Where to begin when planning a trip to Zion? Not everyone is an expert, intuitive vacation planner. Some of us need a little help and guidance to get started. This article provides basic information that should lay the foundation for any trip to Zion National Park. We’re not going to tell you where to eat, what hikes we think are the best, or what Zion hotels you should stay at. That will be up to you to decide. The info here will be more fundamental than that. Let’s start with how to get here.
Getting to Zion
Las Vegas has the closest airport to Zion. If you’re flying here, McCarran International Airport is the airport to fly in to. From there, it’s between a 2.5-3 hour drive to Zion. Take I-15 north and get off the Hurricane, UT exit (Exit 16) and don’t turn off that road for about a dozen miles at which point you’ll turn right onto Hwy 9. 20 more miles and you’re there. (These directions are the same for those coming from anywhere north of Hurricane, UT. Take I-15, get off Exit 16, and so on).
Springdale & Zion
Just so we’re all clear: Springdale is a city, Zion is a national park. They are not the same thing. Many Zion visitors stay in the city of Springdale thinking that they are simply staying in “Zion” when in reality they are staying in a city called Springdale. Seems strange, but it happens a lot. The front entrance to the park is where the city of Springdale ends and Zion begins. Also, Springdale itself is a phenomenal little town that deserves its own attention during your Zion vacation. Zion hotels and vacation rentals are amazing, restaurants are amazing, museums and shops are amazing – take a look around while you’re here and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There is one hotel located inside the park boundaries (Zion National Park Lodge) while all other lodging establishments reside in Springdale.
There is a free shuttle service with stops all through Springdale and the park itself, stopping at all the major Zion landmarks and trailheads. Use it to get where you need to go, especially to trailheads within the park and as an alternative to walking back to your hotel (if you don’t have your own vehicle, of course). The shuttles can get a bit crowded during the peak summer months, so be advised. Also, the shuttle system shuts down during the off-season starting in November.
Driving Inside the Park
Zion-Mt Carmel Hwy goes directly through the park and is the only road open to public vehicles. The road has entrances at both ends of the park requiring park passes or entrance fees. It’s an incredibly scenic drive so be sure not to miss it, but know that driving and parking inside the park in general, especially during the summer, is a headache. If you are intent on driving your car inside the park and finding a spot inside one of the many small parking areas, start as early as possible. After 8 am, you’re going to wish you had left your car at the hotel. During the off-season months, however, you’ll be able to park anywhere with ease. Our recommendation is that if you can plan your itinerary so that you need your personal vehicle as little as possible while mostly leaving it at one of the many Zion hotels or vacation rentals that you stay at, that will lend to the most enjoyable Zion experience. Use the shuttle and your own two feet as much as possible.
What to Bring to Zion
Bring enough sunscreen, snacks/food, water, and other supplies that you think you’ll need during the time spent inside the Park. Hiking boots and appropriate outdoor clothing is necessary as well, including hats. You can refill your water bottles at the Visitor Center and at any of the three campgrounds inside the park, as well as at any of the Zion hotels and the Springdale & Zion Canyon Visitor Center. There is a grocery store in Springdale as well as a few gas stations and convenience stores and a multitude of restaurant choices and various shops of all kinds.
Private vehicles are $30 each and last for 7 days.
The Basics of Planning of Trip to Zion National Park: What You Need to Know
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