Zion National Park in southwest Utah is known for its majestic peaks and rushing rivers through ancient red rock canyons.
Just 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, Zion is an amazing destination for van campers who want to enjoy some of the best hiking in the U.S.
The main section of the park is along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which begins at the Visitors Center and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. The road is closed to private vehicles during the park’s peak season from mid-March through November. During that time, visitors ride a free shuttle to access most of the park’s trailheads.
Watchman Campground is awesome even though it can be busy. South Campground within the park is also great. Both are near the Visitors Center. Van campers can reserve a spot at either location at recreation.gov. Camping starts at $20 per night and you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to the park.
(If you're visiting more than one park, consider the NPS annual pass. Military, seniors, and a few other discounts are also available)
Your Zion adventure begins!
Pick up your camper van from us, then drive 2 hours to St. George, stopping at Natural Grocers for a food run (alternatively, there are plenty of restaurants near the park entrance). Next, continue another 30 minutes to Zion and park your van at the Watchman Campground or South Campground If those are full, check the Campendium and Hipcamp apps for other options.
Next, get your feet wet in the park by heading to Emerald Pools, a spectacular network of waterfalls and... you guessed it... emerald colored pools set against the backdrop of Zion's bright red cliffs.
The trailhead is just across from the lodge and brings you to beautiful waterfalls. There are also options to connect to Kayenta, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pool trails for a longer, moderate late-afternoon hike.
You could alternatively warm up with a quick hike along the beautiful Canyon Overlook Trail near the entrance. You won’t need the shuttle to get to the trailhead.
You can access the 3.3-mile Watchman Trail if you’re staying at Watchman Campground. The trail brings you to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking lower Zion Canyon and the Temples and Towers for an unforgettable spot to watch the sunset.
Alternatively, if it's already late, head to the Museum patio near the park entrance is another great sunset and stargazing spot.
Get ready for some serious hiking and amazing views.
Angels Landing Trail is Zion’s most famous hike. After April 1, 2022, you’ll need to purchase a permit to access the trail before your trip, or through the day-before lottery. Give yourself plenty of time to get on the shuttle and tackle the 5.4-mile hike. Most hikers take about four hours on the trail.
Alternatively, Observation Point has impressive views and easier hiking conditions. The 8-mile hike takes about six hours to complete.
You will most likely be tired out after either of those hikes. If you have more energy, drive or take the shuttle north to see the canyons, climbers, and to see more of Zion's beauty. Read more about Zion’s hiking trails here.
Hop back on the Scenic Drive and head toward Zion Lodge for a picnic or make your way back to camp for dinner.
Get up early and hop on the Scenic Drive to the final stop: The Temple of Sinawava.
Here, you can get off and head toward The Narrows, a challenging, 9.4-mile hike that will require some wading and even swimming in the Virgin River, if conditions are safe. The hike takes up to eight hours to complete, so pack a lunch if you go.
If you’re still recovering from yesterday’s Angels Landing excursion, the 2-mile Riverside Walk trail along the Virgin River is a much easier alternative. Access the trailhead from The Temple of Sinawava and give yourself 1.5 hours to hike.
Make any final stops along the Scenic Drive on your way out of the park before heading back to camp.
"The Subway" is an incredible hike, but you have to go to the northwest entrance.
Canyoneering here is world-class and can last anywhere from a few hours to multiple days. Many outfitters operate in the area.
E-bikes are super fun to rent and ride in the park.
Swimming spots are easy to find with a google search.
St. George mountain biking is awesome.
Also check our guide to Utah's Hidden Gems
Zion National Park Narrows Renter Video!
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