Planning a visit to a National Park can be daunting, especially when you have a limited window of time. As Utah’s first National Park, Zion has an unlimited amount of hikes, drives and photo friendly backdrops for you to explore. Because of this, it also can end up being quite crowded and overwhelming. Here are my Top 5 Tips When Visiting Zion National Park For the First Time!
- Buy the Annual Parks Pass
I know I know, it’s $80 but it’s completely worth it. Sometimes called the Interagency Pass or the America the Beautiful Pass, you can typically purchase it on-site at the park when you arrive. Aside from National Parks, the pass allows you access to around 2,000 federal recreation sites. Entrance fees can span between $20 sometimes even $40, so if you end up visiting land run by the National Park Service more than 2-3 times a year, it’s completely worth it. Make sure to sign it on the back!
2. Plan Early or Wake up Early.
For the most popular hikes in the park (Angel’s Landing and The Narrows), parking can fill up quickly. All of the park’s hikes and sights are along the scenic road. Once the parking spots up top fill up, the rangers begin closing the road. If you’re not an early bird, there are tram options that you should reserve in advance or you can look into renting bikes instead of driving up. If you end up being one of the lucky ducks that have managed to snag a Zion National Park lodge reservation or a campground permit, that’s another way to get into the park before all of the riff raff.
3. Rent Water Shoes and/or a Walking Stick For the Narrows.
In most instances, I’m not into renting accessories at a premium if I can help it, but this is one instance that it may be necessary. If you’d like to hear about all the mistakes we made on our first visit to Zion, feel free to check it out here. You will experience cold water that could go above your waist and anything you’re wearing will get wet. You’ll be climbing uneven river floor and every step is calculated. Having a walking stick will help you get through it with ease and water shoes will keep your feet light when you’re hiking.
4. Don’t miss out on the Observation Point Hike.
One hike that isn’t on the main scenic stretch of Zion is Observation Point. For many of the view points, visitors are experiencing Zion looking up. Despite the parking lot options being a bit bleak, Observation Point allows hikers to see incredible views from the top/down. This hike is at the East entrance of the park.
5. Check the nps.gov website to make sure that you’re up to date with any alerts that may affect your plans.
As much as you’d like to think you’re prepared for your big trip out to Zion, there will always be obstacles you never expect. We chose our trip during the pandemic so shuttles were closed, some of my friends had to determine whether or not to do the Narrows due to a toxic cyanobacteria bloom in the Virgin River and the Streams of Zion National Parks. Angel’s Landing chains weren’t open when we visited so the hike didn’t seem as worthwhile to do. Weather can also be unpredictable. One quick website check could prevent you potential heartache if plans need to pivot.