15 Thins To See Near Zion National Park
August 25, 2021
Southern Utah is home to one of America’s most beloved National Parks. As one of the most popular parks in the country and the most popular of the five national parks in Utah, Zion National Park has so much to offer, no matter what type of traveler you are. However, there are many things to see Zion that are just as fun and memorable as the park itself. Wondering what to do near Zion National Park that most people miss? Here are some of the best things to see when visiting Zion National Park and Southern Utah.
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1. Explore Fort Zion
Located in the town of Virgin, just 20 minutes from Zion National Park, and half a mile away from Zion White Bison Resort, is the quaint Fort Zion.
It’s the perfect place to explore for families with small children. The facade looks like an old western fort, with plenty of small buildings, such as a jail and a bank, for your kids to play around in.
At Fort Zion, you’ll find a fun gift shop, a petting zoo, and a restaurant to get fueled up before a day hiking in the National Park.
2. Stroll Through History in Grafton Ghost Town
Situated alongside the Virgin River, about 20 minutes south of Zion National Park, is Grafton Ghost Town. This historic settlement features my old buildings in good condition.
It’s an old Mormon settlement originally founded in 1859 and partially inhabited until the 1940s. Today, you stroll this forgotten town, peering through the windows of the five restored buildings, and appreciate the quiet and peaceful desert surroundings
You can also read through some of the tombstones located in the cemetery, where you’ll find that many residents were killed by Indians and lived a hard life.
3. Drive the Winding Kolob Terrace Road
Looking to get away from the crowds that are common inside Zion National Park? Take a quieter drive along Kolob Terrace Road, which runs north and south between Zion Canyon and the Kolob section of the park.
The road starts in the town of Virgin, just 20 minutes from the main park entrance, and only five minutes from Zion White Bison Resort, making it one of the most accessible things to see near Zion when staying with us. The road itself is 25 miles long and weaves in and out of Zion National Park the entire time.
The road steadily climbs in elevation, until reaching over 8,000 feet, where there’s a good chance you’ll find snow, depending on the time of year. You’ll pass outstanding rock formations that rival those inside the National Park. But you won’t find any of the crowds.
4. Spend the Day in St. George
Is rock climbing on the agenda during your trip? It should be.
Whether you are a seasoned climber looking for the next big challenge or are brand new to the sport, the city of St. George is the place to go. Located about an hour away from the National park, and 30 minutes from Zion White Bison Resort, the St. George area boasts over 1,500 different routes, more per capita than any other city in the country.
That makes this place a climbing mecca with routes for any experience level. If you want to hire a guide to show you the ropes (literally), pricing can be very affordable. Otherwise, head to Moe’s Valley for some bouldering. No ropes are needed, just bring a crash pad in case you slip.
St. George has several dinosaur attractions, including the Dinosaur Tracks at Johnson’s Farm Museum. If you wish to see dinosaur tracks in a natural environment, check out the Warner Valley Dinosaur Site. After parking, there is a short hike to the tracks, but a beautiful location for a walk. Do not forget to take water with you.Oh, and don’t forget to stop at Riggatti’s Wood Fired Pizza before leaving St. George!
5. Cool Off in Toquerville Falls
Looking to cool off in a beautiful pool with a waterfall pouring down on top of you? Then hiking to Toquerville Falls should be on your agenda.
If you have a truck or a Jeep with 4-wheel drive, you may be able to drive all the way in. Otherwise, an 11-mile, out and back hike is an order, which isn’t all that difficult.
The trail begins in the town of Toquerville, which is 30 minutes from Zion and about 10 minutes from Zion White Bison. It’s the perfect place to cool off in the heat of summer, but avoid going after the rain if you want to swim, as the river and waterfall can get muddy.
6. Swim at Sand Hollow Reservoir and State Park
Sand Hollow State Park, one of Utah’s newest official state parks, is only 40 minutes from Zion and 20 minutes from Zion White Bison Resort. The state park is built around the large Sand Hollow Reservoir.
The reservoir is big enough for boating and calm enough for kayaking. You can spend the day fishing and swimming, followed by some off-roading on Sand Mountain, as this is one of the most popular OHV destinations in the state.
7. Play at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
One of the most unique things to see near Zion National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park boasts a beautiful, vast expanse of soft sand dunes. The sand is perfect for playing or driving across in your OHV. In the winter, snow makes these dunes perfect for sledding.
This sea of sand is constantly changing, thanks to the wind. In a single year, snd can shift as much as 50 feet, making this place a different experience each time you visit.
Coral Sand Dunes is located about 30 minutes from Zion’s east entrance, and an hour from Zion White Bison Resort. It’s well worth a visit, as time spent in Coral Sand Dunes will quickly make you forget all about Zion.
8. Ride on the Gooseberry Mesa Mountain Bike Trails
Utah is known for its incredible mountain biking. With endless miles of flowy singletrack and incredible views, there’s no better way to experience the countryside near Zion than on two wheels.
The Gooseberry Mesa trail system is one of Utah’s favorite mountain bike destinations. It’s just over an hour from the park and only 50 minutes from Zion White Bison.
If you need to rent a bike, you can do so in the town of Hurricane, located on your way to the trails. The trails vary widely, with routes for advanced riders and plenty of single-track for beginners, too. You can piece together your own route, combining multiple trails.
Or you can ride the popular South Rim to North Rim loop. The views of the Zion on this trail system are mind-blowing.
9. Get Cozy in Springdale
Springdale is the cozy little town that greets you as you enter Zion National Park from the south, just 15 minutes from Zion White Bison. Here, you can find plenty of restaurants to enjoy while visiting Zion, such as Spotted Dog Cafe and FeelLove Coffee.
There’s also plenty of art galleries and shops where you can pick up souvenirs and gifts, as well as bike rentals. You can also schedule tours and adventure activities such as horseback riding and rafting with one of the outfitters in town. And don’t forget to walk or jog along the town’s paved multiuse trail, which connects Springdale to the National Park.
10. Hike in Zion National Park
Of course, you want to plan plenty of time to explore the National Park itself, one of the main Southern Utah attractions. There’s a reason that over 4 million visitors make the trip here every single year.
The park is awe-inspiring, with natural beauty on display at every turn. And it’s easy to navigate, thanks to the free shuttles that traverse the park on a daily basis, keeping the park free from unnecessary automobile traffic.
Some of the most popular hikes in the park include The Narrows and Angel’s Landing. Both of these are quite demanding and involve some planning. For easier hikes with awesome views, try the Canyon Overlook Trail, the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock Trail, and Lower Emerald Pools trail.
11. Take a Scenic Drive through the Zion Mt. Caramel Tunnels
One of the most scenic drives in the country, Highway 9 is a must-do when exploring Southern Utah or if you are traveling on to Bryce Canyon National Park. Just two hours from Zion White Bison Resort, the drive is an adventure in and of itself. The Zion Mt. Caramel Tunnels are worth the time and the drive.
Tunnel construction began in 1927, in an effort to connect Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon in a large loop of roads to accommodate tourists who were flocking to the West to see national parks.
A combined effort of the Union Pacific Railroad, National Park Service, Utah Road Commission, and the Bureau of Public Roads, the tunnels are an engineering masterpiece.
Drive through the tunnels and continue past Zion National Park’s east entrance ranger station to Zion Mountain Ranch. There you can turn around and start back, but take a moment to observe the buffalo herd just before the ranch.
While driving along Highway 9, be sure to also look for mountain sheep amongst the rocks and cliffs. There are also several pull-outs for excellent hikes and viewpoints.
If you are driving an RV or oversized vehicle, check size restrictions before leaving for the drive. It is still possible to fit through the tunnels, but an added fine may be given to accommodate your vehicle.
12. Enjoy the Night Sky
Zion National Park is an official “International Dark Sky Park.” This recognition signifies that the sky is dark enough due to the lack of city lights and location to observe the sky in its finest glory.
Considered one of Utah’s Big 5 National Parks, Zion is a beautiful location to observe the sky amongst towering red rock cliffs. The park boasts nighttime programs and night sky information for those wishing to view the stars.
The park has many outreach programs and public education efforts to maintain its dark sky status within and the park and beyond its borders. For those wishing to view the night sky, request location information at the Zion Visitors Center.
Official Dark Sky Parks can be found world-wide. In fact, out of the 90 dark sky places around the world, Utah is home to 21, the highest number of any state in America. Utah boasts eight dark sky state parks with the remaining locations scattered around the state.
Not only are these parks great for stargazing, they are also beneficial for human health with less light and environmental pollution. These night skies are attracting tourists from around the world to Utah. Utah’s red rock and impressive canyons are a natural attraction, but the night skies have also become a destination as well.
13. Spend the Day at Bryce Canyon National Park
Just a two hour drive from Zion White Bison, Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most visited and beautiful destinations in the world. The park is actually a series of canyons and bowls located on a high plateau.
Marvel at the many overlooks and hoodoos at the park’s four main viewpoints. The main road that runs throughout the park is 18 miles long, reaching an elevation of 9,000 feet. Explore hiking trails that connect viewpoints and overlooks. Take a horseback ride on the canyon’s many trails.
Bryce Canyon National Park offers camping sites and lodging throughout the area. Spend the day hiking and sightseeing the park’s many overlooks, and enjoy the dark night sky for stargazing in the evening hours.
For an added adventure, do not miss the Mossy Cave and Waterfall Hike outside of the park boundaries. The trail is lesser known and a simple walk for families, ending with a beautiful waterfall and vista.
14. Catch a Play at the Tuacahn Amphitheater
Tuacahn is one of southern Utah’s most popular attractions. Local and visiting tourists enjoy this unique theatrical setting that brings professional productions to an intimate canyon location.
The name Tuacahn was inspired by the Mayan word, “teotihuacan,” which means the “city of the gods.” Doug Stewart, a local playwright, declared the canyon as Tuacahn, referencing the “canyon of the gods.” The amphitheater is just that. Nestled in the shadows of 1500-foot towering cliffs, the amphitheater and Center of the Arts inspires artists and audiences from around the world.
While the theater’s yearly Broadway plays are the most well-known productions, the stage also hosts popular singers, bands, comedians, and even an annual rodeo. The beauty of the surrounding cliffs and landscaping draws artists and crowds to performances under the stars throughout the year.
Southern Utah’s climate and mild weather accommodate an outdoor crowd, boasting little rain and warm evenings. Due to the amphitheater design, all seats provide exceptional viewing with award-winning special effects, including water, fire, aerial performances, and fireworks. Tuacahn also boasts the ability to use live animals in their shows due to local stables and animal care facilities.
Tuacahn encompasses a 42,000 square-foot building that features a 330-seat indoor theater, dance studio, black-box theater, recital hall, costume shop, scene shop, classrooms, and gift shop. These beautiful facilities support the spectacular outdoor amphitheater that seats 1920 visitors.
Buy a ticket, and enjoy a play nestled amongst towering red cliffs and a star-filled night sky.
15. Take in Hike in Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park is located in the city of Ivins. Typical of other red rock parks in the area, the state park has beautiful red and white rock formations, sand dunes, lava tube caves, and paved/off road hikes.
Complete with a campground and a visitor’s center, Snow Canyon State Park is quaint, uncrowded, and a hidden gem for locals. Brink a bicycle and ride the many roads and trails in the area.
Spend the day hiking the park’s many trails, and then look for scorpions in the evening by blacklight. Snow Canyon is a local favorite and a treasure for families who wish to leave the crowds and find a more secluded location in Utah.
Where to Stay Near Zion National Park
Where you stay during your time in Southern Utah is just as important as what activities you do. If you want to make your trip truly memorable for the whole family, skip the bland hotel and stay at Zion White Bison Resort instead.
Located just 20 away from Zion National Park’s southern entrance, Zion White Bison Resort offers modern, unique glamping with plenty of western Flare. Its location offers convenient access to many destinations near Zion – making it a great launching point for any outdoor adventurer.
Visitors looking for modern comforts love our covered wagons. Inside each wagon is a king or queen-size bed along with a full bathroom, central heating and cooling, and an outdoor kitchen.
Or book one of our modern teepees, which sit along the edge of a pond. Our teepees are outfitted with a king or queen-sized bed, a waterfall shower, a skylight for stargazing, and a private outdoor hot tub.
In the morning, you can take a walk along the Pioneer Walking Trail, which connects our lovely resort with 20 acres of wide-open nature. Not only will you get to take in the beauty of our property, but it has been proven that connecting with the outdoors is just one of the many benefits to glamping! Don’t just book a place to stay during your trip to Zion – Book a glamping vacation that keeps the adventure going without sacrificing comfort.
Experience All The Wonderful Things To See Near Zion National Park
Ready to plan your trip to southern Utah? Zion White Bison Resort is now open, offering brand new, luxury glamping options just minutes from Zion National Park and many of the things to see near Zion mentioned above.
With no shortage of activities near Zion, you’ll have plenty to do each and every day during your trip.
Book your stay today and ensure you have the Western adventure of a lifetime!