As Utah’s most popular National Park, Zion National Park is equally as famous for its stunning sandstone peaks and canyons as it is for its hiking trails like the Narrows and Angels Landing. As incredible as the hiking trails are for viewing the majestic scenery, getting into your car can give you access to viewpoints and scenery that you just won’t be able to get to on foot.
Zion National Park has several scenic drives you can take to enjoy even more of Zion’s natural beauty.
Driving Through Zion National Park
Taking a personal vehicle through the open areas of Zion National Park is a great way to see the scenery and get to trails and scenic viewpoints that are outside of the Main Canyon. However, you should be alert when driving through Zion.
The roads in the park twist and turn sharply in some spots. Weather conditions like rain or snow can make these areas particularly difficult to navigate. You should also be aware that wildlife, both big and small, sometimes step into the roads, and you’ll need to be able to stop quickly.
You are unlikely to have any issues if you are paying attention while driving. Knowing what to expect in advance can help you avoid any unpleasant surprises during your visit to Zion National Park.
Let’s move on to talking about the more pleasant parts of driving through Zion National Park. Here are our recommendations for the top five drives to do in Zion.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
With popular sites like Angels Landing, the Great White Throne, and the Narrows along this drive, it’s no wonder that this is the most well-known scenic drive through Zion National Park. Due to this route’s popularity, you can’t drive personal vehicles here during most of the year.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t see this area though. During the busy season, a shuttle runs along the drive bringing visitors from one end to the other. During this time, bicycles are also allowed to use the route.
During the slower season (typically in the winter), you can drive a private vehicle on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This scenic drive is also the start of many must-do hikes in Zion.
No matter what kind of transportation you take along this route, you’ll see the stunning red and white sandstone walls that line this drive, and be able to stop at stunning overlooks and other points of interest along the way. Some of our favorite trails at Zion are located along this route. See our guide to the top five hikes in Zion to find out more.
Mount Carmel Highway
This highway is another route through Zion’s south canyons. You can access this drive all year because there’s no shuttle route along the way. As you drive across the park and to the eastern portion, you’ll notice that the landscape begins to change dramatically.
You’ll pass through the famous 1-mile tunnel carved through the canyon’s sandstone walls. When the tunnel was created in the 1920s, it was the longest tunnel of its time in the US. This route will require you to take a winding switchback road, but it’s well-worth the effort to see natural attractions like the Checkerboard Mesa, which is one of the points of interest on our guide to the top five must-sees in Zion.
Also, the trailhead for the Canyon Overlook trail is on this route. The trail is an easy hike with stunning views of the canyon. Even if you don’t plan to do too much hiking, you shouldn’t skip going at least a short distance on this trail.
Kolob Canyon Road
Kolob Canyons is located about 40 miles north of Zion canyon. This area is less popular than the Main Canyon, but it is equally as beautiful. The five mile scenic drive through Kolob Canyons offers views of the majestic peaks and cliff walls of the Colorado Plateau.
The drive begins just after you pass the visitors center at the South Entrance to the park and goes all the way to the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint. There are multiple trails along the drive. It’s a great area to explore away from the crowds of the Main Canyon.
If you’re visiting the park during the summer season and you have enough time, Kolob Canyon Road is the perfect scenic drive to make you feel like you have the park all to yourself.
Kolob Terrace Road
Zion National Park is rarely crowd-free. Even the slow season isn’t exactly slow anymore, but Kolob Terrace has significantly fewer visitors than the Main Canyon. It’s even free to enter this part of the park.
This scenic drive begins in Virgin Utah. The Kolob Terrace is a plateau that rises above the desert, so once again, this area looks very different from the Main Canyon.
One of the popular points of interest here is Lava Point. This scenic overlook is one of the best places to catch the sunset in Zion National Park. You won’t have to compete with other visitors for a breathtaking vantage point.
Quail Creek Reservoir
If you’re visiting Zion during the summer and staying outside the park, it’s worth taking the time to drive to Quail Creek Reservoir. While this reservoir is outside of Zion National Park, it’s the perfect place for beautiful views while cooling off in the water.
Besides swimming, you can also kayak, paddleboard, or just lounge under the shade trees on the beachfront. About 45 minutes from Zion National Park, going to Quail Creek Reservoir is the perfect drive to make on days when it’s just too hot to think about taking another hike.
FAQ about Scenic Drives in Zion
Can you drive your own car in Zion National Park?
During most of the year, you can drive a private vehicle through all the roads in Zion National Park. However, during the busy season, typically during the summer, you cannot drive through Zion Canyon. Instead, a shuttle transports guests around this area.
Is driving in Zion scary?
Driving in Zion sometimes involves switchbacks, but these can be navigated just fine as long as you pay attention to the road. Also, be aware of weather conditions, certain roads may be difficult or impossible to drive through due to heavy rain or winter weather conditions.
Do I have to pay to drive through Zion?
You will need to pay the entrance fee to access most of Zion National Park. However, you can drive on Kolob Terrace Road without having to pay the entrance fee.
How late does Zion shuttle?
Visitors can use the shuttles from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm when the shuttles are running. However, you cannot take the shuttle into the Main Canyon after 4:00 pm.
Can you sleep in your car at Zion National Park?
You cannot sleep in your car along the road in Zion National Park. However, you can reserve a spot at one of Zion National Park’s campsites to stay in overnight.
Planning an Amazing Trip to Zion National Park
Taking a scenic drive (or two or three) through Zion National Park is a great way to experience the natural beauty of this popular park. With so many beautiful areas to see, it’s no wonder that people return to Zion over and over again.
As you plan your trip to Zion, check out our guide to what to bring to Zion National Park. We can help you make sure that you have everything you need to have an unforgettable experience while at the park.