Short On Time But Long On Fun: A 4-hour Tour of Zion National Park

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Located in the southwest corner of Utah, Zion National Park looms large and magnificent. Sandstone walls tower for 15 miles at one of the Park’s most well-known attractions, the Zion Canyon. The Park is also famous for the nine known geologic formations called the Grand Staircase, an immense sequence of sedimentary rock which begins in Bryce Canyon and extends through Zion and continues south into the Grand Canyon. The Park is home to nearly 300 species of birds, as well as countless other unusual plant and animal diversity, making it a scenic and sensual natural wonderland for visitors of all types. 

While on a road trip from Scottsdale, Arizona to Park City, Utah we realized we’d more or less pass right through Zion and had better plan a stop, as it was definitely on our must-see list. Though we couldn’t spend multiple days in Zion (which one could easily do), our goal was to get a feel for the park, and we were determined to make the most of our four-hour visit. 

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Once in the park, we hopped on the complementary Zion Canyon Shuttle (easily accessed from the Zion Canyon Visitors Center), which makes nine stops throughout the park, where you can hop on and off to enjoy various views, hikes and other attractions. Because we were limited on time, the shuttle was by far the best way to take in as much as the park as possible. We rode the shuttle to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, which is deep in the heart of Zion Canyon, where we embarked on the Riverside Walk—a scenic and fairly easy two-mile stroll on a paved trail that offered stunning views of the Virgin River, lush foliage and majestic canyon walls. 

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After our hike and shuttle tour, we dined at Zion Brewery, southern Utah’s first brewery, located just south of the Park entrance in Springdale. The pub offers a range of food options, from healthy salads to more indulgent choices like the Zion Brew Burger, which features the house-made Conviction Stout jalapeno bacon jam. Canyon wall views loom from the beer garden patio and we thoroughly enjoyed the range of beers, eventually agreeing that the crisp and citrusy Zion Pale Ale was our favorite. 

There are a number of lodging options in and around Zion, and we chose the brand new Fairfield Inn and Suites, located about 15 minutes away from the south entrance of the Park. Combining functionality and comfort, the hotel was well-appointed and we enjoyed the spacious room and complimentary hot breakfast. 

We absolutely had a successful and fun first visit to Zion, and can’t wait to plan our next trip, which will definitely include dining at Zion Lodge (be sure to get reservations in advance) and many more hikes! 

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5 Tips to make the most of your Zion visit:

  1. Visit the Zion National Park website for updates, trail closures, etc. 

  2. Plan to drive the Zion National Park-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway, which cuts through the mountains along Route 9 between the towns of Mount Carmel and Springdale--it’s breathtaking. 

  3. Take advantage of the free Zion Canyon Shuttle to see the most in the shortest amount of time.

  4. Make all reservations (lodging, food, etc.) as far in advance as possible; this park gets busy!

  5. Do your research; there’s so much to see and do that you’ll make the most of your time if you plan ahead.