The white, pink and red rocks of Zion (435-772-3256; www.nps.gov/zion; Hwy 9; per vehicle $25) are huge, overpowering and magnificent – you’re guaranteed to be awed. More than 100 miles of trails offer everything from leisurely strolls to wilderness backpacking and camping. The most famous backpacking trip is through the Narrows, 16 miles of walking and wading in the Virgin River through dramatic canyons (June to September). Prepare to get yourself wet or your spirits dampened if there’s a flash-flood warning. The Angels Landing Trail is a strenuous vertigo-inducer, but the views of Zion Canyon are phenomenal.
From April through October, the park operates very frequent Zion Shuttles (powered by propane). Two free, linked shuttle loops depart from the visitor center from at least 6:45am to 10pm daily, and (except for guests at the lodge) are the only vehicles permitted into the canyon.
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center (435-772-3256; www.nps.gov/zion; 8am-7pm summer, to 6pm spring & fall, to 5pm winter) has lots of books, maps, and park recreation information. Ask about ranger-led activities, which include nature walks and interpretive talks on flora, fauna, ecology and geology. The center also houses the backcountry desk (435-772-0170; 7am-7pm summer, to 6pm fall, 8am-4:30pm or 5pm spring), which dispenses permits the day before your hike.
At the south gate, two campgrounds (877-444-6777; www.recreation.gov; campsites $16-20) have almost 300 campsites. Less than half of these campsites can be reserved, so come early for the first come, first served spots. Smack in the middle of Zion Canyon, Zion Lodge (reservations same day 435-772-7700, advance 888-297-2757; www.zionlodge.com; r/cabins/ste $150/160/$170; yr-round; ) has 81 well-appointed motel rooms and 40 cabins with gas fireplaces. All have wooden porches with stellar views. There are no TVs, but there’s a good restaurant. Reservations are accepted up to 13 months in advance, or try your luck with a same-day booking.