Zion National Park is the ultimate destination for nature lovers of all ages and abilities. From hiking to sightseeing and everything in between, there’s something everyone will enjoy. But if you want to enjoy the park safely and comfortably, there’s a few things you’ll need. Keep reading to learn the essentials that every visitor to the park should pack.
A Good Pair of Hiking Boots
If you want to cover any part of Zion’s more than 220 square miles, you’re going to be crossing some rough terrain. Besides a few paved trails, most of the park’s hiking will have you on rocky, uneven surfaces. Sometimes you’ll need to climb steep switchbacks. Or in the case of the hike to Angels Landing, you’ll cross a narrow rock bridge with 1,000 foot drops on either side. A little bit of water on the rocks can make them as slick as ice, particularly on the smooth sandstone rock faces.
To keep your footing on slick surfaces, prevent rolled ankles on uneven trails, and otherwise stay safe and comfortable, you’re going to need a good pair of hiking boots. The type of hiking you plan to do should determine which boots you buy or bring along. For instance, high-top boots are great for preventing ankle sprains on rugged trails, while lightweight hiking shoes might be more comfortable for the casual hiker on some of the park’s less-strenuous trails.
Heavy-Duty Water Shoes
If you’ve set your sights on hiking The Narrows, going river rafting in a nearby park, or enjoying any other water sports, even the perfect pair of hiking boots aren’t going to cut it. Even waterproof GoreTex boots aren’t ideal for summer hikes through the water of The Narrows. They’re often heavy and bulky, and not designed for water that’s higher than the tops of your boots.
Instead, what you need is a pair of water shoes, and not just the kind you can pick up at a corner store. Instead, you’ll want a pair with some rugged tread to help you grip slick rocks. You’ll also want to make sure that they are comfortable enough to wear over a long distance, as you won’t want to constantly switch back and forth between them and your hiking boots.
A Comfortable Day Pack
You’re going to need a daypack to carry all of the supplies on this list. But before you grab that old pack in your closet, consider the weight of your gear and how long you’ll need to carry it. Even if you pack only the essentials, your backpack is still going to be heavy, assuming you pack enough water. If it isn’t comfortable, you’re looking at a long, miserable hike.
Choose a backpack that’s designed for hiking. Ventilated panels on the back will keep you cool, while comfortable padded straps will keep your shoulders from aching just a few miles in.
Before your trip to Zion, consider running a few practice hikes. Even loading up your pack and taking a walk through your neighborhood can help you get accustomed to the weight and keep you from getting sore on the real hike.
Water, Water, and More Water
During the summer months, the daily temperature in southern Utah regularly hits triple digits. Add in the hot sun and hiking and even the most experienced hikers may dehydrate faster than you’d expect.
Whether you’re setting off on a quick hike or a long-distance adventure, it’s always good practice to pack more water than you expect to use. The average, active hiker needs to drink at least one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. But if you are unexpectedly delayed on the trail, hike slower than you thought you would, or simply get thirsty, you’ll be glad you packed extra.
A Way to Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Dehydration isn’t the only threat brought on by hot days. Many of the trails in Zion cross rocky, desert terrain, which offers little in the way of shade. Whether you’re prone to sun burns or not, sunscreen or UV protective clothing is a must. If you opt for sunscreen, make sure that it’s waterproof. Otherwise you’ll just sweat it off part-way through your hike.
Snacks to Keep You Fueled
If you won’t be hiking long enough to eat a full meal on the trail, it’s still a good idea to pack some snacks. If you start to get tired or end up on the trail longer than you expected, these can help you stay fueled and keep you going mile after mile.
Trail mix, dried fruit or hardy fresh fruit like apples, and protein bars are all a good choice. Avoid anything too sugary, like candy; these will give you a quick boost, but then leave you feeling more tired than before. Choose snacks high in fiber and protein to keep you full and fueled.
If you’d rather cover up than slather on sunscreen a few times a day, you can cross two items off of your packing list with one purchase. UV protective clothing is often lightweight and moisture-wicking. Choose shirts that offer both benefits to stay cool, comfortable, and protected from the sun. Shorts will keep you cool, but they won’t protect your legs from the sun or from scrapes on rocks. Lightweight hiking pants will still help you stay cool, but offer more protection.
Other Essentials You’ll Need on the Trail
Besides these items, a few more things you should always have in your pack include:
- A Flashlight: Even if you plan to be back before sunset, you’ll be happy you have one along if you get stuck on the trail after dark.
- A Blacklight Flashlight: If you do think that you’ll still be in the park after dark, a blacklight flashlight will help you look for scorpions. Don’t worry too much; only one of the species that is native to the area is dangerous, and they’re a rare sight. But it is fun to spot these strange, glowing creatures and you’ll need a blacklight to do so.
- A First Aid Kit: From cuts and scrapes to bug bites and burns, a first aid kit is a must for every hike, regardless of length or difficulty.
- Bug Spray: Mosquito bites are more than just annoying; they can be dangerous as well.
- A Rain Jacket: Sudden showers are common, even during the dry summer months. A waterproof jacket will keep you dry and comfortable.
- Plastic Bags or a Waterproof Container: Along the same lines as a raincoat, a waterproof container or plastic bags can protect your non-water resistant gear, like your cell phone, map, or other gear from sudden showers.
Packing for Your Zion Adventure
This is far from an exhaustive list. Depending on what you plan to do in the park, you may also want to pack things like meals that can be prepared on the trail, swimsuits for rafting, or your bike if you want to ride the Pa’rus trail, Zion’s only bike trail. And, of course, you’ll also want a camera to capture all of the amazing memories you’re about to make!