10 Things to Do Outside of Zion National Park
Depending on how you’ve scheduled your trip to Zion National Park, you may need or prefer a day or two outside the park’s boundary. Occasionally, this is due to travel, crowds, or simply you’ve exhausted everything you wanted to see inside the park.
Most of these places are open year round, no matter the season at Zion.
Here are 10 places within a 2-hour drive from the Springdale entrnace of Zion National Park that you should definitely find time to visit. They are a mix of other parks, towns, historic places and everything in between. Each one is interesting in its own right, and is worth the time it would take to get there.
In the map below, we list all 10 places you should visit that are just outside of Springdale, UT, which is the home of Zion’s main entrance. The yellow boundary marks the extent of the national park.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park
Distance: 2 hours northeast from the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
You really should spend more than one day or a couple of hours at Bryce Canyon. However, if you’re just visiting, enter at the visitor’s center along Route 63, and stop at Inspiration Point to see the maze of hoodoos below. Then take a hike along the popular Fairyland Loop Trail. You’ll have numerous vantage points for pictures and amazing sights of the canyon on this trail, which – in my opinion – offers the best views of hoodoos in the park.
Continue driving into the canyon until you reach the end of the parkway at Rainbow Point, where you can see for miles across Southern Utah. From there, take the Navajo Loop Trail into the canyon, then turn onto Queen’s Garden Trail to get back up to where you began.
2. Cedar Breaks National Monument
Distance: 2 hours north from the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is located in southwestern Utah. Established in 1933, the monument covers over 3,000 acres and is known for its hoodoo formations, similar to what Bryce Canyon is famous for. The monument is named after the Cedar Breaks, a series of large amphitheaters and canyons that were carved into the rock by erosion over millions of years.
3. Pipe Spring National Monument
Distance: 1.25 hours southeast of the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Located about an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Zion, Pipe Spring National Monument site offers a glimpse into the history of the Kaibab Paiute tribe and the early settlers of the region. Antonio Armijo discovered the springs when he passed through the area in 1829, when he established by the Armijo Route of the Old Spanish Trail.
4. Snow Canyon State Park
Distance: 1 hour east of the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Located about an hour and 20 minutes southwest of Zion, Snow Canyon State Park features stunning red rock formations, lava tubes, and sand dunes. Contrary to it’s name, this park enjoys mild winter weather and seldom receives snow. It was instead named after early Utah leaders Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.
Snow Canyon has 16 miles of hiking trails, technical rock climbing, biking and horseback riding. The whole park is set against a stunning backdrop of towering sandstone cliffs colored red and white. A jumbled of black lava rock caps some ridges and has settled at the bottom of hillsides after breaking apart.
5. Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
Distance: 45 minutes west of the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Red Cliffs Recreation Area is about 36 miles, or ~45 minutes west of Zion National Park. If you are on your way to or from visiting Zion, you’ll likely pass this area. The Red Reef Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the NRA. It offers spectacular views of the red rock cliffs of the area, and is located in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve inside the park.
6. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Distance: 1 hour southeast of the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Located about an hour southeast of Zion, Coral Pink Sand Dunes features unique pink sand dunes that are great for hiking, sandboarding, and photography. A favorite place for off-road ATVs, visitors usually just enjoy easy hikes in the shifting sands. The sand comes from red Navajo sandstone, and moves as much as 50 feet per year. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old!
7. Kolob Canyons
Distance: 50 minutes north of the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
I have a confession to make. Kolob Canyons is actually inside Zion. The reason it’s on this list, however, is because it’s in the part of Zion that most never visit. When my family and I visited a few years ago, we never made it up that far. We spent 3 days at Zion, and there was more than enough for us to do in the main part of the park in Springdale.
Kolob Canyons is something you should make the effort to go visit, though. This part of Zion is much less visited, and features some of the same steep-walled canyons and fascinating trails that the rest of the park is famous for. There is a visitor’s center there too with interpretive exhibits and trail information.
8. Grafton Ghost Town
Distance: 30 minutes from the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Located about 30 minutes east of Zion, this historic ghost town offers a glimpse into the lives of early Mormon settlers in the area. Grafton is an interesting place that is easy to do if you’re staying in Springdale. Last occupied in the 1940s, the Grafton Ghost Town contains five original, partly restored buildings plus pieces of iron equipment and other relics.
9. Toquerville Falls
Distance: Just over an hour from the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Toquerville Falls is a waterfall located near the town of Toquerville in the St. George area of Utah. The waterfall on La Verkin Creek is surrounded by towering cliffs and sparse yet lush vegetation, making it a perfect place for picnics, photo shoots, and nature walks.
The start of this trail is 25 miles west of Zion National Park, and 11 miles northeast of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. This is a very popular area for off-road driving, but you can hike it as well. So, you’ll likely encounter other people and vehicles while exploring. It can get very busy here due to its proximity to Zion, which is the nation’s second-most visited park. Expect lots of 4WD vehicles and people along the trail and at the falls if you venture here midday on the weekend.
10. Kodachrome Basin State Park
Distance: 2 hours from the Springdale Entrance to Zion.
Kodachrome Basin State Park has 67 monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipes, accentuate multi-hued sandstone layers that reveal 180 million years of geologic time. These pipes resemble the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, but are unique in their own right.
A day use pass to visit Kodachrome is $10 per vehicle.