Zion Canyon Visitor Center
Located at the south entrance of Zion National Park, the Zion Canyon Visitor Center serves as the park’s information and transportation hub. The visitor center features interpretive displays highlighting Zion National Park’s attractions, hiking trails, wildlife, geology, and history as well as an information desk staffed by rangers available to answer visitor questions. From April to September, the building’s shady patio hosts daily presentations by park rangers. Outside the visitor center is the terminus of the Zion Canyon Shuttle, a free bus system that is the only way to access Zion Canyon, the most popular part of the park, from April to October. The visitor center is home to the park’s back country office, where overnight hikers obtain permits for back country hikes such as the Zion Narrows and The Subway. The visitor center grounds also include handicap accessible restrooms and water fountains.
Zion Human History Museum
Housed in Zion National Park’s former visitor center, the Zion Human History Museum displays permanent exhibits about Zion’s American Indians, early pioneers, and its growth as a national park. The museum also features a permanent exhibit illustrating the effects of water in the park, including how water created the Zion’s incredible rock formations but has also caused floods and landslides throughout the park’s history. In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum hosts temporary exhibits, some of which have included Civilian Conservation Corps diaries, replicas of historic Union Pacific Railroad lodges and park employee photographs. The museum’s 22-minute video presentation, shown every half hour, provides visitors an excellent overview of the park. Souvenirs, maps, books and other items are available at the museum’s bookstore, operated by the Zion Natural History Association. Located half a mile north of the park’s south entrance, the museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily with extended hours in the summer.
Zion National Park features two campgrounds at its south entrance, the South Campground and the Watchman Campground. Both campgrounds include restrooms, running water and picnic tables. The South Campground operates on a first-come, first-serve basis and offers no RV hookups while the Watchman Campground takes reservations during the peak season and boasts 63 RV sites with electrical hookups. For more information about Zion’s campgrounds, visit the campground information page on the park’s web site.
The shuttle system has turned the canyon into an enjoyable bike ride. Visitors to Zion National Park can place their bikes on one of the shuttle’s bike racks, ride the shuttle to the Temple of Sinewava, the last shuttle stop in the canyon, and then pedal back to the visitor center via the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and the Pa’rus Trail for one of the most scenic bike rides they will ever take in their lives. Photographers will enjoy snapping shots of the canyon’s incredible towering monoliths from trails and viewpoints. Two particularly good spots for taking photos are the Court of the Patriarchs and Big Bend shuttle stops, two stops many visitors never take.
If you would like to experience Zion National Park like early settlers did, book a guided horseback ride with Canyon Trail Rides. The tour company offers one-hour and half-day rides originating from a corral across the road from the Zion Lodge. The hour ride follows along the banks of the Virgin River and provides stunning views of formations such as the Three Patriarchs and the Beehives. The half-day ride follows the Sand Bench Trail to spectacular vistas of the park’s southern end.
Located just off Interstate 15, approximately 18 miles south of Cedar City, the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park (northwest corner) is an alternative to Zion Canyon without the crowds. This portion of the park boasts a collection of narrow canyons and towering sandstone monoliths viewed from a five-mile scenic drive. Kolob Canyons features a small visitor center with an information desk, bookstore and restrooms as well as several hiking trails. One of the most popular trails, the Taylor Creek Trail (5.4 miles round trip) runs along a stream to the Double Arch Alcove, which displays colorful streaks of mineral-laden water and hanging gardens. The LaVerkin Creek Trail (14 miles round trip) rewards hikers with views of one of the largest natural arches in the world, Kolob Arch, which spans 310 feet.
To reduce traffic and to improve the Zion National Park experience, a new bus transportation system started operation on May 26, 2000. It runs during the busy season, March through October, and peak periods. One loop includes stops in Zion Canyon, and a second includes stops in the town of Springdale. Parking is available throughout Springdale and inside the south park entrance.
It is possible to leave your vehicle in town and ride the shuttle to the new Zion Canyon Visitor Center or park right at the visitor center. The visitor center is the start of the Zion Canyon loop into the park. Zion National Park shuttles depart each location often throughout the day. You may get on and off the shuttle as many times as you wish. Riding the shuttle on both loops is included in the park entrance fee. All visitors, except those staying at Zion Lodge, use the shuttle buses to access Zion Canyon. You also have the option of biking or hiking along the canyon's scenic drive. The Pa'rus Trail connects Zion Canyon to the new visitor center and both campgrounds.
The east side of the park will remain accessible by private vehicle. Currently motor coaches, R.V.'s , cars and trucks may pass through the park on highway 9 but will be unable to drive up the main canyon to major points of interest, unless you are staying overnight at the lodge.
Zion Canyon Shuttle
In response to growing traffic congestion on the 6.5-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Zion National Park implemented a mandatory shuttle system in 2000. The Park Service prohibits private vehicles along the scenic drive (UT 9 is open to private vehicles year round) from April to October. During this time, visitors must ride buses to access the canyon. Visitors board buses traveling into the canyon right outside the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. The bus stops seven times on its way up the canyon at major points of interest and trail-heads, including Zion Lodge, Weeping Rock and the Temple of Sinewava, the last stop up the canyon. The shuttle is incredibly convenient, operating from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. in the busy summer season. Visitors do not have to wait long at shuttle stops since buses come every seven to 10 minutes. The ride up the main canyon of Zion National Park provides visitors with an excellent preview of the park’s scenery as well as interesting narration about the park from each shuttle driver. For more information about the shuttle, visit the shuttle information page on the park’s web site.
Zion-Mt. Caramel Highway Tunnel
One of the park’s most impressive construction projects, UT 9’s Zion-Mt. Caramel Highway Tunnel is still considered an engineering marvel to this day. From 1927 to 1930, workers blasted the 1.1-mile tunnel through solid sandstone at a cost of $2 million. The tunnel extended the highway to Zion’s east side and the town of Mt. Caramel. At first, the tunnel included “lookout galleries” where motorists could park for a better view of the canyon below. Today, drivers cannot stop in the tunnel. A Zion National Park Service escort must accompany larger vehicles such as RVs through the tunnel for a $15 fee.
Zion National Park Weather
Zion National Park is a desert. Temperatures vary according to elevation and time of day. Night and day temperatures can differ by more than 30°F at times. The weather is unpredictable in the spring with warm, sunny days intermixed with some stormy, wet ones. Wildflowers bloom in the park during April and peak in May. Summer temperatures can be scorching with daytime highs averaging 95 to 110°F. From mid July to mid September, the park experiences regular afternoon thunderstorms, which lead to waterfalls and flash floods. Clear, mild days with cool nights characterize autumn in Zion. Fall colors in Zion Canyon are at their best in late October. Winter brings light dustings of snow in the canyon and cooler temperatures. On clear winter days, temperatures can climb into the 60s.
- Great White Throne
- Court of the Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac & Jacob
- The Sentinel
- Checkerboard Mesa
- Kolob Arch (310 foot span - largest in the world)
- Angel's Landing