Zion National Park – Tips and Free Dispersed Camping
Surprisingly, Zion isn’t one of my favorite national parks. This may be due to the crowds we experienced while there, and that we had to be bussed around (and wait in an hour long line for each bus) to get from the park entrance to the hiking areas (also, we went on Memorial Day weekend, which I wouldn’t recommend doing…). That said, there are a number of amazing experiences in Zion, so it’s well worth seeing.
On day 1, we hiked / scrambled up Angel’s Landing. The views are insane, and it is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the national park system. The hike to the peak took us 2 to 3 hours, when it should have only taken 1, due to the sheer number of people attempting to scramble up chains on a narrow cliff. It was a bit terrifying because lots of people who had no business attempting the hike were heading up, and you had to hug the cliff ledge to let others pass on the chains somewhat frequently. Was the view worth it? You can decide for yourself from the photos below. If you are going to attempt the hike, it’s best to arrive and start before 8 or 9 AM. This will help you avoid the big crowds.
On day 2, we hiked and floated the famous Zion Narrows, and it was pretty amazing. We rented dry suits and a giant walking stick, which I found essential to the experience since you walk upstream in small rapids that are 50 degrees F. The dry suits also are buoyant, so after you hike as far as you can upstream, you can float back through the rapids, which is really fun.
Tip – Try to get a Subway permit. We didn’t know it existed, but it looks amazing. However, it seems the permits are really difficult to obtain, so plan for it in advance. We (obviously) weren’t able to obtain a permit.
Entrances & Truck Camping – One of my favorite parts of Zion was the trip down highway 89 through the east side entrance that traversed a 1.1 mile tunnel and the Zion Scenic Drive. Be sure to pay attention during this because you’re driving by some of the coolest scenery in the park. We truck camped one night in Zion. We stayed near Kolob Canyon Entrance, which (I believe) is the entrance and road you use to access The Subway. It was hands down my favorite camping spot of this particular trip. We were up against ancient, crumbling mini-cliffs on one side, and had a vast view of all of Zion on the other side. See for yourself in the photos below…
Paid Showers – We found paid showers in Zion Mountain School on the main drag of the Zion resort town.