10 Absolute Best Things To See in Zion National Park

Zion National Park - beautiful landscape

Zion National Park is Utah’s oldest national park (established in 1919). It occupies 229 square miles of protected land in southwestern Utah. Richly populated with sandstone formations, gorgeous canyons and meandering streams of the Virgin River, there are so many beautiful things to see in Zion National Park.

You have three popular areas to explore in the park: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Kolob Canyons.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs through Zion Canyon along the valley floor and is studded with picturesque viewpoints and trailheads.

The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is a part of Highway 9 within Zion National Park that connects East and South Entrances. It passes through the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. There are interesting stops and fantastic views along the way.

Kolob Canyons are tucked in the secluded northwest corner of the park. Far from the bustle of the main canyon, it offers a totally tranquil escape. The area is dotted with stunning canyons and  imposing red rocks.

A trip to Zion National Park introduces you to an endless array of magnificent views and incomparable scenery that will surely leave you awestruck. Check out these amazing things to see in Zion National Park for an unforgettable trip.

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A Quick Glance Through

Park Layout

Zion National Park Layout
Image Courtesy: National Park Service (See detailed map on the Zion National Park website)

Best Things To See in Zion National Park

1. Checkerboard Mesa

Located on the eastern side of Zion National Park, Checkerboard Mesa is a cone-shaped mountain with a distinct checkerboard pattern etched on it.

This is one of the first natural landmarks you will see after entering the park from the East Entrance.

Checkerboard Mesa - one of the interesting things to see in Zion National Park
Checkerboard Mesa | Interesting Things To See in Zion National Park

The mesa is made up of layers of wind-blown sand which were compressed and hardened due to various natural conditions. It rises 900 feet above the road.

You can enjoy spectacular views of the mesa from the Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint. Besides that, there are several pull outs along the way giving fantastic opportunities to view it.

This interesting geological formation is definitely worth checking out during your Zion trip.

2. Canyon Overlook: Breathtaking Views

Canyon Overlook is an easy 1-mile round trip hike with 163 feet of elevation gain.

The trailhead is right before entering the Mount Carmel tunnel if you are coming from the East Entrance. Those coming from Springdale/South Entrance will drive through the tunnel to get to the trailhead.

Canyon Overlook View - one of the best things to see in Zion National Park
Canyon Overlook | Best Things To See in Zion National Park

The trail ends at a vantage point offering you outstanding views of lower Zion Canyon and the switchbacks below.

At most places, the trail is fenced with protective railing. But there are spots with long drop-offs. So, be extremely cautious when hiking.

The parking space is very limited at this trail and it can fill up quickly. To secure a parking spot, consider hiking this trail early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

3. Canyon Junction Bridge: Jaw-dropping Sights

Canyon Junction Bridge is a famous spot in Zion National Park to view and photograph the iconic Watchman peak.

Situated at 6,545 feet (1,995 m), the Watchman is one of the most recognizable mountain summits in the park.

Canyon Junction Bridge View

This bridge is also a great spot to experience a glorious Zion sunset. The beautiful Watchman Mountain is bathed in a warm golden hue when the rays of the setting sun hit it.

This place can easily get crowded during sunset hours. So, arrive early if you want to get a nice spot.

To reach here from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, you can take the park shuttle and get off at shuttle stop 3.

4. Human History Museum

Human History Museum - one of the best things to see in Zion National Park for first-time visitors
Human History Museum | Best Things To See in Zion National Park For First-Time Visitors (Image: Ken Lund)

The Human History Museum is the 2nd stop for the Zion Canyon shuttle. It is a good place to learn about the rich history of Zion National Park.

A wide array of exhibits is on display to showcase the human habitation history of the region and the distinct culture of its early occupants. For a quick overview of the park, you can watch a short video that is run every half hour.

Besides this, enjoy the gorgeous mountain vistas from the back of the museum. You can see great views of the Towers of the Virgin and a few other prominent peaks.

5. Court of The Patriarchs

Situated on the western side of Zion Canyon, the Court of the Patriarchs is a range of sandstone mountain peaks. The patriarchs are named after the biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Court  of The Patriarchs
Image: ReggieMoto

A short trail from shuttle stop 4 leads you to a lookout point offering impressive views of the mountain formations.

Two other mountain peaks, known as Mount Moroni and The Sentinel, are also visible from this viewpoint.

6. Lower Emerald Pool: One of The Amazing Things To See in Zion National Park

The Lower Emerald Pool is one of the easiest hikes in Zion National Park that leads you to beautiful waterfalls and their charming pools.

Lower Emerald Pool - one of the amazing things to see in Zion National Park
Image: Jack Miller

It is accessible by a 1.2-mile roundtrip trail via a paved pathway. The trailhead is located just across the road from Zion Lodge, stop 5 on the Zion Canyon Shuttle.

Spend some time soaking in the stunning vistas of the surroundings. If you have the energy to hike more, you can continue on the Middle and Upper Emerald Pool trails.

7. Riverside Walk

Riverside Walk is a beautiful 2.2-mile out and back trail that starts at the Temple of Sinawava (shuttle stop 9) and ends at the Narrows entry point.

Most of the trail is paved and runs parallel to the Virgin River. It is considered one of the most accessible trails in Zion National Park.

Riverside Walk - one of the best things to see in Zion National Park
Riverside Walk | Best Things To See in Zion National Park

Along the way, you can admire scenic river views complemented by massive canyon walls. The lush hanging gardens and dazzling pools add to the charm of this picturesque trail.

If you get lucky, you can spot some wildlife too. Wild turkeys and mule deer are some of the commonly sighted animals in this area.

8. The Narrows Via Riverside Walk

The Narrows is a magnificent gorge created by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The hike starts exactly where you finish the Riverside Walk. Here, you can hike the Zion Narrows from the bottom up.

The furthest spot you can reach is Big Spring which is about 10 miles round trip.

The Narrows - one of the epic things to see in Zion National Park
The Narrows | Epic Things To See in Zion National Park

On this hike, you will walk through the narrowest sections of Zion Canyon in the Virgin River. It is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding hikes in Zion National Park.

Another way to hike the Zion Narrows is from top-down from Chamberlain’s Ranch to the Temple of Sinawava covering 16 miles. This is a strenuous hike and requires a wilderness permit.

9. Scout Lookout: Dramatic Views of Zion Canyon

Scout Lookout is a picturesque viewpoint on the way to Angels Landing. The trail to Scout Lookout starts at The Grotto (shuttle stop 6) and is a 4-mile hike round trip with steep switchbacks.

Scout Lookout Trail
Scout Lookout | Amazing Things To See in Zion National Park

If you are looking for a challenging hike with enchanting views, you must include it in your Zion itinerary. Plus, permit is not required to hike up to this vantage point. 

After getting to the top, you are rewarded with breathtaking sights of Zion Canyon and the famous Angels Landing.

To continue hiking to Angels Landing, you will need a permit. Learn more about permit requirement on the NPS website.

Also Read: 10 Facts About Zion National Park That Will Surprise You.

10. Timber Creek Overlook

Timber Creek Overlook is found in Kolob Canyon, a less-known section of Zion National Park. It is a fun 1-mile out and back trail with just 100 feet of elevation gain.

The hike brings you to an incredible viewpoint affording sprawling views of Timber Creek, Kolob Terrace, and the Pine Valley Mountains. On a clear day, you may see Mount Trumbull, faraway in northwestern Arizona.

Timber Creek Overlook View
Image: Alyse & Remi

If you plan to visit the Kolob Canyons area, Timber Creek Overlook definitely deserves a spot in your bucket list.

Kolob Canyon sits in the northwest corner of the park and is roughly 40 miles north of Zion Canyon. The trailhead to Timber Creek Overlook is located at the end of Kolob Canyons Road.

Where To Stay

There are two options for in-park accommodation. You can either book a campsite or a room in the historic Zion Lodge.

Best Campgrounds

Watchman Campground.
South Campground.

Both campgrounds are located near the South Entrance. Watchman Campground is open year-round whereas South Campground is open typically from March through October.

You can check campsite availability on recreation.gov.

If you don’t find lodging inside the park, you can stay in the nearby town of Springdale. It is located just outside of the park’s South Entrance and offers a good range of hotels.

Best Hotels in Springdale

Luxury: SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park.

Mid-range: Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn and Suites.

Budget: Zion Canyon Lodge at Zion National Park.

How To Get There

The park has three entrances: South Entrance, East Entrance and Kolob Canyon Entrance. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located near the South Entrance along Highway 9.

If you are coming from Las Vegas, you will enter the park from the South Entrance. If driving from Bryce Canyon National Park, you will enter through the East Entrance.

The two nearest major airports to the park are in Las Vegas (approx. 3 hours drive) and Salt Lake City (approx. 4.5 hours drive).

There is a regional airport in St. George but with limited flight options. So, the best option is to fly to Las Vegas and rent a car from there.

Kolob Canyon Entrance is the least popular and is located on Interstate 15.

Further Reading

For more USA travel inspiration, you may like to read some of these posts.

Top 10 National Parks in The United States.

Southern California’s 3 Best National Parks.

11 Excellent Things To See in Death Valley.

10 Unmissable Attractions in Joshua Tree National Park.

12 Must-Visit Places in California.

14 Interesting Facts About Death Valley National Park.

12 Attractions in Yellowstone National Park You Must See.

10 of The Best Attractions in The Grand Canyon.

12 Interesting Facts About Grand Teton National Park.

Over To You Now…

We hope you found this list of the 10 best things to see in Zion National Park helpful. What are your favorite views and viewpoints in the park? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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