Seasons, Fees, Permits and Campgrounds
Zion National Park is open all year round, but programs, facilities and activities can vary with the season. It’s a good idea to check weather conditions before visiting. Weather changes drastically depending on the season. Summers are generally hot and dry, but monsoon rains have been known to cause flash flooding from mid-July into September. Winters are cold and rainy, with nightly temperatures that drop below freezing.
The standard entrance fee to the park, which is valid for seven days, is $25 per car or $12 per motorcycle, bicyclist or pedestrian arriving on foot. Check the park’s website for additional information on fees, including days when the entrance fee is waived.
The National Parks Service maintains three campgrounds in Zion, all of which are very popular and fill up quickly during the season. South and Lava Point campgrounds are first-come, first-served. Spots at Watchman campground may be reserved up to six months in advance. Since visitation peaks during summer months, reservations are highly recommended. Additional, commercial campsites are available near the park. Zion Lodge offers modern accommodations right on the canyon floor.
Permits are required for all organized activity that benefits individuals or organizations rather than the public at large. This includes weddings, commercial filming, and the scattering of ashes. The park also requires backcountry permits for all overnight trips, as well as for select trail use and rock climbing trips. When planning a trip to the backcountry, make sure to check fire conditions.
Visitor Centers, Museums and Shuttle System
Several visitor centers, information desks and museums are located in Zion National Park. The Zion and Kolob Canyon visitor centers are open all year, with some seasonal hours. The Zion Human History Museum is closed during the winter, and the Zion Nature Center is only open during the summer. Visitors to the park can also explore select archeological sites, including ones with petroglyphs (rock carving) and pictographs left by ancient inhabitants of the area, subject to strict regulations and availability. If you are staying in nearby Springdale, hop on the free Zion shuttle bus to cut down on your carbon footprint.
Zion’s massive rock formations, hewn by geologic forces over millennia out of tan and red Navajo sandstone, are an inspiration to photographers, a challenge to climbers, and a marvel to hikers along the canyon floor. Be sure to check out famous natural landmarks like Angel’s Landing, the Great White Throne, the Kolob Arch, the Three Patriarchs and the Checkerboard Mesa. As you hike the canyon floor, be sure to look up and catch a glimpse of the park’s magnificent freestanding arches.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act into law. The bill designated more than two million acres of land as wilderness in nine states. Almost 125,000 of those acres would be come the Zion Wilderness. This increased protection of the lands, rivers and streams in the area, and slightly increased the borders of the park. No commercial enterprises, no permanent roads — just miles and miles of pure nature to explore on foot.