Zion National Park has exploded in popularity over the last 20 years or so – in 2021 it ranked number 2 in visitation among national parks with over 5 million visitors.
One question that comes up often for those looking to visit Zion National Park is, “Do I Need A Reservation?”
No, you do NOT need reservations to get into Zion National Park. But there are other things you might need permits or reservations for, such as popular hikes, campgrounds, lodging, restaurants, and driving an RV through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
Don’t let the numbers scare you away: Zion is still quite easy to visit and enjoy, thanks to the wonderful shuttle system, which does NOT require reservations!
My name is Becca and I’ve visited the park multiple times over the last few years. Keep on reading to learn about the reservations and permits you need to obtain before visiting Zion.
Angel’s Landing is an incredibly popular trail in Zion National Park. Many visitors come to Zion just for this hike. After 5.4 miles and over 1400 feet in elevation, Angel’s Landing rewards its hikers with breathtaking views of the valley below.
With these views, it is no wonder that the trail grew in popularity, along with Zion National Park.
Due to the crowding of the trail, and especially, the dangerous chains section, Zion National Park decided it was best to start a reservation system.
With this lottery system, you can apply for seasonal permits or day-before permits. With the seasonal permit option, you choose seven days you may want to hike Angel’s Landing, weeks before your actual trip and they will select lottery winners. If this option does not work, or you did not get your application submitted in time, you can apply for a day-before permit. You will need to do this in the morning the day before you plan to hike and lottery winners will be notified at 4 pm that day.
If you would like to only hike to the Scout Lookout point, along the Angel’s Landing Trail, you can do that without any reservations.
Be prepared to have your reservation downloaded or printed out to show Rangers along the trail!
The Narrows is Zion’s next most popular hike. Hiking through a stream with canyon walls towering over you, it is an adventure seeker’s dream. While you may need to rent gear such as neoprene socks, boots, and hiking poles, you do not need a reservation for this hike, as long as you start the hike from the Temple of Sinawava and The Riverside Walk up into the Narrows.
- Learn all about the Riverside Walk and the Narrows.
If you want to do some canyoneering and are craving a more adventurous hike, you can choose to hike the 16 miles from Chamberlain’s Ranch down to Riverside Walk and the Temple of Sinawava. For this hike you need a wilderness permit.
Driving through the tunnel
Do you need a permit or reservation to drive through the Zion- Mt. Carmel Tunnel? Not for regular cars.
But if you are driving a trailer, large vehicle, bus or RV, you will need to obtain a $15 permit from the visitors center, and can ONLY go through the tunnel when rangers are present to escort vehicles.
When Rangers are present they only let through one lane of traffic at a time. This helps larger vehicles get through the tunnel without incident.
Rangers are present at both entrances to the tunnel on this schedule, according to the Zion National Park website:
- November 6 to March 31: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- April 1 to September 30: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
It is important to note that these vehicles are prohibited from the Tunnel:
- Vehicles over 13 feet 1 inch tall
- Vehicles carrying hazardous materials
- Vehicles weighing more than 50,000 pounds
- Single vehicles over 40 feet long
- Vehicles and trailers with combined lengths over 50 feet
The tunnel is part of a beautiful scenic drive that connects Zion to Mt Carmel Junction. It was built to provide a more direct route to Bryce Canyon National Park.
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Can you camp in Zion National Park? Yes!
Zion National Park has three campgrounds:
- Watchman Campground: This campground is located next to the Visitor’s Center. It is 1/4 mile from the South Entrance to the Park. Tent and dry RV spots are open year-round to guests, and reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. Group sites are available but only between March-November.
- South Campground: This campground is also located right next to the visitor’s center, making it easy to hop on and off shuttles for your adventures at Zion National Park. Tent, dry RV, and group sites are available. The campground is closed during the winter season. Reservations are needed due to the popularity of the campground and need to be made at least 14 days in advance.
- Lava Point Campground: This campground is located an hour’s drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace road and features 6 primitive sites, with pit toilets. This campsite is typically open from May-September. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campsite. Reservations can be made on a two-week rolling window and must be made prior to your trip.
- Learn more about where to camp, glamp, or boondock!
The Zion Lodge is located in The Grotto section of Zion Canyon. It is a beautiful location to stay, especially if camping isn’t your thing.
Imagine waking up in your hotel to views of towering red cliffs contrasted with the Virgin River!
The Zion Lodge offers its guests not just beautiful views and comfortable rooms but also features Red Rock Grill & Castle Dome Café which are the only restaurants in the park.
With Cabins, Hotel Rooms, and Suites, Zion Lodge can accommodate any of your needs. Visit their website (which is separate from the Zion National Park site) to book your stay.
Zion Lodge is only one of many lodging accommodations. Discover many other areas to stay near Zion National Park.
- We recommend using booking.com for your lodging needs. We love being able to compare prices, and by doing so, we have found great deals!
Eating at Zion Lodge
As mentioned earlier, Zion Lodge features the ONLY two restaurants in Zion National Park. They are:
- The Red Rock Grill: The Grill is open year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their menu features items such as steak, pasta, salads, and more. Guests are encouraged to make reservations before visiting as it does book up.
- Castle Dome Café: This seasonal café is adjacent to the bar, and is more casual than The Red Rock Grill. Its menu features items such as coffee & cinnamon buns for breakfast and burgers & hot dogs with French fries for lunch.
What else requires permits in Zion National Park?
- Scientific and Research Collecting Permits
- Special Use permits
- Wedding Ceremonies
- Commercial Filming and Still Photography
- First Amendment Activities
- Scattering of Ashes
- Other Special Uses
Most of Zion National Park can be easily explored without permits or reservations so don’t let the ones that do scare you away!
From the amazing hikes, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, wildlife, and more, Zion National Park has something to offer every adventurer.
What else do I need to know?
As mentioned earlier, Zion National Park is crowded with visitors! Planning and navigating a trip to Zion National Park can be frustrating because of its popularity. The crowds and shuttle system can be confusing to navigate.
Lucky for you, we have you covered. Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites, yet still, avoid crowds (as much as possible). 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!
- Zion National Park Itinerary
- Zion National Park Trip Planner
- Utah Trip Planner
- How to use the Zion Shuttle System
- What to Expect at Each Shuttle Stop in Zion Canyon
- How to hike Angels Landing in Zion
- Riverside Walk & the Narrows in Zion National Park
- Scenic drive between Zion & Mt Carmel
- Hiking in the Desert
- Zion National Park Website
- Zion Lodge