As Utah’s first national park, Zion holds an important place in the state’s history and culture. It's been home to the Ancestral Puebloan, Fremont and Southern Paiute people for time immemorial. Zion — with its striking red-rock walls and sheer canyons — is thought to be a sanctuary, a desert oasis created over many years by the power of water and wind.
To best experience this special place, visitors should approach their travels thoughtfully. Plan ahead. Do your research. Slow down and take time to appreciate all that makes up Zion. Learn from and give back to the local communities and caretakers. Here’s how to visit Zion in a considerate way to ensure this wild place stays a spot that future generations can continue to enjoy. We call this responsible travel ethic Forever Mighty.
Zion is the most popular national park in Utah and among the most visited in the U.S. and it continues to see record-breaking visitation numbers in the millions of people each year. Zion National Park is open year-round, though the most popular months to visit are April through October, when the shuttle busses are running in Zion Canyon. Spring, summer and fall are more crowded than winter. But winter visitors to Zion will still find plenty to do.
Fall is the best time to visit Zion if you’re a serious hiker, because spring runoff can make canyon hiking difficult or dangerous and summer temperatures can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. To simply take in the grandeur of Zion National Park, there is no bad time of year. It largely depends on your preferences for activities and crowds. Whichever season you choose, just be sure to secure your preferred lodging and activities with advance reservations, like an Angels Landing hiking permit. As the park’s most popular hike, hiking permits will be required for Angels Landing to prevent crowding, damage and strain on federal resources.
All of these unique gateway communities offer lodging, dining, shops and guided outfitters to help make the most of your visit to the area. Give back to these communities by supporting local businesses and being a considerate visitor. If possible, consider volunteering, supporting local organizations or giving back in other philanthropic ways. The Zion National Park Forever Project is another great way to show your support for the park and surrounding area.
Hiking permits will be issued via a lottery system. You will need to apply during specific application windows depending on when you want to visit. There is also a day-before lottery, where you can apply during a specific timeframe the day before you want to hike. If you aren’t granted a permit, you can try again during a future lottery.
Visit With Respect
Experiencing the stunning beauty of Zion should inspire you to want to preserve and protect this hallowed place. Practice Leave No Trace principles to ensure that all parts of the park are left as nature intended it. Leave places as you found them, respect wildlife, plant life and geology, dispose of waste properly and be considerate of others.
Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trash or human waste behind (Read: "How to Poop in the Outdoors"). Zion requires visitors to pack out solid human waste, toilet paper and hygiene items.
Leave rocks, plants, animals and natural objects as you found them. Never leave marks or scratches on rocks or other surfaces and admire artifacts and natural features from a distance without touching or disturbing. Tree carvings, rock etchings and spray painting are forms of vandalism and graffiti, which are illegal on public lands.
Due to overcrowding and traffic, it’s now common to see vandalism and other types of damage throughout national parks. By respecting the new Angels Landing permit process and other national park regulations, you’re protecting the natural beauty of Zion.
Stay on existing trails and do not travel off course or “bust the crust.” Camp only in designated areas on durable surfaces and follow all campfire rules and regulations. Rock cairns, or rock piles, are trail markers. Do not disturb them or add new ones, as they could mislead other hikers.
Leave drones and pets at home. The use of off-highway vehicles (ATVs, OHV, UTVs, etc.) is also not allowed in Zion National Park.
Be courteous to other visitors by minimizing noise, yielding to others on trails and respecting trail and transportation signage.
"Visit Zion in a considerate way to ensure this wild place stays a spot that future generations can continue to enjoy. "
When visiting Zion, be sure to watch where you step, know your physical limits and pack all your necessary essentials.
Photo: Angie Payne
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t enjoy the splendor of Zion sufficiently and preserve this treasured place if you’re not first taking care of yourself and those in your group. Watch where you step, know your physical limits and pack all your necessary essentials, from first aid or medical supplies to proper clothing to enough water and food.
Prepare for the Heat
During the hottest parts of the day in the peak of summer, temperatures can spike over 100°F. Avoid exertion or overheating during the peak temperatures of the day. Consider hiking in the cool of the mornings and evenings. There is very little shade on most trails within the park. Protect yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and protective clothing.
Dehydration is a real threat in desert environments. Active hikers should plan to bring at least one gallon of water per person per day. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking water before you get thirsty. Always carry enough water to meet your daily needs or research ahead where drinking water may be available. Desert water sources may run dry at certain times of the year and, if untreated, can contain harmful or toxic microbes that can impact human and pet health.
Pack Enough Food
Bring enough food and snacks for your group and for the outing you have planned and be aware of where food is served within or outside the park. Remember to pack out what you brought in and dispose of all trash properly.
The Complete Zion Trip
Tucked into the southwest corner of Utah, Zion National Park is the centerpiece for a 6-day red-rock vacation that includes a little bit of everything that makes the state such a marvel to experience.