How to prepare for Zion National Park
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
5 things to know before going to Zion National Park to prepare and maximize your experience.
You landed here because you are thinking about or planning to go to Zion National Park. Thousands of people visit Zion National Park every day for the breathtaking sights and the unique hikes. It is important to do your research so you can be prepared and maximize your experience. Keep reading to get all the tips and advice.
*This article has been updated to reflect the guidance on capacity and the transit system due to Covid-19.
1) Get familiar with the Zion Canyon shuttle system.
Only official park shuttles and approved private tour companies are allowed to drive along the scenic route to get direct drop-off access to popular trails like The Narrows or Angel's Landing. The park implemented a temporary shuttle reservation due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 and early 2021, but now it is a first-come, first-serve, and operating at full capacity. Keep in mind to factor in waiting in long lines for the shuttle because you can not drive your vehicle to many of the popular trails. Masks are required on all shuttles due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Parking fills up quickly at Zion National Park, but you can also park in the town of Springdale (for a fee) and take the free shuttle to and from the park entrance. The shuttle that runs through Springdale is also part of the park service and stops at 9 locations.
Pro tip: Arriving earlier always has the perks of fewer people.
What are alternative ways of transit besides the shuttle?
Bike rentals: There is plenty of bike parking at each shuttle stop and bike rentals at Zion National Park. It is a beautiful ride if you don't mind the inclining hills.
Walking: Many visitors attempt to walk, but they soon find out they are miles from their desired destination.
2) Research Zion National Park activities
Zion National Park has so many activities, so it would be difficult to do everything in one day. It all comes down to what you want to do and see. If you are short on time like I was, here are itineraries for 1-day or 2-days:
Here are the most popular activities to do:
Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
Lower Emerald Pools
Observation Point – closed indefinitely due to rockslide
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (closed to private vehicles until further notice)
3) Understand parking restrictions
Parking at the Zion National Park Visitor Center can fill up quickly in the morning. Once parking fills up at the visitor center, street parking in Springdale is available with a fee and you can take the city shuttle to the park. Give yourself extra time to find parking and walking to the shuttle if you know you’re arriving after 10 a.m. during peak season. The last thing you want to experience is missing your shuttle time. Here is a list of alternative parking if the visitor center parking is full.
4) What to bring
Always pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and plenty of snacks. Closely monitor the weather forecast because it can be a 30-degree difference between the morning and afternoon.
If you plan on hiking The Narrows in the Spring or Fall, I suggest getting proper gear to maintain your warmth because the water is very cold. I went through Zion Outfitters and rented a package that comes with hiking shoes, neoprene socks, a hiking stick, and dry pants. It was so useful and kept me warm.
Pro Tip: Bring a mini disposable bag to keep your garbage appropriately discard at the end of your trip.
5) Get a national park pass
America the Beautiful annual pass is worth every penny if you plan to see more than two national parks in a year. The Zion National Park entrance fee is $35 per vehicle with access for 7 consecutive days, but most park-goers combine their trip with other national parks like Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, or Capitol Reef National Park. You have the option to make an advance online purchase or at the entrance office at Zion NP. If you plan on purchasing it online, make sure you give yourself at least three weeks for the pass to be mailed to you. A receipt or purchase confirmation will not be accepted at the entrance.
Note: The America the Beautiful pass gives you access to all U.S. national parks only. State parks have their own passes.
Comment below if you have questions and want to know more!