Zion is located in Southern Utah and is one of the five fabulous and diverse National parks. Zion reached National Park status in 1919. Before that, it was known as Mukuntuweap National Monument (in Paiute, Native American language meaning “straight upland”). Today it is the fourth most visited National Park in the United States, and it is easy to see why. Towering cliffs of almost 3,000 feet in height, majestic views, lush hanging gardens, immense biodiversity, waterfalls, and stunning animals--just to name a few. Jaw-dropping hiking, climbing, biking, canyoneering, and other adventures await.
Approaching Zion National Park from the south, you will inevitably stumble across the sleepy towns that stretch between La Verkin and Rockville. You start to see little sneak peeks of the Virgin River, the small but mighty river responsible for cutting all seven layers of sedimentary rock creating Zion Canyon! Beyond Rockville, you get a glimpse of the beautiful deep red canyon walls and yet another quaint town, bustling with gift shops, galleries, gear shops, gem stores, delicious restaurants, a variety of accommodation options, and more.
Welcome to Springdale, the gateway into Zion National Park. Established in 1862 by a group of determined Mormon pioneers and named one of the “prettiest towns in the United States” by Forbes Traveler in 2008, Springdale is located in the belly of the canyon walls alongside the virgin river where the cottonwood trees grow. The Mormon pioneers settled with hopes of establishing cotton crops. Life here wasn't all “zion” at first, however. They had willow tree branch roofing, droughts, massive flash floods, rockslides, and human conflicts. Clothing and tools were commonly homemade, and the cotton wasn’t very profitable. The community needed to be very self-sustaining.
By 1912, Springdale saw the very first automobile and five years later tourists began flocking into the region. Zion began to open its doors to the world. Electricity, better roads, gasoline, tourist camps, stores, and telephone booths followed. In 1930, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) completed an amazing task of creating a mile-long tunnel stretching through the sandstone wall, known as The Mt. Carmel tunnel and Mt. Carmel Highway Junction. This tunnel task created a gateway out the east side of the park, leading to access to Bryce Canyon National Park and beyond.
If you have just arrived from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, coming into token-sized Springdale can be quite a pace shock. Things will tend to be a little slower and peaceful here in Springdale in comparison to the heart of a big city that never sleeps. After all, the word “Zion” in Hebrew means a place of peace. It will be hard to find many chain restaurants here and the town camouflages into the real rock scene. At night, the town holds low light pollution so that visitors can be mesmerized by the evening sky.
Zion has 3 main entrances to its 148,016 acres (south, west, and east), but the south entrance directly into Zion Canyon remains the most popular. At 4.5 million visitors to Zion National Park per year, Springdale is bound to see its fair share of travelers. It is an excellent central exploration hub for experiencing all of Zion. From here, you can easily travel up Zion Canyon (with the seasonal shuttle system), to the West Entrance (Kolob Canyon), or the East Entrance (Mt. Carmel Junction). There are a variety of accommodation options from Airbnb to resorts, camping, and to budget-friendly hotels.
From Springdale, many adventures can be taken to further experience the park. Planning on heading into the Narrows (Zion’s most popular hike that is a walk through the famous Virgin River)? Zion Outfitters is an excellent place to stop to grab rental gear to keep you safe and happy while hiking in the cold waters of the Narrows, also known as Temple Of Sinawava (The Coyote God or Spirit). This expert crew at Zion Outfitters is extremely helpful and can inform you of current conditions, the weather, how to use the gear, and more. They also rent tubes for floating the river (when feasible), bikes, canyoneering equipment, and have laundry & shower facilities. Zion Rock Guides offers expert canyoneering, climbing, jeep, and biking guides. The Wildland Trekking Company has professionally guided day hikes and multi-day trips in the region.
There is also plenty of room to indulge here in Springdale. Have sore muscles after a long hike in Zion? Try Zion Canyon Spa or The Spa At Cable Mountain Lodge (named after the famous and historic 2,000-foot giant cable system responsible for dropping timber from the top of Zion Canyon to the bottom of the canyon floor for building materials in 1901). Enjoy shopping? Zion Canyon Offerings, Sol Foods (an excellent grocery store, but also has souvenirs), Joy Craft & Design, and Zion National Park Store (at the visitor center inside the park) are a few shopping therapy hotspots.
Need a cup of joe in Springdale before exploring the park? Try Perks, Cafe Solei, or Deep Creek Coffee Company. Want some souvenir coffee to take home with you or obtain for gifts? Try National Park Coffee Company’s delicious Zion Blend. My go-to breakfast joints when I am visiting and working in Springdale are Meme’s Cafe and Oscar’s. For dinner, try out The Spotted Dog Cafe, King’s Landing Bistro, or Moki Bistro. These restaurants all have impressive, inventive, fresh, and delicious meals. When visiting Zion National Park, be sure to put Springdale on your map! You won’t be disappointed.