One of my favorite things about living in northern Colorado is the easy access to some truly stunning natural wonders. While we have many world-class destinations in our backyard, I recently ventured further afield into southern Utah to visit Zion National Park. Zion NP is 232 square miles of high desert pines and deep sandstone canyons. Surrounded by these majestic cliff faces, most people spend their time in Zion Canyon, where weathered red sandstone walls soar 2,000 feet above the valley floor and river below. This was my third trip to Zion NP and every time I see something new. If you’re thinking about visiting Zion NP, here are my suggestions for a rewarding vacation.
Plan ahead – Zion NP is the 10th-most visited national park in the United States and 5 million people visited in 2021. If you plan to stay in the park or nearby Springdale, make a reservation early! For smaller crowds, you can also take advantage of the winter off-season or shoulder season. Zion NP is a desert park and temperatures can soar as high as 100 degrees in the summer. I found that my late-February visit was a perfect time to enjoy milder weather.
Get outside – Hiking is the number one activity at Zion NP and there are many trails with jaw-dropping views just waiting for you to explore. One family-friendly destination is the three-lake Emerald Pools loop. Clocking in at 2.2 miles, stroll past shimmering pools of water on your way into the canyon and even hike under a waterfall! For a taller challenge, try Angel’s Landing. So named by early explorers who believed the only way to stand atop this sandstone column was to fly there, this hike climbs 1,500 feet and traverses steep, exposed ledges to reach a truly stunning summit.
Cool off – One of the most unique experiences at Zion NP is hiking the Narrows. Unlike most other trails, the Narrows is actually a river! Hikers can walk as far as 5 miles upstream between red-rock walls, wading through the refreshing, rushing water of the Virgin River. Bring hiking poles and sturdy shoes for this one-of-a-kind adventure.
See the stars – Zion NP is a certified International Dark Sky Park, one of the best places to stargaze in the continental United States. Because it’s so dark, when the sun goes down the view at night is just as stunning as during the day. Look up at the sky and you might see the Milky Way, neighboring planets, or maybe even a shooting star!
There are so many things to do and see at Zion NP that you, like me, may find that one trip is not enough.