With its soaring cliffs, riverine forests and cascading waterfalls, ZION NATIONAL PARK is the most conventionally beautiful of Utah’s parks. It’s divided into two main sections: Zion Canyon is on Hwy-9, thirty miles east of I-15 and 158 miles northeast of Las Vegas, while Kolob Canyons is just off I-15, further northeast.

The centrepiece of the park, the lush oasis of Zion Canyon, feels far removed from the otherworldly desolation of Canyonlands or the weirdness of Bryce. Like California’s Yosemite Canyon, it’s a spectacular narrow gorge, echoing with the sound of running water; also like Yosemite, it can get claustrophobic in summer, clogged with traffic and crammed with sweltering tourists.

Too many visitors see Zion Canyon as a quick half-day detour off the interstate as they race between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Magnificent though the canyon’s Scenic Drive may be, Zion deserves much more of your time than that. Even the shortest hiking trail can escape the crowds, while a day-hike will take you away from the deceptive verdure of the valley and up onto the high-desert tablelands beyond.

Summer is by far the busiest season. That’s despite temperatures in excess of 100°F and violent thunderstorms concentrated especially in August. Ideally, come in spring to see the flowers bloom, or in autumn to enjoy the colours along the river.

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