8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Zion National Park

Zion National Park

If you read last week’s life update, I shared we were planning a trip to Zion National Park. And even though our visit was cut short, we maximized our time there by exploring the Canyon Overlook and the Narrows. I would have loved to stay another day (or two) to explore other areas of the park so here’s to hoping we can go back before the year ends.

Zion National Park is located near Springdale, UT, which is about 4.5 hours away from Salt Lake City, UT and about 2.5 hours away from Las Vegas, NV. The nearest airport is located in St. George, UT, which is about about one hour away from this massive piece of artwork. They say the best time to visit is in the spring, or fall, when it’s not too hot, or too cold.

In 2019, when things were calm and cool, Zion National Park had over 4.49 million visitors. This means, it was the fourth most-visited national park in the U.S. In 2020, when things slowed down, it was number three on the list. Needless to say, it is a popular destination for those who seek adventure. If this sounds like you, I think you’ll appreciate this blog post before planning your visit to this wonderful place.

8 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Zion National Park

  1. There are two shuttle routes for the Zion National Park. One is in town in Springdale, which will take you to the park. It has nine shuttle stops throughout the town and it is FREE. Click here for the map. The other shuttle route is in the park, which requires all passengers to purchase a ticket in advance. More about that below. By the way, each shuttle route has its own operating hours, which you can read more about that here. UPDATE (5/28): Beginning Friday, May 28th, tickets for the shuttle will no longer be needed – hallelujah! But why couldn’t this have happened last weekend? It would have saved me from all the anxiety I had.
  2. You need to purchase shuttle tickets in order to explore certain parts/trails of the park.
    • To visit popular parts of the park like Angel’s Landing, or the Narrows, you must purchase a shuttle ticket. (Well, unless, of course, you prefer to walk because cars are not allowed along the Zion National Park Shuttle System.) To purchase the most sought-after $2 non-refundable ticket, head over to this website for more information.
      • Hot tip: Purchase your shuttle ticket in advance. The sooner you book, the better because there are only two booking windows to obtain shuttle tickets – advance tickets and day before tickets. If you wait to purchase one until the day before, you may not get one at all, which means you won’t have access to popular parts (or hikes) of the park.
  3. If you don’t purchase a shuttle ticket, you may get lucky, and obtain a free shuttle ticket on the day of.
    • Zion National Park offers afternoon walk-up tickets between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The shuttle tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  4. Do not return to the Visitor’s Center until you are done visiting Zion Canyon for the day, unless you have additional tickets for a later shuttle boarding time.
    • If you decide to make your way back to the Visitor’s Center, you must purchase another shuttle ticket. This is one of those trips you must plan accordingly in order to make things happen, ya know?
  5. If you drive to the park, arrive early to find a parking spot.
    • The parking lot at Zion National Park Visitor’s Center was not as small as I originally pictured. We arrived at the park around 6:20 a.m. and there were plenty of parking spots available. However, around 7 a.m., we noticed a lot of cars arriving to the park. Since our shuttle ticket reservation was for 2 p.m., and we couldn’t board as early as we tried to, we left the Visitor’s Center. We ended up driving through the park and explored the Canyon Overlook. Afterwards, when it was closer to our shuttle time, we went back to the Visitor’s Center to find parking again. This time, it took us about 30 minutes to find a spot. #persistence and #patience is everything.
  6. Download (or print) maps of the park in advance.
    • Once you begin to explore Zion National Park, there is a high chance you will lose cell service. Stay prepared by downloading offline maps to your phone or printing maps in advance.
  7. Some trails are currently closed.
    • As of right now, there are at least three trails closed due to large rockfall: Hidden Canyon, Observation Point, and Weeping Rock Trail. Also, there is cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in three parts of the Virgin River within the park: North Fork of the Virgin River, North Creek, and La Verkin Creek.
  8. There is restaurants located inside the park.
    • This tip is for all of my foodies reading this. You can choose up to three restaurants: Zion Canyon Brew Pub, Red Rock Grill, and Castle Dome Café. The closest one to the Visitor’s Center is the Brew Pub and the other two options are located across the Emerald Pools Trailhead.

Final Thoughts:

If you have any questions about the information I shared, please feel free to email me at sonia@mrsprofresh.com. You can also send a DM on Instagram or comment below on this blog post. I would happy to help <3

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