7 of the Best Things To Do in Zion National Park
Known for its pink Navajo sandstone cliffs and orange slot canyons, Zion National Park offers some of the most unbeatable scenery in North America. While hiking is the most popular way to take in the views, there are a plethora of other activities to choose from, like rock climbing, horseback riding, and river rafting.
Whether you’re in the park for a day or a week, Autio has got you covered. Check out our favorite things to do in Zion National Park.
1. Traverse The Narrows
Carved out over millions of years by the Virgin River, the Zion Canyon is nearly 2,000 feet deep today. The paths that weave through the floor of this epic canyon are known as The Narrows and serve as one of Zion’s most popular attractions.
While the entire path is 16 miles, most will only hike the first few legs. As you wade through this hike, you will be surrounded by thousand-foot walls of Navaja sandstone that have been eroded into otherworldly shapes and zebra-striped textures.
Keep in mind, though, that nearly the entirety of this hike will have you partially submerged in water. Make sure you wear appropriate hiking boots, socks, and waterproof clothing.
If you’re looking for a more extreme experience, enter The Narrows from the top down. You can explore The Narrows via canyoneering with the proper permitting and guidance. This lets you rappel down the steep sandstone walls and explore canyons not accessible without this little adventure.
The views you will experience in this canyon go beyond words. They are, without exaggeration, otherworldly. However, keep in mind that exploring The Narrows does come with some danger. Before your trip, look out for flash floods and toxic algae warnings.
2. Dip Into the Virgin River
In addition to serving as the lifeforce of its surrounding desert oasis, the Virgin River provides a source of adventure for Zion visitors of all kinds.
Whether you’re a solo adventurer or exploring with the family, the Virgin River has plenty to explore. During the hot summer months, dip into the river or float on tubes down its gentle current.
You can also find the Pine Creek Waterfall swimming hole, an off-the-beaten-path Zion secret. This hidden gem requires a short ¼ mile hike that traverses slippery rocks and boulders. You will be rewarded with refreshing summer water to dip into and natural waterslides to slip down.
If you’re an experienced kayaker, you may also enjoy the rougher areas of the Virgin River. Kayaking through The Narrows portion of the Virgin River should only be attempted by those who can paddle class V whitewater. If you can handle it, you’ll get to ride down one of the most beautiful parts of the park.
3. Ascend Angels Landing
While some of Zion’s best scenery exists at the bottom of the park, you can’t forget about the views from the top.
Zion’s most popular ascent is none other than Angels Landing, which provides the most spectacular views of the 270-million-year-old rock layers below. This trek is not for the faint of heart, though: acrophobic’s should stay far away.
From the trailhead in the Grotto Picnic Area, you will ascend switchbacks up to Refrigerator Canyon (aptly named for its cool breeze and easy terrain). The intensity picks up upon Walter’s Wiggles, another section of steep switchbacks. This will take you to Scout Lookout, which offers incredible views and restrooms; however, the best views are yet to come.
The last half-mile follows narrow ridges and saddles. Bolted-in cables allow you to traverse this terrain, but it requires a certain gumption nonetheless.
Our advice: channel your inner Jason Bourne. Those who make it across will be rewarded with the finest views in not just Zion but also the world (probably).
4. Take in the Canyon Overlook
If Angels Landing is too intense, we don’t blame you. Keep it mellow on the Canyon Overlook trail, a one-mile hike that rewards you with more of the best views in the park.
Once you reach the viewpoint, you can gawk at the vast valley below. Surrounded by massive canyon walls topped by flat mesas, take in the sights of Bridge Mountain, the East Temple, and Pine Creek.
These views from above truly make you appreciate the scale and vibrancy of this unique national park.
5. Explore the Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon
Slot canyons are one of Zion’s trademark geological features.
You may ask, “What are slot canyons?” These natural wonders are narrow gorges carved into the depths of soft rock. The slender widths and technical walls of slot canyons make them a favorite of canyoneers.
One of Zion’s most popular slot canyons is the Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon. Experts and well-led beginners alike will love the soaring walls, subterranean nature, and varying light and water conditions.
Admiring the canyon walls from afar is one thing, but rappelling down them offers a completely new—and completely exhilarating—experience.
If that sounds a bit too intense, no need to worry! Travelers looking for a more relaxing outdoor adventure can still enjoy the Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon. Simply drive toward the east entrance of the park, and you will find a section of the gorge to hike around with your feet on the ground.
6. Escape the Crowds at Kolob Canyon
One of the least-visited areas of the park, Kolob Canyon provides epic views without the usual crowds. While you’ll have to drive 40 miles north of Zion Canyon, the scenic road trip offers incredible viewpoints of the crimson gorges.
What you’ll find in this quiet corner of the park are narrow box canyons that cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau, forming towering peaks and 2,000-foot cliff walls. The lack of crowds in this region provides tranquility that only adds to the canyon’s majesty.
The area provides three main hiking trails, ranging from one to 14 miles, that provide a wide range of scenery––desert canyons, waterfalls, Navaja sandstone peaks. Such wildlife that you can spot in this area include ringtails, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, and Mexican spotted owls.
Not too far away is Kolob Terrace, a vast and equally tranquil area of Zion. One of the main attractions here is Lava Point, home to unparalleled camping on stargazing.
In fact, Zion is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, meaning its low light pollution and high elevation create an otherworldly portrait of the solar system. Kolob Terrace is one of the best places to catch a view of the Milky Way, as the light pollution is at its lowest here.
7. Check Out the Hoodoos
What makes Zion so unique is its seemingly alien geological formations. One such example is the hoodoos: tall, thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland.
Formed over millions of years, these spires get their individualistic shapes due to their calcium carbonate content. When even slightly acidic rain falls onto the rocks, the calcium carbonate erodes, forming the irregular peaks we now see.
While Bryce Canyon National Park is most known for hoodoos, Zion has them too! These can also be found in the Kolob Terrace region of the park, so be sure to check them out on your trip over there. They are, without a doubt, the most unique site you’ll see on your visit.
Also, steer clear of making contact with the hoodoos, as they are quite fragile
Experience Zion’s Majesty With Autio
Without question, a trip to Zion National Park will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Nowhere else in the world can you witness such diverse geological formations. In addition to viewing such sites as Zion Canyon and Pine Creek Canyon, you can get in on the action by hiking and canyoneering.
Are you looking for something to listen to on your road trip to Zion? Download Autio and explore why Zion is revered among outdoor enthusiasts, mountaineers, and photographers the world over.
We curate bite-sized stories based on your interests to introduce you to the wonders around you; then, we package them into a high-quality “road trip companion” you can access at any time, anywhere.
Check out Autio, and start your adventure today.
International Dark Sky Parks | IDA