Things to do NEAR Zion National Park

We visited Zion National Park during Spring Break, and toward the end of the week, we started to notice more and more people arriving. There were lines to enter the park, as well as to get on the shuttle, and we weren’t even there during the peak summer season. We love this national park, and you can read all about our tips for visiting Zion with kids, but if you are looking for an escape from the busy park, we have put together a list of activities you can do with your family near Zion National Park.

Things to do NEAR Zion National Park

Most are FREE, but all are close enough to visit when you need a break from the crowds. We’ve also given you the number of minutes from Zion’s gate to each side adventure. And here is a Zion Bingo sheet that we used with our kids while exploring Zion and the surrounding area. Click on each link for full information and pictures.

West Side of Zion

Grafton Ghost Town

Grafton Ghost Town

This restored ghost town is a located outside of Rockville, which is just a few miles away from Springdale. There is an old pioneer cemetery as well as a schoolhouse and homes. It is in a beautiful location, but you do have to travel on well-maintained dirt roads to get there. [20 minutes from Visitor’s Center]

Kolob Terrace Road

Kolob Terrace Road

This is a FREE section of Zion National Park, and not to be confused with Kolob Canyon located on the 1-15. This road (turn off found in Virgin) leads to a lot of backcountry hikes such as The Subway, but does not have as many kid-friendly hikes. We drove this road to the end and found a beautiful Kolob Reservoir that was covered in ice in April, but in the summer would be a fun place to throw rocks and cool your feet off. [18 minutes from Visitor’s Center to turnoff for the drive]

Fort Zion

Fort Zion

This is a fun stop along the road from Hurricane to Zion. Fort Zion is actually in the town of Virgin and you can’t miss it as you drive by. We stopped to see what the fun buildings were all about. There is a petting zoo and some Wild West buildings that kids can play in, as well as a gift shop and restaurant. It cost $1/person to go to the petting zoo area, and it’s a great place to let the kids out of the car for awhile. [15 minutes from Visitor’s Center]

Hurricane Valley Heritage Park & Museum

Hurricane Valley Heritage Park & Museum

This historic park and museum are located on the main road through Hurricane. The museum is FREE and has some fun displays including a 100 year old wedding cake! Outside, there are some pioneer farm tools and wagons, but this historic place is also connected to a playground and splash pad. [28 minutes from the Visitor’s Center]

Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Things to do near zion

It’s virtually impossible to see a mojave desert tortoise, but that didn’t stop us from trying! Check out the results of our endeavor and see if you can spot a tortoise at the preserve. [This place is huge, but we accessed it in Hurricane which is 28 minutes from Zion]

Sand Hollow State Park

Sand Hollow State Park

This has become one of our favorite water state parks. It is beautiful. There are red sandy beaches on one side of the reservoir, and on the other side is slick rock to climb on and throw rocks from. We spent a morning here enjoying the crystal clear water and beautiful red rocks. You can bring ATVs to this state park as well. [45 minutes from Visitor’s Center]

East Side of Zion

Red Hollow Slot Canyon

This amazing beginner slot canyon is found in Orderville, a few miles north of the Mt. Carmel Junction on the east side of Zion National Park. This was our boys favorite adventure outside of Zion and if you’ve never hiked a slot canyon, this is the perfect one to begin with! Only 1.0 mile roundtrip and completely flat. [21 minutes from east gate]

Belly of the Dragon

Belly of the Dragon is a man-made tunnel near the east entrance of Zion. Walking through the sandstone tunnel feels like you are entering the belly of a large beast. It is a fun stop along the US-89 when exploring the area. [17 minutes from the East entrance]

Sand Dune Arch near Kanab

You can visit an arch right near Zion. The Sand Dune Arch is just a few minutes from the Belly of the Dragon. This arch is an easy hike through some sand to a beautiful arch that you can walk right beneath. There are some fun rocks to climb around here, too. [25 minutes from east entrance]

Kanab Sand Caves

The Moqui Caverns or Kanab Sand Caves are another free stop near Kanab. These caves were created by miners decades ago when they mined the sand for glass. The caverns are quite large and they are fun to explore. This adventure requires some climbing over sandy slick rock, so make sure to wear shoes with good traction. [26 minutes from the East entrance]

Little Hollywood Movie Museum

It feels like you've stepped back in time to the Old West.
It feels like you’ve stepped back in time to the Old West.

This museum is home to old west movie sets from films that were filmed in Utah. This is a FREE museum behind a large gift shop in Kanab, and you will be amazed that what looks like a home in a movie is just a front with some sticks to hold it up. [33 minutes from east gate]

Jacob Hamblin Park

This park is located in Kanab and is beautiful. It has a wonderful playground, picnic tables, bathrooms, lots of grass, and shade, and some fun displays like an old windmill weather vane. We had a picnic lunch here one afternoon and enjoyed every minute at this great park. [33 minutes from east gate]

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Otherwise known as “The Big Sandbox” in our house. The sand in Coral Pink Sand Dunes might not actually be as  pink as much as they are orange, but it is soft and amazing. We brought our sand toys, and this kept the kids entertained for hours. [38 minutes from the east gate]

Pipe Spring National Monument

Pipe Spring National Monument

This adventure isn’t in Utah, but it’s not too far from Zion. Just over the border into Arizona, Pipe Spring became home to pioneers escaping from the law because of polygamy. The fort is built on top of the spring and right into the hillside. They have a great tour of the fort and a Junior Ranger program for the kids. [56 minutes from east gate]

For other ideas in the Kanab area (east side of Zion), check out our Things to do in Kanab post. And for other ideas in the St. George area (west side of Zion), use our Things to do in St. George Post.


Leave a Reply

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Melisa

    Thanks for all the great ideas! We had no idea that all these fun hidden gems existed. We went to the slot canyon, dragon’s belly, sand dune arch, park in kanab, Hollywood film sets and moqui cave all in one day. It was great! Thanks for the neat travel tips! This site was so helpful!

    1. Natalie Ockey

      I am so glad that you had such a wonderful trip! And thank you for the kind comment. There is so much to do near Zion and Kanab.

  2. Misty

    Thank you for these ideas! Several of them seem like things my kids will enjoy. We love Zion and our rental has an awesome pool but I’m happy to find other little excursions we can take.

    1. Natalie Ockey

      We hope you have a great trip to Zion and find lots of fun things to do nearby.

  3. Jeanette

    When you say 33 minutes from east gate on the little g
    Hollywood movie museum, is that from inside the Zion park? Passing the Carmel tunnel? I looked up the location from Bumbleberry hotel where I’ll be staying and it takes me 1.5 hr to get there? but from East gate it’s 33 mins? How do I get there? Thank you for this btw!

    1. Natalie Ockey

      From the East Gate means from the east side of Zion National Park. You are staying by the West Gate in Springdale, so the reason it is taking you a lot longer because driving through Zion and the tunnel takes a long time. If you want to visit Kanab and the Little Hollywood Museum, you will have to drive through the long way and it will take you 1.5 hours.

  4. Joan

    Thank you so much for these adventures outside of the National Park. So busy here right now (April 1, 2021). We did Kolob Terrace Rd. yesterday & went on a short hike. Beautiful day. Going to try Gafton today & excited to experience the slot canyon you mentioned. Looks like it’s almost impossible to get shuttle tickets for the scenic drive in Zion – so thank you for your wonderful post…. Keep having fun.

    1. Natalie Ockey

      Yes, April is such a busy time in Zion, but it seems to be when we visit, too. Hope that you have a wonderful time!

  5. Tricia

    When you say you brought your sleds to the sand dunes- do you mean like snow sleds? Visiting in a couple weeks and sledding down the dunes sounds fun!

    1. Natalie Ockey

      So, we didn’t have our sleds with us–we actually rented one from the Visitor Center. It was a wooden sled with sand wax, and we have heard that regular snow sleds don’t work on the sand very well. But we did use the plastic saucers with the wax at White Sands National Park, so I’m guessing that that would work at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, too. I think the key is the wax, and using wood or plastic sleds. I will update our post to reflect this.

  6. Jennifer

    I stumbled across your website while searching “Grand Escalante hikes with kids”. We will be visiting Utah for the first time this year during Spring break. I’m going to follow all your tips! Thank you so much!

    1. Natalie Ockey

      Let us know if you have any questions. We hope you love Utah as much as we do!