10 Essential Tips to Avoid The Crowds & The Heat at Zion National Park

Zion National Park in Utah is one of the most spectacular national parks in the US. It is also among the parks with highest visitation, especially from April to October. Our 10 essential tips below will help you effectively avoid the crowds and the heat at Zion during its busy season. Following this strategy, we had a great time and did not feel crowded at all during our visit in summer.

If I could choose only one word to describe Zion, it would be “magical”. It is impossible not to be mesmerized by the overwhelming beauty of Zion. My four days surrounded by stunning rock formations and sweeping views of cliffs and canyons flew by so quickly that I wish I could stay longer. Our article includes planning and lodging tips, Zion shuttle tips, and more.

the main gate of Zion National Park.
Zion National Park gate

Avoid Peak Times if Possible

It is no surprise that the busiest times at this spectacular park are during summer, especially on weekends and holidays. That is when the weather is warm and kids are out of school. According to National Park Services website, Zion is extremely busy on Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

Be prepared to have a more difficult time finding parking spaces, lodging as well as paying higher prices when you visit Zion in summer. If you can, try to visit during a less busy season. Zion is open every day of the year and I’m sure it is also stunning every day of the year. 

We actually visited Zion on weekend at the beginning of August. Hotel prices were higher and there were lines in many places in the park as well as in Springdale. However, we successfully avoided the crowds and had a great time with other tips below. So please keep on reading.

You should also buy visiting pass online in advance for convenience. We recommend getting the America The Beautiful Pass ($80) for the best value. This pass will give you access to not only Zion but also other national parks in this USA Travel Bucket List.

Lodging – Stay in Springdale

Zion Park Boulevard (the street leading to Zion's gate) in Springdale, Utah.

One of the first questions we asked ourselves when planning our trip was where to stay when visiting Zion. In order to beat the heat and the crowds in summer, we think it is important to either stay in the park or stay in Springdale

Choosing Springdale as your base means you don’t have to wake up too early to enter the park before the crowds. Later, you can head back to your hotel to relax when the temperature is at its highest and return to the park when the temperature is more pleasant.

In addition, if you stay in one of the hotels in Springdale, it’s likely you just need to take a very short walk to the bus stop to catch a Springdale bus that goes straight to Zion’s gate. No need to worry about driving or parking. If you plan to drive and park inside the park, I will have another tip later.

There are quite a lot of hotels in Springdale, so I’m sure you’ll be able to find something suitable. Check and make sure there’s a shuttle stop right outside or close to the hotel. It’s actually better to pick a hotel near bus stops further from Zion’s gate rather than those closer to it. The reason is that there will be no lines at those further stops and you can get a seat before the bus picks up more passengers. 

the outside of Springhill Suites - one of the best places to stay in Springdale to visit Zion National Park.
The Springhill Suites, next to Springdale shuttle stop #6

There is only one hotel inside Zion National Park, which is the Zion National Park Lodge. There’s no doubt it is convenient to stay here, but you will need to reserve very far in advance. We stayed at the Springhill Suites in Springdale, which was fantastic. This hotel has spacious rooms and excellent location. There is also an outdoor hot tub.

Go Early and Stay Late

Okay, so it’s actually go early (like 6 a.m.), leave, then come back (around 4-5 p.m.), and stay late.

an empty path on the Riverside Walk Trail early in the morning.
Riverside Walk Trail early in the morning

In summer, the temperature is very pleasant in the early morning. From 10 a.m., it starts to become sunny and hot, and to me it’s quite unbearable from noon to early afternoon. So our strategy is:

  • enter the park around 6 a.m. or earlier, 
  • enjoy the magical and quiet atmosphere until around 9 a.m., 
  • have a quick breakfast at Zion Lodge,
  • hang around until 11 a.m. or when it’s unbearably hot,
  • head back to Springdale for lunch and a quick nap,
  • return to the park around 4 or 5 p.m.,
  • stay until 7 or 8 p.m. when it starts getting dark.

Following this strategy will also ensure that you will not have any parking difficulties. In addition, you will not have to wait in lines for shuttles. The next parts will contain tips for parking and taking shuttles.

The Great White Throne and the Organ at Zion National Park in Utah.
The Great White Throne (left) and the Organ (right)

Parking Tips – Early Morning or Late Afternoon

It’s best to arrive at the parking lot either early or late. The main parking lot at Zion Visitor Center has limited parking spaces, but there are plenty of empty spaces if you enter the park early in the morning, before 7 a.m. From 8 a.m., if you drive into the park, finding a place to park may be a struggle, especially in summer.

Later in the afternoon, as people start to leave, parking becomes plentiful again. This is why we suggest entering the park early, leaving around late morning or noon, and returning late afternoon in the section above. 

Of course, you can park in Springdale and take the shuttle to Zion’s gate. However, the Springdale in-town shuttles start running from 7 a.m. which is quite late to enjoy the magical morning atmosphere inside Zion. Dawn is one of the most special moments at Zion Canyon in my opinion. Darkness slowly fades away and sunlight starts to scatter in the atmosphere. It feels amazing just simply breathing in cool morning fresh air and hopping on the first Zion shuttle bus to explore the canyons with not many people around.

Note if you want to take the Canyon Overlook Trail: it’s best to do this trail either very early or late in the day. The reason is it is not accessible by foot from any shuttle stops. You will have to take the Zion Mountain Carmel Highway, drive through the tunnel and park at a very small parking lot right at the end of the tunnel.

the small parking lot for the Canyon Overlook Trail at Zion National Park.
The small parking lot near the Canyon Overlook Trail (this photo was taken at 7 a.m.)

Zion Shuttle Tips – Go Against the Crowds

One of the most important tips to avoid the crowds at Zion is to go against the crowds’ directions when taking the shuttles. Here’s what we did. We took the first Zion bus all the way to the highest stop early in the morning and work our way down from there. There were always very few people on the bus with us when we went up and down.

taking an empty shuttle early in the morning at Zion, one of the best tips to visit Zion and avoid the crowds.
An early morning shuttle with very few passengers

An important Zion shuttle tip: sit on the left when going up and on the right when going down for the best view.

We usually aimed to reach stop #5, where the Zion National Park Lodge is located, around 9 a.m. to have breakfast there. After breakfast, we could explore the trails near Zion Lodge or continued to go down, eventually reaching the Visitor Center in late morning. On our way down, we always saw buses going up packed with people and many had to stand. The line for the shuttles going up Zion by the time we reached the Visitor Center was always unbelievably long.

When you return to Zion in the late afternoon and leave around 7 or 8 p.m. like we suggest, you should not have to wait in line for the shuttle bus or stand on the shuttle, whether going up or down. These shuttle tips worked so well for us.

Useful link: you can check the schedules of both Zion shuttles and Springdale shuttles here.

Plan Hiking According to Temperature

At Zion National Park, the weather is very pleasant in the morning (until 9-10 a.m.) and late in the afternoon (from around 4 or 5 p.m). These times offer the best light and the fewest crowds for taking photos and hiking, especially for the longer and more challenging trails. When it is hotter, opt for shorter and more shaded trails.

The higher you go, the cooler it gets, so aim for higher elevations, such as shuttle stops #7, #8 and #9, when it is still hot. For instance, when returning to the park at 4 p.m., we went to stop #7 to take the Weeping Rock trail, and then worked our way down from there.

Additionally, consider Bryce Canyon National Park as another option since it is at a higher elevation and cooler. This makes it a great alternative for hiking and exploring on days when it is too hot at Zion. The scenic drive from Zion to Bryce typically takes about 1.5 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.

view of the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park, an excellent day trip from Zion to avoid the heat.
Bryce Canyon National Park

Choose Trails with Shades

Avoid taking exposed trails when it is hot. There are shaded trails at Zion that can help you escape the heat when temperatures are high.

  • Riverside Walk Trail: this is a very easy and family-friendly paved trail with a lot of shades. This trail begins at the highest stop, #9 Temple of Sinawava, where the temperature is pleasant throughout the day. It can even be cold at this stop in early morning and evening in summer.
  • Weeping Rock Trail: though short, this is one of my favorite trails at Zion. It is a little steep but still pretty easy. The trail is paved and ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs which creates a secluded and peaceful atmosphere. Unfortunately, this trail has been temporarily closed due to rockfall.
the rock alcove at the end of Weeping Rock Trail, a short and easy trail at Zion National Park.
The rock alcove at the end of the Weeping Rock Trail
the alcove at the end of Weeping Rock Trail, one of the shaded trails to avoid the heat at Zion National Park.

Avoid Hiking When the Heat is Unbearable

Despite all the tips provided, there will still be times when the heat becomes unbearable. Our strategy during such times is to avoid hiking and instead take a break to relax or have lunch/dinner.

Generally, for the best experience at Zion, you should plan and prepare for your hiking activities before entering the park. Download a Zion shuttle map to your phone and read about the length and difficulty level of the trails. This is the map I liked and used at Zion.

Also consider stopping at the Zion Human History Museum and watch the documentary about Zion in an air-conditioned building. The museum is located at shuttle stop #2.

View of The West Temple, Sundial, Altar of Sacrifice at Zion Human History Museum, a building with AC inside Zion National Park.
View of the West Temple, the Sundial and the Altar of Sacrifice behind the Museum

Drink a lot of Water and Eat Healthy

We had late breakfast at 9 or 10 a.m. and early dinner at 4-5 p.m. to reserve the best time for exploring Zion (before breakfast and after dinner). Eating at odd times also means no wait at local restaurants. We also had lunch and took a rest in the middle of the day when the heat was at its peak.

If you wonder where to eat when visiting Zion National Park, below are some fantastic restaurants with fresh, delicious and healthy food in Springdale:

  • Park House Café: this small café makes really good smoothie. The egg dishes we tried were also tasty. We often had lunch here and their smoothie did a great job relieving our thirst and cooling us down.
  • King’s Landing Bistro: this restaurant also has tasty food. The outdoor tables have magnificent views of Zion rock formations.

It is important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your visit. The dry climate can lead to dehydration faster than you may expect.

Wear Appropriate Clothes

an empty path on Pa'rus trail late in the afternoon at Zion National Park.
Pa’rus Trail late in the morning

So what to wear when visiting Zion in summer?

Wear wide-brimmed hats, and use sunglasses to protect your eyes. We both wore large straw sun hats, which were incredibly helpful against the harsh sun and heat. They not only protected our heads but also allowed for air circulation. We also thought it was best to dress in layer with lightweight and breathable clothing, and cover the arms with long-sleeved outfit to avoid feeling burnt by the heat. 

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen regularly, especially on exposed skin, to protect against sunburn. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. We also brought a mini portable fan to use when it got too hot.

Also wear sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes with good grip and support. The terrain in Zion can vary, and proper footwear will help prevent slips and falls.


We hope with these 10 best tips to avoid the crowds and the heat at Zion, you will have a wonderful time, even during the busiest season at the park. I’d love to hear if you have other tips for visiting Zion National Park as sharing insights can help others make the most of their trip to this beautiful national park.

Suggested Tours: if you have limited time to explore Zion, you can consider taking a guided tour to make the most of your visit, such as those below:

a Pinterest pin with a view of the Watchman from the Pa'rus Trail for this article about best tips for visiting Zion National Park.
a Pinterest collage with scenes at Zion for this article about how to avoid the crowds and the heat at the park.

Note: the post was originally posted in 2018 on my food blog. It has been updated with new information in 2024 and I decided to move it to my travel blog.

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