Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kelly
Zion National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the United States. Because it’s such a popular park, it’s often very crowded. In fact, Zion National Park receives millions of visitors each year! That means that there can often be a very long line for the park’s shuttle. Thankfully, there are a number of breathtaking hikes in Zion that don’t need the shuttle at all! In this post, we will share 9 hikes that don’t need the shuttle in Zion National Park. If you don’t feel like waiting in line, this post is for you!
Hikes in Zion that Don’t Need the Shuttle
1. Pa’rus Trail | 3.4 miles | Easy
The Pa’rus Trail will take you up the main stretch of Zion Canyon, but you won’t need to use the shuttle to reach the trailhead! It’s a great way to see the main section of the park without riding the shuttle. (Full details for the Pa’rus Trail linked here.)
The word Pa’rus comes from a Paiute word meaning “bubbling, tumbling water.” The name is fitting, because the trail follows the Virgin River and you’ll hear it bubbling alongside you for most of the journey. The trail is 1.7 miles oneway, and 3.4 miles out-and-back. It’s a paved trail and fairly flat. It’s wheelchair accessible, good for strollers, and is also used by bicyclists. It can be a busy trail later in the day, but when we went in the morning, it was fairly quiet.
Pro tip: If the shuttle line is long, opt to walk the Pa’rus Trail instead! You can walk the 1.7 miles to the next shuttle stop (Canyon Junction). The line will be a lot shorter there, and you’ll likely be able to hop on more easily. Instead of waiting in line for an hour, you might as well take a beautiful walk!
The trailhead entrance is just past the main Visitor Center. After you pass the Visitor Center, you’ll continue walking north and cross a bridge, and then you’ll cross the road to the campground. Keep walking along the path and you’ll be on the Pa’rus Trail.
2. Watchman Trail | 3.1 miles | Moderate
The Watchman Trail climbs 368 feet and will give you a nice view of Springdale, the Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, and Watchman Peak. It will take approximately two hours to hike the trail.
The trailhead is located just past the main Visitor Center at the South Entrance, across from the shuttle stop.
3. Archaeology Trail | .3 miles | Easy
The Archaeology Trail is a short little trail at the South Entrance of the park by the Visitor Center. It will take less than 30 minutes to complete this hike. The trail leads to an Ancestral Puebloan food storage shelter.
You can reach the trailhead by going to the Watchman Campground Road and going to the northeast corner of the parking lot at the Visitor Center. You’ll hike up a small hill which will take you to the ruins, and you’ll also get a nice view of the campground and the Visitor Center.
4. Canyon Overlook Trail | 1 mile | Moderate
The Canyon Overlook Trail is one of the best hikes “off the beaten path” at Zion National Park. To get to the trailhead, you’ll enter the park’s south entrance and drive for a little less than 6 miles. You’ll go up a bunch of switchbacks on the mountain and go through a very long tunnel. Once you exit the tunnel, the parking lot will be on your right. The parking lot is extremely small (only a handful of vehicles can park there), so you’ll likely need to find a spot on the shoulder of the road. Be sure to be safe when parking and walking alongside the road.
There’s a pit toilet at the trail entrance. You’ll hike up an uneven rocky trail 163 feet which will eventually lead to an overlook of the entire canyon. We weren’t comfortable hiking this one with our toddler, so we only went part of the way. We’re looking forward to going back one day and completing it!
5. Timber Creek Overlook Trail | 1 mile | Moderate
Zion Canyon is easily the most famous portion of Zion National Park, but the park contains many other beautiful areas! Another amazing place to visit while at Zion National Park is the Kolob Canyons which is located in the northwestern area of the park.
The Timber Creek Overlook Trail is a short and sweet hike that will take you to a view of the Timber Creek drainage area, Shuntavi Butte, and Red Butte. It’s a great little hike to do during golden hour to see the sunset.
It takes a little less than hour to drive to the trailhead from Springdale, Utah.
6. Middle Fork of Taylor Creek Trail | 5.6 miles | Moderate
The Middle Fork of Taylor Creek Trail is also located in the Kolob Canyons. The trail will take alongside Taylor Creek and you’ll get to hike up one of Zion’s “finger” canyons. You’ll get to see two historic cabins and the Double Arch Alcove.
You can reach the trailhead by driving toward the Kolob Canyon entrance. There will be a large parking lot on the left side of the road, which is where the trail begins.
7. Coalpits Wash | 7.2 miles | Moderate
The Coalpits Wash hike is much less trafficked than many of the other Zion hikes. This will be a full day hike that will take you along the wash. Be prepared for a wet trail and expect your feet to get wet. There is not a lot of shade on this hike, so it’s recommend that you do not hike this one during extreme heat. The parking lot is also in the flood plain, so do not plan to do this hike if there are any flash floods expected.
8. East Mesa Trail to Observation Point | 6.4 miles | Moderate
You can reach Observation Point from the East Mesa Trail. Some people say that Observation Point has the best views of Zion National Park. We haven’t completed this hike yet, but we are adding it to our list for next time!
9. Kolob Arch | 15.1 miles | Difficult
This trail leads to a view of Kolob Arch, which is one of the largest arches in the world. The hike there, though, is long and strenuous. This hike is only recommended for hikers with a lot of experience. We haven’t hiked this one yet, but we are adding it to the list for those that are interested.
About the Shuttle in Zion National Park
During most of the year, the main road up through Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles. Instead, the park service has the Zion Canyon Shuttle System which operates to minimize congestion.
There are 9 shuttle stops along the route that lead to some of the most famous attractions.
When we visited Zion National Park, we planned to get there early to catch the first shuttle of the day. When we visited, the first shuttle left at 6am. We arrived to the shuttle stop at 5:55am feeling proud of ourselves for getting there ahead of schedule with our toddler. However, that pride didn’t last too long. When we arrived we saw that the line for the shuttle was so long that it already reached past the designated line area and out onto the paved path.
We waited about an hour to board the shuttle and get our day started. (Not easy to do with a young toddler!)
We do recommend that you spend at least one day using the shuttle and seeing the hikes and attractions along the way. It’s an awesome experience, and I think our toddler’s favorite part of the whole trip was the shuttle ride!
However, if you’re spending more than one day at Zion, it’s good to get a break from the crowds and not to have to deal with the shuttle line. For that reason, we did some research and found that there are a variety of hikes you can do that don’t require the shuttle at all!
Alternatives to the Shuttle at Zion National Park
If you really do want to go up Zion Canyon but don’t want to take the shuttle, it is possible to walk or ride a bike. The road up to the final shuttle stop (Temple of Sinawava) is about 8 miles long. If you plan to walk there and back, that would be 16 miles. (Not including any hikes you might want to do!) Of course, it would be more feasible to walk to some of the closer shuttle stops.
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Another option is to rent an e-bike. You’ll be able to save some energy while you cruise up the canyon. Just be sure to pull over any time a shuttle is behind you. (The shuttles are not allowed to pass bicyclists.) You can park your bike using bike racks at each of the shuttle stops.
Essential Hiking Items for Zion
- Power bank (so your cell phone doesn’t run out of battery for navigation or for taking photos)
- Wide-brimmed sun hat
- Suntan lotion
- Insulated water bottle (to keep your water cooler for longer)
- Hiking poles
- Insulated backpack (to keep snacks and your lunch fresh)
- Ice pack inserts for the backpack (to keep food cooler for longer)
- Comfortable hiking shoes
- Selfie stick (to capture the full canyon behind you!)
- First aid kit
- Microfiber towel (packs up small and is good to sit on)
- Headlamp (if you plan on doing a sunrise or sunset hike)
- Plenty of water!
In addition to the items above, we recommend that you review our post on the 10 Essentials for Hiking Safety. It’s recommended that you carry these 10 items with you anytime you venture out into the wilderness.
Looking for a hotel near Zion? We stayed at the Best Western Plus Zion Canyon Inn and Suites and would recommend it to others!
Guided Tours Near Zion National Park
One excellent way to see Zion National Park and other sights in Utah is to take a guided tour. You won’t have to worry about planning the travel details, and your guide will be knowledgeable about the local history and geology. For example, this half-day tour will take you Zion National Park and Kolob. It’s a great way to see sights that most tourists don’t see because they are off-the-beaten path.
Summary: Hikes That Don’t Require the Shuttle in Zion National Park
We hope this post was helpful in finding some hikes in Zion that don’t need the shuttle! Due to large crowds, we only spent one day using the shuttle. The rest of the days that we were at Zion, we explored other areas and we were glad we did! It’s always nice to go off the beaten path and find some solitude in nature.
In summary, these hikes at Zion National Park don’t need the shuttle to access them:
- Pa’rus Trail
- Watchman Trail
- Archaeology Trail
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Timber Creek Overlook Trail
- Middle Fork of Taylor Creek Trail
- Coalpits Wash
- East Mesa Trail to Observation Point
- Kolob Arch
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.