Spot 17 wild species with our guide to Animals in Zion National Park—hike insights and photos included!
Get ready to meet Zion National Park’s furry and feathered locals on your next hike! We spent a month trekking through Zion’s wilds, playing a real-life game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ with the park’s critters.
From the elusive bighorn sheep to the silent flight of owls, our adventure was a wildlife bingo that would make any nature enthusiast green with envy.
We got up close and personal with 17 different species—some were just hanging out on the trail, while others played hard to get.
In this rundown, we’ll share not just the snapshots of these majestic animals, but also spill the beans on which trails to hit if you’re looking to score your own sightings. Whether it’s a rare glimpse of a mountain lion or a comedy show starring the rock squirrels, Zion’s got it all.
So, strap on your hiking boots, charge your camera, and let’s get ready to go animal spotting in Zion’s grand amphitheater of the great outdoors!
Mexican Spotted Owls
The Mexican spotted owl is a species of owl that lives in Mexico, Central America and the southwestern United States.
Mexican spotted owls are found in evergreen forests at elevations up to 1,600 meters (5,200 ft) in southern Arizona and New Mexico. They prefer old growth habitats with dense understories and large trees with cavities for nesting.
The Mexican spotted owl is mainly active during the day and feeds on mammals such as rabbits and tree squirrels, as well as birds such as woodpeckers and grouse.
The bird is often seen perching on branches or flying low through the forest. It has a dark brown head with dark bars across its eyes, white eyebrows, white spots on its wings and a yellowish bill with black spots on it.
Mule Deer are the most abundant big game species in Zion National Park. The population of mule deer in Zion is estimated to be approximately 4,000 individuals.
These deer are primarily found at lower elevations and move into higher altitudes during the winter months.
Mule deer are large-bodied mammals with short ears and tails and long, solid legs. Mature bucks have antlers that grow from their heads each year from March through December, with the largest antler growth occurring during the summer months.
Their coat is reddish-brown with white rump patches and black bars on their sides. Their bellies are white while their underbellies are tan or buff colored. Females do not grow antlers but some males will lose them before they reach maturity.
Mule deer feed on shrubs, grasses and low tree branches throughout the year but prefer succulent plants like sagebrush during the winter months when food supplies may be scarce due to deep snowfall or cold temperatures.
BigHorn Sheep are the largest native land mammal in the western United States. They are found in the desert and high mountain areas of the Southwest, as well as in parts of Canada.
The BigHorn Sheep is a large animal with massive horns that can weigh over 30 pounds each. The male sheep have large, curved horns while the female sheep have smaller horns or no horns at all.
The color of their coat varies from light tan to dark brown, with some white markings on their face and legs.
BigHorn Sheep live in groups called “herds” which can include up to 30 individuals. These herds consist of both males and females though only one male will mate with all the females in a herd during breeding season (December – January).
The diet of a BigHorn Sheep consists mainly of sagebrush but they also eat grasses, shrubs, lichens and other plants.
Coyotes are abundant in Zion National Park. They are a top predator, and it’s important to understand their habits and habitat preferences.
Coyotes are found throughout the park but are most common along the Virgin River corridor, around Springdale and Rockville, and in Zion Canyon. They have been observed throughout the year, but more are seen after breeding season (February) when young pups leave their dens.
The best time to see coyotes is during the early morning or late evening hours. Coyotes are active both day and night, but their activity tends to be more obvious during dawn and dusk.
Coyotes are generally shy animals that will avoid humans if possible. They are often seen hunting for small prey such as mice, rabbits or birds near roads or campgrounds. However, they may also be seen near trails or picnic areas looking for scraps of food left behind by humans.
The North Creek area of Zion National Park is where we saw them.
Beavers are large rodents that build dams and lodges for shelter in waterlogged areas. They live near water and build their homes out of mud, sticks, rocks, and twigs to protect themselves from predators like wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes and eagles.
They are herbivores and will eat nearly any plant they can find including trees and shrubs. Beavers are also known to eat insects like beetles and grasshoppers as well as fish, frogs, crayfish (lobster-like crustaceans), clams and other small animals such as birds.
Mountain lions are the only large predators found in Zion. The lion population is small and isolated from other mountain lion populations.
Mountain lions are commonly seen on the west rim of the park, where they hunt mule deer and bighorn sheep. They may be less common on the east side because there are fewer animals to hunt.
In fact, they are most commonly seen in the high elevations of the Kolob Canyons section of the park. This includes all of the wilderness areas above The Narrows, including Riverside Walk and Kolob Arch.
BATS – Many Bats
The park is home to four species of fish-eating bats: pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes). All four are important predators of insects that damage crops and livestock, including mosquitoes and crop pests such as corn earworm moths.
Canyon bats have been known to roost in caves and abandoned mines all over Southern Utah. They also roost under bridges, in attics and barns, near waterfalls and even inside homes!
The California Condor
The California condor is primarily found in mountainous regions with large areas of undeveloped habitat. Condors are scavengers, therefore they need open areas to hunt so they can find carrion on which to feed.
Condors have a wingspan of up to 10 feet (3 meters), making them one of the largest flying birds in North America. They also have one of the longest lifespans of any bird, living as long as 60 years.
The California condor’s coloration ranges from light pinkish orange to dark brown; males tend to be darker than females. Bald eagles are their only natural predators.
The most common species of rattlesnake in Zion National Park is the Western Rattlesnake. The western rattlesnake is a very large and agile snake that will readily strike at any perceived threat.
It is usually found in rocky areas, but can also be found in grassy areas. The western rattler is a nocturnal snake, so it is rarely seen during the day. They are typically non-aggressive towards humans unless provoked.
These snakes are not aggressive unless they feel threatened or cornered, so please take extra care when hiking through their habitat during the day.
The desert tortoise is found in the western United States, ranging from southern California to Nevada, Utah and Arizona. They are also found in northwestern Mexico.
Desert tortoises are good climbers and can be found in rocky hillsides or mountains as well as sandy areas with sparse vegetation. They may even burrow into the sand for shelter during extreme heat or cold.
Ringtail Cats are nocturnal mammals that feed on insects, small mammals, birds and reptiles. They have very good hearing and sense of smell but poor eyesight. They are able to climb trees as well as being able to jump up to 6 feet high!
Ringtail Cats live in rocky areas where they build dens under boulders or rock ledges where they raise their young during spring and summer months between April and July when they mate. During winter months they will hibernate together in their den until spring arrives again when they will begin breeding again.
Rock squirrels are a species of ground squirrel that live in the rocky cliffs of Zion National Park. They are native to North America and can be found in most states in the western part of the country.
Rock squirrels have a grayish-brown coat with white stripes on their back, sides and head. They also have a white underbelly with black markings on it. They have a sharp nose, small ears and small eyes that are able to move independently of each other. Rock squirrels have claws on their toes that help them climb up rocks and trees easily.
Rock squirrels are diurnal animals which means they are active during the day time and sleep at night. Rock squirrels usually stay hidden during the day in their nests or burrows to avoid predators such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, snakes and birds of prey like hawks or eagles who feed on them regularly when they’re asleep at night!
Residing within Zion’s dense woodlands and rocky terrains, the gray foxes are elusive nocturnal canids.
These creatures, with their grizzled upper coat, often tread the less-traveled areas, notably around the West Rim Trail and Riverside Walk.
Early morning or late evening adventurers might catch sight of them exploring their territory amidst the park’s underbrush.
The wooded areas of Zion, especially around trails like Emerald Pools and Kolob Arch, are frequented by porcupines.
These spiny, nocturnal rodents often navigate trees and shrubs, especially during the serene evening hours, adding an element of intrigue for nighttime hikers.
Bobcats, characterized by their tufted ears and stealthy demeanor, roam the vast wilderness of Zion.
Trails like the Watchman and Sand Bench offer glimpses of these feline creatures, particularly during the early morning or late afternoon when they’re most active in their hunting pursuits.
Zion’s rocky terrains, particularly the Canyon Overlook and Angel’s Landing trails, come alive with the vibrant colors of collared lizards.
These reptiles are often spotted sunning on boulders or darting between shadows, their radiant hues contrasting beautifully against the park’s rugged landscape.
Commonly seen against Zion’s red-rock backdrops, desert cottontails frequent trails such as Pa’rus and Kayenta.
These rabbits embody the spirit of the arid Southwest, often active during the golden hours of dawn and dusk, making for memorable sightings.
Best trails To See Animals in Zion National Park
1. Riverside Walk (Gateway to The Narrows)
- Wildlife: This trail is known for its diverse birdlife, mule deer, and even the occasional bighorn sheep. The Virgin River running alongside also attracts various smaller creatures.
- Details: An easy, paved trail, it offers both scenic views and shaded areas ideal for wildlife spotting.
2. West Rim Trail
- Wildlife: Home to gray foxes, mule deer, and various birds of prey. It’s also one of the locations where one might catch sight of the Mexican spotted owl.
- Details: A moderately strenuous trail, it provides sweeping views of the park, adding a scenic backdrop to your wildlife viewing.
3. Pa’rus Trail
- Wildlife: Desert cottontails, mule deer, and numerous bird species are commonly sighted along this trail.
- Details: This is an easy trail that runs along the Virgin River, making it a hotspot for animals that frequent water sources.
4. Watchman Trail
- Wildlife: This trail is known for birdwatching and offers chances to see mammals like mule deer and elusive predators like bobcats.
- Details: Moderate in difficulty, it’s a less-crowded alternative to other popular trails, providing a quieter environment conducive for observing wildlife.
5. Emerald Pools Trails
- Wildlife: The presence of water attracts animals such as mule deer, birds, and even the nocturnal porcupines in the vicinity.
- Details: A set of trails leading to a series of pools, varying from easy to moderate in difficulty.
6. Canyon Overlook Trail
- Wildlife: Besides collared lizards basking on sunlit rocks, bighorn sheep have also been sighted in the area.
- Details: A short but rewarding trail, it provides panoramic views of Zion Canyon, enhancing the wildlife viewing experience.
7. Kolob Arch Trail
- Wildlife: The less-traveled path might reward hikers with sightings of porcupines, mule deer, and various bird species.
- Details: A challenging and lengthy trail, but its remote nature increases the chances of encountering undisturbed wildlife.
For those keen on witnessing the park’s diverse fauna, it’s essential to remember that early mornings and late evenings are often the most fruitful times for wildlife spotting. Moreover, patience, silence, and respect for the animals and their habitats will further enhance the experience. Always maintain a safe distance from wild animals and avoid feeding them.
Visitors to Zion National Park will be overwhelmed with the sheer variety of wildlife they have the chance to see on their trip. From tiny lizards to large deer, you never know what you might see on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of how many different animals you get to encounter over the course of your trip, though, it’s a very safe bet that you’ll end up seeing at least one!