Traveling Ted is a blog that takes readers along on my adventures hiking, canoeing, skiing, and international backpacking. Many blogs focus on one aspect of backpacking, but I tackle both the outdoor adventure side and international exploration as well.

Zion National Park is on many a bucket list – because we all want to sit amidst nature’s beauty. When an adventure is involved, the scenery is even more amazing; however, there are a few things you should know before you go.

Zion National Park

Angels Landing view of Zion National Park at sunset – Wikimedia Creative Commons – By Diliff – taken by Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=305224

Here are 7 things you should know before you visit Zion National Park.

  1. Take a ranger shuttle tour

If you travel to Zion National Park during peak season, you’ll want to take advantage of one of the various ranger-led programs available. The most popular of all the ranger-led programs, by far, is the Ranger Shuttle Tour. These tours run twice a day, and you can gain access from the Zion Visitor Center at the upper end of Zion Canyon.

Related: Theodore Roosevelt National Park photo essay

The shuttle holds 30 passengers, and as you’d expect from the name, it’s led by an actual park ranger. In total, the experience takes about 90 minutes. These tours are so popular because they can be very personal. Just like when you enlist the help of a local tour guide in a new city, you can expect that each ranger will share their favorite parts of the park they know so well. Your experience may also be dotted with colorful stories of their experiences in the park. It’s an unforgettable tour, and no two are the same.

Zion National Park

A view of Zion Canyon – Zion National Park – Wikimedia Creative Commons – By user:AngMoKio – Own work (Original text: selfmade photo), CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2875310

  1. Pack the right gear

Hiking Zion National Park is quite a different experience than, say, trekking through the Adirondacks. The terrain and weather are quite different than you may be used to, and you don’t want to be caught without the right gear.

Here are a few things you’ll need on hand:

  • Water shoes – If you plan on getting your feet wet at all, you’ll want a sturdy pair of water shoes. These will really come in handy if you plan on kayaking, river rafting or canoeing. And they’ll also save your feet as you navigate through the Narrows.
  • Blacklight flashlight – If this is your first time exploring this part of the world, you may be surprised to see this item on the list. A blacklight flashlight can help you spot scorpions at night.
  • Sun protection – The sun is particularly intense here, so bring all the usual suspects: hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun protective clothing, etc.
  • Poncho or rain jacket – You may experience short bursts of rain in the desert, so these items are helpful.
  • Lots of water – You’re traveling through the desert, so bring lots of water.
  • Warm clothing – The weather here can fluctuate by 30 degrees on any day. Be prepared with warmer clothes too.
  • Bug spray – If you want to enjoy the scenery without getting eaten alive, you’ll want to bring bug spray.
  1. Start your trip in the Narrows

There are two ways you can hike the Narrows. You can go from the bottom up from the Temple of Sinawava, and you can do this without a permit. The other way you can hike the Narrows is from the top down. You’ll start at Chamberlin’s Ranch, and you’ll need a permit for this hike. Most people choose the first option because it’s a lot less involved and still quite rewarding.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

  1. Visit during the off-season

In the season from March through October, about 4.5 million tourists pass through Zion National Park. Translation: It can get crowded. This means more cars on the road getting there, trouble finding parking and crowded trails. If you go this route, it’s especially important to ensure you have a suitable car. You don’t want to add to your frustration unnecessarily. So if you want to have a quieter experience and avoid the crowds, visit the park between December and February.

  1. You can relax in the Emerald Pools

The Emerald Pools provide a great place to sit and relax, and they’re the perfect spot for families with kids to rejuvenate. There’s a hike to get here, but the kids can handle it. Then you can spend quality time enjoying nature when you get to the Emerald Pools.

  1. Make the trek to Weeping Rock

Regardless of your skill level, the trek to Weeping Rock is a worthwhile one. This is just a 10-minute steep hike, but the reward is worth it. Everyone on your trip will remember Weeping Rock.

Zion shuttle

Zion National Park shuttle – Wikimedia Creative Commons – By Bill Golladay – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63532102

  1. Rely on the free shuttle system

Once you’re in Zion National Park, it’s relatively easy to get around. Just be sure to take advantage of the free shuttle system within the park. Again, this may be a bit of a frustration in peak months, but it’s still the best way to get around. And, it’s often the only way to get around Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. While the shuttles are running, no vehicles are allowed on the scenic drive.

Congratulations on your decision to visit Zion National Park. It’s one of the nation’s greatest treasures, and your trip will undoubtedly become a valued memory. Follow these tips to make the most of your time there, and have fun!

Adventure on!

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