If you’re not planning on driving your own vehicle for this trip, fly into Las Vegas and pick up a rental. The drive to Springdale is only two-and-a-half hours and it’s scenic in its own right, passing Nevada’s sprawling sandstone Valley of Fire State Park
. After arriving in Springdale, take a break from the car and grab a bite at one of the low-key cafés in town. The Bit and Spur
is a local favorite with a prime patio view of Zion’s cliffs, while the Spotted Dog Café
features an award-winning wine list and bistro fare.
Accessing Zion National Park from Springdale is quick and easy. Grab a daypack (always bring plenty of water, sun protection and extra layers) and hop on one of nine shuttle stops in town. Zion is one of the most visited National Parks in the country, and it’s easy to see why. At every turn the views are stunning and the trails so enchanting that your hiking boots will feel like slippers.
Because of the park’s popularity, it’s worth planning your visit for off-peak times. Try to visit the park during the week and outside of common vacation times for the thinnest crowds. Where you go in the park can also make a big difference. While the famous hikes are well-known for a reason, there’s plenty to explore in Zion that’s still under the radar.
If it’s your first visit, ride the shuttle to the last stop: the Temple of Sinawava, where you’ll be immersed in a towering Navajo sandstone amphitheater amid the Virgin River. Get a taste for hiking The Narrows
, the slot canyons amid the North Fork of the Virgin River. This is an out-and-back hike (the furthest point out is five miles) so you can take it as far as your feet will let you. As one of the park’s most popular experiences, planning ahead is important. Dress appropriately for hiking in a river, respect your fellow hikers, and pack out everything you pack in. Late morning on the weekend is sure to be crowded, so be patient and appreciative of your surroundings. Ask locally for alternatives to Zion’s main canyon if you’re seeking solitude. Better still, consider hiring a guide to take you to those places safely.
Making the most of a day at Zion is all about going with the flow. It’s great to plan a few hikes or destinations but be ready to change your plans to have the best experience. If the crowds are flocking to the park’s greatest hits (like Angel’s Landing
) pick from dozens of other spectacular hikes that fit your skill level and time frame.
The shuttle makes it quick and easy to get around the park. Sometimes the best way to appreciate the park isn’t from a crowded viewpoint but by finding a quiet place deep on a trail and simply reveling in the details. For an easy to moderate hike, check out The Watchman
trail near the park’s south entrance. You’ll enjoy views of the Virgin River and Springdale as you hike amid fragrant piñon and juniper. Meanwhile the Grotto trail is an easy but scenic loop around the park’s lush pools.
For the true Zion experience, staying in Springdale is a must. Flanigan’s Inn
(home to the Spotted Dog Café) offers cabin-style villas with modern minimalist interiors while the Cliffrose Springdale
and Desert Pearl Inn
feature contemporary styling. All accommodations offer incredible views of the park’s cliffs and mesmerizing, ever-changing light.
On your second day here or between hikes, check out Springdale’s thriving arts community . Be sure to walk downtown and stop by the David J. West Gallery
and Worthington Gallery
to discover out local and regional artists.