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SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
(with MAPS and PHOTOS)
Scenic Drive in Zion is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Zion National Park.
Here is everything that you need to know!
SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK –
BEST STOPS, OVERLOOKS, and SHORT WALKS
1. ZION NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTER – The Most Informative Stop on Scenic Drive in Zion
2. ZION HUMAN HISTORY MUSEUM – Awesome Stop Along the Scenic Drive to Learn About People Who Lived in and Explored Zion
3. CANYON JUNCTION BRIDGE VIEWPOINT – The Most Iconic View Along Scenic Drive in Zion National Park
4. COURT OF THE PATRIARCHS VIEWPOINT – The Most Inspiring Landmark In Zion National Park
5. ZION LODGE– Great Place to Have Lunch While Exploring Zion National Park
5A. EMERALD POOLS – Best Short and Easy Hike in Zion National Park to See Waterfalls and Pools
6. THE GROTTO – A Cool Place to Have a Picnic Along Scenic Drive in Zion National Park
7. WEEPING ROCK – A Beautiful Place on Zion Scenic Drive to See Hanging Gardens
8. BIG BEND VIEWPOINT – The Breathtaking View of the Great White Throne
9. TEMPLE OF SINAWAVA – The Famous Place Along Scenic Drive Where Riverside Walk and Zion Narrows Trails Start
9A. RIVERSIDE WALK– My Favorite Short and Easy Trail with Awesome Views in Zion National Park
10. ZION-MOUNT CARMEL TUNNEL – The Famous Gateway to Zion National Park
11. CANYON OVERLOOK – One of the Best Views of the Zion Canyon
MAP OF THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Image Credit: National Park Service
WHAT IS THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park Scenic Drive runs through the Zion Canyon along the Floor of the Valley Road.
The Scenic Drive through the Zion Canyon is approximately 8 miles long one-way. Of course, it depends where you start the Scenic Drive.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to do the drive without any stops.
If you plan on stopping along the way, then it would take you about 6-8 hours.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
- First of all, start the Zion National Park Scenic Drive at the Zion National Park Visitor Center (MAP STOP # 1) located along Zion-Mount Carmel HWY 9.
- Second, follow Zion-Mount Carmel HWY 9 until you reach Zion Human History Museum (MAP STOP # 2).
- Next, continue driving until you reach Zion National Park South Entrance.
- Finally, when you get to Canyon Junction Bridge Viewpoint (MAP STOP # 3), continue straight ahead. You are now driving along the Floor of the Valley Road and continuing your Zion National Park Scenic Drive.
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WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DO THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Hands down, the best time to start your Scenic Drive in Zion National Park is as early in the morning as possible.
Zion National Park is a very busy place! About 4.5 million people visited Zion National Park in 2019. With this being the case, expect plenty of company everywhere in the park.
The Zion National Park Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles from the months of March through November.
It is not a problem at all. If you are visiting Zion National Park between the months of March through November, then you can use the shuttle. By the same token, shuttle is free. Your park entrance ticket covers the cost of the shuttle.
Zion National Park Shuttle is super easy to use and very convenient.
First of all, there are nine shuttle stops outside the park, specifically, in the town of Springdale that pick up visitors. Second, the shuttle stops at all the best viewpoints and trailheads.
If you are visiting starting in December through February, then you can use your own vehicle and drive inside the park.
The Floor of the Valley Road is open year round. Snow seldom reaches the canyon floor.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED TO DO THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
- If you drive through the Scenic Drive without making any stops, and you just want to see the changing scenery from the comfort of your vehicle, then it can be easily done within 30 minutes.
- If you want to stop at every turnout or overlook indicated on the above map, walk around, take photos, observe wildlife, soak in the views, then you will need at least 6-8 hours to finish the entire drive.
HOW TO GET TO THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
- BY PLANE
The closest International Airports to Zion National Park that you can fly in are located in Las Vegas (LAS), Nevada and Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah.
There are smaller Regional Airports in St. George (SGU), Utah and Cedar City (CDC), Utah.
- BY CAR
If you fly into any of the airports around Zion National Park, you will have to rent a car and then drive.
Driving from Las Vegas, Nevada – 160 miles, 2 h 30 min
Driving from Salt Lake City, Utah – 308 miles, 4 h 30 min
Driving from Cedar City, Utah – 58 miles, 1 h 5 min
Driving from St. George, Utah – 41 miles, 1 h
WHAT TO BRING ON THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park is a photographer’s dream! If you are like me, you will be taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. The scenery is just breathtaking and constantly changing. I have Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Digital Camera that I bought a couple of years ago and I really like it.
Also, if you into landscape photography, then check out my post: Best Photography Locations in Zion National Park
2. Spare battery for camera
Make sure to have a spare battery for your camera. I think there is nothing more frustrating like knowing that you still have half a day ahead of you, yet your camera’s battery is gone.
If you are taking photos during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) when the light is softer, a tripod is essential for long exposure shots. Also, I like a tripod since it gives me more stability when taking closeups of wildlife.
If your camera does not have a good zoom, then binoculars is a must. I know that luck will be on your side and you will see some wildlife and what to treat to see them up close.
5. Appropriate footwear
I hope you make stops along the Scenic Drive in Zion and take a couple of short walks. If so, then make sure you have appropriate footwear. Trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support.
6. Plenty of water
If you are visiting during summer, then make sure you have plenty of water with you. It does get hot in the Zion Canyon! Without enough water your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well.
Food will help keep up energy and morale! There are a couple of places to stop and have lunch inside Zion National Park. Also, another great idea is to pack some lunch and have a picnic.
8. Rain gear and extra clothing
The weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
9. First aid kit
Always have a first-aid kits. Accidents happen and it is good to be prepared!
10. Sunscreen and sunglasses
Especially in the summer time , you will need sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
You need something you can carry all your valuables (phone, wallet) comfortably. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in.
9. Trash Bag
This will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.
WHAT TO SEE ON THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
On the Scenic Drive in Zion National Park you will see absolutely stunning views and interesting geological features.
I am recommending that you check out the map at the top of this post. It lists 11 points of interest. I know that it is a lot! So, if you are short on time, at the end of this post, I listed my absolute three must-do stopping points.
WHERE TO STAY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Are you searching for places to stay at Zion National Park or near Zion?
Here are my recommendations where to stay at Zion National Park or near Zion with prices for every budget including lodges, campgrounds and hotels!
Check them out!
SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
ZION NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTER –
THE MOST INFORMATIVE STOP ALONG SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION
Image Source: NPS
Hands down, Zion National Park Visitor Center needs to be your first stop along Scenic Drive in Zion!
The center is located in the town of Springdale, Utah, just outside the South Entrance to the park. And, it is a perfect starting point for your Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.
You do not need to use the shuttle to get to the Visitor Center. There is plenty of parking all around. However, keep in mind that shuttle stop # 1 is just outside the center and it is super easy to use. Simply hop on and hop off at all the stopping points.
The Visitor Center is filled with displays and information about the park. The displays are both inside the building as well as outside.
There are many Ranger led programs offered at the Visitor Center. The daily schedule is posted at the entrance. These programs range from presentations about Zion history and folklore to talks about geology, flora and fauna.
Make sure to check out the Bookstore! It has a ton of books about Zion National Park, maps, and cute souvenirs.
Zion National Park Visitor Center is open daily (except for December 25th).
The opening hours are:
- Spring – 8 am till 6 pm
- Summer – 8 am till 7 pm
- Fall – 8 am till 6 pm
- Winter – 8 am til 5 pm
ZION HUMAN HISTORY MUSEUM –
AWSOME STOP ALONG SCENIC DRIVE TO LEARN ABOUT HISTORY OF POEPLE WHO LIVED IN AND EXPLORED ZION
Image Credit: NPS
Zion Human History Museum is your second stop along Zion Scenic Drive. It is located 1.5 miles north of the park’s South Entrance on the main park road.
Just a reminder that if you are visiting between the moths of March through November, then you will need to use the shuttle to get to Zion Human History Museum and to all the other stops along the Zion Scenic Drive.
Zion Human History Museum’s permanent exhibits display the rich human history of Zion National Park. They showcase American Indian culture, historic pioneer settlement, and Zion’s growth as a national park.
In addition, Zion Human History Museum illustrates the effects of water in Zion. Both creator and destroyer, water is why people have traveled through and settled in Zion. Water creates the scenery and sanctuary that makes Zion famous.
Make sure to watch a 22-minute video that provides an excellent overview of Zion National Park.
Zion Human History Museum is open 9am-7pm late May through early September and then shorter hours through the rest of year.
Admission is included with the general price of visiting Zion National Park.
What you need to know is that if you go around and to the back of Zion Human History Museum, you will be rewarded with the most stunning view of the Towers of the Virgin, the large collection of peaks.
Starting from the left, you can see the West Temple. Next to it is the Sundial, and, then the Towers of the Virgin, followed by the Altar of Sacrifice.
Some visitors claim they can see the shrouded figure of the Virgin Mary on the face of the central peak.
It is said the this collection of peaks is best viewed early in the morning. However, sunsets could be quite spectacular at this location as well.
CANYON JUNCTION BRIDGE VIEWPOINT –
THE MOST ICONIC VIEW ALONG SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Image Credit: NPS
Canyon Junction Bridge is the third stop along Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.
Have your camera ready!
The spot right at Canyon Junction Bridge is the one of best locations in Zion National Park to see and photograph the Watchman Mountain with the Virgin River flowing below.
Hands down, it is the most iconic view of Zion National Park.
Actually, Canyon Junction Bridge is a very popular spot at sunset.
So, if your time allows, make another stop at this location around sunset time.
COURT OF THE PATRIARCHS VIEWPOINT –
THE MOST INSPIRING LANDMARK ALONG ZION SCENIC DRIVE
Image Credit: NPS
Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint is stop number four along Scenic Drive in Zion.
No doubt, Court of the Patriarchs is the most inspiring landmark in Zion.
Right at the shuttle stop number four, there is a path that goes up to the viewpoint. It is no more than a 5-minute hike, but it will give you a bit more elevation and the view of the Court of Patriarchs will be so much better!
ZION LODGE –
GREAT PLACE TO HAVE LUNCH WHILE EXPLORING ZION NATIONAL PARK
Image Credit: NPS
Zion Lodge is stop number five along Zion Scenic Drive. It is a great spot to grab some lunch, or get a few snacks for the road. Or, just to have some ice cream and chill for a bit.
In addition, there is a large patio area where you can hangout or have a picnic.
Zion Lodge is one of my favorite places to stay while I am visiting Zion National Park. If you are looking for places to stay in Zion National Park, or near the park, then make sure to check out my post: Where to Stay at Zion National Park.
EMERALD POOLS –
BEST SHORT AND EASY HIKE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK TO SEE WATERFALLS AND POOLS
Emerald Pools Trail is a short and easy hike located just across the Zion Lodge. It is stop number 5A on Zion Scenic Drive.
Just cross the main road and then a hikers bridge, and off you are on an amazing little hike where you are going to see waterfalls and beautiful pools.
What is really cool about this trail is that takes you right under an alcove with the waterfalls cascading over the edge of the alcove.
THE GROTTO –
A COOL PLACE TO HAVE A PICNIC ALONG SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Grotto is stop number six along Zion Scenic Drive.
The Grotto Trail is just a short and easy hike that will take you to a lovely picnic area.
In case you are planning to do some hiking, I need to mention that the Grotto is the starting point for a hike to the famous Angels Landing.
WEEPING ROCK –
A BEAUTIFUL SPOT ON ZION SCENIC DRIVE TO SEE HANDING GARDENS
Weeping Rock Trail is one of my favorites! No matter what time of the year I visit, I always make sure to include Weeping Rock Trail in my itinerary.
First of all, It is a short and easy hike. It is no more than 0.5 miles round trip.
Second, you will love it because this trail will take you along “weeping walls” with water dripping down, small rushing streams (depending on the season), and lush hanging gardens.
Eventually, the trail will take you into a large bowl-shaped alcove with water flowing over its recess.
BIG BEND VIEWPOINT-
A BREATHTAKING VIEW ON ZION SCENIC DRIVE TO SEE THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
Big Bend Viewpoint is stop number eight along Scenic Drive in Zion National Park. Here, the Virgin River takes a sharp turn and wraps around the Organ creating a breathtaking view.
From the northern part of the bend you see the top of the Great White Throne as it peeks out over the saddle between the Organ and Angel’s Landing.
In my opinion, the view of the Great White Throne from Big Bend Viewpoint is the most stunning at sunset!
Big Bend also offers dramatic views of Observation Point, Cable Mountain, and several other formations.
TEMPLE OF SINAWAVA –
A FAMOUS PLACE ALONG ZION SCENIC DRIVE WHERE RIVERSIDE WALK AND ZION NARROWS TRAILS START
Temple of Sinawava is stop number 9 along Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.
Two of my favorite trails start here – the Riverside Walk Trail and the Zion Narrows Trail. And, right from the start the views are breathtaking!
RIVERSIDE WALK –
MY FAVORITE SHORT AND EASY TRAIL WITH AWESOME VIEWS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
The Riverside Walk Trail is an easy, paved trail with little elevation change. It is about 1.1 miles one way and the views along the way are simply off the charts!
The Riverside Walk Trail ends at the famous Zion Narrows Trail where you are hiking the Virgin River upstream. The river is your trail!
After you are done with Riverside Walk Trail, and getting a glimpse at the famous Zion Narrows, retrace your steps to the Temple of Sinawava.
Next, either jump in your vehicle, or hop on the shuttle and get back to Canyon Junction, which was stop number three.
Now, you are going to experience driving through Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and
ZION-MOUNT CARMEL TUNNEL –
THE FAMOUS GATEWAY TO ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is number 10 point-of-interest that you should not miss this engineering marvel!
Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920’s and was completed in 1930.
At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States.
The purpose of the building the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway) was to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park.
The tunnel climbs 289 feet from the west to east end at a 3.3 percent grade, sits approximately 800 feet above the Zion Canyon floor and 20 feet inside the sandstone monolith in which it is housed.
The fact that workers began at each end of the mile-long project, drilling and blasting through solid rock and darkness and somehow ended up less than a foot off from meeting perfectly in the middle, is an amazing example of cooperation!
Vehicles wider than 7 feet 10 inches or higher than 11 feet 4 inches must have a tunnel permit.
The tunnel permit costs costs $15 in addition to the park entrance fee.
Traffic through the narrow tunnel is regulated by park rangers.
CANYON OVERLOOK –
ONE OF THE BEST VIEWS OF THE ZION CANYON
Canyon Overlook is stop number 11 and, hands down, it is one of the best views of the Zion Canyon!
What you need to know is that there is no shuttle service available is this area, so you will need to use your vehicle.
The parking area is located on the south side of the road, and the trailhead is across the street, on the north side of the road.
The hike from the trailhead to the Canyon Overlook is about 1-mile one-way. It is a moderate hike however it is not totally worth it and you should not miss it.
Needless to say, you will be rewarded with some incredible views of the Zion Canyon with the switchbacks below the west end of the Mount Carmel Tunnel, West Temple, the Towers of the Virgins, the Streaked Wall, and the Beehives.
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR THE SCENIC DRIVE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
That is quite a list, right?
What if you only have time to stop at a a couple of locations? No problem!
Here are my absolute 3 must-see points of interest on Scenic Drive in Zion National Park:
- EMERALD POOLS – Best Short and Easy Hike in Zion National Park to See Waterfalls and Pools
- WEEPING ROCK – A Beautiful Place on Zion Scenic Drive to See Hanging Gardens
- CANYON OVERLOOK – One of the Best Views of the Zion Canyon
Above all, be safe! Always use the designated turnouts to pull over and take photos. Do not stop in the middle of the road. If you finish your loop drive late in the evening and end up driving in the darkness, be very cautious driving. Drive slow and be on the lookout for animals crossing the road or jumping on the road.
Also, to give you more ideas, check out my two posts:
- Angels Landing Hike (Map and Photos) – Step-By-Step Guide to America’s Scariest Hike
- Zion National Park – What You Need to Know Before Visiting
What you need to know!
A trip to Zion is perfect paired with a side trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, or Canyonlands, Capitol Reef National Parks.
Check out my post: Zion to Bryce Canyon: 3-Day Adventure (with Maps and Photos)
Did you know that Utah has five national parks known as ‘The Mighty 5‘. Have you visited any of them? Which is your favorite Utah National Park?
- Arches National Park
- Bryce National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park, and
- Zion National Park
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