9 Things We Love to Do NEAR Zion National Park

A man and daughter walking on the Kayenta Trail in Zion National Park, with a view of towering rock faces.
The Kayenta Trail in Zion National Park, with a view of towering rock faces.

Five million people flock to Zion National Park every year for its beautiful scenery and bucket-list-worthy hikes.

After spending a couple of days exploring the park, visitors may wonder, what else is there to do near Zion National Park?

The answer is… a ton! Southern Utah is FULL of fun adventures, hikes, off-roading, little towns, and hidden gems!

Keep reading to see our FAVORITE spots near Zion National Park!

8 Things to do Near Zion National Park


Established in 1859 this historic Mormon settlement is located along the Virgin River near Springdale, Utah, and the southern entrance to Zion National Park.

A mom and three kids standing on the porch of a homestead at Grafton Ghost Town
Grafton Ghost Town

The settlers here grew cotton, alfalfa, and wheat. The Virgin River flooded making the soil rich, but also making life hard for these settlers. Flooding combined with harsh winters and attacks by native peoples had most of the Grafton settlers leaving for the more accessible nearby town of Rockville by 1907.

Here you can view the old cabins, homesteads, church building, and cemetery. The buildings are open for visitors to walk through and informational signs are present to read about the history of the town. Find out more about Grafton in our article Grafton Ghost Town Near Zion National Park.


A family sitting on rocks on the water's edge at Sand Hollow State Park
Sand Hollow State Park

Southern Utah is known for its plentiful off-roading trails. Locals take their Jeeps or ATVs on these trails and visitors can rent their own or purchase tours to access these off-road areas.

Zion Jeep Tour

Some of the most popular spots to take your Jeep or ATV near Zion National Park are:

  • Sand Hollow State Park: enjoy 6,000 acres of sand dunes, and over 20,000 acres of sandy beaches, reservoirs, cliff jumping, and more! Ride around and cool off in the lake.
  • Toquerville Falls: An oasis in the desert! Toquerville Falls is located along a rough road that eventually brings you to a swimming hole with multiple cascading waterfalls! Jump in and cool off after your drive.
  • Peekaboo (Red Canyon): Located in Kanab, Utah near East Zion, is another favorite off-roading area! Take sandy trails to an incredible slot canyon. There are a few other nearby spots to explore from here like Cutler Cove.
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes: Also located near Kanab, Utah on the East side of Zion, is a hub for off-roading! Cruise the pink dunes and enjoy the views of visitors sandboarding down the steep hills.
  • Goldstrike Trail: This 14-mile off-road trail brings you near remnants of a gold mine and rewards you with sweeping views of Gunlock State Park and Lone Pine Arch.

Fort Zion

Kids playing with a water pump at Fort Zion
My kids playing with a water pump at Fort Zion

Fort Zion is one of those silly tourist traps that you just have to stop at. It has a trading post, a petting zoo, a cute old west town for kids to play in, and ice cream!

This is the perfect stop after hiking all day to reward yourself with a cool treat!

You can pay a couple of dollars to go feed the animals in the petting zoo, and our kids absolutely LOVED it! They enjoyed having the animals chomp the carrots they fed them and they let the animals steal them right out of their hands!

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Belly of the Dragon

Between Orderville and Kanab, Utah, near East Zion is a unique man-made tunnel located under the highway.

GPS will take you right to the parking area for the Belly of the Dragon and from there, you follow the short pathway into the tunnel.

There is some climbing involved to get down into it, but nothing most people wouldn’t be able to do. Young kids may need some help.

Inside the tunnel the rocks are uneven and slippery in places, so be sure to watch your step and bring a flashlight! It gets dark in the middle of the tunnel!

You can choose to continue on this trail for 1.8 miles(out and back) to reach a slot canyon as well.

A mom and two daughters at the entrance to Belly of the Dragon
A mom and two daughters at the entrance to Belly of the Dragon

Eat at Thunderbird (Ho-Made Pies)

Thunderbird Restaurant sign

Those who have driven down Highway 89 towards Kanab have seen the “Ho-Made Pies” sign! This unique restaurant is a staple along the 89 here at the Mt. Carmel Junction.

This restaurant is also near Belly of the Dragon.

Thunderbird Restaurant serves up more than just “ho-made pies”, they also have country fried steak, fish ‘n chips, salads, great breakfasts, sandwiches, and other classic comfort foods.

Gooseberry Mesa

Woman and boy standing on cliff overlooking valley
Beautiful views from Gooseberry Mesa

Do you enjoy biking? If so, the Gooseberry Mesa trail is for you!

Located near Hurricane, Utah is a 13-mile loop trail that brings you incredible desert vistas. The trail can be intermediate to difficult depending on which path you choose.

Be sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen as this biking path is in full sun and hot, especially midday.

Gooseberry Mesa is an incredible sight and even more so when you are able to bike up and around it and enjoy the views from the top!

If you’re not up for biking but still want to visit this cool area, Zion Jeep Tours will also take you on a jeep ride to Gooseberry Mesa.


A mom and two kids walking through a slot canyon in Kanab, Utah
A mom and two kids walking through a slot canyon in Kanab, Utah

Kanab is one of our family’s favorite destinations in southern Utah. With endless outdoor adventures, great restaurants, and small-town charm, it should be on the top of everyone’s Utah bucket list!

Kanab is located 30 minutes outside of East Zion and is well worth a visit.

You can see our guide on Kanab to learn more about the must-dos when visiting.

St. George

A mom and daughter by a red rock pool at Red Reef Trail
A mom and daughter by a red rock pool at Red Reef Trail

St. George is the largest and most popular city near Zion National Park. It has a population of 100,000 and boasts tons of hotels, restaurants, and activities.

St. George also has so many outdoor adventures of its own! Here are some top sights you may be interested in.

  • Snow Canyon State Park: An incredibly popular park for outdoor enthusiasts, with tons of hiking trails, biking trails, and incredible red and white rock views. We have shared our favorite things to do in Snow Canyon for readers who may be interested in visiting.
  • Red Cliffs National Conservation Area: Located just outside St. George in Leeds and home to one of St. George’s most popular hikes, the Red Reef Trail. This 1.4-mile hike brings you to multiple pools and falls. (These only run when there is spring runoff or recent rain). You can continue up the steps and ropes section to make this a 2.2-mile trail.
  • Silver Reef Ghost Town: Also located in Leeds. Here you can tour through a museum and old town ruins.
  • Glitter Mountain: Located down dirt roads about 20 minutes outside of St. George and is a Selenite Mine. Here you can dig for your own gypsum to take home! Be sure to follow the rules posted and pay for your amount of selenite!
  • Cool off in one of St. George’s Reservoirs: Ivins (fire lake) is great for swimming and non-motorized boats, Sand Hollow is great for boating, cliff jumping, and sandy beaches, and Quail Creek has the coolest adventure Island! You can pay to jump, slide, and play in the lake!
  • Explore St. George downtown: Stop at Judd’s General for ice cream, catch a ride on the Carousel, cool off in the splash pad, and enjoy the fun shops and restaurants.

These are just a few of our favorites but there is so much more available to do in St. George. It is a great place to consider spending a couple of days after your Zion trip. Check out our St. George trip planner page for more ideas.

Cedar City

Cedar City is another decent-sized city near Zion National Park. It is just about an hour north of the park near the Kolob Canyon entrance.

A mom and three kids by a mural in downtown Cedar City
A mom and three kids by a mural in downtown Cedar City

Cedar City has a wealth of fun activities, great restaurants, hotels, and a charming downtown.

We wrote about all of our favorite things to do in Cedar City including places to eat, ghost towns, state parks, fun downtown stops, and more!

We also love Cedar City’s Shakespeare Festival, which takes place from June 20th to October 8th. If you are planning to visit Zion during this time, consider stopping in Cedar City to catch a couple of shows!

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Zion National Park can be crowded with visitors, especially during peak season! Planning and navigating a trip can be frustrating because of its popularity. The crowds and shuttle system can be confusing to navigate.

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times.

But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 2-hours of stories about the park!


ZION TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Zion National Park, check out our  Zion Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Zion has to offer including Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Kolob Canyons

WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat in and near Zion National Park.

GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn where to stay or camp when visiting Zion and explore some amazing cities nearby including St. George, Kanab, and Cedar City

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation and how to use the shuttle system as well as if you can drive in Zion, which entrance to use, and how to avoid crowds

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Zion National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Zion YouTube Playlist


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