8 Breathtaking Reasons to Visit Zion National Park, Travel Experts Say
From hiking to stargazing to beautiful slot canyons, there's so much to see and do at Zion.
Towering sandstone skyscrapers formed by the earth, an expansive night sky glittering with a sea of stars, and some of the most iconic hikes in the entire world—this is just some of what you can expect to experience during a trip to Zion National Park in Southern Utah. Thinking about joining those who've navigated Zion's majestic slot canyons, teetered across Angel's Landing, or climbed the 2,800 feet to Observation Point? Travel experts say these are the eight best reasons to visit Zion. Keep reading for their tips, and you might be booking tickets within the hour.
8 Reasons to Visit Zion National Park
1. It's one of the few places in the world with slot canyons.
Slot canyons are narrow gorges surrounded by tall sandstone formations, and there are only a handful in the world. Most of them are on the border of Arizona and Utah, with Zion offering some incredible slot canyon hiking via its famous Narrows.
But what makes Zion's slot canyons particularly special is that they're filled with shallow water, which makes for a nice reprieve on a hot summer day.
"As you wade through this hike, you will be surrounded by thousand-foot walls of Navaja sandstone that have been eroded into spectacular shapes and zebra-striped textures," says Woody Sears, CEO and co-founder of HearHere, an audio app that tells stories about places around the world.
Pro Tip: Pack quality water shoes, as nearly all of this hike will have you partially submerged in water. You'll also thank yourself for having a change of socks and dry shoes after the hike.
2. The red rock waterfalls are stunning.
Leslie Carbone, a travel expert at Sancerres at Sunset, says Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world. "With sparkling waterfalls, green cottonwoods, Navajo sandstone, and so much more, Zion is spectacular with varied colors and rich textures."
This park has no shortage of flowing water—including the Emerald Green Pools and waterfall. The three pools are shallow basins of water named for the greenish tint of the algae they host, Carbone tells Best Life.
There are also several waterfalls at Zion Narrows, and the Archangel Falls are not to be missed. According to Utah National Park Trips, the latter is only accessible via some rugged terrain, but if you're able to reach it, the series of shallow cascades flowing down the red rocks are stunning.
3. Stargazing is incredible.
Because Zion has very little light pollution, it's considered one of the best stargazing spots in the world.
"Not only will you be mesmerized by jaw-dropping canyon views and natural rock formations, but when the sun goes down, you'll enjoy the night sky in its full glory with views of planets and the milky way," notes says Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay. "The best time for a stargazing adventure is during spring or fall when you can enjoy fewer crowds than in the summer months."
Kolob Terrace is one of the best spots to stargaze since it's a less-visited area of the park. That means fewer car headlights and flashlights, which makes for stunning dark sky views with endless stars.
4. You can rock climb.
Zion's famous sandstone cliffs are the perfect playground. Not only are they stunning, but they also make for great rock climbing.
"The park offers a wide range of climbing routes suitable for all skill levels, making it an ideal destination to test your climbing prowess or take a guided climbing adventure, says Justin Albertynas, travel expert and CEO of hotel booking engine RatePunk. Kids can participate, too, plus the tour guides do a great job alleviating any fears you may have.
5. The hiking doesn't get much better.
With over 100 hikes to choose from, hitting the trails is easily the most popular activity in Zion National Park. Best of all, there's a variety of trail types, ranging from very simple—perfect for families or those who don't want to sweat too much—to more strenuous options.
"If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime hiking experience, Zion is the place for you. With some of the most iconic hiking trails and one of the most picturesque canyon views in America, this natural wonder is sure worth a visit," says Dittakavi.
Some of the most popular trails include Canyon Overlook, Lower Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and Observation Point. If you want something more challenging, you can't go wrong with Zion's signature hike, Angels Landing.
To beat the heat, start early in the day to beat the heat, use a water backpack, wear a hat, and slather plenty of sunscreen.
6. There are some lovely glamping options.
Take your trip up a notch—and really immerse yourself in the great wild—via glamping experiences near Zion. For instance, there's Wander Camp, which offers twin, triple, king, and family tent options complete with cozy beds. Picturesque Zion Glamping Adventures and Zion Wildflower Resort also feature both glamping and bungalow options.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular glamping stays, though, is at Under Canvas Zion. "Take advantage of the opportunity to spend more time in nature but with the comforts of tent suites that are as accommodating as a hotel," recommends Sears. "The views are incredible and pair well with the locally sourced menu at the on-site restaurant that goes way beyond your typical camping fare."
You can also camp within the park, though it won't be quite as "glam" as some of the above experiences. Make sure to reserve a spot and pack all the essentials with you, including plenty of water.
7. Sunsets are next level.
There's a reason Zion is on so many bucket lists and remains one of the most popular national parks in the world year after year. It truly immerses you in some of the world's most breathtakingly beautiful vistas, star maps, and sunsets.
"One of the most rewarding experiences Zion has to offer is its breathtaking sunset views," Dittakavi says. "Prepare to be amazed and capture astonishing photos of the jagged silhouette of the cliffs as the sun fades."
Lava Point is probably the best spot in Zion National Park to catch the sunset. Located in Kolob Terrace, one of the lesser-visited areas in the park, it's the perfect hidden gem that will make your trip to Zion a memorable experience.
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8. You'll be close to other must-visit national parks.
With other iconic parks in all directions, it's super easy to build an epic Southwest road trip around your visit to Zion. Moab, Utah—home to both Arches National Park and Canyonlands—is only five hours away, and you'll pass through cinema-famous Monument Valley on the way there.
Those wanting to stay closer can drop by the majestic Grand Canyon, which is an easy two-hour drive. Zion's also about an hour away from both Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon.
If you're not keen on driving, let Amtrak come to the rescue. America's iconic railroad service offers 18 national park tours that pass through Zion.