1 Day in Zion National Park

Andy and I planned on camping at Zion National Park, but that drastic drop in temperature really plagued us while we were in Utah. So we made a last minute decision and found a hotel for the last night of our road trip. We were also running out of steam for the whole trip by this point, so we didn’t really put as much effort into exploring Zion National Park as I had hoped we would. But here’s what we saw and some tips for your visit to Zion National Park in Utah.

Zion National Park entrance
Zion National Park entrance

Getting into the park

Since many people stay in the town of Springdale when they come to Zion, there is a free shuttle bus that takes you to the park entrance. It’s super easy to use, so ask your hotel where the nearest stop is. Just make sure to check the schedule so you know when the last bus runs back from the park.

Most of Zion is closed to private vehicles – even more reason to take the shuttle bus from town. Once you get off the shuttle bus, you walk through the entrance gate where they check your park pass or you have to pay the entrance fee. From there, you can get on the park bus that takes you around to various points of interest in the park. This was really convenient and the buses ran often enough that we never waited long for the next one to arrive.

Towards the end of the afternoon, there are lots of people who want to take the bus back to the park entrance, so be patient. The bus might fill up before you can get on it, but another one will come around soon enough.

Zion National Park shuttle bus

Exploring Zion National Park

We really only spent a few hours in the park, which is a shame because it really is a gorgeous place. One of the stops we got out at was a big rock wall and a trail to Moss Cave. Basically you can stand behind an overhang of rock where water from up top is streaming down, and it’s a really neat effect.

Zion National Park Moss Cave

Zion National Park Utah Moss Cave

Several other stops gave us varying views of the mountains and valleys that make up Zion. We weren’t interested in the museum itself, but there was some really nice scenery there, so I’m glad that’s one of the stops we chose.

There are lots of hiking opportunities if you’re in better shape than I am. Our friends Gillian and Jason just happened to be there the same time as us, and they opted to do the well known Angel Trail. They loved it, but some parts of it sounded scary, so bring your nerves of steel.

Zion National Park Utah

views of Zion National Park UT

visiting Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park UT

Where to stay near Zion National Park

Originally we booked a campsite at the national park services campground. I’m sure it would’ve been fine, but we just weren’t up for camping in the cold.

There weren’t a lot of options with short notice, so we ended up with a nicer room than we needed at the Hampton Inn in Springdale. The room was really big and had a kitchenette, a couch, and a large desk. The bed was comfy, and the bathroom was really nice. Our booking included a buffet breakfast which had a decent selection of food. Overall this was a good hotel and conveniently located.

where to stay near Zion National Park Utah
Where we stayed near Zion National Park…sorry for the super dark photo!

Why you should buy a national park pass

The normal entrance fee for Zion National Park is $35. It’s also $30 to get into Canyonlands National Park. If these are the only parks you’re visiting on your trip, and if you don’t plan on going to more national parks all year, it’s fine to simply pay the fees. But if you’re going to multiple parks, it is well worth buying a national park pass.

The America the Beautiful pass costs $80 and is valid for one year. It covers admission for the pass holder plus anyone else in the car. While shopping at REI, the cashier mentioned they sell the national park passes. Many times throughout our trip, I was so happy we bought one through them because we didn’t have to worry about it anywhere along the way.

Click here to buy your national park pass from REI before you start your trip!

You might also enjoy: