The epic Zion National Park is nestled in Utah’s southwest and should be a fixture on everyone’s USA bucket list. Recognisable by its striking red cliffs, the park boasts incredible views of the Virgin River and surrounding terrain. If you are thinking about a trip to the park, you have come to the right place. This guide will provide you with everything you need to know to have an unforgettable vacation at Zion National Park.
Getting to Zion National Park
Most people travel to Zion National Park by car. The distance from Zion to Las Vegas is 163 miles and the trip can be completed comfortably in under 3 hours if you are keen on a road trip.
The closest airport is Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, although Salt Lake City’s International Airport is also relatively close by at 311 miles away from the park. If you are coming from an overseas destination, it is easy to fly into one of these airports then rent a car for your trip to Zion National Park.
When to visit Zion National Park
Zion National Park is open all year round, but if you are looking for optimum conditions we recommend visiting in the fall. You will get less crowds than during the spring and summer months, and the weather in Springdale, Utah also tends to be cooler during this season which makes it much more comfortable for hiking.
How much time do you need to visit Zion National Park?
The time you allocate for a visit to Zion National Park will depend on your interests. You can absolutely experience its beauty in a day, but if you are an avid hiker, you will probably want to spend a week there in order to make it around a range of trails.
Things international visitors need to know when visiting Zion National Park
Zion National Park exudes natural beauty, making it a popular destination for residents of the USA and international visitors. If you are venturing to the park from further abroad, the trip will be well worth it once you are surrounded by the impressive red cliffs and the stunning scenery the park has to offer.
Unlike national visitors, international guests will need to put a little extra thought into their trip planning. International travel means thinking about customs and border control, so you are completely prepared upon arrival. You do not want to be prevented from entering the country simply because your paperwork has not been completed correctly!
For many travellers, trip preparations will include completing an esta application form. An ESTA is an alternative to a visa that is available to any residents belonging to countries that are members of the USA’s visa waiver agreement. The entire application process is completed online so it is quite simple, and you can do it whenever it suits you. Essentially, the application requires you to enter some personal details, answer a few questions and pay the associated fee. The esta questionsare basic and easy to answer. You will then submit for processing and be alerted electronically once it has been approved.
Take note that a successful ESTA application does not make you exempt from passing through customs. You will still need to have your entry verified by border control, but the ESTA will make this process a little quicker and easier. Think of it like a pre-check that confirms you are eligible to enter the USA before you depart from your home country. It is recommended that you apply for an ESTA a few weeks before you leave for the USA to ensure there are no problems.
The other thing international travellers should be aware of is the current Covid-19 situation. Take extra precautions to protect yourself while travelling and keep up to date on the current situation. It is worth looking at Covid-19 hotspot maps to identify any major hotspots you might need to avoid.
Zion National Park is the perfect place for backpacking. With so many epic trails, there is no better way to truly experience the magic of the park than sleeping overnight surrounded by stunning scenery. If you plan on an overnight or multi-night backpacking trip within Zion National Park, you will need to obtain a wilderness permit. This can be done by making an online reservation and then presenting this upon arrival, where it will be converted to a permit. Always be prepared for different weather and have a ‘plan B’ in case your planned trails are closed for some reason.
Sunrise Zion National Park
A sunrise in Zion National Park is unmissable. There is something about the way the light changes over the stunning red cliffs that is unforgettable. For the best sunrise viewing location, head to the Zion Human History Museum. Make your way to the back of the museum, where you will have an excellent view of the Towers of the Virgin. The first light of the day will fall on the towers, making for a great photo opportunity or a sight that you can simply sit and enjoy. Bear in mind that this a popular photography spot so there may be some other visitors there in the early hours of the day to get some good snaps.
Zion National Park is not short on natural beauty with striking red cliffs and a picturesque river running through the middle, but if its waterfalls you are after you cannot go past the following.
- Emerald Pools
The Emerald Pools are on most people’s Zion bucket list, but what you might not know is that they are home to some waterfalls of their own.
- Zion Narrows
For some beautiful waterfalls, head to Zion Narrows. There is a number of them in the area, but you will notwant to miss Mystery Falls.
- Archangel Falls
This stunning waterfall can be found in the Kolob Terrace area of the park, but you will need a permit to visit.