Zion National Park is, in a lot of ways, the best of everything. You've got the mountains, you've got canyons, you've got greenery... what else do you need? Whether you're looking for a challenging hike or a more peaceful retreat into nature, you'll find that Zion National Park has it all. The colors, the cliffs and the canyons will definitely enchant even the most experienced adventurer!
Some tips for visiting Zion:
-The park has tons of hiking, of course, but it's also great for canyoneering, scrambling, climbing, and rappelling.
-Spring and fall are the busiest times, because summer is so hot and rainy... but if you happen to experience a thunderstorm during your visit, make the most of it by taking in the waterfalls that form!
-The Zion Canyon Visitor Center at the south end of the park has some really detailed exhibits about the natural and human history of the park, which is always fun.
-There's a shuttle that goes around the park, so it's super easy to access various trailheads.
Walter's Wiggles is a series of 21 steep switchbacks that make the hike to the top of Angels Landing a bit of a challenge, but once you make it past the hairpin curves, you'll reach the Scout's Lookout, which is where many people turn around... because the hike to the very top of Angels Landing is a half of a mile of narrow trails and steep dropoffs lined with chains for grip.
Whether you just appreciate the unusual beauty of Checkerboard Mesa, a multi-colored slick rock mountain from the road, or you actually decide to hike it, it's pretty wild-looking. In fact, until 1938, it was known as "Rock Candy Mountain" until the Zion park superintendent gave it its more dignified current name.
You can see The Narrows from the paved Riverside Walk trail, but if you want to go inside, you should be prepared to get a little wet. Hike to the Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk and then you'll have to get into the Virgin River and walk upstream.
The view from the top of Angels Landing is iconic, and one of the must-see features of Zion. The five-mile hike is pretty intense, and can usually take around five hours to do, but the feeling of hiking along the rocky fin nearly 1,500 feet up is pure exhilaration.
One of the park's more interesting features is Weeping Rock, a sandstone rock that has water oozing out from its sides, creating a waterfall of sorts, with a lovely hanging garden and a little stream below. It's a quick walk here from the trailhead, which is easily accessed by the shuttle, so if you've got kids with you, this is a great hike to try.
Fair warning: in order to hike the slot canyon known as The Subway, you'll need a permit. To get the permit, you'll have to enter either the advance lottery three months in advance, or the last minute lottery, which is 2-7 days in advance. There are two routes, both of which require hiking through water, scrambling, swimming, and maybe even some rappelling!
Cable Mountain Lodge is a great mid-range option for accommodations near the park. Individually-decorated Suites and cabins offer different (but equally comfortable) experiences, but the location (which offers completely insane views) and the outdoor pool and hot tub take this place over the top.
But, of course, National Parks and camping go together like macaroni and cheese, and you can take full advantage of the gorgeous park by camping out there. Watchman Campground is close to the South entrance of the park, has more than a few sites, and can accommodate RVs and tents alike.
Grafton is a little ghost town right outside the park, and it's considered one of the most photographed in the West-- it's so photogenic that it was featured in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid! Founded as a cotton-growing community by Brigham Young, the town quickly fell on hard times and was abandoned by the 1920's. It's been restored, though, so it makes for a fun stop outside the park!
Hot and rainy in the summer, cool and snowy in the winter, Zion is probably at its best in the spring and fall (seriously, Zion has some awesome fall colors)-- but, of course, the mild weather attracts crowds. If you visit Zion in the summer, hike in the morning and evenings, and head into Springfield to beat the heat during the hottest part of the day.