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Tips For Hiking And Visiting Zion National Park In Utah

Tips for Hiking and Visiting Zion National Park in Utah

Visiting Zion National Park? You should as it’s a sanctuary of exotic beauty!

Every year since 1988 I’ve visited Zion National Park to refresh my spirits by drinking in some of the most sublime, and colorful beauty on earth. The first Mormon scouts to see Zion canyon appropriately named it after the biblical heaven…”Zion”, and rightfully so.

Visiting Zion National Park – a hiker’s park

Zion includes elevations from canyon and low desert of 3,700 feet to aspen and fir covered slopes accented by black & grey basalt at 8,700 feet. Unlike the Grand Canyon or Bryce, Zion is a “hiker’s park”, with over a hundred miles of trail that actually draw you into the deep bowels of canyon country, hugging steep trails that lead to spectacular vistas of the whole of southern Utah, while affording you awesome looks into the depths of those same canyons.

Wall Street in the Narrows of the Virgin River - Zion National Park

Wall Street in the Narrows of the Virgin River – Zion National Park – Photo credit: Kirk DeNee

Trails are awash in color…vibrant, intense, mystical! Whole sides of canyon walls sweep down at you with rusts and browns, bright yellows and orange, reds and lavenders. Some places actually vibrate with color, azure and cobalt to match the soaring sky arching over the whole of canyon country. A photographer’s dream, where the deep green forests atop the canyons contrast with the colors below.

The calm you’ll find in Zion National Park

There is a calming presence in Zion, much like a medieval church where “sanctuary” was given to persons pursued by threatening worldly forces. Zion is the ultimate “stress management” seminar, teaching us to access our quiet strength within, rejuvenate with an aesthetic elixir, see the primordial forces of wind, earth, fire and water sculpt a majestic setting Michelangelo would have been proud to have carved. And did I say “hiking!”

Specific hikes to do when visiting Zion National Park

Zion is usually a quick drive through by the 2.5 million visitors seeing it each year. But don’t cheat yourself. Zion is a forever experience. I booked 3 days my first time there and ended staying almost 2 weeks!

Zion is always new and refreshing. After you’ve hiked the great “Inner canyon” hikes of East Observation Point and West Rim to Angel’s Landing, be sure to really discover Zion’s backcountry by driving up Kolob Terrace Rd. where the scenery is exceptionally beautiful.

Kolob Terrace Road hikes

My suggestions for that drive include: after 5+ miles park on the left where Smith Mesa Rd. joins Kolob Terrace and hike up to Smith Mesa and across as far of it as you like; a real hidden gem of a hike where especially from mid May to early June its great grass prairie where horses often run is back dropped by soaring canyon mountains and the whole place suggests “the old West” of 1840.

Further up Kolob Terrace Road hike Hop Valley, early morning, (mid-May especially sees wildflowers) and when you drop down into the main canyon, explore the three side canyons to your right…really!!

Northgate Peaks

I’ve never been in a place that seemed so primeval. The next trail along that road is Northgate Peaks. Do it! Quiet serene beauty, yes, but when you come to the slick rock section to the left of the trail that takes you to the famous Subway hike, bushwhack to a high rock out cropping vantage point for great vistas before finishing the hike.

"Zion Canyon from the Angel's Landing/West Rim Trail"

Zion Canyon from the Angel’s Landing/West Rim Trail – Photo credit: Kirk DeNee

Lava Point to Zion Canyon hike

Finally treat yourself to the 13.5 mile one way “5 star hike” Lava Point to Zion Canyon found further up the road. You’ll need someone to drop you off for this one or park cars at both ends. That one is my favorite. In one shot you go from Zion’s high point to almost its low point, with everything in between affirming and inspiring your commitment to return!

Virgin River to the Narrows

Back in the main Zion Canyon, water level permitting, try hiking the Virgin River to the Narrows. It’s one of the “classic” hikes of the American West, unique, beautiful, and fun! And, just for the “aesthetic record” hike Zion in sunny weather. Its color needs to be seen in sunlight for its magic to cast its spell.

Tips on visiting Zion National Park

My favorite hotel, the Driftwood Lodge. Awesome down-canyon views, a cozy park area next to the Virgin River, and gourmet fare at its best at Parallel 88 Restaurant located on the property. Dog friendly, too.

Best Western Zion Park Inn, Canyon Ranch Motel and Flanigan’s Inn rate high also. Restaurants of note include: The Spotted Dog at Flanigans, Oscars Cafe and The Switchback Grille. Great places to compliment Zion’s spectacular hiking where appetites are stoked and memories created.

Northern part of Zion from the West Rim Trail - one of the best hikes when visiting Zion National Park

Northern part of Zion from the West Rim Trail – Photo credit: Kirk DeNee

Don’t forget Springdale, Utah

The town of Springdale has several top photography studios, including Fatali’s and David Pettit, David West and others that do more than justice to Zion’s famous scenery.

The National Park Visitor’s Center is a must as well as the IMax Theater. Springdale really is laid back and blessed with many small treasures to discover after a day on the trail. Finally, Deep Canyon Spa will top off the day’s adventures with massage treatments for the body that match what Zion Canyon does for your soul. I have found May/early June and September my favorite months to hike. But any time of year is “Zion Time.”

Further reading

Blog kindly written by guest blogger, Phillip Ferranti  author of 149 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs.

"Phillip Ferranti and his dog in the Mecca Hills area, close to Palm Springs"

Phillip Ferranti and his dog in the Mecca Hills area, close to Palm Springs

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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