Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 3: What to do in Zion

Things to do in Zion national Park

Hiking in Zion National Park

Zion has much to offer in the way of hiking, it’s leading activity, so that’s where most people start. From the short stroll up to the Weeping Rock, to the several-mile loop of Emerald Pools, and on to longer hikes like Angel’s Landing, there is something for everyone.

Weeping Rock is a short, half-mile hike that begins at one of the Zion Shuttle stops. The draw, besides the family-friendly brevity and ease of the climb, is the seeping water that drips from overhead. According to park information, this water spends hundreds of years finding its way through layer after layer of rock before sprinkling down on hikers, which elicits a feeling of being surrounded by something ancient, of depth and character. It also makes me happy to consider that my charcoal backpacking water-filter takes almost no time at all to produce drinkable water. Imagine having to wait a dozen generations to reap clean water from that which started at the top of the rock formation!

The Weeping Rock

The Weeping Rock

Angel’s Landing is perhaps the most well-known of the bunch and my personal favorite, featuring two miles of steep, but well-established trail to the beginning of the heart-racing half-mile climb to the final viewpoint, for which the hike is named. During this last half-mile, hikers will use bolted-in chains to scurry across sandstone ledges and will most certainly face any fears of heights during a number of moments where the route reveals the entirety of the 1,500ft drop to the canyon floor on both sides of the trail.

A number of people have fallen to their death from this last section (the last section of which we left out of our hike), but on the other hand, it is not uncommon to see young children doing the entire route. Overall, the hike is a must when visiting Zion, but when approaching the last bits, taking stock in your abilities and willingness as well as that of your company before venturing towards the promise of a 360 degree vantage point at the center of the canyon.

First chain section of Angel's Landing

The first chain section of Angel’s Landing

For more advice on hiking in Zion National Park, I find Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park to be an excellent resource.

Backpacking and Multi-Day Excursions in Zion

For some, driving far from the metropolis lights of Vegas and the relatively large (by Southern Utah standards) build-out of St. George to the main roads of Zion isn’t enough. This wilderness guide is a great back-country resource from Zion National Park, offering details on primitive campsite locations, water, canyon routes, and other useful information for those that like to get off the beaten path. In particular, the rim trails seem to offer lots of opportunities for multi-day hikes, awe-inspiring views, and some routing flexibility.

Renting a Bike in Zion NP

There are a couple of opportunities to rent bikes at Zion National Park, although there is but one route in the main canyon for which they can be used. Zion Cycles of Springdale, Utah offers road and MTB rentals by the hour or day, and there is another bike shop which rents more casual bikes near the foot-entrance to the park. Consider a spin up the canyon in the afternoon hours, as we did this past November, returning on a gentle downhill as the sun set against the reddish canyon walls. One thing to keep in mind while riding along the canyon road is that, though it is very poorly posted, you are required to stop and pull aside any time a shuttle bus passes on your side of the road.

The view from the upper end of the canyon road

The view from the upper end of the canyon road

Within an hour or so drive of the main portion of Zion National Park, there are other cycling options, including some beautiful roads in St. George and a few good mountain-biking routes. Guided MTB trips can be arranged either from St. George or from active travel companies in the Springdale area, such as Zion Adventure Company.

Zion Area Jeep Tours

Fancy covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time, including areas not often seen by hikers and bikers? Zion Jeep Tours offers the backroads of Zion and the surrounding areas by vehicle. One tour includes a visit to the Grafton Ghost Town, while another features a drive to the best spot to view the sunset. This sort of tour might be a great addition to the Zion experience for those who’ve been before or already had plenty of time to experience the canyon itself and are looking for the complete picture of the national park.

Climbing and Canyoneering in Zion

Climbing and Canyoneering are popular activities throughout the southwest, and Zion is no exception. Again, Zion Adventure Company is your go-to provided for active experiences in the Zion area, with basic canyoneering courses, half-day, full-day, and multi-day trips that explore every slot, nook, and cranny of Zion’s canyon-system. For more information about canyoneering in the area, visit this link at Canyoneering USA. There are also rock-climbing excursions through Zion Adventure, though you’re likely to see just as many climbers hanging precipitously from the canyon walls on their own, as Zion is a true climbers mecca. On our trip during the last week of “the season” in Zion, we spotted at least a dozen brave souls mounting challenges on the vertical canyon walls as we shuttled up and down the road from the relative safety of the riverbed.

Unique erosion sculptures in the side-canyons of Zion

Unique erosion sculptures in the side-canyons of Zion

Relaxing in the Canyon

While there is much in the way of adventure and activity to be had in Zion National Park, there is equal value in just planting oneself literally anywhere for several hours of quiet admiration. The park is a natural beauty of rare proportion and no matter where you are within its boundaries you will feel a sense of awe. There is no cell reception within the main canyon, little in the way of wifi, and in some ways, that’s a blessing. Living in Santa Barbara, I often catch myself taking for granted the stunning environment that surrounds me daily, but it in Zion, the park commands your full and uninterrupted attention.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably also like:

Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 2: When to Go and How to Get There

Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 1

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2 thoughts on “Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 3: What to do in Zion

  1. Pingback: Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 1 | Independent Travel Planning

  2. Pingback: Visiting Zion National Park, pt. 2: When to Go and How to Get There | Independent Travel Planning

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