10 Must-see Attractions in Zion National Park
Updated: Jul 9
Zion National Park is one of the most stunning National Parks in the United States. Our first visit to this beautiful park was an unforgettable experience and we have been back 4 times. From awesome hikes like Angels Landing and The Narrows to great photos like The Watchman and The Tower of the Virgin, this place is spectacular. The park is located in southwestern Utah and covers over 230 square miles of gorgeous wilderness. The main attraction in the park is the canyon with its gorgeous scenery and its many hikes.
Your Complete Zion Your Complete Guide
Trail Guide to Zion
The shuttle service varies from year to year but most years it runs daily from March through November and then again around the end of December. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (the road that starts north of Canyon Junction) is closed to private vehicles when park shuttles are operating. We try to go to the park when it is less crowded in Oct. and Nov. and our experience with the shuttle service has been good. Shuttle bus system
We stayed at the Watchman Campground you can reserve HERE
You can also find a lot of information on the Zion National Park website HERE
If you are a photographer there are some opportunities not to be missed.
Great photo ops that don't require hiking.
The Towers of the Virgin
This is behind the Zion Human History Museum at sunrise. It is a beautiful spot and you will not be by yourself.
Make sure you turn around and look behind you before sunrise for a gorgeous view.
It is beautiful as the sun rises and lights up the Towers.
The Watchman at Sunset
Photographing the Watchman at sunset is a must-do for any photographer visiting Zion National Park. It is an iconic photo that is not to be missed.
The Watchman can be photographed from a number of vantage points throughout the park but the favorite for most photographers is the Canyon Junction Bridge. Here again, you won’t be by yourself.
Make sure you turn around and take in the view behind you.
The Watchman is particularly impressive during the golden hour, which is the hour or so before sunset. The warm, golden light at this time of day bathes the Watchman in a beautiful glow, creating a stunning contrast between the dark shadows and the bright highlights of the sandstone.
Pullouts on the road
There are many places to stop at pullouts and take a photo and one of my favorites is the Big Bend Viewpoint where you can get a photo of the Great White Throne and Angels Landing in the same image.
You can find our post about the not to be missed Subway hike here, "The Subway/What we did and the gear needed"
There is another awesome hike in Zion National Park in the Kolob Section called Taylor Creek Hike that you can find here, "Hiking the Kolob Canyons Section"
Fairly Easy Hikes in the Canyon
#1 Hidden Canyon
We did this hike in Oct. There was some vine maple that was really colorful. This hike starts at The Weeping Rock, (Shuttle stop #7) and winds its way up some switchbacks until you reach some stone steps
After the steps, the trail gets really interesting as you hike along a narrow ledge with a chain handrail.
After this section, you enter the canyon with its narrow walls. this section lasts about a mile and requires some minor boulder scrambling.
We stopped at the small arch which is a great photo op and then turned around and retraced the route back to the Weeping Rock.
#2 Emerald Pools
This is a 2 to 3-mile hike, depending on how far you go. It is a fairly easy hike located across the street from the Zion Lodge (shuttle stop #5). There are three main areas, lower pools, middle pools, and upper pools with dramatic waterfalls between the middle and lower pools and at the upper pool. From the lodge, you cross a footbridge and follow the trail north. These waterfalls are ephemeral falls where flow is based on rainfall in the area and the flow can be heavy at times or dry up to a trickle.
There was a lot of colorful vine maple on the hike which made for some interesting photos.
As you approach the lower pools you can see the water cascading down from the middle pools.
At the lower pools, you actually walk behind the waterfall and there is some mist in the air. And as you start the climb towards the middle pools you can see the waterfall through the vine maple.
At the middle pools, you have to cross 2 streams so depending on how much water there is you might get your shoes wet. These are the streams that create the 2 waterfalls at the lower pools.
The final part of the hike is a strenuous quarter mile to the upper pool. It can be quite hot in the summer but it is well worth the effort. You can sit around and relax or have a picnic lunch. These photos were taken after heavy rainfall so the fall was flowing heavily
#3 Riverside Walk
The Riverside Walk is a paved, wheelchair-accessible trail that stretches for approximately 2.2 miles round trip. The trail begins at the Temple of Sinawava, a stunning natural amphitheater that marks the end of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
From there, hikers will be treated to breathtaking views of the towering sandstone cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. The trail also passes through several shaded areas, providing relief from the heat in the summer. Our last hike/walk there was in the fall and it was beautiful with the fall foliage. There had been rain off and on all day and as we walked ephemeral waterfalls would just spout from the cliffs. The hike ends where the hike for the Narrows starts.
#4 The Lodge to The Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint
This is a nice hike that starts at the bridge to the Emerald Pools Trailhead and goes downstream along the river to The Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint. The trail is only about a mile as it winds through the cottonwood trees. There are great views of the cliffs and the river and an occasional view of wildlife.
#5 Pine Creek
This is not an official hike in Zion but if you are a photographer or just want to see some different views of the West Temple this is a great spot. There is a pull-out at the Pine Creek Bridge that is just a half mile from the Canyon Junction Bridge. This makes for a stunning sunrise view.
You can hike down the creek or up the creek for some different views.
#6 Zion Narrows
This report is for the Narrows Bottom-up day hike. We have done this hike twice, both times in the fall when the crowds have thinned out. This is one of our favorite hikes ever and we would probably do it yearly if it was closer. As the name suggests, the Narrows is a narrow canyon with towering walls that can reach up to 1,500 feet high. The trail follows the Virgin River, which is the lifeblood of the canyon. The water is clear and cold, and hikers should be prepared to get wet as they will need to hike through the river in most areas.
As it is entirely in the water, hikers must be prepared with the proper gear. On our first trip, the ambient temperature was a little cold so we opted for the dry suit with the canyoneering shoes and staff. We rented this from Zion Adventures. We were used to wearing dry suits as we are avid divers in Southern California with its cold water. However, after the hike, we determined that the bib overalls or the dry pants would have been fine and that's what we wore on our 2nd trip. The hike begins at the Temple of Sinawava, where we took the Riverside Walk for one mile before reaching the start of the Narrows. It's the last stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. You need to keep the weather in mind and do not do this hike if it calls for rain. As I said earlier we did this in Nov. when the air temperature was in the 50s and the water was cold. That's why we opted for the extra protection of the drysuit and bib overalls however most people just wear shorts and t-shirts in the summer. The Narrows is closed for hiking during the spring because of the high run-off.
You start off hiking in the water. There are areas where there is dry land and vegetation but it is better to stay in the water than trample the plants. The water never got above our waist because of the reduced flow of the river in the winter. Towards the start, about a half mile, you will pass an area called Mystery Falls with a small waterfall rolling down the face of the cliff. From there you will see many areas with beautiful fall colors in the trees.
The hike continues through some awesome stretches of the canyon. Past towering canyon walls and small rapids in the river.
Our favorite part of the hike is Wall Street where the canyon narrows and the vertical walls tower above.
The bottom-up hike is 4.6 miles to Big Springs where you will have to turn around and exit the way you came. This time it took us 9 hours to go to Big Springs and back which was a really long day for us. Being an out-and-back hike you go as far as your time or fitness allows. It is faster coming out because you are going with the current.
#7 Angels Landing
This is arguably the most popular hike in Zion national park. It was constructed in the 1920s and follows a spine in the cliffs with fantastic views along the way. It is a strenuous hike and depending on your fitness level will take 3 to 6 hours to complete. The views at the end of the hike are amazing as you are 1500 feet above the Canyon floor. It is an exposed hike where you are holding on to chains through a part of the hike, so it is not for the faint of heart. Due to its popularity, and the crowds of people it attracts, this hike was put on a seasonal lottery system in 2022. Make sure you apply well in advance or try the day - before lottery. Check out the NPS Angels Landing Permits page.
You can beat most of the crowds by getting there early. The trail begins at the Grotto Trailhead, the 6th stop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. There is some level hiking along the river before you reach some steep switchbacks and before long you are at Scout Lookout.
After leaving Scout Lookout you come to the chains. It is the exposed section that climbs along the spine up to the landing.
Enjoy the view for a while before heading back the way you came.