Zion National Park remains one of the most visited U.S. National Parks year after year — and for good reason. Its striking scenery lures in millions of travelers, but its enormous mountains, deep canyons and many trailheads can be daunting to the average non-hiker. This poses a question: Can you enjoy Zion National Park without hiking? The answer is yes! You can absolutely enjoy Zion without hiking. Here are 10 epic things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking.
1. Scenic Drive On The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway
Zion National Park offers so many awe-inspiring views that you can experience the park without ever stepping out of your vehicle.
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway runs from the park’s east entrance all the way to the visitor’s center on the south end of the park. It’s about a 70-minute journey.
While you drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, you will be stunned by the mountainous 360 scenery. And, if you keep your eyes peeled, you can even see arches forming in the rocks, rivers running and a plethora of wildlife.
In addition, as you get closer to the park’s visitor center and southernmost entrance, you will pass through the legendary Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. This tunnel, which was designed “to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon through Zion National Park,” stretches through the Zion mountain range for 1.1 miles.
The tunnel takes several minutes to pass through (in the dark, with rock windows every so often to provide some entertaining views and natural light). You will have the best view coming out of the tunnel if you are driving from the east side of the tunnel to the west side.
2. Walk On The Zion Wave
This little scenic pullout, about halfway through the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway, is what I like to call “The Zion Wave.” Much like The Wave on the Coyote Buttes North near the Utah-Arizona border, this seemingly smooth rock formation waves and glides in and out of the surrounding mountains.
Luckily, this Zion wave does not require a hiking permit. Whereas, The Wave at Coyote Buttes North does require a hiking permit and reservation, which can sell out months in advance.
3. Walk The Pa’rus Trail
Once you finish the Zion-Mt. Carmel scenic drive and arrive to the visitor center area, you will be met with a huge parking lot and various trailheads.
Among these trailheads, there are two walking trails that are very popular for all age groups and hiking (or non-hiking) levels. One of these trails is the Pa’rus Trail.
The Pa’rus Trail is a completely flat, paved walking path where you can bike, run, walk your dog (on a leash), or take a sweet and slow wander. It runs right along the aquamarine Virgin River; there are even areas of the trail where you can turn off and stand at the river bank.
The trail distances 3.4 miles round trip, but you can turn around and walk back to the parking lot whenever you wish, like we did.
It’s usually pretty busy, but the path is definitely wide enough for everyone.
4. Enjoy The Zion Riverside Walk
Another popular walking trail along the Virgin River is the Riverside Walk.
Unlike the Pa’rus Trail, the Riverside Walk is unpaved with a few twists and turns. Regardless, the trail is pretty flat, only 0.8 miles long and offers fabulous panoramas of Zion’s red-rock mountains, the bottom of the canyon and the Virgin River.
If you would like to experience more “adventurous” things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking up literal mountains, the Riverside Walk may suit you well.
5. Watch Sunset From Zion Canyon Overlook
Zion Canyon Overlook has one of the most fascinating views of Zion in the entire national park — no exaggeration.
This overlook is the perfect alternative for Angel’s Landing (one of the most dangerous hikes in Zion and the entire country) without the strenuous hike. Furthermore, the sun sets directly above the mountains in view.
Unfortunately, the overlook does come with a moderate one-mile hike. However, even though there is some steep elevation gain, the hike features an incredible cave, a large collection of stone towers and a cliffside boardwalk.
Rest assured, the hike is very much worth the unmatchable sunset view. If you are physically able, I highly recommend the Zion Canyon Overlook trail.
Is there a better non-hiking Zion activity than literally laying down on the ground?
You won’t want to miss the dark, starry night sky at Zion National Park. Because the park is essentially in the middle of nowhere, light pollution is minimal, which makes for excellent stargazing conditions.
Allow your eyes to adjust to the dark for about 30 minutes in order to see the most stars.
And, if you’re interested in astrophotography, bring your lowest f-stop camera lens. I recommend the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens for EF Canon camera bodies.
7. Walk Behind Waterfalls At The Lower Emerald Pools
The Lower Emerald Pools of Zion National Park feature two tall waterfalls that spill over a shallow cave, allowing visitors to actually walk behind the waterfalls.
These Lower Emerald Pools require minimal hiking (more like walking), so plan for a roughly 30-minute walk with plenty of other families and non-hikers.
8. Ride A Bike
As mentioned earlier, Pa’Rus Trail is a paved walking trail that is perfect for biking.
If you need to rent a bike, you can do so for as little as $15 at Zion Outfitter just outside the south entrance of the park in Springdale, Utah.
9. Go Off-Roading
Similar to biking (but with a lot less physical effort), off-roading tours take you to all the hard-to-reach places above and around Zion National Park.
Zion Country Off-Road Tours offers both 4-hour jeep and ATV guided tours, for as little as $100 (plus tax and gratuity).
10. Explore Zion National Park From A Helicopter
See Zion National Park from above! Helicopter tours are quite the opposite of off-roading, but they provide the same amount of adventure (if not more).
Zion Helicopters presents numerous helicopter package deals ranging from $70 upward.
11. Yoga With A View Of Zion National Park
So, maybe hardcore adventure is just not your thing — hiking or not.
Can you imagine yourself feeling zen in Zion? Meditating under the mountains? Practicing vinyasa alongside the Virgin River?
Zion Canyon Yoga offers group yoga sessions, private yoga sessions and private group sessions. Rediscover your innate sense of peace through a relaxing yoga flow with Zion as the backdrop.
12. Shopping In Springdale
Lastly, just outside the south entrance of the park is the cute, touristy town of Springdale, Utah. Springdale is filled with souvenir and rental shops, coffee shops, and restaurants. Spend an afternoon in Springdale for some R&R&R (retail, rest and relaxation) in between Zion adventures.
If you’re looking for Springdale restaurant recommendations, Oscar’s Cafe is the place to go for hardy helpings of delicious Tex-Mex food. We had a hard time finding any restaurants open mid-afternoon, but we were not disappointed with this Latin eatery.
We were served so much food that we had leftovers for two days. The starter cheese quesadilla was the same size as a large pizza! Plus, if you sit outside in the patio portion of Oscar’s Cafe, you can see Zion National Park while you eat.
Are There Easy Hikes In Zion National Park?
Yes, there are easy hikes in Zion National Park. If you’d like to try a beginner hike, try Zion Canyon Overlook or Watchman Trail.
The Watchman Trail is a fairly easy 3-mile round trip climb. I must warn you, though, that the hike is longer and steeper than people make it out to be. After a morning of some having breathing and frequent breaks, you will be rewarded with a magnificent uninterrupted view of Watchman Peak.
Is Watchman Trail worth it one time for a beginner hiker? I would definitely say yes. However, would I do the hike again? Probably not.
What To Bring To Zion National Park As a Non-Hiker
As a non-hiker, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible for Zion National Park. Here is a list of items you won’t want to forget to bring into the park.
- Good hiking shoes. I really like my Columbia hiking boots because they’re cute, comfortable, not too bulky, affordable and provide ankle protection.
- Tennis shoes. If you won’t be doing any hikes at all, tennis shoes will suffice. I recommend bringing a black pair or another pair you don’t mind getting muddy.
- Comfortable sandals. It feels really nice to take off your boots/tennis shoes after a long, hot walk. I always bring my black smooth-bottomed Teva sandals.
- Extra water in insulated bottles. Hikers die every summer from dehydration on the trails. Always make sure you have plenty of water. My National Park Hydro Flask keeps my water cold all day!
- Sunscreen. The Utah desert sun is absolutely ruthless. I recommend Neutrogena’s Clear Face SPF 55 sunscreen for sensitive skin. This sunscreen has never made my fair, acne-prone skin break out.
- Sunglasses. If you need an affordable pair of prescription (or non-prescription) sunglasses, I highly suggest ordering from Zenni Optical. Just be sure to order well in advance before your trip.
- Travel camera gear. You can find all of the best budget camera gear for travel photography linked here.
- Lightweight jacket. Desert nights (and early mornings) get really cold (even though the days are really hot).
When Is The Best Time To Visit Zion National Park?
The best time of year to visit Zion National Park is in the early spring, between March-May. The leaves are green, there are fewer crowds and there is a lot less heat. It can get chilly in the mornings and evenings, so bring a jacket.
Were To Stay Near Zion National Park
Outside The Park In Springdale, Utah
Although Zion is an extremely large national park, I recommend staying at the southernmost tip of the park in Springdale, Utah. Here, you will be closest to all of the activities listed in this article.
There are numerous hotels and vacation rental homes available in Springdale. Plus, you will find the best grocery, coffee shop and restaurant options in Springdale.
If you are camping outside the national park, on the other hand, I highly recommend finding a free campsite on a nearby BLM land. There is free, dispersed camping on all BLM areas here — just follow Leave No Trace principles and don’t overstay your welcome. To find these campsites, I recommend using the FreeRoam and/or The Dyrt mobile apps.
Inside Zion National Park
You have two options when it comes to staying inside Zion National Park: camping and Zion National Park Lodge.
Zion National Park Lodge is the only non-camping accommodations option in the actual park. It is very busy, which means it can get pricy depending on the season, and you should book well in advance.
Similarly, camping inside Zion National Park, although an epic opportunity, is scarce thanks to the high demand. If you hope to camp inside Zion National Park, I recommend snagging a spot at the Watchman Campground or South Campground where you will be close to all of the trailheads listed here.
Again, the earlier you plan, the better.
For information on reserving camp sites, visit the National Park Service site here.
See? Zion isn’t too scary! There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy Zion National Park without hiking.
As always, let me know in the comments below if you have any questions, concerns or other recommended things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking. As a fellow non-hiker, I’m happy to help!
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David C Piehl says
Enjoyed your post on Zion National Park.
Indigo Sahara says
Thank you so much!