Of all the beautiful National Parks that I’ve been to so far, for some reason Zion National Park keeps calling me back. Maybe it’s the deep red color of the canyon walls, or the versatility of hikes and activities available, or the peaceful and inviting lawn of the Zion Lodge. Whatever it is, it’s got a piece of my heart.
Zion National Park was our first stop on Lorianne’s and my Southwest Road Trip this summer. We just can’t visit Utah and not go there, which is why today I’m sharing Part 1 of a Visitor’s Guide to Zion National Park. Part 1 will highlight the options Zion offers in terms of transportation, sleeping, and shopping, and in Part 2 I’ll get into the eating and hiking options.
This National Park is located on State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah. Springdale is right outside the South Entrance of Zion. Its a quaint town with great restaurants and several adventure outfitters helping you out with anything you may have forgotten. They’ve got a candy store and ice cream shop too!
Zion has a shuttle system, the Zion Canyon Shuttle, that runs from March through November. When the shuttle is running, vehicles are not allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. There are shuttle stops at 9 different locations through the canyon including trailheads, the museum, Visitor Center, and Zion Lodge. They arrive at each stop every 10 minutes or so, so you won’t have to wait long for one, except perhaps at the Visitor Center.
There are three campgrounds located inside the park; the Lava Point Campground is about an hour drive from the South entrance, and the Watchmen and the South campgrounds are both located just inside the South entrance in walking distance to the Visitor Center.
By the Lord’s grace we were able to nail down a campsite at the South Campground. It truly was so nice camping inside the park. We could walk to Visitor Center and shuttle stop each morning and the Pa’rus trail, a trail running alongside the Virgin River, cut through the campground as well.
Each site is fitted with a picnic table and fire pit, and there are public bathrooms. As a note, none of the campgrounds offer showers but Zion Outfitters, right outside the South entrance have showers and laundry available for a small fee. I believe the showers were $4 for 5 min, and the laundry was about $5 for both the washer and dryer.
A key difference between the Watchman and South campgrounds is the reservation period. You can reserve your spot at the Watchman campground up to 6 months in advance. While the South campground will only take reservations a mere 2 weeks before your day of arrival (yikes!).
Further, just from my experience, most RVs stay in the Watchman campground as that is the only campground that offers some electric sites.
If you are unable to reserve a site in any of these campground, there are several campgrounds in Springdale, just a short drive outside the park!
This is the Virgin River that ran behind our campground. Perfect for a quick dip!
This is the view from our campsite at 11:00pm.
If camping isn’t your cup of tea, Springdale also has several motels available. We’ve stayed in one before, I believe it was the Holiday Express, and it was super nice!
Also, might I suggest the amazing Zion Lodge inside the National Park? This is a beautiful lodge, with a wonderful lawn out front shaded by a giant tree in the middle. This lodge has rooms, suites, and cabins complete with fireplaces! Their lobby is welcoming and even has a couple places set up to place chess or checkers.
Probably the best part of staying here is being able to walk right outside your door and board the Zion Canyon Shuttle and your on the way to your next adventure. Super convenient!
Of course you don’t come to Zion National Park to shop, but you might want something to remind your of your trip, right? If this is you, you’re in luck, cause there are some great options!
There is a beautiful gift shop inside the Zion Lodge with so many souvenirs and Native American pieces you can purchase. Lori and I picked up a few post cards, stickers (for the Hydroflask, duh), and I got a Native American turquoise ring.
The Visitor Center also has a small gift shop attached with the common items you see in most National Park gift shops (t-shirts, magnets, pens, patches…). Lori and I each have gotten a t-shirt from here before and they have held up nicely!
Gear and General Goods
If you need more than what these gift shops can offer, there are too many shops in Springdale to count! Some have stunning paintings of the canyon, others carry hiking/camping gear you may have forgotten. Zion Outfitters also has a little market where you can purchase general goods like food, ice, and firewood (great for the campers!).
Right before our first hike I discovered that my hydration pack had a leak in it (perfect timing), so I bought a water bottle from the Visitor Center. Then later that night, I got a nice Gregory Hydration Pack from Zion Outfitters and it worked great for me.
On another trip to Zion National Park with the rest of our family, Lori and I each got a new pair of hiking boots at two separate gear shops in Springdale and we both love our pairs. It’s a town of hikers and adventurers so you know you’re getting good gear!
Well, this post is getting a little long, so I’ll close it up here. In Part 2, I’ll get into the good stuff like eating and hiking. 🙂 Stay tuned!