I guess you could say I saved the best for last. The size of Zion National Park alone is amazing, not to mention the beauty and variety of scenery. Mountains, canyons, valleys, trees, a flowing river, and the wildlife that call this place home, all mesh together in this “Promised Land”. Driving into the park from the East, you are immediately surrounded by giant colorful mountains with access to the heart of Zion only by driving through a long tunnel carved into the mountain. Once you emerge on the other side, the views are almost surreal. Continuing along the main road, you’ll descend down to the south entrance and find the visitor center located there. This serves as a central hub for the shuttle buses. Spring through Fall, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is open to shuttle buses only. This route takes you to all of the major viewpoints and trails. The shuttle bus is free and has pick up locations at several points in Springdale, the city located just outside the south park entrance. Free parking can be found throughout Springdale making it much easier and less congested than everyone parking at the visitor center. Springdale is a cute little town with several shops, restaurants, hotels, and markets. Zion Outfitter is located immediately outside the south park entrance gate, and I highly recommend them for showers and laundry. It’s a very nice, clean facility. They are also adjacent to a lodge, market, restaurant, and coffee shop. You can park and walk across the river to the visitor center from there.
There’s a dispersed camping area off Sheep Bridge Rd, in a town called Virgin, about 15 miles outside of Springdale. We camped there while we visited Zion. It was a nice remote desert area. Because you need to take the shuttle to access all of the major points in the park, I recommend parking in Springdale and grabbing the shuttle from there to the visitor center unless you go early before their parking lot fills up. There are a nice variety of hikes from easy paved strolls along the river to a strenuous climb to Angel’s Landing. Give yourself a few days to really enjoy this park. There are killer views around each curve in the trails. If you’re an active avid hiker, Angel’s Landing is a must on your list. I wasn’t able to do this hike because of my dog and I sprained my knee a few days prior. They do have a dog daycare, Doggy Dude Ranch, in town for people that want to do some of the longer day hikes. For the really adventurous souls, check out The Narrows. The river is the trail meaning you hike, wade, and swim through water the entire way. This area was closed when I visited the park due to dangerous high waters. With that being said, I still went on several great hikes and really enjoyed the beauty of Zion.
Utah’s Mighty Five is an excellent, easily navigable group of national parks. The road between each of them is a beautiful scenic drive. Whether your route takes you from Arches to Zion or reverse, seeing all five parks can easily be accomplished in a weeks time. This was a great start to my road trip and van life adventure.