Zion National Park: Number 5 of the Big 5

Some places hold a special place in your heart because of when you visited, who you were with or what you did. Zion National Park in Utah is one of those places. We have been fortunate enough to visit Zion several times and each time we have created lifelong memories.

The National Park Lodge

One of our favorite memories of Zion National Park was visiting there with our parents. We stayed at the National Park Lodge right in the park. It is lovely but what made it extra special is that you are still in the park after the busses stop running and the tourists leave. Then you can really take in the quiet magnificence of the towering sandstone walls. 

You can also experience the wildlife. We sat quietly, and the deer and wild turkeys come out to visit. We also took a walk along the pathways near the lodge, along the river to the Emerald pools. Although beautiful any time of day, it is an extra special place in the early morning or late evening. 

Even after touring many places in the southwest, our mother always says that Zion is her very favorite place!

Horseback Riding

Another trip we made to Zion was in April, so it was cool with not as many tourists as there are in the summer months. We went on a full-day horseback ride passing through amazing sights; one of our favorites was the Court of the Patriarchs. What an amazing way to experience the park! Highly recommended. 


If you like to bicycle, the road though the canyon is a really nice bike ride. One of our favorites!


Our first trip to Zion was more focused on the traditional Zion experience. A stop at the visitor center, the bus ride through the park with stops at all of the overlooks, and taking in the various hikes. While most people talk about Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, there are many lovely hikes in the park. Unfortunately our favorite – Observation Point from Weeping Rock – is no longer open due to a landslide. Not only was the view from up there absolutely incredible, it was so quiet that we heard a rock fall from across the canyon!

Looking down from Observation Point

About Zion National Park

The canyon was originally protected in 1909 by President Taft and called Mukuntuweap National Monument.  In 1919 it was enlarged and made into a national park; at the same time renamed Zion National Park.

This was Utah’s first national park, and one of what today is referred to as the Mighty “Big 5” including Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

The visitor center and most tourist activities are located in the southern part of the park, near Springdale, Utah. Driving in from the east, you go along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and pass the crazy sight of “Checkerboard Mesa”. You descend into the canyon along curvy switchback roads and go through tunnels, each curve revealing incredible views. 

There is a beautiful scenic drive through Zion canyon where walls reach as high as 2600 feet. This is only open to private vehicles seasonally. During busy times, you need to take a shuttle bus. This has really helped to protect the serenity of the canyon which saw 4.5 million visitors in 2019.

More to Discover

At 148,000 acres, there is much more to see at Zion National Park than just Zion canyon. 84% of the park has been designated as aWilderness area and 153 miles of rivers and streams are protected as Wild and Scenic; ensuring a true back country experience (permits required).

Our next visit we are planning to go to the Kolob Canyons region. That is in the northwest corner of the park and was once it’s own National Monument before being incorporated into the National Park in 1956. There is a visitor center and scenic drive, and it is the jumping off point for multi-day hikes into the wilderness.

But no matter what part of the park you visit, you are sure to discover something astounding. Expand your trip to visit all 5 of Utah’s national parks and you will be richly rewarded.

Need Help Planning Your Visits?

If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.