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NPS Passport: Zion National Park


NPS Passport: Zion National Park

The United States has 63 national parks, which are congressionally designated protected areas operated by the National Park Service. National parks are renowned for their natural beauty, unique geological features, diverse ecosystems, and recreational opportunities. Equity Estates residences enjoy close proximity to over a dozen national parks.

A stunning oasis of towering sandstone canyons, spectacular rock arches, and western woodlands

Zion National Park is a bit of a drive from the Equity Estates home in Park City (four to five hours, depending on the part of the park you plan to visit), but totally worth an overnight trip just to experience the dramatic landscapes and adventure found there.

Located in the southwest corner of the state, near the Nevada and Arizona borders, the park encompasses about 150,000 acres of wild canyon and mountain wilderness, with towering red-rock cliffs rising from scraggly green and brown scrubland and coniferous woodland slopes below. The Virgin River and its tributaries wind through sections of the park as well, offering a respite from the sun and heat during warmer months with hiking trails that meander alongside, and spots specifically designated for wading, swimming, and kayaking (though watercraft permits may be required).

There are multiple entrances to Zion, including the main Zion Canyon entrance on the southern edge of the park near the town of Springdale and the Kolob Canyons entrance in the northwest, just off Interstate 15. Both feature visitor centers (with exhibits, bookstores, maps, and helpful guides), hiking trails, and access to some of the park’s most iconic attractions.

Kolob Canyons is the closest entrance to your Equity Estates home and is ideal for anyone looking for a more secluded park experience. Less crowded than the main Zion entrance, this part of the park offers one of the area’s most scenic drives, along with over 20 miles of hiking trails that take you through protected wilderness to peaceful streams and cascading waterfalls, historic archaeological and cultural heritage sites, and breathtaking overlooks — all surrounded by soaring red and brown sandstone cliffs. You could easily spend a day here exploring and soaking in the park’s wild, natural beauty.

There’s no direct access to the rest of Zion’s attractions from Kolob Canyons though, so to reach the main part of the park, you’ll have to get back on the highway and drive another 45 minutes to the Zion Canyon entrance. From the visitor center there, you’ll be able to take the free park shuttle on a round-trip ride along picture-perfect Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, hopping on and off at your choice of landmarks and hiking trails along the way. The famed Temple of Sinawava, a huge natural stone amphitheater with a paved riverside path leading to tumbling waterfalls, hanging gardens, and the ever-popular Zion Narrows, is the shuttle’s last stop before it heads back to the visitor center, and is definitely a part of the park you won’t want to miss.

Zion Canyon is also where you’ll find drive-up campgrounds (with comfort stations and tent or RV sites) and the historic Zion Lodge, if you plan to spend the night before driving back to Park City.

If you’d like, you can double up your national park adventure with a drive over to beautiful Bryce Canyon (1.5 hours northeast of Zion) or make plans to visit that park on another trip.

What the park is best known for:

The main highlight of Zion National Park is the massive Zion Canyon. Spanning 15 miles from one end to the other and averaging 2,000 feet deep, it’s home to incredible hiking trails and wow-factor views throughout. Millions of visitors travel to Zion each year to experience the canyon’s towering cliffs, tranquil river and emerald-colored pools, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking vistas first-hand.

The park is also home to famous natural rock arches, with the Kolob Arch and Crawford Arch being the most prominent (and most photographed).

Named one of the Best U.S. National Parks for 2023 by US News & World Report, it’s the perfect outdoor destination for thrill-seekers and nature lovers.

Top three things to do in the park:


Hiking and Backpacking

As is true in most of the country’s national parks, hiking is one of the main draws at Zion. The park’s 90+ miles of trails provide ample options for day hikes or shorter walks, though some are better suited for overnight backpacking adventures.

For beginners, the paved 3.5-mile (roundtrip) Pa’rus Trail near the South Campground and the 2.2-mile Riverside Walk trail near the Temple of Sinawava offer gorgeous scenery and easy access from the Zion Canyon Shuttle.

More experienced hikers may enjoy the moderate Watchman Trail, with fabulous views of the Temples and Towers, Watchman Peak, and lower Zion Canyon. Or challenge themselves with the more strenuous 5.4-mile Angels Landing Trail (which requires a permit) or the Narrows via Riverside Walk, a long trail through narrow canyon passages with sections that have you wading, walking, and sometimes swimming through the river.

Overnight backpacking trips to any of Zion’s dozen or so designated backpacking sites require a Wilderness Permit (available online) but give visitors the opportunity to go beyond the busier trails and into quieter, less traveled parts of the park.

Camping

Camping options in Zion National Park range from “roughing it” hike-in backpacking treks with designated areas where you can pitch your tent for the night, to campgrounds with comfort stations, tent sites, and RV hookup.

Open year-round, the Watchman Campground is the park’s busiest, and reservations should be made months ahead of your visit if you plan to camp there. The South Campground, located near the Zion Canyon entrance, requires reservations at least two weeks in advance. Both are located in the southern desert part of the park, with little shade, so be prepared with ways to stay cool if you plan to camp during summer months.

Local comfort stations provide flush toilets and cold water, but no showers or electricity. And all food you bring into camp must be stored in sturdy, lockable containers or your vehicle to avoid attracting the park’s wildlife.

The Kolob Canyons area does not allow camping, so while it’s perfect for a full day of hiking and sightseeing, if you plan to stay overnight in the park, you’ll have to go through Zion Canyon.

Guided Treks

With a limited amount of time, booking a guided hike or horseback ride with a local expert may be the perfect way to explore the beauty of the park.

Special ranger-led outings are scheduled at various times throughout the year and range from short nature walks and easy hikes to nighttime excursions or longer treks. Reservations are typically required, but programs are posted on the park calendar in advance, making it easy to plan and sign up.

Dozens of local outdoor adventure companies also offer a variety of half-day and full-day private and small-group hikes throughout the park, from beginner-friendly outings to more adventurous treks through Zion’s most challenging trails.

Canyon Trail Rides, the only company authorized to provide horseback excursions in Zion National Park, operates from March to October each year and offers fantastic one-hour to three-hour outings along the river or around Sand Beach Trail. Perfect for older kids and adults, the leisurely rides give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the Utah landscape and see a few of the park’s natural wonders, including the Three Patriarchs, the Beehives, and Zion’s cactus gardens.

About the Equity Estates home:

Our Park City residence is a modern, three-story townhome in the heart of Canyons Village. It features a sleek, open floorplan, with over 3,000-square-feet of luxurious living space that includes four bedrooms, a fully stocked gourmet kitchen, stunning main-room fireplace, and large picture windows that fill the home with gorgeous natural light and beautiful mountain views. Enjoy incredible amenities right outside your door or get cozy after your busy days out by relaxing in the home’s eight-person hot tub or hanging out in the lower-level game room (complete with its own wet bar). The Park City home is the perfect place to relax and unwind after time on the mountain or overnight visits to Utah’s famed national parks.