5 Things to Do in Zion National Park That Don’t Involve Hiking

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When it comes to national parks in the United States, the secret has long been out about Zion National Park. It's one of the most-visited national parks in the country, with millions of visitors flocking year-round to see its famous red canyon and to hike its famous trails.

And while hiking in Zion National Park is indeed amazing, I've gotten emails from people asking if that's the only thing to do in Zion. The answer is no.

Yes, Angels Landing and The Narrows are favorite hikes for lots of people, and I *would* suggest trying to tackle at least one of them if you're able. But if you're not physically able to hike for miles (or if you just really detest hiking), the good news is that you can still enjoy Zion National Park without ever lacing up hiking boots.

Here are 5 things you can do in Zion National park that don't involve any serious hiking.

5 Things to Do in Zion National Park That Don't Involve Hiking

1. Go for a short walk

While Zion does indeed have a fair number of challenging hikes, it also has a handful of really easy walks that will still get you up-close to all the great scenery of Zion National Park.

The easiest walks include:

  • Pa'rus Trail – 3.5 miles roundtrip from the South Campground to Canyon Junction, following the Virgin River. This trail is paved and suitable for wheelchairs, and you can also walk your dog on it.
  • Riverside Walk – 2.2 miles beginning at the Temple of Sinawa, following the Virgin River through a narrow canyon. This trail is also paved.
  • Lower Emerald Pool Trail – 1.2 miles roundtrip from Zion Lodge. A paved trail leads to a waterfall at the Lower Emerald Pool. It also connects to the (steeper) Kayenta and Upper Emerald Pool trails.
Emerald Pools at Zion National Park
Lower Emerald Pool

And you can always just do a portion of a trail, too. For example, the West Rim Trail (which eventually leads to the Angels Landing hike) starts out fairly flat; you could easily just walk a section of it and then turn around.

2. Rent a bike and ride Zion Canyon

You can see Zion National Park on two wheels, too. The only trail in the park you can ride a bike on is the Pa'rus Trail, but you can cycle the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive year-round.

During the winter months you'll share this road with cars. But from February through November (when the Scenic Drive is closed to normal traffic), you'd only have to share the road with park shuttles.

Zion National Park in Utah
The Pa'rus Trail, which is bike-friendly

During the season that the shuttles run, they all have bike racks on the front. A popular thing to do is to take a shuttle to a stop near the end of the Scenic Drive (Big Bend would be my pick) and then ride your bike back through the canyon to the visitor center – or even all the way back into Springdale since riding that way is almost entirely downhill.

(Though you can certainly bike both ways! The Scenic Drive is all paved and doesn't really have any steep hills.)

You can rent bikes or even book Zion cycling tours in nearby Springdale. Check out Zion Outfitter, Zion Cycles, or Zion Adventure Company for rentals and/or tours.

3. Drive the Mount Carmel Highway

Mount Carmel Highway in Zion National Park
Mount Carmel Highway

While you can only drive through Zion Canyon in your own car a few months out of the year, you can always drive the Mount Carmel Highway.

This 12-mile highway connects the south and east entrances of Zion National Park, and driving it is an experience in itself. You traverse up and down steep switchbacks, and pass through the 1.1 mile-long Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Eventually the highway meets up with US 89.

Mount Carmel Highway in Zion National Park

Make sure to allow extra time for this drive. There are sometimes delays at the tunnel (if large campers or trucks are driving through, for example, they'll shut down traffic from one side since the tunnel is so narrow), and you'll likely want to stop multiple times at pull-outs for all the great views.

Just make sure that if you're stopping to take a photo that you do so in a designated pull-out; don't block the road!

4. Drive the scenic drive at Kolob Canyons

Did you know that there are actually two sections to Zion National Park? The “other” section – i.e. the one a lot of people don't even know about – is the Kolob Canyons section, 40 miles north of Zion Canyon.

Kolob Canyons at Zion National Park
You won't find nearly as much traffic here!
Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive

To reach this part of the park from Zion Canyon, you have to exit Zion and drive back to I-15. It takes about 45-60 minutes to drive from one section to the other, but I promise the detour is worth it!

There are some hiking trails in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion, but the real star here is the scenic drive. It's only about 10 miles roundtrip from the visitor center to the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, but it's a stunning drive with plenty of places to stop for views.

Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park

And the best part about Kolob Canyons? It sees only a tiny fraction of the visitors who go to Zion National Park every year, so you don't usually have to worry about traffic back-ups or jostling for parking.

5. See Zion from a helicopter

Lastly, if you want a real adventure and a completely different perspective of Zion, consider booking a helicopter tour.

Zion Helicopters in Hurricane, Utah, offers a variety of different tours that take you around the outskirts of the park from the air. (You don't get to fly directly over Zion National Park as it's not allowed, but you get close enough to look up Zion Canyon and pick out landmarks like Angels Landing!)

Helicopter tour near Zion National Park
Flying over Springdale and looking towards Zion Canyon

I did this on my most recent trip to southern Utah, and it was incredible to see all those craggy, canyon-y landscapes from the air. It gives you a deeper appreciation for what Mother Nature can create.

Helicopter tour in Hurricane, Utah
Just WOW
Helicopter tour with Zion Helicopters

I booked the 45-minute Zion tour, which starts at $165 per person. (Note that you need at least 2 people for a flight.)

Bonus: Watch the sunset at The Watchman

You can always just enjoy the natural beauty of Zion National Park, too. One of my favorite parts of my most recent trip was standing on the Canyon Junction Bridge and watching the sun set and paint the Watchman (a famous peak in Zion) a brilliant red-orange.

There weren't any clouds in the sky to make for a truly mind-blowing sunset, but it was still incredibly beautiful.

Sunset at The Watchman
Sunset at The Watchman

You can also ride the shuttles (or drive) through Zion Canyon, and enjoy lunch with a nice view at Zion Lodge.

Where to stay for a trip to Zion National Park

The three main Utah towns to use as bases for a trip to Zion National Park are Springdale (just outside the main entrance to Zion), Cedar City (close to Kolob Canyons), and St. George (about an hour from Zion).

You can also stay IN Zion at Zion Lodge or at one of the park's campsites, but the lodge is quite expensive, and both it and the campsites book up months in advance.

I've personally stayed in both Springdale and St. George, and recommend both for different reasons.

Springdale, Utah as a base for Zion

Rainbow over Zion National Park
Zion views in Springdale

Springdale is ideal if the purpose of your trip is strictly to visit Zion. You can catch a shuttle into the park from downtown, and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from (though be aware that many eateries close during the winter).

I stayed at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Springdale and would definitely recommend it. You can also check out other Springdale hotels here.

If an Airbnb rental is more your speed, you could try this townhouse in Springdale (great for families), or this tiny home near Zion (better for couples or solo travelers).

St. George, Utah as a base for Zion

St. George is a little further away from Zion National Park, but is ideal if you'd like to base yourself in more of a city and plan to visit other nearby spots (there are some amazing state parks near St. George, like Snow Canyon!).

I stayed at the Hyatt Place in St. George, which has great access to I-15 for getting around and going to Zion.

You can search for Airbnb rentals in St. George here:

RELATED: St. George, Utah: More Than Just a Gateway to Zion

When to visit Zion National Park

Zion National Park is open year-round – and is popular year-round. The climate in this part of Utah remains fairly mild even in the winter, meaning you can do many of the things on this list even in the off-season.

Inside Zion Canyon

Shuttles start operating in the park each year in February or March, and usually run through early November. When the shuttles are running, there are no cars allowed inside Zion Canyon. During the highest of high seasons (spring break, mid-summer, and Labor Day weekend), park shuttles can be crowded and it can sometimes take a while to get where you want to go inside the canyon.

Early spring, mid-fall, and winter would probably be my picks for when to visit, especially if doing the “big hikes” aren't on your to-do list.

READ NEXT: A Perfect 10-Day Southwest Road Trip Itinerary


Did you know there were so many things to do in Zion that don't involve hiking? Which one would you choose?

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"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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29 Comments on “5 Things to Do in Zion National Park That Don’t Involve Hiking

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  1. Great post! I was lucky enough to visit Zion briefly while on my cross country road trip this summer. I only had time for the scenic drive on Mount Caramel Highway- the tunnel was my favorite- the view after you exit the other side is breathtaking. I can’t wait to plan a return trip and will definitely be taking some of your suggestions from the post!

      Zion is definitely worth a return trip (or two or three)!

      Sshhhh! don’t let the Kolob secret out! I love the scenic drive at Kolob, it is amazing! And if you are into hiking, there are a couple of nice hikes there too…
      Also, if you stay in Kanab, it is a short drive to the East entrance to Zion.

        Knowing how many people visit Zion every year, I’m shocked that the secret isn’t already out about Kolob Canyons! But indeed there were hardly any people there at all when I visited!

    These are some great tips, Amanda! We were in Zion at the end of December and there are definitely ways to enjoy the park without hiking, if you prefer. One of things we loved about going in the off-season, was being able to drive around yourself and taking in the beautiful red rock canyons. I would also recommend a drive through the Kolob Terrace which traverses through some pretty scenic portions of the northwest part of the park.

      I was there in mid-December this year (and in April 2016), and there are definitely bonuses to going in the off-season. (Though, later in December I kept seeing notices on Zion’s Facebook page about the Scenic Drive being closed because there was so much traffic. When I was there, there were cars parked ALL over the road near the most popular trail heads. Next time I might opt for a bike!)

    I was so happy to see Zion National Park with my friends.Do you believe that was the first time I have seen the Sun beautiful like that when I stand on red rock mountain?

    The sunset photo looks beautiful! I would definitely like to check that out. I’ve never been in a helicopter before so that would be high on my list, even though Hawaii would be higher on my list of places to helicopter 🙂

      Helicopters are cool, and this was definitely a beautiful ride – it looks so different from up above!

    I am totally a hiker, in fact when visiting national parks I often end up just hiking and forgetting about doing anything else. So this made me reconsider that, thank you 😀 My base is Las Vegas so a trip to Zion is super easy for me and I should remember to go more often!

    Great article! Zion Canyon is truly an amazing place. We saw Mountain Sheep right on the road last time we were there a few weeks ago.
    May I suggest avoiding the crowds and prices in Springdale and stay in Kanab instead! Makes a great base for doing Zion (35 min drive to the East gate, up Mt. Carmel hwy) and Bryce canyon (1.25 hr to Bryce Entrance) Plus the closest town of any size to The North Rim Grand Canyon (1.25 hr to the Lodge, plus 1/10th of the crowds at South Rim). We LOVE Red Rock Country!

      Great suggestion! There are plenty of little cities to choose from in that area!

    I am so happy I found your site! The pics are just beautiful. I’m unable to travel far due to my age, so your site enables me to see the beautiful rock formations that are in Utah! I live in Tucson, AZ, but I’m a transplant from Warren, Ohio since 1980! Can’t believe you are originally from Warren. I went to Champion schools until I was 16, family moved to Warren, so I graduated from Warren G. Harding High School also. Love Tucson and our mountains here, but have always wanted to visit Utah especially to see their mountains/canyons. I’m a “rock hound”, never saw a rock I didn’t like, lol. Good luck & safe travels in your adventures. I’m so happy for you to be able to see all the beauty in this world, especially the “canyons”. Thank you for this site, love it! It’s just amazing!!!!!

      So glad that I could show you these spots, Marsha! Utah certainly has some impressive rocks!

    Your photos are breathtaking! Kolob Canyons look unreal and magical! Loving your blog.

    These are all great ideas. We typically direct friends and family to activities that require you to get out, but are at a loss when we talk to people who may not be quite as active as we are, or have a wheelchair. This page is a great resource!

      There are lots of low-impact ways to still get outside, and especially in Zion!

    Amanda
    Thank.you so much for this informative article. We are planning a big 2 week trip to Utah to Brice, Zion, Canyonland and other spots. This is such a great help in our planning!

      Great to hear, Kathy! I’ve written a lot about the Southwest, so be sure to check out some of the other content on my site, too!

    As a frequent visitor at Zion National Park, I suggest you add horseback riding to your list. It avoids much of the congestion and still has the pleasure of enjoying the view. A bonus is: you don’t have to look out for traffic, just enjoy the ride.

    Hi there from Alberta Canada. We are planning a trip to Mexico but have heard so much about Zion Park, we were thinking of taking a trip through there on our way. As we have never been there before, we would love to hear more about it and any other info you would like to share, we would appreciate it very much, you can find me on face book ” barb fenske ” we would love to hear from you, thanks so much for your time. (we don’t hike as we have both had our knees replaced and huge hikes are not in the cards for us, however we do have bikes)

    That’s really great news, thank you! We have been to Zion many times, now it’s time to take our grandchildren.

    Two words that should have Springdale and Zion National Park on everyone’s radar. THE NARROWS, pay an outfitter company for the shoes, stick, waterproof bag and backpack. The dollar shuttle is not worth a dollar when after doing the Narrows and having to wait in line for a shuttle at the hotest part of the day. I know your blog is about non-hiking activities but I am talking to people at a RV site that hasn’t heard of the Narrows?

      I’ve written about The Narrows and Angels Landing in other posts on my site – but you’re right, this particular one is about non-hiking activities in the park!

    I am going to Zion this weekend. There are many convenient close places to staY near Zion other than St, George. There are hotels in LaVerkin, tons of Airbnb’s in Toquerville & Hurricane. Also, why wouldn’t this be a safe time to go to a national park??

      I mention several places to stay near Zion, including both Springdale and St. George, which are places I have personally stayed (I usually don’t recommend anything I haven’t tried myself!). As for why it might not be a good time to visit a national park… well, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, so there are plenty of people who don’t feel comfortable traveling at all right now. Zion is still open, but many services are unavailable and some trails remain closed.

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