A Day at Zion National Park
By Kimberly Graf. Published On 12/3/2018
Zion National Park, located in Utah, is the state's first national park. There are a ton of rivers, hiking trails, and canyons to see in this area, it'd be impossible to see it all in just one day! But we're going to do our best to get you to the best sites even on a time crunch. Make the best of your one-day visit and come back when you have more time to explore Utah's natural wonders.
There are a lot of attractions at Zion that will take a solid day of hiking just to see. While those sights are definitely worth it, we're going to avoid anything that takes over an hour to get to. You've got a short amount of time to see a whole lot, so we'll try and make it brief!
The Canyon is the busiest part of the park, but it's got the most to see. You can park at the Visitor's Center and take a free shuttle to Zion Lodge (and most other places in the park, but we'll start here). If you get off here, you can take a paved trail down to the Emerald Pools. There are three areas with pools here. If you only want to spend a little while hiking here, visit the Lower Pools and turn back. However, the hike is only about 2 hours at a normal pace, and the road is paved most of the way.
All around the pools are blooming ferns and other lush vegetation. It's an oasis in the middle of the desert, and it's very popular with everyone at the park. It might be busy, but it's worth seeing.
When you're finished there, get back on the shuttle and head two stops down to the Weeping Rock Trailhead. It's only about a fifteen-minute walk down to this trail's namesake. Weeping Rock is one of the main attractions at Zion. Rainwater and runoff slowly seeps through the stone, creating a location that is constantly 'weeping'. The water has fed a small hanging garden there, which is amazing to see but also creates a small river at the bottom.
When you're finished taking in the views from Weeping Rock, go back up to the shuttle point. Take it another stop or two until you reach the Temple of Sinawava, which leads down to the Riverside Walk. This trail is two miles long and takes you down into the canyon for a while. It's narrower here, and the walk is a little more difficult than some of the more popular destinations, but the views make it worth it.
From this trail, you can see the Virgin River, which carved this canyon. You can see even more walls that look like they're weeping, as well as a lot of greenery. The colors in the canyon, the beautiful reds and pinks, and golds make this a hike to enjoy more than anything. At the end of a mile and a half hike, you can get to the beginning of the Zion Narrows hike.
This hike is more strenuous, and you can choose to end the day here or not. We recommend just hanging out here for a while and heading back because there are a few attractions at the visitor's center that are also worth checking out.
Get back on the free shuttle and head back the way you came. The Visitor's Center has a few interesting short hikes, the Archaeology Trail and the Virgin River Nature Trail. The Archaeology Trail is a short jaunt where you can see the remains of an ancient storage building, from the Ancestral Puebloan people. It's about five minutes up to this site.
Head back down behind the Visitor's Center for a short walk ideal for wheelchairs or others that can't walk the long distances throughout the park. It has access to the Virgin River, so you can see and experience a little of what the Park has to offer without hiking.
It's a short walk from the bottom of this trail to the Zion Human History Museum. Here you can see an overview of the Park and what created it, as well as plenty of exhibits about the early humans who settled here and the pioneers who came after.
There are also displays of the artifacts found throughout the site, notably those found in the ancient storage shelter you saw along the Archaeology Trail. You could spend the rest of your day here if you have the time; it pulls everything you've seen so far together nicely.
You're going to want to spend more than one day in Zion National Park. There's too much to see and do here. If we had one day, this is how we'd spend it. We encourage everyone to take their time going through these sights and experiences. You'll want to come back for more!