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The Virgin River carved and sculpted Utah's red rock into one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth—Zion National Park. Wilderness lovers can find endless hiking opportunities, scenic campsites, and abundant wildlife throughout the park. While not as well-known as the grander canyon to the south, there are just as many things to do in Zion National Park as there are in any of the nearby national parks. And thanks to its relatively remote location, Zion has less traffic and more untouched terrain. It's worth noting that during the busy season the main roads are closed to private vehicles, and ranger-led shuttles drop off at various points in the park, which means you don't have to deal with the hum of civilization as you try to get away from it all. Whether you create your own itinerary or go on a guided tour, you won't be disappointed.
The lush valley running through Zion National Park is a fitting contrast to the steep cliffs that stand silently over the rushing water. You can traverse rock faces, swim through underground caverns, or find isolated slot canyons. No matter where you go, you are guaranteed expansive views of this vast preserve. Be sure to get an early start, as the canyon can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 C) during the summer months.
The wheelchair-accessible and kid-friendly Riverside Walk is the perfect path for the whole family. This trail offers glimpses of Zion National Park's verdant river valley as well as spontaneous and permanent waterfalls that seem to spout and weep directly from the rock. Emerald Pools is also a great option if you are looking for a quick hike with impressive views of a sandy oasis.
The Watchman Trail is the perfect hike if you are looking to see some of the great rock formations of the park without the vertigo-inducing heights of some other treks. Northgate Peaks Trail, in the Kolob Terrace section of the park just north of Zion Canyon, is the ideal place to get away from the high-season crowds.
If you like heights and want to see the multi-hued canyon in all its glory, Angels Landing is right for you. When you reach the top of Angels Landing, you are rewarded with the sight of vast expanses that could surely only be observed by heavenly creatures. The Zion Narrows hike is a semi-aquatic adventure through a slot canyon that tightens and darkens as you go. If you have another day, you should try the Subway—a wild combination of rappelling, swimming, and trekking.
At Zion, you are on the ground floor of the Grand Staircase, which means you are surrounded by rock formations unlike anywhere else on earth. You can camp under the Watchman, scope out the Court of the Patriarchs, or climb to the top of Angels Landing. You soon find out that every outcropping has a biblical name and that each offers its own pattern of gold, amber, and black strata. The greatest challenge that Zion National Park presents is that you can see so much in one day—but you can never see enough in a lifetime.
The town of Springdale is the perfect launching point for your Zion expedition. You can find lodging, coffee, beer, and food in this town that sits at the edge of the national park. This basecamp also offers quite a few family-friendly things to do near Zion National Park. Keep in mind that the park is well-situated if you are headed out on a comprehensive Southwest vacation. The Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon are less than 3 hours away, and you can definitely combine all 3 destinations in a single trip. Utah's other national parks aren't that far either, so you could visit 6 of the country's most beautiful national parks in 1 shot.