Even during the busiest part of the summer, Zion National Park is always worth the visit. But while braving the crowds for a few days of hiking and sightseeing might be fine, you may find yourself looking for ways to get a little breathing room partway through your trip.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to escape the crowds and still have fun in and around Zion. From shopping in Springdale to seeing the park from an entirely new angle, keep reading to learn a few of your best options.
1. Take a Day Trip to a State Park
If you want a break from the crowds of Zion but still want to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Southern Utah, head for one of the many state parks. Not only do each of these parks feature some stunning scenery, but many also have unique attractions you won’t find in Zion.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is one great option. Located just over an hour from Springdale, this park features breathtaking sand dunes in a light pink hue. You can enjoy sledding down the dunes or trekking across them. Make sure you stick around for sunset to see these beautiful dunes come to life.
Another feature that you won’t find in Zion is a lake. Luckily, less than an hour away is Sand Hollow State Park. With a large lake, it’s the perfect destination for swimming, fishing, and watersports. Like Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, you’ll also find dunes here, as well as off-road trails where you can rent a UTV for a thrilling ride.
2. Take a Tour
If you have just a short trip to the park planned or just want to spend as much time in Zion as you possibly can, you might not want to spend a day driving to other parks or strolling Springdale’s shops. But that doesn’t mean that you have to succumb to the crowds to enjoy the park.
There are several options for taking tours of the park that help you avoid crowded trails or lines at the shuttle. If you’re up for a thrill, a backcountry Jeep Safari might be just the ticket. If you want a little more rugged adventure, why not try out canyoneering with a guided tour. You can also take on some of Zion’s longer backcountry trails with the aid of a professional guide. This is ideal for visitors who aren’t quite confident enough on their own to take on these trails.
3. Shop for Some Souvenirs
After spending a few memorable days in Zion, you may want a special souvenir to help you remember your trip long after its over. Springdale is just the place to look. Downtown Springdale is home to a variety of stores and specialty shops. You can browse gift shops, art galleries, and local arts and crafts. When you get hungry, you’ll find plenty of options within easy walking distance.
Whether you need something to do on a rainy day or just want to spend a few hours that the whole family can easily enjoy together, shopping in Springdale is a must for any visit to the area.
4. Check Out One of the Other Mighty 5
Zion is far from Utah’s only national park. In fact, it’s home to five total, dubbed “The Mighty 5.” The closest one to Zion is Capitol Reef National Park.
About a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Springdale, Capitol Reef is every bit as stunning as Zion. But it’s also one of the state’s best-kept secrets. Compared to Zion’s 4.4 million annual visitors, Capitol Reef receives 1.1 million, despite cover 100,000 more acres than Zion.
Capitol Reef is located on what is called the Waterpocket Fold. This geologic phenomenon is an actual fold in the Earth’s crust that creates a unique climate and incredible rock formations. The park is also home to cliffs, domes, and red rock canyons, not to mention dozens of hiking trails.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is just a two-hour drive from Zion. While the Grand Canyon is even more popular than Zion, most of the 6.3 million annual visitors flock to the South Rim. The North Rim sees only a small number of annual visitors, around 10 percent of the total number, thanks to its remote location and the long drive to get from one side of the canyon to the other. You’ll still get to enjoy views of this world wonder, but without bumping elbows with thousands of tourists in the process.
Planning Your Visit to Zion National Park
If you really want to avoid the crowds of Zion, it’s best to visit during a shoulder season. But if that isn’t possible, it doesn’t mean you need to skip your trip. Instead, put these tips to work to make the most of your trip while still taking a break from the congestion.