When you stay in Springdale, you are within a short drive of 9 national parks and monuments and several other great attractions. There’s no need to change your base of operations just because you want to see other spectacular natural wonders. Here are the best options within drivable distances from Zion National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park
There is no place quite like Bryce Canyon. Located approximately 2 hours from Zion and famous for its hoodoo formations (vertical pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion), this national park is one of the most well-known in the Western United States. The rock formations are stunningly beautiful while at the time so unusual that you wonder how what you’re seeing ever came to be. A large selection of hikes takes you down into the hoodoo valley where you can see the incredible landscape up close. Surrounded by lush forests and colorful cliffs (including red, pink, and orange hues) with multiple viewing platforms spread across the Park, Bryce Canyon National Park is impossible to forget.
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North Rim Grand Canyon
Located southeast of Zion National Park approximately 120 miles (2.5-hour drive), this amazing section of the Grand Canyon makes for a wonderful day trip. This portion of Grand Canyon National Park is located nearly 1000 feet higher than the more visited South Rim, providing the most riveting views imaginable. Because this area is more remote, the North Rim is only open May through October. Much like Bryce Canyon, the North Rim is viewed from many easily-accessible scenic lookouts. It’s possible to see most of this park in a few short hours. A great website for sharing experiences and learning more about the Grand Canyon can be found here.
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When the Colorado River’s Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963, Lake Powell was born. Truthfully, it’s a reservoir; the second largest in the U.S., in fact. A little under 6 hours from Zion near the Arizona border, Lake Powell has endless activity options: hiking, biking, swimming, cliff jumping, boating, waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing, camping, and more. House boating is extremely popular here as well. The sandstone formations that surround the glassy water create absolutely gorgeous scenery. Lake Powell is guaranteed to provide incredible experiences and to create priceless memories.
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Sand Hollow State Park
Sand Hollow is one of Southern Utah’s best vacation spots. Almost all of the things that can be done at Lake Powell can be done here (with the exception of maybe house boating). This great location is less than an hour from Zion National Park in the city of Hurricane just north of St. George. Surrounded by the trademark red rock beauty that Southern Utah is known for, Sand Hollow State Park also boasts hundreds of acres of sprawling sand dunes and off-road trails. Rent UTVs and ATVs from on-site adventure companies that will take you on tours that traverse these back roads and amazing dunes. Beachside establishments also offer all sorts of water sports rentals. And of course, there is the famous Sand Hollow golf course. Endless hours of enjoyment are available at Sand Hollow.
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Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park has many of Southern Utah’s best trails and, like Sand Hollow, boasts its own sand dunes. Popular activities here traditional include horseback riding, cycling, hiking, off-roading, and camping. Incredible rock formations cover the entire area, many of which were formed by lava flow long ago, along with lush greenery. Red Navajo sandstone is the trademark among other various types of rock. There are seasonal nature programs that visitors can take advantage of as well that are well worth your time.
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Arches National Park
5 hours from Zion is the area that houses what is perhaps Utah’s most recognizable landmark: delicate arch. Arches National Park is truly one of the real treasures that the state of Utah can call its own. Enormous rock bridges and towering sandstone monoliths are seen in abundance here. In fact, there are over 2,000 named arches within the Park’s boundaries. Many different trail options depending on what you want to see and what your preferred mode of transportation is (feet, bike, etc) allow enough options to please everyone. The majority of Arches visitors stay in the nearby town of Moab, which, like Springdale, is an outdoors person’s dream.
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Canyonlands National Park
Only 30 minutes from Arches, Canyonlands is Utah’s most underutilized national park which is an obvious travesty. Nevertheless, this place offers up some of the best adventure opportunities in the entire state. Canyonlands is particularly known for its “big three”: Island in the Sky, the Needles District, and The Maze. Each one of these locations is chock full of hiking/biking/off-roading/camping options and include some of the most spectacular viewing areas you will ever see in your lifetime. Giant flat-top mesas, scored sediment, chopped buttes, and carved petroglyphs will, together, show you things that you’ll never forget.
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Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is about a 3-hour drive from Zion – and it’s worth every mile traveled. Geological formations that vaguely resemble the dome-shape of structures like the U.S. Capitol Building as well as ridges of rock reminiscent of actual marine reefs have given the Park its name. Extraordinary sights are in plentiful supply here, many of which have the most incredible colorations. Large expanses of white sandstone that lay horizontally across the land are quite a sight, as are the ancient pictographs and architecture. One of the most popular aspects of Capitol Reef is the fact that the Park is a certified International Dark Sky Park. Artificial light is virtually non-existent out there which allows for more visible stars in the night sky than you’ll ever see in civilization. The Milky Way and other celestial bodies are so clear here that you’ll be reminded of how very real the expanse of space is. It’s incredible.
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Valley of Fire State Park
Nevada’s oldest state park, Valley of Fire, is just over 2 hours away from Zion National Park. Located in the Mojave Desert 58 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Valley of Fire also borders Lake Mead. Red Aztec sandstone, colorful limestone, ancient petroglyphs, petrified trees, and several species of desert bush, flowers, and cactus span the 40,000 acres that make up this spectacular place. Camping and hiking options are available here as well.
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Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley is an other-worldly place that, in many respects, looks like you’ve just stepped into a science fiction film. The area is covered in geologic “goblins” that have similarities to the hoodoos found in Bryce Canyon. The particular combination of sandstone’s uneven hardness, water erosion, windblown dust, thin soil, and lack of vegetation all have worked together over time to create the astounding eroded cliffs and rock formations that stretch for miles. There’s no place on earth quite like Goblin Valley.
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Kodachrome Basin State Park
Kodachrome Basin often flies under the radar of visiting tourists and even of the majority of state residents which is saddening. This place could very well be considered a best-kept secret (even though no one really is actively trying to keep it a secret). Over 60 monolithic stone spires of various shapes and sizes lend to a really fascinating camping/hiking/biking experience. There are also horseback riding tours available. Many people who visit Kodachrome Basin take a moment to glimpse one of Utah’s best arches, Grosvenor Arch, about 10 miles outside the Park. Kodachrome is about an hour and 45 minutes from Zion National Park.
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Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
You only have to travel a little over 30 minutes from Springdale to get to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of which 90% is open to UTVs and ATVs (100% is open to traveling on foot). Gorgeous sand with hues of pink and orange are captivating, and all of it is surrounded by Southern Utah’s signature red rock mountains. Indigenous desert plants/flowers, insects, and some animals also populate this area. This is surely one of Utah’s most beautiful areas.
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