How To Ditch the Crowds at Zion National Park [+Least Crowded Hikes]

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Complete Guide- How To Ditch The Crowds At Zion National Park

Zion National Park is known throughout the world and consequently, can be very busy. Which is why many people search out the least crowded hikes in Zion and try to find the least crowded time to visit Zion National Park.

While it’s true that by visiting during the off-season may be the best time to visit Zion National Park, you’ll continue to find people on the popular trails such as Angels Landing and Emerald Pools. For crowd-averse people like Steve and I, we gravitate towards seeking out trails less traveled. So then how to ditch the crowds at Zion National Park?

In this article we will cover

  1. How To Ditch The Crowds By Hiking The Least Crowded Trails
  2. Additional Tips + Tricks of How To Ditch The Crowd In Zion
  3. How To Ditch The Crowds Through Your Lodging Choice

When you’re done with this article make sure to check out this Epic Road Trip Guide to ALL of the National Parks!

How To Ditch The Crowds With The Least Crowded Hikes and Trails (East Side)-

Hit the trails on the east side of the park! The east entrance to the park is rarely too busy because visitors drive into Zion National Park through the west entrance. Which is why most tourists then tend to stay on that side and take the shuttle through the main canyon.

We had a chance to explore the main canyon two years ago and it was incredible! If you’ve never been, it is highly recommended. Don’t miss the famous hikes like Angel’s Landing and The Narrows Hike in Zion.

However, if you’ve been before, want to find some hidden gems, and especially avoid the crowds then the east side is for you! Entering through the east side also gives you the perfect opportunity to visit This Unspoiled Southern Utah Area because it is only a 15 minute drive away!

Secret Waterfall Trail in Zion National Park-

Because this trail is so special to me, I’ve written an entire post on it! You can learn more about this epic Zion National Park waterfall trail by clicking on the link.

Remember, because this trail is not on any trail map, please do you very best to keep this trail looking its’ best! That means practicing Leave No Trace principles and being a good steward over the land 🙂

Canyon Overlook Trail-

If you are staying at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch, it’s a quick 20-30 minute drive to the trailhead of Canyon Overlook. Canyon Overlook is one of the few “official” trails on the east side. Right before you hit the famous Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel there will be a parking lot to your right. Park there and walk towards the tunnel and you’ll find stairs on the right-hand side.

This is a beginner trail but there are spots that are fall risks. Be careful and if you have little kids, keep them close. Pro tip- we found the secluded spot in the photo below to the left of the official lookout point (left if you are looking down into the canyon). This spot was perfect for a photo-op and we didn’t run into anyone!

Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park

Petroglyph Canyon-

The friendly staff at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort told us about this hidden gem! The easiest way to find this canyon is to look for the wooden fence along the side of the road if you are heading into the park from the east. This wooden fence is one of a kind in the East Canyon so it won’t be hard to miss.

In order to keep this spot from becoming overrun by visitors, this is all the information that we can provide. However, we recommend asking the staff at the Resort or calling the Visitor Center for additional details on how to find these astonishing petroglyphs.


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Clear Creek-

We didn’t get a chance to explore Clear Creek but we were told that it’s an incredible spot to do a little self-led exploration. However, here’s a description from Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park that you’ll find very helpful!-

“There aren’t too many official trails in the upper East Canyon, but who says you can’t wander around and do your own exploring? Clear Creek is the main dry stream bed that follows Route 9 throughout the East Canyon. If you can ignore the occasional sounds of motorcycles and RV’s coming from above, this is really quite a beautiful canyon to explore. Many sections actually do loop away from the road, so you can get that sense of being away from it all in only a few minutes.”

Joe’s Guide

Observation Point Via East Mesa Trail-

Many people say that Observation Point has a better view than Canyon Overlook and Angel’s landing…combined! So this is definitely a trail that should make your list. Another bonus of staying at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is that from the property there is a shortcut!

Most people will reach this spot by hiking up the strenuous Weeping Rock trailhead from the main canyon. From the property, you will simply take the short drive to the East Mesa Trail. Once parked, you’ll find the trailhead. This trail is a shortened and less demanding route.

ObservationPoint, Zion Ponderosa Ranch
Photo courtesy of Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort.

Additional Tips on How To Ditch The Crowds-

  1. Give night hiking a try! Remember to bring the proper gear (like a headlamp) and a hiking buddy. Do also pick an accessible and safe trail.
  2. Wake up early. According the Zion National Park, the busiest time to visit is in the summer (which you probably already knew) but also during the afternoon. The crowds arrive around 11am so plan on conquering those popular hikes before everyone arrives.
  3. If you can visit during off-season, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor. My favorite time to visit is during the spring or fall because of the cooler temps and the fact that there are less crowds.
  4. Take a nap during the busy afternoon and go back out in the early evening. Usually, while we are visiting we get up really early and hike a popular trail then go back to our hotel or lodge and take a nap while all the other tourists are hiking. A lot of people start leaving the park around dinner time so that would be an ideal time to go back and get another hike in!

How To Ditch The Crowds With Your Hotel Choice at Zion National Park:

While most tourists will stay on the west side of the park in the town of Springdale, try staying on the east side to avoid the crowds! Treat yourself to a one of a kind stay at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort! We were honored to be guests for two nights and got to experience the charm that we had heard about from many of our friends and family members.

Here’s a complete guide to what a stay at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort looks like.

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Participate in Other Activities Besides Just Hiking:

Another way to beat the crowds is by participating in non-tradition hiking acitivities during your stay. Most people with just stick to the trails so by engaging in alternative experiences may be just what you need to escape all the other tourists. A few activities offered by Zion Ponderosa include-

  • Jeep Tours
  • Guided Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Bike rentals
  • Climbing Wall
  • Mini golf
  • Paintball
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, Utah

You can find a full list of activities here.

We hope you enjoy your time in Zion National Park and hope you found this guide helpful on how to ditch the crowds at Zion National Park! Planning on visiting Arches National Park? Check out our guide on how to ditch the crowds there too!

Our stay was hosted by Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort but all opinions remain my own.

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  1. […] it can be quite busy if you go during high season. Here’s a guide that we wrote about how to ditch the crowds while visiting this park! This park will always be special to me as it was my FIRST ever National […]

  2. […] How To Ditch the Crowds at Zion National Park […]

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    We are retired senior citizens (79 & 80).we do no hiking anymore. We have not ever been to the Canyons and would just like to drive through and see the beauty. Is this possible? Suggestions!!

    • Jess Darrington says:

      Hi Pat,

      Yes, totally possible to do that! While you won’t be able to drive through the main canyon due to their shuttle system. You are welcome to drive the Zion National Park-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway during the summer. This road cuts through the mountains along Route 9 between the towns of Mount Carmel and Springdale and is beautiful!

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