Family Vacations to Zion National Park

14th September 2017

Why Go

Red rocks, slot canyons and wading in the Virgin River all make Utah’s Zion National Park one of the most popular in the United States. Sometimes described as a “red rock Yosemite Valley,” Zion National Park has plenty of cascading waterfalls and hanging gardens that cling to the walls. It’s also Utah’s oldest, most celebrated and busiest national park.

Located in southwest Utah, Zion is part of a scenic area of red rock canyons that make up the state’s Mighty 5 National Parks. Near St. George, Utah (54 miles), Zion is also only 70 miles from Bryce Canyon, making it easy to combine a family trip to both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park.

What to Do

The 229-square-mile park is famous for its 15-mile-long canyon cut by the Virgin River and packed with scenic wonders such as the red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and hanging gardens. However, Zion can also get very crowded with anywhere from 3-4 million visitors each year and the desert canyon can get extremely hot. Keep these factors in mind when planning a trip to Zion. For a less crowded experience, head 40 miles north to Kolob Canyons, another section of Zion National Park with its own separate entrance and visitor center.

Getting Around

The closest major airports to Zion National Park are in Las Vegas, NV (161 miles) or Salt Lake City, UT (308 miles). Therefore, you are going to need a car to get to the park from these airports. Once you arrive at Zion National Park, cars are not allowed in Zion Canyon itself. Park your car and take the shuttle into the canyon. Depending on the season, you may need to park your car outside of the park entrance and take a complimentary shuttle bus to the Zion National Park entrance itself. Of course your car is permitted on the Zion – Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway, but larger RVs and buses will need to pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel.  There are no vehicle limits on the scenic drive in Kolob Canyons.


Dave Parfitt is a reformed academic with a PhD in neuroscience, who began writing about his family travel adventures after surviving a trip to Walt Disney World with his two budding princesses, now ages 19 and 16. As owner and editor of Adventures By Daddy, Dave offers family travel advice and escapist fun from Dad’s point of view.

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