Travel Where to Wander

America’s Hidden Gem: Hiking Zion National Park

Zion National Park, located in Southwest Utah, is one of the top hiking destinations not just in the United States, but the entire world. While trekking up a mountain in 100 degree heat might seem like a recipe for yelling at your significant other for a few hours (not that that happened…) this place was UNREAL. Hiking Zion National Park is an activity that belongs on everyone’s bucket list.

These hikes are no joke, but we promise you, they are worth it! The sights and sounds of Zion National Park are unlike any we’ve ever seen, we guarantee they’ll make your jaw drop. In this article, we will tell you our 3 favorite hikes in Zion, and go through where we stayed and ate on our tour of the park.

Observation Point

This hike is long and hard…*wink*… We are talking 4 miles one way! And what goes up must come down, so this bad boy is an 8 mile trek, but enough with the hard part, with great effort comes great reward after all.

The view at the top of Observation Point is one of, if not the number one, best we’ve ever seen. Zion National Park is a mountain oasis populated by luscious foliage and numerous animals, including deer, goats, Peregrine Falcons (the world’s fastest animal) and the rare giant, the California Condor!

At Observation Point, the entire park spreads before you like a delicious Thanksgiving meal. The settlers named the area Zion, a biblical reference highlighting the peaceful nature of the canyon. You’ll stand in awe at how such a beautiful forest grew in the middle of the vast desert expanding around Zion.

Plan to get an early start, since the hike to Observation Point can take about 4-6 hours, depending on the number of breaks you take. You’ll be huffing and puffing, so take breaks and bring LOTS of water.

We brought 3 bottles each and that seemed to work fine. It also helped to have some citrus fruits, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and beef jerky packed away to enjoy at the top. 

This trail is much less crowded than the others, and you’ll get some awesome views of Angel’s Landing on your way up. Once you reach the summit, the views at the top will take your breath away. Trust us, you won’t want to leave.

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Even on top of the world, bunny ears is a classic prank. The 🐐 of pranks. Zion National Park's cleavage was crafted by the Virgin River (we didn't identify, we're married, so… 😏😏) but that didn't stop us from mounting Observation Point! Took 4 hours in the 100 degree heat, but Julie is finding out that's basically what being married to me is like 🤯 she better strap on her sports bra and saddle up, partner!. •••• #zionnationalpark #observationpoint #hikeutah #visitutah #beautahful . • • • • • #westbysouthwest #nationalparkgeek #weareparks #findyourpark #stateparks #nationalparklife #yesvisitutah #werutah #wowutah #youtah #exploreutah #hikingutah #ontopofamountain #takeahike #hikingaddict #weliveelevated #wildernessnation #campingadventures #hikingculture #hikingtheglobe #splendid_mountains #travelcouple #goadventuretogether #oneloveourlove

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The Narrows

If Observation Point is peanut butter, then The Narrows is jelly. These two couldn’t be more different, but they are epic when you combine them in a delicious hike-which. (Wow, hike-which, this is a new low for a pun… Nice work).

Coincidentally, like the Observation Point hike, we brought a peanut butter and jelly picnic on our Narrows hike as well. The Narrows is a wonderful hike, with many places to stop for lunch. Pack along a backpack of food and water and have a picnic you’ll never forget, surrounded by picturesque cliffs and a rushing river.

If you’ve never heard of The Narrows hike, let us make something clear: you are going to get wet. Shortly after starting this hike, you will find yourself literally hiking through the Virgin River surrounded by huge cliffs on each side. You’d be smart to bring shoes that can get wet, or if you don’t have any, there are at least 10 places you can rent them near the park entrance.

At times the water can get up to your waist (and higher if you slip!). Add in the fact that early in the morning most of the river is shaded, this hike can start out a little chilly. Bring a sweatshirt to start, but make sure it is light enough that you’ll be able to throw it in your backpack after the picnic. 

One of the great things about The Narrows is that the trail basically never ends! You can literally hike up the river for as long as you want, up to 5 miles or so. Whether you want to go 1 mile or 4 miles, you’ll have a blast. Just remember, you must come back the way you came.

Angel’s Landing

The most popular and Zion’s most iconic hike. Angel’s Landing is 5 miles round trip up a very narrow path with 1000 foot drop offs on each side of you!

We are not kidding when we say that Angel’s Landing is not for the faint of heart. You don’t need to worry too much, there are ropes and chains to help you out during the tough parts, so you should be able to safely hike to the summit.

Once you get there, the views of the canyon from the top are astonishing. When the sun peeks through the clouds it looks like heaven is shining down on this place. They must call it Angel’s Landing for a reason…

Our tip for this hike: bring a small backpack to carry your belongings so your hands are free to use the chains. And of course, like all of these hikes, pack a sandwich and some fruit to munch on at the top before hiking your booty on home!

Transportation Into and Around the Park

Parking is very limited inside the park, but fortunately there are free shuttles from nearby towns, where there is a plethora of parking options. There are two shuttle loops:

  • The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine different locations within the park
  • The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale that will take you to the Zion’s pedestrian entrance

Now, you have two options for parking and getting around the park. Option one: park your vehicle in Springdale and catch the Springdale Shuttle to the pedestrian entrance, then transfer to the Zion Canyon Shuttle to get to your trailhead. Option two: arrive early (before 9am) and you can likely find parking inside the park.

The best spot we found was at the information center. We then caught the Zion Canyon Shuttle from there and took it to the Observation Point, Angel’s Landing, or Narrows trailheads.

We tried both these options and preferred option two over option one for a few different reasons. It saved us loads of time at the beginning and end of our days, we beat the crowds getting an early start, and our hotel was on the east side of the park, close to the information center.

Everything was super easy to figure out with signs all over Zion and Springdale, so you shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out where you need to be.

Where We Stayed and Ate

We stayed at Zion Mountain Ranch located a few miles outside the park, and we absolutely loved it. First off, because of the location. Each morning we woke up with the roosters and had a beautiful drive into the park, which only took 20-30 minutes. However, as mentioned above if you can get an early start you can likely find parking inside the park which would cut this commute down to 10-15 minutes. It was a perfect wind-up and wind-down for each day hiking.

Zion Mountain Ranch is on the east side of the park which we actually preferred over the west side. The east side is much less popular. There are hardly any resorts on this side of the park meaning it was so quiet and peaceful we could hear a pin drop. We did make an effort to check out Springdale on the west side one night which was fun to do some shopping, but overall we enjoyed our peaceful stay on the east.

Secondly, Zion Mountain Ranch literally has a herd of buffalo on-site! We have never stayed, or even heard of, anywhere that has a herd of animals on-site! In addition, they had horses (available to ride!), chickens, goats, and more. Don’t let all the wildlife worry you, the animals aren’t out and about roaming free.

It shouldn’t have taken us this long to mention, but the cabins at Zion Mountain Ranch are the number one reason to stay here. Each cabin is private, with its own amenities, some of which even have hot tubs! Great for a little post-hike relaxation and maybe a little extra if you know what we mean…

Finally, the on-site restaurant is absolutely delicious. And the portions are absolutely enormous. Keep that in mind as you saddle up to your table for a delicious meal that will power your hike the rest of the week!

There you have it, everything we know about hiking Zion National Park! Pin the below picture to save for later.

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