Zion National Park is one of the most spectacular national parks in Utah. However, it is far from a dog-friendly national park, with many restrictions applying for dogs. Find out what you can do when visiting Zion National Park with a dog and my tips for a great visit.
Are Dogs Allowed at Zion National Park?
Yes, pet dogs are allowed to join you in Zion National Park. However, there is a long list of restrictions that apply at Zion National Park for pets.
For starters, pets are not allowed on any of the trails other than the Pa’rus Trail, in wilderness areas, on the shuttle buses, or in public buildings. This greatly restricts what you can do at Zion National Park with a dog. (Note that the same restrictions do not apply to ADA service animals.)
Additionally, keep in mind the standard rules for pets that apply when visiting all national parks in the US. Make sure you clean up after your pet and keep them on a leash no longer than six feet long. Pets should also not be left unattended in vehicles.
So, where are pets allowed in Zion National Park? In addition to the Pa’rus Trail, pets are also allowed along public roads and in parking areas, in the developed campgrounds and in the picnic areas of the park.
Are Pets Allowed on the Shuttle at Zion?
One of the major restrictions for pets accessing Zion National Park is that they are not allowed on the shuttle buses. And when the shuttle is in operation, no private vehicles are allowed to access Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the road that starts north of Canyon Junction, the most popular part of the park.
Shuttles generally operate every day between March and November, plus over the holiday season around the end of December. The exact dates and details can vary from year to year – it’s best to double check the website.
The shuttle system at Zion National Park operates for a longer period that the shuttle at nearby Bryce Canyon National Park. When we visited Bryce Canyon in November, the shuttle had already ended, but it was still operating when we visited Zion National Park on the same trip.
If you want to access Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in a private vehicle with your dog, you’ll need to visit between December and February, excluding one or two weeks at the end of December. Alternatively, it’s also possible to access the drive with a bicycle, presumably also with a dog trailer!
However, the popular hikes in Zion Canyon are still off limits to dogs year round, including the Narrows, Angels Landing and the Emerald Pool Trails.
Driving Through Zion with a Dog
While you can’t drive along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in your own vehicle for most of the year, it’s still possible to drive through the rest of the national park, including with your dog in your car.
It’s possible to drive in private vehicles year-round along the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway, which connects SR 9 through the park, through the Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel, along the Kolob Terrace Road and the Kolob Canyons Drive.
We drove through Zion National Park with our dog after visiting Bryce Canyon National Park, on our way to Las Vegas. Turning off at Mt Carmel Junction onto SR 9, we entered the park at the East Entrance.
We drove along the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway, stopping to view Checkerboard Mesa and passing through the one-mile long Zion-Mt Carmel Tunnel. We then turned left at Canyon Junction towards Springdale, exiting through the South Entrance.
The views along this drive are spectacular, and it’s a great way to appreciate some of the scenery of this national park with your dog. Note that you need to pay the park entrance fee (or have a valid pass like we did) to drive this route. Permits are also required for oversized vehicles passing through the tunnel.
We skipped the Kolob Terrace Road and Kolob Canyons Drive. The turn-off for the Kolob Terrace Road is in Virgin, leading to a northern section of the national park. The Kolob Canyons Drive is also in the north of the park.
Dog-Friendly Trails at Zion National Park
The only dog-friendly trail in Zion National Park is the Pa’rus Trail. This easy and flat paved trail links the Zion Canyon Visitor Center near the South Entrance and Canyon Junction, following the banks of the Virgin River.
I recommend parking at the Visitor Center (where there’s restrooms and water filling stations) and hiking up to Canyon Junction then back. You can also start from the South Campground.
The return track is 3.4 miles (5.4km) long. Allow two hours for the return hike, stopping to read the information panels along the way. If visiting in summer, avoid the middle of the day (or avoid the summer months altogether).
Can Dogs Paddle in the Virgin River?
The US National Park Service has recently been monitoring the presence of harmful cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in the Virgin River, which flows through the park (including adjacent to the Pa’rus Trail) and the Springdale area immediately to the south.
A popular dog-friendly activity is allowing dogs to swim and paddle in the river, particularly just outside of the park during the warmer months. However, it is currently recommended that dogs are kept out of the water, due to their vulnerability to cyanotoxin exposure. The most recent information is provided here.
Best Time of Year to Visit Zion with a Dog
If weather conditions permit, the best time of the year to visit Zion National Park with a dog is over the winter months, from December to February, excluding a week or two at the end of December.
This is because you can drive along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive with your dog in your own vehicle. Despite not being allowed on nearly all trails, you can still enjoy the scenery with your dog. And sunny days still abound!
Alternatively, take a drive through Zion National Park with your dog during the rest of the year, stopping off to hike the Pa’rus Trail, although avoid the hot temperatures in the middle of the day.
If visiting during the hot summer months, make sure you take precautions to protect your dog from the heat and sun. Water refilling stations are available at the Visitor Center.
Are There Any Kennels near Zion?
Given the restrictions that apply when visiting Zion National Park with a dog, including many of the most popular trails being off limits, you may want to consider using a kennel, at least for a day.
The US National Park Service advises that boarding kennels are available in the nearby towns of Rockville, Hurricane, St George, Kanab and Cedar City. Contact individual kennels to confirm their rates and rules.
Pet-Friendly Accommodation near Zion
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Dogs are welcome to join you at the three developed campgrounds located within Zion National Park.
The two main campgrounds are Watchman Campground and South Campground, both near the Visitor Center and the South Entrance. Just note the latter is currently closed for rehabilitation, but should reopen in 2024.
The small Lava Point Campground is located just off the Kolob Terrace Road, north of Virgin. It’s a primitive campground with only six sites.
The only in-park lodging is at Zion Lodge, located along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Pets are not permitted to stay in the lodge, which is also only accessible by the shuttle the majority of the year. Pets are however technically allowed on the grounds of the lodge.
Just outside of the park, there are a number of hotels located in Springdale, close to the South Entrance. One of the pet-friendly hotels is the La Quinta by Wyndham at Zion Park/Springdale. Up to two dogs or cats are permitted per room, with a combined weight limit of 80 lbs. There is a $25 fee per night, up to $75 per stay.
Another place to stay nearby is the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, an especially pet-friendly option to the east in Kanab. Operated by the Best Friends Animal Society, a leading national animal welfare organisation, there’s plenty of special touches for pet owners.
As well as pets staying for free and up to four pets allowed pet room, there’s an on-site pet grooming facility and a fenced dog park with a seasonal splash pad. There’s even double doors on the rooms to prevent your pet from running out! Human guests are served a complimentary vegan breakfast.
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About the Author
Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.