If you’ve ever wanted to explore Zion National Park but have never had enough time to do it, you can! Zion National Park is entirely doable in only half a day (and sometimes less). While many people may not want to pay the $30 entrance fee ($25 motorcycle, $15 individual) for only a few hours, it certainly is worth it to us. Below we will show you just how you can visit this wildly popular park in 5 hours or less.
**Click here for our Zion Half-Day Itineraries printable PDF**
Where To Start
When you enter the park, whether you’re parking at the visitor center or taking the shuttle in, you should begin at the visitor’s center. This is also where you find the shuttle to all the part stops (separate from the shuttle just to get into the park.) Before you enter the actual center, there are a few awnings with trail directories that help guide you to their trails based on time, location, ability, etc. In fact, they have one specifically for short hikes. Most notable, are the Emerald Pool Trails and the easiest, paved, general trail.
However, depending on your ability, you may be able to do longer trails in a shorter amount of time. Only you know your pace, so plan accordingly – the hiking boards offer an excellent starting point.
Where To Eat
There are quite a few places to eat; there are even a few places dedicated to bringing your own food such as picnic areas. Our favorite was the Zion Lodge Cafe located on the 5th or 6th stop. It’s hard to miss; the bus stops right in front of the lodge which is set in front of a beautiful mountainous backdrop and spread out from an expansive front lawn. They have ice cream, pizza, burgers, fries, and anything else you can imagine at a general food cafe. If you walk farther in, you’ll also find a gift shop that has a variety of wrapped food goods for on the go.
The lodge also has a grill, which is a more formal type of dining and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll want to see about making a reservation when you go because the grill only holds around 200 people per meal.
Where To Shop
In the visitor center, there is a gift shop. Unlike traditional gift shops, the one at Zion has a broad selection of things – clothing, games, food, collectibles, activity tools, etc. This is also where you can get your passport stamps, commemorative stamps, and other national park exclusives.
As mentioned previously, you can also shop at the Zion Lodge. But outside the park, you can shop at a plethora of newly opened stores and local places that line the road all the way to the park. The Zion museum also has a small gift shop, although we didn’t get a chance to visit last time we were there.
Where To Hike
I highly suggest starting with Zion’s most popular, and easy to walk trail called Riverside Walk. It’s 1.5 hours to walk or stop and sightsee, but can be shorter for brisk walkers. It’s located on the last stop of the shuttle (9) and can usually be accessed anytime before 6 pm when the buses stop running.
Other great half-day hikes include the Kayenta Trail, Emerald Pools, and the Watchman trail, all of which are under 2 hours round-trip. If you’d like to try for a longer path with a faster pace, try the Taylor Creek or Sand Beach trails. You can visit Zion National Park’s website for a complete list and map of trails (including everything else you might need to know) to better plan your trip.
Other Things To Do
Want to see a little bit of the park but are pressed for time, or just passing through? Try driving the scenic highway between the north and south entrances. You do still have to pay a fee, but it’s a little cheaper.
You can also tour any of the nearby towns such as Springdale, St. George, Kolob, and Cedar City; each offer other fun and exciting things to see and are only ten minutes to an hour’s drive away. As for Springdale, you can probably visit end from end in a day or so, but there are many hidden gems to be found.
In addition to hiking, you can also bike the majority of Zion. They are widely renowned for their mountain bike trails and offer biking amenities.
What To Bring
Water (so necessary, even for the short and easy hikes!)
Good walking/hiking shoes
A backpack to put your map, water, electronics, etc.
Sunscreen (did you know you can even get a bad sunburn on cloudy days?)
Walking Stick – available for sale in and around Zion
And if you missed our printable PDF above, get it here: Zion Half-Day Itineraries
No matter what your time, visiting the National Parks are always worth the stop! Show us your pictures, passport stamps, and other adventure tales/comments if you’ve been to Zion, we’d love to see them!