Zion National Park is located 160 miles (2.5-hour-drive) from Las Vegas. Most of the drive is along Interstate 15, which has some beautiful sights and attractions along the way.
Rather than racing from Las Vegas to Zion as quickly as possible, slow down and enjoy the drive. There are plenty of fascinating stops along the way. If you’re looking for a great Las Vegas to Zion road trip, this is the route for you.
Driving from Las Vegas to Zion
Btw – if you’re not interested in crowded casinos and overpriced restaurants, here’s a great piece on Alternative Things to Do in Las Vegas.
Valley of Fire State Park
Located just 55 miles north of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is filled with psychedelic geology, great hiking trails, and ancient petroglyphs. Jurassic-era Aztec Sandstone covers the 40,000-acre state park. At sunrise and sunset, when the red rocks are illuminated, it feels like the whole park is on fire.
Valley of Fire State Park is the largest and oldest state park in Nevada. A 10-mile road, the Valley of Fire Scenic Byway, twists through the otherworldly scenery, offering no shortage of fabulous photo opportunities.
Open daily from sunrise to sunset. Entrance fee: $10
Arizona State Line
About halfway between Las Vegas and Zion, Interstate 15 passes through the northwest corner of Arizona. The remote region between Grand Canyon and Utah’s southern border, called the Arizona Strip, is one of the least densely populated places in the United States. If you’re driving through at night, take a moment to pull over and look up at the sky. This is a great place for stargazing thanks to minimal light pollution.
Virgin River Gorge
Much of the drive from Las Vegas to Zion consists of long stretches across barren flatlands. It’s beautiful during the “golden hour” in early morning or late afternoon, but it’s not exactly dramatic.
Until you reach the Virgin River Gorge.
Roughly 100 miles from Las Vegas, Interstate 15 slices through a spectacular gorge carved by the Virgin River (the same river that carved Zion National Park). As the highway twists and turns above the river, enormous cliffs rise thousands of feet on either side.
Other than Zion, this is the Virgin River’s most impressive natural feature. The road through the gorge, which opened in 1973, is one of the most expensive portions of America’s interstate highway system ever constructed.
Utah State Line
After climbing out of the Virgin River Gorge, Interstate 15 crosses into Utah just south of the city of St. George. Notice the Joshua Trees, whose range marks the rough boundaries of the Mojave Desert. St. George is located near the northeastern boundary of the Mojave Desert, and this area marks the northernmost limit of the Joshua tree’s range. North of the Mojave Desert lies the Great Basin Desert.
St. George, Utah
Say hello to the fastest growing city in America. What’s the draw? Mild weather, affordable real estate, and easy access to southern Utah’s stunning natural beauty. The towering cliffs of Zion National Park rise high above the landscape roughly 40 miles east of St. George.
Today roughly 80,000 people call St. George home. Mormon pioneers first settled this area in 1869, and there are several interesting historic sites. Check out Brigham Young’s Winter Home or the Jacob Hamblin Home.
St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site
Dinosaur lovers should visit the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site. Many of Utah’s Jurassic- and Triassic-era rocks contain fabulous fossils, and this museum protects 200-million-year dinosaur footprints. There are also fascinating dinosaur exhibits and displays.
Btw – here’s my favorite book about dinosaurs. After reading it you’ll almost certainly want to visit the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site.
Exit onto Route 9
About 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of St. George on Interstate 15, take exit 16 onto State Highway 9, which heads 30 miles (48 kilometers) east to Zion National Park.
Hurricane (pronounced HUR-uh-kin by locals) is the largest town near Zion’s South Entrance. Roughy 17,000 people live in Hurricane, which is located 20 miles (40-minute drive) from Zion’s South Entrance.
Steep cliffs rise above the east side of town, marking the exact boundary of the Colorado Plateau. Covering 240,000 square miles in the Four Corners region, the Colorado Plateau has the highest concentration of national parks in America. There are few places where the boundary of the Colorado Plateau is quite so dramatic.
River Rock Roasters
This is my favorite place to eat between St. George and Zion. In addition to great food (pizza, sandwiches, smoothies, fresh-roasted coffee, craft beer), River Rock Roasters has a fabulous deck perched high above a deep gorge carved by the Virgin River. There’s no better place to take a break and enjoy the fabulous scenery.
Grafton Ghost Town
This ghost town was first settled in 1859, then abandoned in 1944. In 1969, Grafton achieved international fame as the setting of the Paul Newman/Katherine Ross bicycle scene in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” To visit the abandoned buildings, head south on Bridge Road in the small town of Rockville, cross the bridge over the Virgin River, and follow the signs to Grafton.
This small town, located next to Zion’s most popular entrance, is the unofficial “Gateway to Zion.” Although its year-round population is just over 500, there are dozens of hotels, restaurants, gift shops and outfitters for Zion visitors, making the town feel much larger.
Technically, Springdale is located inside Zion Canyon, with West Temple rising to the west, The Watchman rising to the east, and the Virgin River flowing through the center of the canyon. Many of the sandstone cliffs rising above town rival those in the park, adding an air of magnificence to Springdale.
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