Horse path on Sand Bench Trail in Zion park with red rocks in background

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Best Things To Do Besides Hiking On Visit To Zion National Park

On a recent road trip of the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah, we found ourselves in Zion, the final stop on a fantastic trip with three days of heavy rain. Yes, it rains in Utah, not much, but it can really come down during monsoon season. We love the outdoors, so we donned the $6.98 ponchos we bought in Springdale and continued. But you can only do so much in the rain. And that is when I learned all there is to do in Zion National Park and Springdale besides hiking. Some we could do during our trip, and others we will have to save for our next visit. Here is a list of the best things to do in Zion National Park besides hiking.

The Best Things To Do In Zion National Park Besides Hiking

This list is broken into two sections: things to do inside the park and things to do outside the park. Some are great for a rainy day, and others are options when you can’t hike another step.

#1 Horseback Riding

Exploring Zion National Park on horseback is an excellent alternative to hiking. Select trails within Zion allow trail riding so you can get out and explore the wilds without walking a step. Two great trails within the park for riding include the Sand Bench Trail (leading to the Emerald Pools trail) and along the Virgin River. Zion has at least a dozen trails open to riding; remember you won’t be doing some of the most famous hikes (no horses going up to Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, or along the Pa’rus Trail). But you will get a unique perspective on the park. Also, many companies offer trail rides in the Zion area, outside the park.

#2 Bike The Canyon

My favorite way to explore the park is on a bike. Especially during the peak season of summer and fall, because once in the park, you no longer have to deal with the shuttles and crowds. You can ride from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to the Temple of Sinawava without once waiting in line for the Zion Canyon Shuttle. During the busiest months, February through November, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, one of the park’s main roads, is closed to private vehicles (except for the shuttles, park vehicles, and lodge guests), so you have the road to yourself. The rule to remember is that the shuttle buses will only pass you on a bike after you’ve stopped and put one foot on the ground. That’s not true of the lodge guests or park vehicles, but it is a safe road to ride.

The ride is about 20-miles round trip, depending on where you rent your bikes in Springdale. You can also rent e-bikes, which makes the ride even more manageable (although, as an avid biker, I don’t consider that “real” biking). You will start your ride on the Pa’rus trail, a paved trail that winds past the south campground and then onto the scenic road. The ride out is a gradual climb until you reach the end of the road, where you can park your bike and walk to the start of the Narrows.

You will ride along the stunning rock formations and have a great view of Angels Landing, and it is one of the best ways to experience the length of the canyon. It’s also a great way to stop and explore some trails and sights, such as the Zion Human History Museum, the Watchman Trail, the Riverside Walk, and Weeping Rock Trail (yes, I know that’s hiking, but just in case you want to get off the bike all of these are just a short walk).

Renting your bikes for the entire day is also a great way to explore Springdale (and not on the shuttle bus). Park, grab a bite to eat and take in a few other suggestions on the list.

#3 Ride The Shuttle

This suggestion may sound obvious, but enjoying the shuttle service is a great way to explore Zion without a lot of walking or hiking. It stops at all the highlights of the canyon, so hop on and off and explore the sights. I suggest traveling to the end of the ride and walking the path to the start of the famous Narrows, then hop back on the shuttle and stop at the other eight shuttle stops. You could hit the stop at the Zion Lodge right around lunch and enjoy the Red Rock Grill, a great place to sit and soak in the views.

Zion Nationa Park Shuttle
Photo by Joe Borek on Unsplash
#4 Ranger Programs

Check out some of the ranger-led programs at Zion. The best place to get this information is at the Vistors Center. But a regular program includes Ride-With-A-Ranger, which is a ranger-led 2-hour interpretive bus ride up Zion Canyon. You must sign up for free ahead of time at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Space is limited, but it is a great option that is accessible.

#5 A Scenic Drive

Zion has several scenic drives outside the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The most famous of which is the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway. If you are driving to or from Bryce Canyon National Park, it’s the ideal route. You must pay to enter the park, but it is worth it. As you leave Springdale, you will wind up to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, an amazing and very narrow but surprisingly long tunnel through the mountain. On the other side of the tunnel, check out the Canyon Overlook Trail if you are up for a hike. It’s a little scary (but even I, a major acrophobic, did just fine), but it offers the best view of the park. The road from here continues to Bryce, Kanab, or the Grand Canyon.

The other option for a scenic drive is to explore the Kolob Canyons in the northwest corner of Zion. A scenic road climbs past spectacular red rocks and canyons. Due to recent rock slides, you can’t go further than the South Fork Picnic Area, but it’s a stunning area.

View of arch along Zion-Mt Carmel Highway in Zion
Scenic Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway

The Best Things To Do In the Springdale Area Besides Hiking

#6 Take Zion In From The Sky

It’s a different place from above, and I mean way above. Check out the various helicopter tours and hot-air balloon rides offered. Zion Helicopters tours is located in Virgin, Utah, not far from the park entrance. The 55-mile Zion Canaan Cliffs Tour with Butte Landing will be one you will remember forever. Zion Balloons does both sunrise and sunset flights—a peaceful and slightly scary way to start or end your day.

Colorful hot air balloon soaring over Zion National Park
Hot Air Balloon Over Zion
#7 Tube

During the summer months, a great way to cool off and explore simultaneously is to tube the Virgin River. Check out Zion Tubing for some options. The float takes a little over an hour and includes a shuttle service.

#8 Shopping and Gallery Hop In Springdale

The town of Springdale is filled with shops and galleries to explore. Compared to any other town near any of the Utah Mighty 5 Parks, this one has the most options for dining and shopping. Check out the galleries around town, such as the David J. West Gallery, Worthington Gallery, or the Sorella Gallery. You can also pick up some fun souvenirs in the Springdale gift shops; my favorite was the Bumbleberry Gifts, where you can shop and get ice cream!! (As a former gift shop owner, I’m not easily impressed with a tourist gift shop!)

#9 Spa Day

Maybe you can’t hike anymore because you’re exhausted; nothing helps more than a spa day! Springdale has several day spas, and you can’t beat a massage surrounded by the beauty of Zion. Check out the highly-rated Five Petals Spa at the Cliffrose Lodge. The setting is impressive, and it’s a great way to relax.

#10 Grafton Ghost Town

Want to explore a wild-west ghost town? Check out Grafton, Utah, located over an hour from Zion; it’s one of those things I would not make a special trip to explore, but if you are passing by, make a stop. Grafton was a settlement established by Mormon Pioneers in the mid-1800s. It has been used as a movie set. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, was filmed here.

Grafton ghost town in Utah
Grafton Ghost Town
#11 O.C. Tanner Amphitheater

Located in the heart of Springdale is the O.C. Tanner Amphitheater is worth checking out. Reserve your tickets if you are lucky enough to be in town when a performance is scheduled. The location is fantastic, and the performances take on a new life when performed with Zion as a backdrop. You can expect a full range of shows, from the Utah Symphony to various Broadway artists.

#12 Yoga

What better place to meditate or practice yoga than the amazing Southern Utah backdrop of Zion? Many organized tours and classes are available around Zion for both the novice and expert. Check out both sunrise and sunset groups, along with custom experiences.

#13 Take In The Sunset

No day in Utah is complete without a fantastic sunset. There are too many options to list them all, and the best might be on the patio where you are staying, but here are two to check out. You’ll find Kolob Terrace Road, about 15 miles west of Springdale. It’s a beautiful drive and offers some remarkable elevations for a great spot to enjoy the sunset. Another less thought-of place to catch a sunset is The Zion Museum, which looks out towards the dramatic red canyons of Zion.

#14 Stargaze

Zion is an excellent place for stargazing on a clear, moonless night (not what I had during my last trip). You can easily do this activity independently, but you can also find organized tours offering more in-depth information. Also, check out the Visitor Center at the park; they sometimes have ranger-led stargazing activities.

Rock formation with sky filled with stars in Utah
Incredible Utah Nightsky
Enjoy Springdale And Zion

So if your feet are aching from too much hiking, accessibility is an issue, or the rain clouds are gathering, there are still a lot of choices on how to spend your day at Zion that don’t include hiking. Zion and all of Utah is a beautiful travel experience. It should be added to your travel bucket list. (Check out my bucket lists for US travel and places around the world I have visited or would love to visit and see with my own eyes).

Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

  • HOTELS and are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

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