A NATIONAL PARK LIKE NO OTHER
WHAT TO DO IN ZION? MY JOURNEY
First of all, if you are coming from Bryce National Park, I advise you to take route 9 which gives very beautiful natural spectacle. We arrive in the middle of a unique landscape! It’s worth going there.
Zion National Park is included in the “America The Beautiful” annual pass. For car parks during the high season, the one at the entrance to the park is large, but from 8 am it already begins to be full. If this car park is full, you have other car parks in the city which are right next to the entrance. However, most are chargeable. If you search a little, you can find a free spot. Shuttles are available between the city and the entrance to the park. But beware, the shuttles are sometimes full as well. Once you enter the park, a shuttle takes you to the start of several hikes. If you want to arrive early for a hike, plan for that travel time.
This is THE hike in the park where everyone goes. And I understand why! The beginning of the hike starts at stop 9 of the shuttle, and begins with the riverside walk. The hike is an out and back so if your goal is to avoid the crowds, skip this part quickly. At the end of the path, you can continue along the river, with your feet in the water. No choice but to get wet, so plan the appropriate equipment. You will be waist deep in water. I saw that they rent water shoes at the entrance to the national park if you want. You are free to go as far as you want. The river is between 2 huge cliffs all the way. There are sometimes a few small islands where you to get out of the water a little. The further you go, the closer the cliffs get and give a magnificent view! The water is sometimes transparent, even turquoise. It’s a great hike! It is not hard in itself, but it is a bit physical because you go up the river for several hours. Personally, I stopped when I saw that the water level was up to my chest. With my bag, I was not equipped to go further. The round trip will still have lasted me 5h30 in total. I know I say this often but honestly the hike is very busy. If you want to enjoy the calm of the place, start early! I started the hike at 7.30 am for example, and there were already a few people, but I avoided the crowd.
First part of the hike
Waterfall in a rock
The famous subway
Inside the subway
Inside the subway
Inside the subway
This is one of my favorite hikes out of all the US national parks I’ve done! But before I tell you about it, here is some information to know. In order to be able to do this hike, you need a permit! Click here to learn more and apply. You have 2 options to do it, canyoning or hiking (bottom-up). You guessed it, with my scared of heights, I necessarily chose hiking. Obtaining the permit is done by lottery, so you are not sure you can do it. When I applied, I couldn’t get it. Losing all my lotteries, I decided to show up at the wilderness office to see if they had a spot for the next day. And they had one! So that’s a possibility you can consider. When people cancel at the last moment, it is possible to take their place. Then, the ranger explains everything you need to know for this hike. Bring plenty of water (especially if the river has bacteria that cannot be filtered), nothing special in terms of clothing, and bring a bag for your waste. The ranger will advise you to buy the hiking map, honestly no need. I managed to geolocate myself with Maps.me app all along the hike. And really, the hike is all about going up the river until you couldn’t. Not very difficult to find.
You have a car park at the start of the hike, be careful to go to the right car park, and not the one that leads to the canyoning part (I put the location of the car park in the map below). Start the hike early! I started around 7 am when a group arrived at the parking lot. And I had no one in my way until I got to the place called The Subway. Living this unique moment with a natural silence around you, it’s magic! Going early will also ensure that you don’t get too much sun reflection off the water when you get to the most beautiful spots on the hike.
The first part consists of going down to the bottom of the river. It is easy to get lost at the very beginning of the hike but once you get to the descent there is only one path to follow. Yes because there is no path indicated during the whole hike. For those who are scared of heights, there are some exposures but it is surmountable because it does not last very long. Once you arrive at the river, take photos and videos of the place. Many people get lost and miss this path that goes up. So be careful to spot the place. Then, this is the most fun part. You go up the river for several hours. There are paths to the right and left of the river which allow you to not get too wet. Sometimes you have to climb rocks or try to find your way back. We walk in the middle of beautiful dense vegetation with red rocky mountains around us. The landscape is super beautiful throughout the hike.
After a few hours of walking, you will arrive at a super beautiful stepped waterfall. You can go up it without any problem (watch out for the slippery rocks) to continue on your way. Next, you’ll see a mini waterfall scrolling through a crack in the ground. This is the first time I’ve seen this phenomenon, and it’s super beautiful. And there you are a few meters from the place called The Subway. At a bend, you will see these huge cliffs with rounded rocks at the end of the road that form like an open tunnel. The view is indescribable! It’s so beautiful ! The color of the water is incredible, so transparent and turquoise at the same time. When you get to the end of the path, you will hear a waterfall but cannot see it. I put my bag down because the water was up to my shoulders, and I went to see this beautiful waterfall. It’s worth getting a little wet (it’s a few small pools away from you). This is a hike that I recommend everyone to do. It is definitely worth trying for a place in the lottery. And I am also happy that they are doing one because with people, the place would not be the same. It is not easy because you can get lost quite quickly, and sometimes you have to walk in the river and pass large rocks. It lasts a day, between 6h and 10h depending on your pace, and it is a round trip. I personally took 7 hours to do it.
Price for the subway hiking permit: $15 – €14.30 / person
OTHER HIKES IN THE PARK
Upper Emerald Pools
Upper Emerald Pools
View from Watchman Trail
One of the known hikes in the park is the Angels Landing Trail. In 2022, you had to register for a lottery to be able to reserve your departure for the 10-mile (16 km) hike. I didn’t do it because I am scared of heights, and alone, I didn’t want to risk being stuck in the middle of the road. But I know several people who have done it and have told me only positive things about this hike. If you’re not afraid of heights, it’s a must in the park.
I did a short one hour hike called the Upper Emerald Pools. One person told me that “while the Narrows are good, the pools aren’t.” And I must admit that he was not wrong. I did not necessarily find them very beautiful or exceptional. Maybe if it rained a little before, they are more impressive. This is definitely not my favorite hike in the park.
The Watchman trail is a hike of about 2 hours (3 miles / 5 km) which gives you a very beautiful view of the park without necessarily climbing very high. The hike has no shadows, so I advise you to start it early so as not to have the sun beating down during these 2 hours. The hike is not very complicated, you climb a little less than 100m to access the view.
Zion is one of my favorite US national parks. I had heard a lot about it before but to see it in person, it’s incredible. Such varied hikes to do, in the water, at height, alone, with people. It’s impressive. And you will understand, the subway hike is for me one of the most beautiful hikes in the park.
WHEN TO GO?
I was in Zion in early June, and it was getting hot. There are a few riverside hikes that made the heat bearable, but not all of them.
I think you need at least 3 days to fully enjoy this great park! There are so many hikes to do. And just as different from each other.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
RED CLIFFS CAMPGROUND
Hurricane, UT 84737
Price: $17 – €17,80 / night for a tent spot
Click here to book a night.
The campsite is less than an hour from the entrance to the national park. It is not far from a lake and has 2/3 hikes next to campsites. Honestly a very nice campground. There is no shower.
MY 3 TIPS TO VISIT ZION
- In 2022, it was possible to get a place for The Subway hike by going to the “Wilderness Office”, for the next day. If they had a cancellation, you could take that person’s place. To see if it is still possible to work like that when you go there.
- Bring plenty of water for each hike. If you have filter water bottles, ask the rangers if you can still take water from the river. When I was there, the water had bacteria that could not be filtered and therefore dangerous to health.
- Start hiking early! The park is very visited, I advise you to get there before 7.30 am in high season because even for parking it is complicated.