From red sandstone canyon walls rising thousands of feet in the air to lush vegetation lining the babbling water of the Virgin River, there’s a reason Zion National Park is Utah’s most visited national park. In fact, it’s one of the most popular national parks in the US, and it’s only 3 hours from Escape Camper Vans in Las Vegas!
With plentiful hiking, picturesque drives, iconic vistas, and many scenic campsites the best way to explore Zion National Park is in the comfort of a camper van! Why rent a camper van for a trip to Zion National Park?
Sleeping in a tent is fun, but what’s even more enticing? Sleeping in a cozy bed but still getting the camping experience without the hassle of setting up a tent or sleeping on the ground. Outfitted for adventurers like you, Escape Camper Vans provides just that!
An Escape Camper Van has all the comforts of an RV, except a camper van is more mobile, compact, and easier to drive making your road trip smoother than you can imagine! Unlike an RV, a camper Van does not need electric or sewer hookups. Just start the engine and get rolling! Escape Camper Vans also offers a variety of extra accessories to ensure you have a comfortable trip.
Preparing for a Trip to Zion National Park
A little preparation goes a long way in planning a successful trip. From how to navigate the park to what to wear and pack, here are some tips to help you plan your Zion National Park trip.
Plan for Crowds
Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States so undoubtedly, the park is crowded during the busy season from May to September. While it’s hard to escape the crowds, an early start to your day helps! Try to hop on the first park shuttle so you’re the first up the trails.
The Zion Canyon Shuttle is one of the most efficient national park shuttles, and it is the only way to see most of the park. It’s free and provides access throughout Zion Canyon. There are nine shuttle stops throughout the park where you can hop on and off to explore the park.
The Zion Canyon Line runs every 5 – 10 minutes. The shuttle runs daily from March through November and throughout the holiday season near the end of December. When the shuttle is running it is the only way to access Zion Canyon. You cannot drive your car in the canyon.
Pick up the Zion Canyon Shuttle at the Zion Canyon Village Visitor Center. Check online for current shuttle hours and don’t miss the last shuttle out or you’ll have to walk back to your car!
The Springdale Line, located just outside the park in Springdale, runs every 15 minutes and takes visitors to Zion Canyon Village to connect with the Zion Canyon Shuttle. If you’re staying in Springdale the Springdale Line is a great option so you don’t have to worry about finding parking at the visitor center which fills up early.
America the Beautiful Pass
The entrance fee into Zion National Park is $35 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days. If you plan to visit any other Utah Mighty 5 National Parks then you should look into the America the Beautiful Pass!
This pass costs $80 a year and covers the entrance fees at all US national parks. This is a huge savings if you’re heading out on a national park road trip! The America the Beautiful Pass is available as an extra accessory when booking an Escape Camper Van. Or you can purchase one at any national park entrance kiosk.
While hiking boots provide ankle support and great traction, many visitors to Zion National Park find themselves in the water whether they’re taking an afternoon swim in the Virgin River or wading up the famous Narrows hike.
Rather than wearing bulky hiking boots that take a day to dry out, many visitors prefer sturdy hiking sandals like Chacos or Tevas to adventure through the water.
Rechargeable Battery or Solar Panel
It’s nice to keep your devices charged while traveling. It’s often sunny in Utah so a solar panel is great for charging your electronics during the day and a rechargeable battery pack will keep your devices going at night when your camper van isn’t running.
Certain hikes, like Angels Landing and the full Narrows trek, require permits obtained in advance. It’s prohibited to hike parts of these trails without permits and rangers will turn you back if you don’t have one. If you plan to hike a popular trail, reserve your permits online before you head out.
Many campgrounds around Zion National Park do not have running water. Check your campsite amenities before you head out. If your campground doesn’t have potable water, pack at least 2 gallons of water per person per day for both drinking and camp use. All of our camper vans come equipped with a sink and a five-gallon water reservoir for you to use throughout your trip.
Must-See Sights, Events, and Places in Zion National Park
If you’re comfortable with exposure atop a narrow ridge while holding onto metal chains then the strenuous 5.4-mile hike of Angels Landing is the hike for you. This iconic trek is one of the most photographed spots in Zion National Park.
If the chains sound a bit sketchy then hike up to Scout Lookout. It’s the viewpoint just before the chain section and offers impressive views of Zion Canyon.
Permits are required to hike the chain section of Angels Landing. Permits are available online via a seasonal lottery released two to four months out. The remaining permits are available the day before.
Over millions of years, the Virgin River has cut deeper and deeper into sandstone cracks eventually widening and forming Zion Canyon. At the narrowest point of Zion Canyon, the Narrows were formed. Today the Narrows are one of the most popular hiking areas in Zion National Park.
The easiest access to the Narrows is via a1-mile trail from the Temple of Sinawava, the northernmost shuttle stop. Choose your adventure and hike up the Narrows for a few minutes or spend a few hours exploring this striking canyon.
Depending on the time of year and how far you hike, water levels range from ankle-deep to waist-deep. Wear clothing and shoes that you’re comfortable getting wet and use hiking poles for stability.
Never enter the Narrows when they are closed for high water levels as this is extremely dangerous. Water levels are often highest in the spring when snow melts and after summer monsoonal rains.
The Temple of Sinawava is a tall, natural sandstone amphitheater located at shuttle stop 9, the most northern shuttle stop in Zion Canyon. From the Temple of Sinawava take in the impressive views of Zion Canyon while walking the Riverside Walk which follows along the Virgina River.
Along the walk, you’ll see many chubby begging squirrels. Feeding them is tempting but it’s actually a bad idea as a bite can send you to the hospital! The Temple of Sinawava is also the starting point for hiking the Narrows from the bottom.
Zion Grotto is a scenic area located along Zion Canyon Road. Take in sites of the tall canyon walls as you walk alongside the Virgin River or relax in the picnic area under the cottonwood trees. Zion Grotto provides plenty of shade during the heat of the summer.
The Virgin River flows through the center of Zion Canyon. It has carved out the landscape for millions of years and continues to shape the landscape today.
The Virgin River is a popular spot to relax, take a dip during the heat of summer, or have a picnic under the shady trees. There are many spots along Zion Canyon Road where you can access the Virgin River.
Kolob Canyons is located in the southwest corner of Zion National Park and is known for its majestic peaks and cliff walls rising over 2,000 feet high. Kolob Canyons has a separate park entrance off Highway 15, about an hour’s drive from Zion Canyon.
Take a scenic drive or hike deep within the massive canyons. This section of the park is far less crowded than Zion Canyon and the striking landscapes should not be missed.
Stop by the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to learn about park geology, wildlife, and the environment. Chat with a park ranger about current park conditions and the best way to spend your time in the park.
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is conveniently located just inside the park’s south entrance, within walking distance from the town of Springdale. You can pick up the Zion Canyon Shuttle from this visitor center.
Examine artifacts showcasing the impressive human history of Zion National Park at the Zion Human History Museum. Many exhibits explain how the communities survived, their interaction with the native plants, their relationships with the wildlife, and the significance of park geology in their culture. The Zion Human History Museum is open seasonally.
The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway on Highway 9 is a National Scenic Byway that runs from Mount Carmel, east of Zion National Park, to Zion Canyon in the west. The highway offers some of the most scenic views from the park’s high elevations down to the bottom of the canyon.
Along the way, you’ll pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel which is over a mile long! Built in the 1920s, it’s still standing strong today. You can’t stop in the tunnel itself, but there are a few windows to glance out and there are many scenic pullouts along the rest of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway.
Located right off the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway is Checkerboard Mesa, a unique geologic feature of Zion National Park. The checkered-patterned sandstone mountain has several pullouts nearby to take photos from. Lookout for bighorn sheep, they are known to frequent the area!
Kanab is a quaint wild-west-themed town on the east side of Zion National Park. Kanab has a cute downtown with shops, restaurants, and cafes. It’s an adventurous town located near many hiking trails, state parks, and off-roading areas.
Watchman Campground is a 176-site, year-round campground located right next to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. It’s located a quarter-mile past the South Entrance into the park in Springdale, Utah. Watchman Campground has potable water, flushing toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings. Reservations are required year-round and open 6 months in advance.
South Campground is located just east of the Zion National Park Visitor Center. Currently, most of the campground is closed due to a rehabilitation project but a few sites remain accessible. Reservations open two weeks in advance.
Lava Point Campground is located in the Kolob Canyon District of Zion National Park, about an hour and twenty minutes from the Springdale Park entrance. Lava Point Campground is open when clear of snow, usually from May to September.
Reservations are required in advance and open 2 weeks out. Lava Point Campground is a basic campground with pit toilets and trash cans, but no water.
Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort is a private campground located in the town of Springdale just a half mile outside of the park’s south entrance. Zion Canyon Campground has toilets, running water, showers, fire rings, picnic tables, a swimming pool, coin-op laundry, a camp store, and a market across the street.
Ponderosa Grove Campground is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land campground located eight miles northwest of Kanab. The campground is shaded by ponderosa pine trees and it sits at 6,300 feet in elevation so temperatures are comfortable here in the summer.
Ponderosa Grove Campground has 26 car-camping sites with toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables. There is no water.
Zion Scenic Byway Dispersed Camping
Located to the east of Zion National Park continues the Zion Scenic Byway along Highway 9. From outside the park’s east entrance to the town of Mt Carmel Junction are a variety of dispersed camping spots. There are no amenities in these areas but they are a great option if you’re comfortable with primitive camping.
Book campsites as far in advance as possible. Campsite release dates vary from 2 weeks out to 6 months out. If you’re camping at a dispersed camping area then arrive early at the campsite to claim your spot. It’s hard to claim a campsite on weekends during the busy season from spring through fall so try to arrive during the week.
Follow the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles
Practicing the Leave No Trace principles is a great way to protect the environment, respect wildlife, and keep you safe. Follow these ethics to help your trip run smoothly and to avoid problems.
Plan ahead and prepare. Let someone know your trip plans, when you plan to return, and research your destination ahead of time.
Camp and walk on durable surfaces. Stick to established trails and campsites.
Properly dispose of all waste. Pack out all trash and food scraps. Properly dispose of human waste in a bathroom or by using WAG bags if you are wild camping.
Leave what you find. Everything in a national park is protected. It’s illegal to pick wildflowers, take pine cones, or disturb ancient artifacts.
Minimize your campfire impacts. Check if fires are allowed and if you need a fire permit. If fires are permitted, use water to make sure your fire is completely out when you go to sleep.
Respect wildlife. Give animals space. Do not approach or feed them.
Be considerate of other hikers. Say hello, allow quicker hikers to pass you, obey quiet hours, and park in your designated parking spot.
When is the best time to visit Zion National Park?
Zion National Park is open year-round but each season offers a different experience. When choosing when to visit, take into consideration your tolerance of the heat and cold, your love or hate of crowds, and which activities you plan to partake in.
Springtime in Zion National Park means blooming wildflowers and rising temperatures following a cold winter. From March to May hiking temperatures are comfortable, starting with chilly mornings and turning warm by midday. Nighttime temperatures average in the 40s. By late spring expect rising temperatures and larger crowds.
Summer is a very popular time to visit Zion but it’s not the best time of year temperature-wise. Zion Canyon, the most visited part of the park, gets VERY hot regularly hitting 90 to 100 degrees from June through August. Sometimes it’s so hot you can fry an egg on the concrete!
If you plan to visit in the summer, prepare for crowds. Start your hikes by sunrise and try to choose high-elevation hikes for slightly cooler temperatures.
With leaves changing from green to yellow and temperatures dropping, fall is a great time to visit Zion National Park. It’s usually still hot midday in September but average temperatures quickly drop by October and November. Fall is a popular time to visit Zion but crowds begin to dissipate by late October.
Winter is by far the least crowded time to visit Zion. Yes, it’s cold. But yes, it’s also beautiful with a fresh coat of snow. If you’re willing to bear the cool temperatures and want to avoid the crowds then visit Zion National Park in the winter!
From December through February daytime temperatures average in the 40s to low 50s. Nights are usually in the mid-20s.
Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for your trip to Zion National Park
There’s a reason Zion National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the US, and if you don’t know why, you’ll have to see it for yourself! Located only 3 hours northeast of Escape Camper Vans Las Vegas, Zion National Park is a must-visit destination for any outdoor lover exploring the southwest.
Whether you’re an avid hiker who loves hiking along exposed terrain or you enjoy sipping your coffee while strolling alongside a river, Zion National Park offers exploration options for all visitors and will not disappoint.