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15 BREATHTAKING Things to Do in Zion National Park 2021

Zion National Park is a world famous destination with a plethora of bucket list activities and things to do – we’ve ranked the best ones here.

About Zion National Park

narrows zion national park
Hiking the Narrows | Zion National Park Things to Do

There are so many incredible, breathtaking, and life-changing things to do in Zion National Park.

Whether it’s exploring slot canyons like The Narrows or The Subway, hiking to stunning overlooks like Angels Landing, and scenic drives like the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway.

Exquisitely carved by the Virgin River over millions of years, Zion Canyon is one of the most stunning places on earth with some unbelievable things to do. But don’t stop there!

This park has so much more to offer outside of the main canyon – golden meadows, sweeping vistas, red rock mountains, towering white temples, and powerful ancient rivers comprise this incredible treasure.

About My Travels to Zion National Park

outdoor photography essentials, zion national park utah, pattiz brothers
Jim (left) and Will (me – right) in Zion National Park

I visited Zion National Park for the first time back in the Fall of 2015 (with my brother to film it – see below) and have returned many, many times since. It’s just one of those parks (if you know how to avoid the crowds) that keeps calling you back.

Most folks only visit the main canyon which is full of incredible beauty but I encourage visitors to seek out the other breathtaking sections as well. An added bonus to seeing these other parts of the park is that you’ll be one of very few people who ever do.

Over several weeks we documented all of the most amazing parts of the park (including an insane flash winter storm that we captured in our Zion Film) and have recommended our favorites here for you.

If you’re visiting the park be sure to check out our full Zion National Park Guide!

Things to Know Before You Visit

Entrance Fees: $30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.

Sunscreen: Use it. Lots of it. Especially this one which I never leave the house without because it plays nice with our dear friend, earth 🙂

Gas: There are a plethora of fuel options in Springdale right outside of the main canyon so fueling up in Zion is not as much of a concern.

Cell Service is spotty in the park but there is some sporadically outside of Zion canyon.

The Best Guide Book: James Kaiser is the proverbial bees knees in this department. I love all of his National Park guides and his Zion Guide is no exception.

The Best Map: I like this map best for Zion National Park.

Water: Drink it. Lots of it. Don’t forget it in the car.

The Best Time to Visit Zion National Park is during the fall to see all of the cottonwood trees turn a vibrant yellow. If you can’t make it during Autumn, try Spring as a second best time. Summer is extremely hot in Zion and in Winter is surprisingly cold.

Food options are abound in the Zion area with several major cities surrounding the park like Springfield and Cedar City. As far as options inside the park go, visitors are limited to the Red Rock Grill restaurant & seasonal Castle Dome Cafe near Zion Lodge.

Getting to Zion

las vegas to zion
Las Vegas to Zion Map

There are many ways to get to Zion National Park. One of the most popular is flying into Las Vegas and making the 2.5 hour drive to the park. The second closest major city is Salt Lake City at 4.5 hours away.

Best Things to Do in Zion National Park

1. Hike The Narrows

narrows zion national park
Hike The Narrows | Things to Do Zion National Park

The Narrows is one of the absolute coolest hikes in Zion National Park and the entire national park system for that matter. Hikers hike, walk, and wade through a narrow canyon of massive red rock canyon walls where the Virgin River has been at work for millions of years.

Distance: 16 miles (but most only hike the first few miles which are incredible)
Time: Typically 2-3 hours depending on how far you go

The total hike is 16 miles long but most folks only do the first few which are incredible. You’ll need some good water shoes for this hike and a hiking pole is recommended although most folks go without (water shoes can be rented in Springdale at a number of places). The deepest the water gets is about 3-4ft but most of the hike is in ankle deep water.

From time to time toxic algae blooms occur in the Virgin River which can be harmful to humans so make sure to check the NPS site before visiting.

To learn more check out our The Narrows post.

2. Ascend Angels Landing

Angels Landing Zion National park
Angels Landing From the Ground | Things to Do Zion National Park

Angel’s Landing is the most popular, well-known hike in Zion National Park leading to one of the most iconic views in all the National Park system. The Angel’s Landing trail is a steep 5 miles with about 1,500ft of elevation gain.

Distance: 5 miles (1500ft Elevation Gain)
Time: Typically 3-4 hours

This hike is not for acraphobics or the faint of heart as one section of the trail involves holding onto a chain bolted onto a cliff side with sheer drop offs.

To learn more check out our Angels Landing post.

3. Soak it all in at Canyon Overlook

zion national park more than just parks
Canyon Overlook | Best Things to Do Zion National Park

Canyon Overlook is one of the most spectacular and relatively easy to access overlooks in all of Zion National Park. Located on the Zion Mt. Carmel (East) side of the park, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a popular one.

Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Time: Typically 1-2 hours

The trail itself is about a mile round trip with little elevation gain. Hikers will be rewarded with sweeping views of Zion National Park.

To learn more check out our Canyon Overlook post.

Interested in visiting all the Utah Mighty 5 National Parks? Read my Utah National Parks post!

4. Explore Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon

pine creek gorge slot canyon
Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon | Things to Do Zion

Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon is one of the most popular technical canyoneering spots in Zion National Park. If you’re not up for technical rappelling then  no problem!

Drive toward the east entrance a bit and find another part of the Pine Creek Gorge to hike around. The creek bed is long and provides lots of great entry points for hikers.

To learn more check out our Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon post.

5. Catch a Sunset from Lava Point

lava point sunset zion national park
Lava Point at Sunset | Things to Do Zion

Lava Point is best spot in Zion National Park to watch a sunset. Located in the Kolob Terrace section of the park, this lesser-visited destination is worth a stop.

Escape the crowds here with a very different kind of beauty than the red rock canyons. This overlook does not require any sort of a hike and is situated next to our favorite campground in Zion National Park, Lava Point Campground.

To learn more check out our Lava Point post.

6. Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive

zion mt carmel highway scenic drive zion national park
Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive | Best Things to Do Zion

The Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive is one of the most beautiful drives in the entire national park system. Massive colorful rock formations and lots of beautiful hikes abound in this section of Zion National Park.

The drive is located on the lesser explored (than the main canyon) east side of Zion where the bighorn sheep roam.

While you’re on this side of the park be sure to check out Canyon Overlook and Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon.

To learn more check out our Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive post.

7. Experience the Lesser-Traveled Kolob Canyon

kolob canyon zion national park
Kolob Canyon in the Snow | Things to Do Zion

Kolob Canyon is a lesser-traveled but equally stunning unit of the park located near Cedar City. It features towering red rock formations and a tiny fraction of the visitors of Zion Canyon.

The canyon is relatively small and has several day hikes of varying lengths. The road leading into Kolob Canyon is beautiful in and of itself featuring a plethora of pulloffs with spectacular panoramic viewpoints.

We were visiting in October when a flash snowstorm blanketed the canyon in a beautiful white coat of powdery snow. We captured the whole thing on film in our Zion video.

To learn more check out our Kolob Canyon post.

8. Discover Kolob Terrace

kolob terrace zion national park
Sunset at Kolob Terrace | Things to Do Zion

Kolob Terrace is one of the most beautiful yet least visited parts of Zion. This area features lots of hoodoos, grassy plains, volcanic lava rock, colorful mesas, & stunning overlooks.

Every time I visit this area of the park I am amazed that it hasn’t fallen victim to the masses like the main canyon. Kolob Terrace is a perfect spot to spend a day of solitude away from the crowds.

Perhaps the crown jewel of this area is Lava Point which is the best place in the park to catch a sunset.

To learn more check out our Kolob Terrace post.

9. Big Bend

big bend zion national park
Sun rising over Big Bend | Things to Do Zion

Big Bend is a breathtaking turn of the Virgin River in Zion National Park that reveals the Great White Throne to the south. The shuttle stops here and visitors can walk down to the river to see the stunning beauty below.

During Autumn the leaves on the cottonwoods create a dazzling display all along the rive. This is also a great spot to watch condors soar above.

To learn more check out our Big Bend post.

10. Court of the Patriarchs

zion national park seasons more than just parks
The Court of the Patriarchs in Autumn | Things to Do Zion National Park

Court of the Patriarchs is a magnificent viewpoint in Zion Canyon where visitors can look up at the towering red & white rock formations.

This is one of the first viewpoints in the canyon and gives viewers a breathtaking opportunity to soak in the beauty of the park.

To learn more check out our Court of the Patriarchs post.

11. Checkerboard Mesa

checkerboard mesa zion national park
The Checkerboard Mesa at Sunset | Things to Do Zion

Checkerboard Mesa is an aptly named mesa near the east entrance of the park with a pattern that resembles a checkerboard. This is a great spot to stop off on the Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive to soak in the stunning desert views.

To learn more check out our Checkerboard Mesa post.

12. Spot a Bighorn Sheep

bighorn sheep in zion
Bighorn Sheep in Zion National Park

Some of Zion’s most famous residents are it’s resident bighorn sheep. I see these regal animals almost every time I visit the park and am always amazed by them.

The bighorn were actually reintroduced to the park in the 1970s with an initial herd of 12. Now their numbers have risen to over 150 strong.

Where to See Bighorn Sheep in Zion

The most common place to see bighorn sheep in Zion is near the usually traffic-heavy Canyon Overlook Trailhead. Drive slowly (not that you’ll have much of a choice) and keep your eyes peeled.

13. Go Stargazing

zion national park stargazing
Kolob Terrace Stargazing in Zion National Park

As of 2021, Zion National Park is now officially an International Dark Sky Park. A designation awarded to only a select few places around the world. Basically what this means is that Zion is an absolutely epic place to soak in the night sky.

I recommend Kolob Terrace as the best place in the park to see the night sky as fewer visitors means less car lights and flashing.

14. Ride the Zion Shuttle

zion shuttle
Zion Shuttle

One of the best ways to soak in the park is by riding the Zion shuttle. The Zion Shuttle is a great way for visitors to visit the main (zion) canyon which holds the majority of the most popular attractions in Zion National Park.

This convenient mode runs daily and currently visitors must acquire $1 tickets prior to boarding.

The shuttle stops at all of the most popular spots in the canyon and gives viewers a unique way of enjoying the park. For more shuttle info visit the NPS website.

15. Go Camping at Lava Point Campground

lava point campground zion national park
Lava Point Campground | Zion National Park

Zion National Park has 3 campgrounds with over 300 campsites offering a wide variety of camping options. The campgrounds are Watchman campground, South Campground, and my favorite which is Lava Point Campground

Lava Point Campground is the smallest, most serene, and most remote campground in Zion National Park. This campground located in the Kolob Terrace section of the park situated next to the stunning Lava Point Overlook.

More About Zion National Park

Map of Zion Things to Do

Top 10 Things to Do in Zion National Park:

  1. The Narrows
  2. Angels Landing
  3. Canyon Overlook
  4. Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon
  5. Lava Point
  6. Zion Mt Carmel Highway Scenic Drive
  7. Kolob Canyon
  8. Kolob Terrace
  9. Big Bend
  10. Court of the Patriarchs
  11. Checkerboard Mesa

Planning a trip to Zion National Park? Learn how to do it right with our comprehensive Zion National Park Guide that covers what to see, campgrounds, lodging, dining, seasons & weather, and so much more.

> Zion National Park Guide <

Photos of Zion

Video of Zion

ZION is the culmination of nearly a month spent exploring Zion National Park during peak fall color. Filmed primarily in stunning UHD 8K.

WATCH: Our 3 minute Zion National Park video

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Will Pattiz

Co-founder of More Than Just Parks. Husband. Conservationist. Currently living in NYC.

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