Call 877-444-6777 or visit www.recreation.gov) are recommended if you would like to guarantee a camping spot.
Canyoneering is an outdoor activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking. Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity. With dozens of different canyons to explore, some barely wide enough for a human to squeeze through, the park offers opportunities that range from trips for beginners to experiences requiring advanced technical skills.
Climbing & Bouldering
Zion National Park’s 2,000-foot sandstone cliffs are world renowned for their big wall climbs. Due to their difficulty, most routes in the park are not recommended for inexperienced climbers. There are few top roping and sport climbing areas.
There are two accessible bouldering areas in the main canyon. One is 40 yards west of the south entrance. This is a house sized boulder that poses a variety of options and problems. The other site is .5 mile north of the south entrance. Drilled Pocket Boulder is located on the west side of the road and is a slab with an obvious south facing crack.
Zion offers many trails ranging from short walks to strenuous adventures. Hiking in Zion, even short hikes, requires advance planning. The group size limit for all wilderness trails, including The Narrows beyond Orderville Canyon, is 12 people.
Zion Canyon: Some of the most popular trails in the national park are located in Zion Canyon.
Kolob Canyons: Several hiking options are located at Kolob Canyons, the northwest corner of Zion National Park.
Wilderness: Much longer hikes are located in the Zion Wilderness. Overnight trips require a wilderness permit.
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park. You can see The Narrows by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking in the Virgin River. This can involve wading upstream for just a few minutes or it can be an all day hike.
Enhance your understanding and enjoyment of Zion National Park by taking part in a ranger program. Limited programming may be offered throughout the year, but the full program schedule in Zion Canyon is from mid-April to mid-October. Topics include geology, plants, animals, human history, and more. All ranger-led programs are free and for all ages. Ranger led programs are required to earn a Junior Ranger Badge.
Sunset and Stargazing
Stay for sunset and epic views of Zion’s cliffs glowing vivid neon orange in the late day sun. Stay later, or spend the night in one of Zion’s campgrounds for an entirely different and memorable Zion experience: the dark night sky, filled with thousands of stars, above the jagged silhouette of cliffs. Zion is a great place to reconnect with the night sky, or maybe even get your first view of the Milky Way. Zion protects this dark sky resource for future generations by not lighting up the night. But this means that after sunset, the park is dark! Be prepared!
No matter what you decide to do, you can’t go wrong in Zion National Park. With it’s awe-inspiring views, water and wilderness, Zion has something for everyone!
I’ve created a poster for Zion National Park — one that features a view of the Watchman from the shores of the Virgin River.
Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all 61 of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!