Looking for a Zion National Park for Beginners First time Guide? Zion National Park is one of the Crown Jewels of southern Utah being a part of the well- known and highly regarded mighty 5 National Parks in Utah.
Zion is the fourth most visited national park in the United States and its known for its striking views, wide variety of trails from beginner to thrill seeking and makes for the perfect National Park vacation for groups, couples and families alike.
In this guide to your first time to Zion National Park with kids … or without, I’ll be sharing key information that you should know when planning your national park adventure.
Where is Zion National Park located?
Zion National Park is located in southern Utah. It is an easy 2- hour drive from the Las Vegas metropolitan area making it one of the best weekend getaways from Las Vegas for Las Vegas locals or travelers who want to split their American west vacation between city life and exploring the famous national parks of the west.
In fact, because Zion is situated in southern Utah near the Arizona boarder; Las Vegas McCarran International Airport is the closest large airport and hub near Zion National Park.
The next closest international airport would be Salt Lake City. However, that airport is approximately 4 1/2 hours away. From Las Vegas, you will drive 1-15 North bound to Zion national park crossing the Arizona state line briefly and Entering Utah passing through St. George.
The city that Zion National Park is a part of is called Springdale, Utah or Greater Zion. In the area, you’ll find a wide variety of lodging, dining and activity options to complete your trip beyond your time at the National Park.
Is Zion National Park Open?
Yes! The great thing about choosing to visit a National Park for your vacation is that National Parks are open 365 Days/ 7 Days a week. You can visit a National Park during a holiday such as Christmas Day or New Years’ Day with no issue.
We chose to celebrate Halloween Day at the Park and it was a much less crowded experience.
Zion National Park Tips
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
Zion National Park and the Greater Zion area offers a large variety of lodging options from hotels and resorts to more unique accommodations. In the past few years, tiny houses near Zion National Park has risen to popularity and make for a unique experience during your time visiting the area.
We had the pleasure of staying at the dwellings co tiny house village just 20 miles away from the park in La Verkin, Utah. The Dwellings co. are tiny and small houses ranging from 300 to 800 Sqft with stunning views of the Virgin River and Pine Valley Mountain area.
The property is perfect for solo, couples and families looking to book modern style vacation rentals near Zion National Park with a small footprint and all the amenities and more of home.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Zion National Park
Though open year- round, the best time to visit Zion National Park is the Fall. Fall Foliage in Zion National Park is stunning with a wide variety of fall colors from orange to yellow.
Peak season for seeing fall foliage is typically late October to Early November. There is a two- week window where colors are at their brightest.
In addition, the weather is great for hiking. Be sure to dress in layers for cool mornings and warmer afternoons during this time of the year.
Zion National Park Cost
Visiting National Parks are an inexpensive way to travel. The cost to enter the National park is $35 per car.
However, Active Duty Military families are able to travel within both National and State parks for absolutely FREE with the “America the Beautiful” card. To get your card, simply ask a park ranger upon arrival and provide proof of Military service with a valid Military ID card.
You will be given a card to use that is valid for one year. Just remember to renew every year on the assigned date.
For those who are not Military affiliated, consider purchasing the $80 annual park pass. That pass will give you access to all the National Parks and saves your family money if you decide to combine your Zion National Park trip with any of the other Might 5 National Parks that are close by.
Is There Food Inside Zion National Park?
The short answer is yes! The Zion Lodge on property has restaurants that guests can enjoy for dining. However, if you are visiting within peak season, reservations may be hard to come by.
If you want a dining experience while at Zion National Park, there are plenty of great dining options and experiences beyond the gates within the Springdale area. Remember that the Springdale shuttle is FREE and can serve as excellent transportation to dine or shop while in the area.
Tip: Also remember that your Zion shuttle tickets are timed entry and you cannot reuse your shuttle ticket once you exit the park. For that reason, it is recommended that you eat breakfast either prior to entering the park or on park grounds and either plan to eat lunch on site or pack a lunch for a picnic in one of the designated areas unless you plan for only a half day in the National Park.
Zion National Park Trails Easy to Advance
Best Kid Friendly and Easy Trails for Beginners in Zion National Park
- Lower Emerald Pools
- Pa’rus Trail
- Canyon Lookout
- Riverside Rock
- Timber Creek Overlook
- The Watchman Trail
- Weeping Rock Trail
- Canyon Overlook Rim
- Zion Grotto Trail
- The Riverwalk Trail
Moderate Trails for Hiking in Zion National Park
- The Watchman Trail
- Observation Point
- Northgate Peaks
- Canyon Overlook
- Taylor Creek
- Cable Mountain
- Sandbench Trail
- Middle Emerald Pools
- Kayenta Trail
Advanced Trails for Hiking in Zion National Park
- Angels Landing
- Hidden Canyon Trail
- Observation Point
- The Narrows
Zion National Park Covid-19 Travel Restrictions
Visiting Zion National Park during Covid-19
Zion national park as well as other parks in the national park system are currently asking that guest use recreation.gov to secure timed entry slots.
For Zion National Park, the timed entry was for the shuttle service that takes you from downtown Springdale area into the park. Guests are not allowed to drive personal vehicles through the park from march through November.
Although the ticket itself for the shuttle is free, there is a small nominal fee of approximately $1 per ticket for processing. For best availability, be sure to secure your tickets 2 weeks in advance on the recreation.gov website.
The time slot that you select is good for one hour. For example, the time slot that we chose started at 11am. Which meant that we would have until noon to enter the park on our shuttle.
The ticket is also good until park closing which will allow you to hop on and off the shuttle to be transported from trail to trail. Keep in mind that the Springdale downtown shuttles (although they deliver you to the entrance of the national park) are not the shuttles that will be used within the park.
They are also free and are meant to transport guest around the city of Springdale for shopping, dining and hotel/ resort experiences.
Our trip to Zion National Park was in October of 2020 and we were very pleased with the protocols put into place for health and safety during covid-19. In-park shuttles accepted only a limited number of people per bus and aided in air ventilation by opening all windows and skylights.
We also found it easy to explore trails while keeping our distance from others. The park closed all trails that were narrow and did not allow social distancing so that each guest could space out on trails 6 feet apart.
Although masks were not mandatory on trails (they were in common areas, on shuttles or indoor spaces) we did carry our masks with us in an easily accessible place in case we came to a part of the trail where it was difficult to distance. Most everyone was also respectful and used the same precautions.
Bathrooms had soap as expected and hand sanitizing stations were also available in some areas of the park. Overall, Zion National Park did an excellent job handling social distance requirements and we felt safe for the duration of our trip.
Traveling Through Las Vegas to Get to Zion National Park? Check out these resources!
Heading on an American West Road Trip? Consider These Articles when planning!
Weekend in Tempe/ Phoenix, Arizona
Tiny House Vacation Rentals Near Zion National Park