Zion Canyon is one of the most breathtaking landscapes on Earth. Over 4 million people come each year to bask in its wonders, but unfortunately they’re all crammed together along one stretch of road.
Crowd Factor: 10/10
If you don’t plan around Peak Hours, Zion can be a nightmare that will feel more like trying to park at the Super Bowl than visiting one of nature’s Crown Jewels.
Photo Credit: NPS
Peak Hours: 8a-5p
Enter the Park No Later Than 830a
Springdale's immediate proximity ensures an early start to full parking lots and long shuttle lines. The fact of the matter is this: 830am is absolute latest you should attempt to drive into the park and earlier is better.
Springdale: Beautifully Annoying
Development from the city runs for about three miles right up to the park gate, which can be disappointing for car campers expecting to feel like they’re “getting away from it all.”
The Shuttle System: Learn it, Love it, and Bike or Hike if You Can
For much of the year, the only vehicles allowed in Zion Canyon are the park's shuttles. Spring and summer crowds, however, can overwhelm the system. Bring a bike if you have one or just hike along the Virgin River for a less-stressful experience.
Long Shuttle Lines by 9a
While the shuttles are a godsend once you're in the canyon, by mid-morning lines snake back and forth. Waits up to 45 minutes are not uncommon.
Photo Credit: NPS
Things to Do
Most Popular: Emerald Pools, Angel’s Landing, & The Narrows/Riverside Walk
Our Take: Everything in Zion Canyon is popular (and rightly so). The only way to avoid the problems that come with the immense crowds is to wake up early and beat them out onto the trails.
Underutilized during the day and even more forgotten in the evening, hike the Watchman Trail for an unforgettable evening in Zion National Park.
Sunset Hike: Watchman Trail
Peak Alternative: River Trails Between Court of the Patriarch & The Grotto
For those of you who want some serenity in Zion, there is no better opportunity than the trails that follow the river in the center of the canyon.
Best Day Hike: Observation Point (8 mi)
The views are better and the trail substantially less crowded than Angel's Landing. If you only have one day in Zion, do this hike.
The East Side: A Seussian Wonderland
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’ve stepped into a Doctor Seuss book, the East Side of Zion's mind-bending rockscapes will transport you from Earth to a twisted fantasy land you may not believe is real.
5 Hikes That Mather
#1 Observation Point
With the best views and overall experience, Observation Point is a must-do hike that will leave you speachless.
Distance: 8.0 Miles
Peak Alternative: No, but once you pass Hidden Canyon the trail opens up.
Best Start Time: Before 830AM during the summer to beat the heat & crowds.
South Campground Reserves 2 Weeks Before Arrival
While Watchman Campground reserves up-to the typical 6-month timeframe. You can only reserve sites at the South Campground two weeks before your arrival date.
Mather's One-Day Itinerary
These times are based on summer daylight hours, typical temperatures, and crowd sizes.
6AM: Wake Up
7AM: Arrive Zion VC
7-730AM: Shuttle to Weeping Rock (Observation Point Trailhead)
730AM-1230PM: Hike to Observation Point
1230PM-1P: Shuttle to Court of the Patriarchs (if you need to refill water, shuttle to The Grotto)
1P-130P: Eat Lunch in a Shady Spot, Recover
130-330P: Stroll the along the river between Court of the Patriarchs and The Grotto.
4-430P: Shuttle to Museum
430-530P: Learning and watching the park film.
530-6P: Returning to Camp/Car via Pa’rus Trail
6-7P: Dinner at Camp or VC Picnic Area
7-9P: Watchman Trail
930P: Pass Out