Zion National Park - Know Before You Go

Zion National Park - Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's Zion National Park Tour


You’re about to visit one of the most stunning national parks in the country — Zion National Park. And boy, do we have quite the adventure planned for you! 

First, know that the itinerary has been distilled to the must-see trails and stops along your route.

There are many more trails you may wish to do, but we’re already planning a jam-packed day for you.

Expect to spend anywhere from 10 to 12 hours exploring with us through Zion National Park.

Sounds like too much for one day? Feel free to pick and choose the trails and stops which pique your interest, or spread out your tour over two days. 

So how about it? Ready to pull yourself up a narrow precipice for thrilling sky-high views? We’ve got you covered.

Rather relax in a good story, soaking in the history as you drive to scenic overlooks?

Yup, we can do that, too! Zion has all of this and much more, and Shaka Guide will be there for you every step of the way.

But, before you set off for adventure, here are a few things to know that will help to make your trip as smooth as a slick rock. 

zion tour map

Start Planning!

Here’s what you’ll need to know in order to have the best experience on the tour.

  • There are four sections of Zion National Park:
    • Zion Canyon
    • East Zion
    • Kolob Terrace
    • Kolob Canyons
    • *You’ll have the option to visit all four sections of the park during your Shaka Guide tour. 
  • The tour focuses on Zion Canyon and East Zion, with optional side trips to Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons. 
  • Entrance to Zion National Park costs $35 per car for a one-week pass. You can purchase your park pass in advance here or on-site in the Kolob Canyons, Zion Canyon, and East Zion sections of the park. 
  • There is no visitor center at Kolob Terrace - park passes must be purchased in advance.  Additionally, Kolob Terrace has only pit toilets and no water stations. 
  • The tour has two optional directions, depending on where you choose to begin.
  • The east-to-west tour begins at Mt. Carmel Junction, just north of Kanab.
  • The west-to-east tour begins at either Hurricane or Kanarraville, depending on whether you’re entering from the north or south. 
  • Angel’s Landing now requires a permit to visit. You must enter a lottery and be selected for a permit. You can do that here. Please note there are seasonal lotteries if you'd like to book in advance or a day-before lottery if you're unable to get a permit during the seasonal lottery. 
  • Zion Lodge is the only place to eat in the park. 
  • During weekends in February, from March through November, and again from December 23rd through January 1st, Zion Canyon can only be accessed by the free park shuttle. Visitors are not permitted to drive their personal vehicles through the canyon while the shuttle is in service. The tour will continue to play whether you are riding the shuttle or in your own personal vehicle. Learn more below. 
  • Cell reception is spotty in the park. Don’t worry, the tour works completely offline - no wifi or data necessary! 

What to Expect

hikers in zion nationla parkShutterstock Image

1. To Get an Early Start

We recommend that you arrive in Zion before 7 a.m. – "7 a.m.?!" you exclaim. I know, I know, but to get to the Zion Visitor Center before the parking lot fills up, we need to arrive before 8 a.m.

The early bird gets the worm, or er, parking space in this park. If you don't mind paying for parking in Springdale, you can start your tour a little later.

Remember, it's a long day of adventuring ahead, so do try to arrive by 8 a.m.

2. To Spend  10-12 Hours Exploring

There is plenty to see and do in Zion, and trying to do everything is probably just too much for one day.

We’ll tell you our top picks, and you can choose which hikes and activities are best for you.

The Zion highlights—which your tour will point out for you— can all be seen in one 10-12 hour day.

But with so many optional hikes, stops, and side trips in Zion, if you hope to see it all, you’ll need at least two full days.

3. To Be Active

This tour visits all four sections of the park - that means, there are loads of overlooks, scenic drives, and hikes for you to choose from.

No matter which sections of the park you choose to visit, you’ll be exploring all day.

4. To Learn

For those of us with a love of learning, you’ll be amazed at the stories we have for you.

ot only will we point out the beautiful features of Zion, but we’ll explain how they came to be.

For you history buffs, we’ll tell you all about the history of Zion and the people who helped to make it. With Shaka Guide, we’ll help bring the park to life.


Helpful Planning Tips 

Shuttle Service

shuttle busNPS Daren Reehl

From March through November and again during Christmastime, Zion Canyon implements a mandatory shuttle system.

Visitors to Zion Canyon must embark on the Zion Shuttle in order to traverse Zion Scenic Drive. No personal vehicles are permitted during shuttle season. These shuttles are free to all visitors.

Visitor Center Shuttle

There are two shuttle systems in Zion National Park. The first shuttle system runs from the Visitor Center to the Temple of Sinawava—the final stop on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

The shuttle service typically runs from about 7 a.m. to  7:15 p.m. daily. The shuttle schedule changes slightly from season to season and year to year.

The nps website will have the most up-to-date shuttle schedule. Visitors should check the current shuttle schedule posted at the Zion Visitor Center before heading out.

Important Note!

Visitors are strongly discouraged from waiting for the final shuttle.  

If you miss the final shuttle, it’s a grueling 8 miles back to the Visitor Center from the final stop at the Temple of Sinawava.

Additionally, the final shuttle may be full. Don’t take the chance and end up stuck with a long, unexpected hike in the dark.

Springdale Shuttle

The Springdale shuttle runs from the Majestic View Lodge to the Zion Canyon Village, right at the entrance to Zion Canyon.

This shuttle provides a quick route from Springdale to the park for those visitors who are unable to secure parking at the Visitor Center. 

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Conveniently, the only free parking in Zion Canyon is also the best parking in Zion Canyon. The only caveat?

Visitors need to arrive early to take advantage of this time and money-saving.

After 8 A.M., the free lots at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center will likely be full. If it’s during the busy season, the Visitor Center parking may fill up even earlier.

If the free parking at the Zion Visitor Center is full, visitors will have to pay for parking in the town of Springdale.

Depending on location, the cost of all-day parking may range from $10-30.00. Closer parking spots pay a higher premium.

The good news is that even if visitors couldn’t quite get in early enough to snag a prime spot, there’s no need to worry.

Simply hop on one of the many Springdale shuttle stops and ride it up to the park entrance. 

Gear Rental

beautiful of narrow in the afternoon  in Zion National park,Utah,usa.Shutterstock Image

Hikers on some of Zion’s most popular trails—particularly The Narrows—may wish to rent some specialized equipment.

In the town of Springdale, there are several places to rent hiking gear.

Some equipment that hikers may wish to consider:

  • neoprene socks
  • canyon shoes
  • waterproof pants
  • walking sticks

If visitors are considering hiking The Narrows, they are strongly encouraged to consider either bringing or renting some type of water shoes and walking sticks.

In The Narrows, hikers travel a rocky riverbed upstream with water sometimes reaching the thighs.

Walking sticks and shoes that provide protection from stubbed toes and soggy feet will go a long way toward making the experience faster, safer, and more enjoyable. 

Start Packing!

  • Car charger
  • Headphones - You can use these on the shuttle! The tour will still play.
  • H20
  • Hiking shoes
  • Walking sticks - must-have for The Narrows 
  • Water shoes - must-have for The Narrows
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks - there's only one place to eat in the park, Zion Lodge, but there are multiple picnic spots. 

Safety Information

hiker overlooking zion national parkShutterstock Image

  • Bring plenty of water. The dry heat of the desert can be misleading for those who aren’t used to it. Dehydration in Zion is common and deadly. People die every year from heatstroke and heat-related illnesses, so be sure to bring as much water as you think you’ll need, and then double it.
  • Flash floods are common in Zion and extremely dangerous. Do not go hiking if there is a chance of inclement weather.
  • To discourage the spread of  COVID-19, guests are required to wear masks in all indoor spaces in the park.
  • Don’t drink the water in the park. The water contains cyanotoxins which can make people and pets ill. Do not submerge your head underwater, as these toxins may be absorbed through the nose or mouth. While side effects in humans are generally mild, pet-related fatalities can occur in as little as 15 minutes after exposure.
  • Stick to the trail. Be sure there’s no need for an embarrassing rescue by sticking to the park trails. Wandering not only places you in danger of getting lost but also damages the natural environment.

Prepare for the Weather

Be aware that depending on the season and weather, certain activities and sections of the park may be off-limits.

Be prepared with backup plans in order to make the most of your time in Zion.

For example, Kolob Canyons and Kolob Terrace may close in the event of snow. Likewise, The Narrows will close if the water level rises too high.

Always be prepared to switch up your plans, after all, in the desert, Mother Nature has the final say!

Leave No Trace

Zion is a breathtaking example of natural, rugged beauty. To preserve this beauty for future visitors, we must follow certain guidelines.

These guidelines include packing it all out, picking up our trash, taking nothing but pictures, respecting wildlife, and sticking to the path.

This last point of following the path is particularly important in Zion so as not to damage the fragile cryptobiotic crust. 

It’s up to us to preserve and respect this amazing environment, so let’s do our best to travel responsibly—the Shaka Guide way.

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

For more information and to check out the tour, be sure to check out the accompanying Zion National Park itinerary.

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