Visiting Zion National Park – Tips From A Regular

A grand view from Observation Point
A grand view from Observation Point

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

Every year since 1988 I’ve been visiting 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.

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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.

Visiting Zion National Park on a hike in the Narrows of the Virgin River
In the Narrows of the Virgin River, Zion National Park – Photo credit: LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

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!”

A grand view from Observation Point
A grand view from Observation Point

What hikes should you 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 Road 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.

Angel's Landing in Zion
Angel’s Landing in Zion – Photo credit: Adam Derewecki from Pixabay

Lava Point to Zion Canyon hike

Finally treat yourself when you’re visiting Zion National Park 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 Café and The Switchback Grille. Great places to compliment Zion’s spectacular hiking where appetites are stoked and memories created.

Could you handle this exposure when visiting Zion National Park on the hike to Observation Point?
Could you handle this exposure on the hike to Observation Point?

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.”

Shop: Phillip Ferranti is also the author of149 Great Hikes In and Near Palm Springs– a must have book if you’re heading there.

Further reading on hikes in Utah

Blog kindly written by guest blogger, Phillip Ferranti.

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