Zion National Park is a mecca of weeping rocks and rivers, of narrow canyons and razor edged trails. This stunning national park is located in the southwest corner of Utah. Approach from the east and you will follow the Virgin River as mountainous terrain rises on either side of you. Then pass through an impressive tunnel and the valley will open up before you.
This valley, and the rising walls, make Zion an incredible place to explore. From rock climbing to back country hiking, there is plenty of adventure to be found within this 150,000 acre park. Expect to arrive early to find parking locations, as over 3.5 million people visit this park every year. In fact, due to the many visitors, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive can only be accessed by free shuttle buses from mid-March to October.
Zion National Park has many of the same pet regulations as other national parks in the area. Most trails are closed to dogs, and even if they were allowed on the trails, they are not allowed on the shuttle buses that provide access to these trails.
The one notable exception is the Pa’rus trail. This trail connects the visitor center to Canyon Junction (shuttle stop #3) and provides a total of 3.5 miles round trip that you can explore with four legs and paws. This trail is paved, but is still a lovely walk to take along the Virgin River inside Zion’s majestic rock walls.
We visited Zion on a warm spring day and really enjoyed this trail’s close proximity to the water. The dogs, especially Glia, loved being able to take a dip to cool off during the walk. And after visiting the other 4 Utah national parks, we appreciated even this single trail to walk. Especially since, due to the shuttle system, we were unable to drive to the other scenic areas of the park.
Zion National Park has three campgrounds, including the South Campground through which the Pa’rus trail passes. These campgrounds looked wonderful, but require reservations in advanced or arriving early in the day to secure the remaining first come, first served sites.
We elected to camp outside of Zion at the many free campsites in the area. The night before we visited Zion, we camped at a BLM campsite off of Hwy 9. Here is the link for the camping location that we used: https://freecampsites.net/#!28673&query=sitedetails.
After leaving Zion, on our way to Great Basin National Park, we used yet another BLM site. This time we stayed at the Perowan Gap Petroglyphs. We also found this site on freecampsites.net: https://freecampsites.net/#!843&query=sitedetails. While this ended up being a safe camping area, we essentially stayed in the parking lot as the surrounding roads were not well marked. So we caution you to find out a few more details before you drive to the Perowan Gap. But despite the questionable campsite, the petroglyphs themselves were fascinating.
Activities in the Surrounding Area
If you are visiting Zion, consider also visiting the other national parks in Utah: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, or Bryce Canyon. In our blog posts for these nearby parks, we discuss a few other Utah locations to visit with dogs, but honestly, these national parks are so close together that we didn’t need to find many other activities to fill the time in between.
Zion is an amazing national park. One that deserves to be explored beyond the limits imposed on pets within the park boundaries. That being said, we did really enjoy driving through the park and taking the dogs along the Pa’rus trail. We just wish we could have seen and done more.
Have you been to Zion with your dogs? What was your favorite dog-friendly activity in this area of Utah? Let us know below.