Zion National Park is, to put it crassly but accurately, pretty fucking amazing. It’s a masterpiece of nature and if it’s not on your list, it damn well should be. I finally got to visit this stunning place last month with my college friend David; we did a Friday to Monday trip, which was not long enough but enough to fill us with awe that such a thing exists and that we get to explore it. Here’s how we did it!
Flights + Lodging:
You can fly into either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas and drive, or you can fly into one of the smaller towns like Page and drive. We flew into Vegas and rented a car early Friday morning (~6am) and rented a car. It’s the cheapest flight option (bless up Southwest), and the 3-hour drive is fascinating. We drove through basically the middle of nowhere, USA, past tumbleweeds and casinos—sooooo many casinos; there were even slot machines INSIDE the Starbucks we had breakfast at in Mesquite, Nevada.
To stay: It pays to stay closer to the park. You can stay further away in the surrounding towns, but I really recommend a hotel in Springdale itself, which is where Zion is located. There are free shuttles that come all the time, so your commute into the park is at most 15 minutes. When you’re trying to maximize hiking time, this is key. Springdale hotels are slightly more costly, but well worth it (we stayed here). Also, make sure to find a place with a hot tub, because that will be your SAVIOR at the end of each day. And if the hotel has spa water, fill your bottles and Camelbak for a midday treat.
What to pack:
Zion is not meant for novice hikers, so bring your gear. I would absolutely not been able to hike without the following:
Hiking boots (I love Ahnu for women’s boots; they’re functional and cute)
Sunscreen (ain’t trying to get burnt)
Camelbak/many water bottles (preferably filled with spa water from the hotel)
Lots of bars and snacks
Gloves (it does get chilly in the Narrows when you hike early in the morning)
The main event: Hikes!
3 full days is enough to do many of the hikes in Zion and tour Antelope Canyon. It’s not enough to do Bryce, so that’s for another trip.
In Zion, the hikes range from laughably easy (1 mile on a paved path), to trudging through water with a walking stick. We paired one hard with one easy hike a day, which put us at 12-15 miles each day. From a timing standpoint, that meant we were out of the hotel each morning by 8am and wouldn’t get back tis early evening. It’s a lot, but worth it! For hike pairings, I recommend:
Angel’s Landing (5.5m) + Emerald Pools Trails (1.2m) on Friday: Angel’s Landing is famous for it’s crazy steep drop at the top that requires you to hold onto chains and hope you don’t get blown away. It’s got sweeping views of the park (v Lion King) and is a great first hike. Emerald Pools is nice and easy after that.
The Narrows (10m) + Canyon Overlook (1m) Trails on Saturday: The Narrows is where you rock the waterproof pants and shoes (available for rent at the park) and wade through the river. It’s one of the most unique hikes I’ve ever done! We kept trying to take pictures until we realized that the scale of the place is simply too large and too beautiful to capture properly. This is a hike you want to come early for to avoid the afternoon sun, and bring lots of snacks.
Lower Antelope Canyon tour + Horseshoe Bend on Sunday: These aren’t really hikes, but they are unbelievable on their own. Book through Ken’s tours for Lower Antelope—you need a Navajo guide to go. Horseshoe Bend is currently open to the public without charge, although word on the street is that won’t last long.
Don’t forget about food: Snacks and bars are key. I also really liked the Justin’s almond butter pouches for hiking. At night, we’d eat the largest dinners we could at local restaurants like Bit and Spur (the best ribeye) and Jack’s Sports Grills for burgers.