Towering Navajo sandstone cliffs. Miles of scenic highway drives. Rewarding panoramic views after sweat-inducing hiking trails. Zion National Park is one of southern Utah’s main hubs for adventure seekers. With adrenaline pouring out of the cliffsides, there are endless ways to spend two days in Zion, but this Zion National Park 2 day itinerary is for the ambitious soul ready to pack in as many hikes and viewpoints to maximize their time in this special part of Springdale, Utah.
Zion National Park is one of the top spots for a Southwest Road Trip, or a Utah National Parks Road Trip. Whether you choose to hike the infamous Angels Landing or take in the views along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, this park will absolutely blow you away. With so many options and some of the most grueling hikes and viewpoints in Southern Utah, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what to prioritize on a Zion itinerary, so I’ve done all the dirty work for you by presenting you with the absolute best way to spend two days in Zion National Park.
Whether you’re beginning your trip from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, or another part of the beautiful US, I hope you enjoy your trip and this 2 day Zion National Park itinerary serves you well! Happy travels! Let’s dive into it!
This post may contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or a booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.
Things To Know Before Visiting Zion National Park
– ZION NATIONAL PARK LOCATION | Zion National Park is in the southwesternmost corner of Utah. It’s generally either the very first or very last stop on a Utah National Parks Road Trip! Roadtripping Utah is one of the most iconic Southwest road trips you can take, so if you can squeeze in all five parks in one go, you’ll have the trip of a LIFETIME. Most people fly into either Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and begin their road trips from these major cities. Las Vegas to Zion National Park is roughly 2.5 hours or 160 miles and Salt Lake City to Zion National Park is roughly 4.5 hours or 308 miles. Sometimes others include other stops like Bryce Canyon National Park (2 hours/85 miles from Zion) and Grand Canyon National Park (4 hours/250 miles from Zion) in their itineraries to maximize their time in the Southwest!
– ZION NATIONAL PARK GEOGRAPHY | In the heart of Southern Utah is Zion National Park and Springdale, Utah, one of the most adventurous hubs in the American Southwest. Zion rests on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. The layers of rock in this region have been eroded, tilted, and lifted to form the Grand Staircase, which stretches from Bryce Canyon National Park all the way down to the Grand Canyon. What’s fascinating is that the bottom layer of rock at Bryce Canyon is the top layer at Zion and the bottom layer of rock in Zion is the top of the Grand Canyon.
Zion National Park can be divided into two main areas: Zion Canyon (the main section of the park) and Kolob Canyon.
Zion Canyon is where you’ll be able to take the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from the Visitor’s Center all the way to the Temple of Sinawava. This road is by shuttle only in the high season and only opens up to regular passenger cars in the slow winter months. Along this road, you have access to trailheads for all the main hikes in the park: Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, Observation Point, and the Emerald Pools Trail. If it’s your first time visiting Zion, this is likely where you’ll spend the entirety of your trip exploring.
Kolob Canyon is in the northwestern corner of Zion National Park and stays quiet year-round. This is one of the main access points for overnight backpacking trips like the West Rim Trail and Kolob Arch. This is an ideal place to visit in Zion if you want to avoid crowds and see more of Zion’s wilderness. Even if you don’t go hiking, the Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive is worth the trip out there.
– ZION NATIONAL PARK SHUTTLE SYSTEM | There are two shuttles that operate in and out of Zion National Park; the Zion Canyon Line and the Springdale Shuttle. The Zion Canyon Line starts at the Visitor’s Center, drives all the way up the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and then ends at the Temple of Sinawava, where everyone departs to hike the Narrows. The Springdale shuttle operates in town and stops at nine different stops, dropping people off at Zion’s pedestrian/bike entrance. It’s free to use and I recommend getting on the very first shuttles going to the trailheads because they get backed up incredibly fast.
It can get kind of confusing figuring out each shuttle, so essentially the first stop of the Zion Shuttle is the last stop of the Springdale Shuttle. Use this helpful shuttle map for a clearer visual. These two systems help reduce pollution in the park and avoid congestion with the nearly five million visitors Zion receives each year.
– HOW TO GET AROUND ZION NATIONAL PARK | The best way, and really the only way, to get around Zion is by using the free shuttle service I mentioned above. If you’re visiting during the winter months, you can easily get around Zion in your own car because this time of year the shuttles don’t run, leaving the Zion Scenic Drive open.
– ZION NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE | To get into Zion National Park, it’s $35 per vehicle, and this pass grants you access to Zion for a full week, plus shuttle services. If you’re visiting more than one National Park in Utah, I recommend picking up an America the Beautiful Park Pass. It gets you into all the National Parks in the states for $80, which will save you a good amount of money. I pick one up every year for all my hiking adventures!
– ZION NATIONAL PARK CROWDS | Unless you’re visiting in the winter months, you’re going to experience crowds in Zion for the majority of the year. The Southwest Desert keeps the weather ideal for practically any holiday. March through November is the busiest time to visit, but especially around summertime and national holidays. For quieter trails, but still ideal weather, I recommend aiming for a fall trip.
– ZION TRAIL CONDITIONS | Before planning your trip to Zion, you want to stay updated and informed on the current conditions of trails, roads, etc.. Since I first visited Zion in 2019, a lot has changed, so you want to ensure the trails you want to see are open. One of the biggest differences is the implementation of permits for the infamous Angel’s Landing hike. This is to help reduce congestion and keep everyone safe, so if you want to hike it, apply for a permit!
– PRIORITIZE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO IN ZION | One of the most difficult parts about planning a Zion National Park itinerary, and only having two days, is that you’ll need to prioritize the things you want to see without the crowds because by late morning it is a mob scene.
– LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLES | When visiting Zion National Park, or exploring the outdoors in general, following the seven Leave No Trace Principles to help reduce your impact in outdoor spaces is crucial. Now that more people are getting outdoors, vandalism has been on the rise, so let’s please all work together to keep these spaces as we left them.
ZION NATIONAL PARK FAQ’S
– IS 2 DAYS ENOUGH FOR A ZION NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY? | Ideally, I would say two days is the minimum amount of time you should spend in Zion National Park. A lot of the best hikes in this park are long and difficult, which makes it harder to hit all of them in only one day. Two days gives you more time for 2-3 longer hikes, but I would recommend spending three days here so you can thoroughly see the park.
– IS ZION OR BRYCE CANYON BETTER? | This is a subjective opinion, and mine is rather unpopular, but I enjoyed Bryce Canyon more. I like that the park is condensed so you can see a lot with a small amount of time, most of the trails are connected so you can formulate a unique itinerary, and the Bryce Amphitheater is one of the few places in the world that you can see hoodoos.
– WHAT SHOULD I NOT MISS IN ZION? | Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, Canyon Overlook, and Observation Point.
– WHAT IS THE BEST HIKE IN ZION? | This is another subjective opinion that varies from person to person, but I would say the Zion Narrows because it’s one of the most scenic hikes in the world, not just in Utah or the United States.
Zion National Park Itinerary 2 Days
2 Days In Zion Itinerary
DAY 1 | DISCOVERING ZION
This Zion National Park 2 day itinerary begins with the hike to the bucket list-worthy hike Angels Landing. Once you have your permit, aim to board the first shuttle to stop #6, the Grotto Trailhead. Sweat your way past Walters Wiggles, up to Scout’s Lookout, and up the narrow spine of the mountain to reach the final viewpoint. Once you arrive back at the trailhead, head to Springdale for a memorable breakfast at Oscar’s Cafe or Cafe Soleil. For all my fellow coffee lovers, the brews at Cafe Soleil are DIVINE and I highly recommend them!
The late morning to early afternoon will be spent on the Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway. If you’ve already driven this coming into the park from the East, consider driving through the Kolob Canyon section of Zion on the Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive.
Finish the day off on the Emerald Pools Trail, cooling off underneath the towering canyon walls, enjoy a dinner in Springdale, then enjoy the sunset at Observation Point. The main trail to Observation Point is closed, so make sure you’re accessing it from the East Mesa Trail.
One of the absolute BEST WAYS to start your Zion National Park 2 day itinerary is by conquering the infamous Angel’s Landing. Apply for permits here. Angel’s Landing is a shark fin-shaped rock formation that juts into the main area of Zion Canyon. The trail follows the narrow spine of rocks to the final viewpoint, roughly 1500 feet above the canyon floor. This is the most popular hiking trail in Zion National Park, so in order for it to be best experienced, and by my own rule of thumb, make this a sunrise hike if possible. On your shuttle ride to the trailhead, you’ll be able to spot this unique formation out the window!
IMPORTANT INFORMATION | Angel’s Landing is a strenuous hike and is not for the faint of heart or if you are afraid of heights. This trail offers very small room for error, especially with the number of crowds it receives, so be polite, share the trail, and allow others to pass in safe spots. On the busiest of days, the NPS sets up a line at the trailhead where people have waited upwards of four hours to start hiking. Your safest and most enjoyable bet is getting on the first shuttle to the trailhead to avoid crowds. Also, please be sure to practice Leave No Trace Principles, which even includes stacking decorative cairns.
The hike up to Angel’s Landing begins at the Grotto Trailhead, stop #6 on the Zion Canyon Shuttle. From the Grotto, it’s 2.4 miles to the final viewpoint, making this trail around 4.8 miles round trip. Once you arrive at the trailhead, you’ll cross the bridge over the Virgin River and get onto the West Rim Trail. This is a steep and rigorous portion getting into Refridgerator Canyon until you arrive at the infamous Walters Wiggles, a series of rigorous switchbacks that take you to the ridge on top of the canyon. Hike for a few more minutes and you’ll come to Scout’s Lookout, the area just before the final part of Angels Landing hike. From here, you’ll leave the West Rim Trail and start the most dangerous, but most exhilarating part of the hike: the chains section.
To get to the top, you’ll hike up the narrow spine of this mountain, with chains and built-in stairs to ease the mind, to gain the final 500 feet of this hike to the top lookout. There are many areas of this portion where you’ll be able to look down both sides of the canyon because the trail is so narrow. You’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree panoramic view that trumps most, if not all, other viewpoints in Zion National Park! Once you’re finished devouring your snacks, head down back the way you came, do a double fist to the air once you reach the Grotto Trailhead, and head to Springdale to celebrate with one of the best breakfasts in town, Oscar’s Cafe or Cafe Soleil.
ZION ITINERARY TIP | Angel’s Landing now requires a permit to hike this trail. Permits roll out 1-3 months prior or one day before on recreation.gov. This is to protect park resources and improve visitor experience moving forward. Read more about this new permit system here or watch the short video below for how to apply for an Angel’s Landing Permit.
video courtesy of the National Park Service, NPS
Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
After devouring some breakfast in Springdale, it’s time to enjoy the views on the Mount Carmel Scenic Highway. If you entered Zion from the east, you will likely be driving this scenic highway to get into the park. When you first drive into the park you don’t realize that this is the road you’re taking, at least I didn’t, so you may want to drive this ten-mile stretch again, but if you’re looking for something new to do, with maybe fewer cars, I recommend the Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive. More on that below!
ZION ITINERARY TIP | If you’re arriving in Zion in the late afternoon, start this itinerary on the Mount Carmel Scenic Highway. You will more than likely be driving it on your way into the park. If entering from the West, continue through Springdale to get on the highway.
This Zion-Mount Carmel Highway was built back in the 1930s and was considered one of the greatest road-building accomplishments in history at that time. What was considered impossible was made possible by a good amount of grit and a whole lot of dynamite. I’m talking like 147 TONS. Part of the construction required getting through a massive cliffside of Navajo Sandstone, explains all the dynamite, to form the 1.1-mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. It was the longest non-urban road tunnel at that point in history and was designed to go where no road had gone before.
The drive welcomes you with the classic ‘National Park’ sign situated at the entrance of all 63 parks here in the states, then it takes you a few miles deeper into the canyon and the views will begin to open up and you’ll get a first glimpse at what you’ll experience in Zion. From here, you’ll pass many trailheads (Canyon Overlook and Checkerboard Mesa) and pullouts and watch swirling rock formations, seasonal waterfalls, and towering canyon walls light up against the clear desert sky. This is a welcome to a park if I’ve EVER seen one!
(ALTERNATIVE OPTION) KOLOB CANYON SCENIC DRIVE| The Kolob Canyon area is around a 50-minute drive from the Zion National Park Visitor’s Center and still part of the park, just WAY less explored. With all the crowds in Zion, this will be a refreshing option for the late morning/early afternoon! I also recommend this if you have more time tomorrow after the Narrows, so add this where you see the best fit for your itinerary. I recommend doing Mount Carmel this day and then Kolob Canyon tomorrow if time allows.
Emerald Pools Trail
After resting your legs on the scenic drive, one of the most ideal things to do in Zion is take the Emerald Pools Trail. This is a short, popular trail that connects two pools of water, Lower Emerald Pools and Upper Emerald Pools. The entire trail is around three miles total, but you can make it as short or as long as you’d like. The trailhead is right across the way from the Zion Lodge, the 5th stop on the Zion Shuttle. If you’re not visiting in the spring months or after a rainstorm, don’t expect any type of Yosemite-esque falls from the water pouring into the pools. I think a lot of people get let down when they hear you can see a ‘waterfall’ on this trail so keep that in mind.
Once you’re past the Zion Lodge, about half a mile in, you’ll arrive underneath an alcove with two waterfalls pouring over the side into the pools below, Lower Emerald Pools. Past this, the trail takes you on top of the cliffside you just walked under and Middle Emerald Pools are not technically pools, but the streams that form the waterfalls. The final stretch is hot and sandy, but you’ll arrive at the final pool, Upper Emerald Pool, that sits underneath a 300-foot cliff. It’s nice and shady here and there are plenty of boulders to relax and have a snack on. Most of the year, but especially in the spring, you can see a faint waterfall coming from Heap Canyon above!
Observation Point via East Mesa
To end day one on this Zion National Park 2 day itinerary, you’ll be hiking to one of the best viewpoints in the park, Observation Point. The main trail to this point is closed due to rockfall, but with this alternative route coming from the eastern side of Zion, you can see the viewpoint and do a fraction of the work to get there! I took this route back in 2019 and we shared the sunset with only two other people. I cannot speak for today’s numbers since this route has gained traction, but it’s still worth going nonetheless!
This hike is around 7 miles total, out and back, and takes roughly 3-4 miles to complete so make sure you give yourself enough time to make it here for sunset. This is one of the best hikes in Zion for sunset because once it gets dark the trail is basically flat with no exposure. WIth other hikes in Zion, you don’t want to be on the trail after the last light because it becomes dangerous.
The East Mesa Trailhead is in one of the more remote areas of zion near the Zion Ponderosa Resort. To get here, drive east on Highway 9 for 22 miles, passing through the tunnel and out of the East Entrance of the park. From there, turn left at the “Observation Point Trailhead” sign on North Fork County Road. Drive 5 miles past the Zion Ponderosa Resort, then make another left on Twin Knolls Road. You’ll follow the main Pine Angle Road and follow the signs to the trailhead. This driving map should help you get there fine.
When the roads out here are dry, most cars can make it, but things get messy quickly once it gets snowy and/or muddy. Only go as far as you’re comfortable. Finding the trailhead and parking are the two hardest things about this hike. The rest of this is smooth sailing. From wherever you parked, walk to the end of the road and you’ll find a sign and a fence for the start of the hike. You’ll pass a small sign with some information after you pass through the wooden fence, then you’ll be on your way to Observation Point. Once you hit the two-mile mark, you’ll be able to spot Mystery Canyon in the north! Then, after another mile, the trail opens and the red rocks take you out to the point overlooking Zion Canyon. From here you’ll be able to see many iconic rock formations and even Angel’s Landing!
This trail isn’t the most exciting, but it’s the only alternative since the main trail is closed. Plus, after a sweat-filled morning, this will feel like a walk in the park.
HELPFUL GUIDES FOR YOUR ZION ITINERARY:
2 Days In Zion Itinerary
DAY 2 | ZION’S HISTORY
The second day of this Zion National Park itinerary is probably my favorite out of the two because you get to experience one of the most scenic hikes in the world, the Zion Narrows, as well as learn about the history of Zion National Park because I feel that is something many people gloss over on their trip, but it’s very important. Once you’ve tackled the slot canyon, then you’ll head to Springdale to feast on a tasty lunch, and don’t forget an incredible cup of joe at Deep Creek Coffee Company.
ZION ITINERARY TIP | Depending on how far into the Narrows you go, you may have more time to kill in the late morning and afternoon. If that is the case, I recommend venturing out into the Kolob Canyon, the more remote part of Zion, and either doing the Kolob Canyon Scenic Drive or the Taylor Creek Trail! If you don’t want to drive out there and want to stay in the main area, The Watchman is a beautiful trail to take, especially if you’re visiting in the spring months!
Once you’ve relaxed for the afternoon, head over to the Pa’rus Trail (with or without a bike), stopping into the Zion Human History Museum, and finishing the day off on the Canyon Overlook Trail for the perfect sunset!
The last and final day on this Zion National Park itinerary is going to be spent the only way it should be spent, conquering the Narrows. This was one of my favorite hikes in Zion for a variety of reasons, but mainly because you’re going on an Indiana Jones mini-expedition up a river and into a slot canyon?! C’mon with it because this will be one of the most memorable trails of your life. The Zion Narrows is rated as one of the most scenic hikes in the WORLD, so you do not want to miss this.
– ZION ITINERARY TIP | There are many outfitters in Springdale that offer equipment rentals for hiking the Narrows that include neoprene socks, boots, and a walking stick. While you can hike the narrows in regular shoes, and the rental gear looks a little silly, it’s actually very beneficial to grab a rental for $25. The stick helps you navigate the large stones in the river and I liked having the boots since I could leave my regular hiking boots at camp and come back to dry shoes. Zion Guru has the best team that will answer any and all of your questions about the Narrows and make sure you’re prepared for your hike. Just make sure to reserve your rental gear online and pick them up the day before you intend on hiking.
Based on personal experience, the best way to enjoy the Narrows, and any hike for that matter, is without all the masses of people. How do we achieve that? We wake up extra early and hop on that first shuttle to stop #9, the Temple of Sinawava. If you’re one of those first people to get off the shuttle and brave those morning water temperatures, you’re going to have the entire canyon to yourself.
You can go about this hike in a variety of different ways. My friend and I hiked all the way to Big Springs, as far as you can go when hiking the Narrows from the bottom up. So roughly five miles in, making for a ten-mile day. The beauty of the Narrows is that you can make it whatever hike you want it to be. The trail is the canyon, so if you want to hike a mile in and then back out, by all means, do so! For first-timers, my recommendation is at least hiking to Wall Street, the narrowest, and most beautiful slice of Zion Canyon, and then turning around. So you can enjoy the most scenic parts, and leave some of the crowds behind. Everyone pretty much congregates at the Gateway to the Narrows, at the end of the Riverside Walk, so this will give you a bit of breathing room if you leave later in the morning.
Once you’re finished up here, your legs are going to feel like mom’s spaghetti, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy a tasty lunch in Springdale or back at camp.
After grubbing out in Springdale, it’s time to slow the pace down a bit after a full morning and walk the Pa’rus Trail. Named after the Paiute word for “bubbling water”, the Pa’rus Trail is the only hike in Zion that is open to bikes and pets. If your legs aren’t absolutely demolished, depending on how far into the Narrows you went, I recommend renting bikes at the Zion Cycles and cruising down this nicely paved trail. If it’s an especially hot day, that breeze is going to feel AMAZING.
The trail begins just north of the Visitor Center at the South Campground. The trail winds along the Virgin River and ends at the Canyon Junction Bridge. About a mile into the trail there is a small dirt path off to the side that leads to the Zion Human History Museum. Past this, the trail winds back and forth crossing the river. Wildflowers are plentiful at this trail and at the end is the most popular spot in Zion for sunset and photographers, the bridge overlooking The Watchman.
This hike is best experienced either for sunrise in the morning or around late afternoon and sunset. The worst time is midday when it’s hot outside. If you’re riding the shuttle back from your day in Zion Canyon, you can get off at Canyon Junction Bridge and take this trail back to the Visitor Center!
Zion Human History Museum
While walking along the Pa’rus Trail, you can take a small dirt spur trail about a mile in to visit the Zion Human History Museum. There are artifacts here that prove that the land in and around Zion was settled as early as 6000 BCE. You’re quite literally stepping back in time in here and learning about the original settlers of Zion National Park, and what the park was like after Euro-American colonizers came in and established the park in 1919.
In the museum, you’ll learn about the first people to name the canyon Mukuntuweap. The Nuwuvi, or Southern Paiute, settled in and around Zion Canyon as early as 1250 BCE to the present day. Their tribe stressed the importance of living in harmony with the land. Natural landscapes, but Zion Canyon specifically, were considered sacred and inhabited by gods, so entering the canyon after nightfall was not common for the Southern Paiute, and many of the Native American Tribes that settled here.
Although the Nuwivi were the first to name the canyon, as I mentioned above, Zion National Park had settlements as early as 6000 BCE. From 300 BCE to 1225 CE the Fremonts and the Virgin Anasazi were two distinct tribes that settled in the park and the areas surrounding it. The Fremonts have several artifacts here that are distinct to their tribe: petroglyphs, one-rod-and-bundle, a specific style of basket weaving, moccasins, and the dewclaws placed on the bottom of the shoes for traction. The Virgin Anasazi, or the Ancient Ones, are known for their impossible-to-reach rock shelters. Although centered in the four corners region of the United States, they spread as far west as Lake Mead right outside of today’s Las Vegas. Beyond that, they were able to sustain a large population, so there is a lot of evidence where they dwelled, specifically near St. George, Utah.
ZION ITINERARY TIP | Take the Petroglyph Pools Trail to see over 150 pieces of artwork and stories etched into stone by the Fremont. While in this area, please remember to practice Leave No Trace to keep nature how we found it.
There is so much to take in here not just about the indigenous settlers, but the colonizers and Mormon settlements every day as well. While you’re hiking, you’re not really thinking about people growing food and settling down in this area, but it was especially popular in Utah in the 1800s, especially in other parks like Capitol Reef.
One of the most accessible and easier trails in Zion for an incredible sunset is none other than the Canyon Overlook Trail. This trail was originally known as the “Great Arch Trail” up until the 1940s, but it was renamed more than likely since you can’t see the arch because you are standing on top of it! Pretty cool!
The trailhead is behind the ranger traffic booth on route 9, close to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. This area can get gridlocked fast since Zion has grown immensely in popularity, so make sure to go later in the day and try the overflow lots down the road on Route 9 for parking, just after the trailhead, since the parking lot will likely be full by the time you get there (it’s a tiny lot).
The trail begins with a few slick rock steps that eventually level out to the main trail. Once past the steps, the trail takes you above the Pine Creek slot canyon. Once at the top, you’ll see a plaque that points out many famous landmarks: the route 9 switchbacks, Bridge Mountain (the highest peak on the left side of the canyon), the East Temple, Tower of the Virgin’s, Beehive, and Streaked Wall. Try to see if you can spot the windows on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway in the canyon walls!
Zion National Park Itinerary Overview
DAY ONE SUMMARY
Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway
DAY TWO SUMMARY
Zion Human History Museum
Canyon Overlook Trail
Zion National Park Itinerary Map
Use this map to help you locate all the things to do in Zion and nearby stops! For best use, download this map to your smartphone so you can use it offline (instructions here).
MORE THINGS TO DO IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
WEEPING ROCK TRAIL | At the time of this itinerary being published, the popular trail Weeping Rock is closed due to rockfall, but in the event that it opens in the future, I highly recommend adding it to your Zion itinerary because it’s one of the best trails in the park.
VIRGIN RIVER FLOAT | On a hot summer day, there is nothing like renting a tube and navigating mini rapids between Zion Canyon.
WEST RIM TRAIL | This is another backpacking trip in Zion that’s on my bucket list! Take the West Rim Trail, a one or two-night backpacking trip, and see the highlights of the Zion Wilderness!
THE NARROWS TOP-DOWN | One of the most iconic backpacking trips in the park. This is on my bucket list for when I return to Zion! I recommend this if you have prior backpacking experience! I talk more about this route in my guide to the Narrows.
Where To Stay In Zion National Park
There are three main places you can stay in Zion National Park that are actually IN the park: Zion National Park Lodge, the Watchman Campground, and the South Campground. No matter which one of these you choose, you need to book FAR in advance. Ideally, start looking at all of these more than six months away from your trip. These are the most popular places to stay in Zion National Park because they’re closest to the park.
The Zion National Park Lodge gives you all the amenities you’d ever want and more. This is ideal if you want to be close to the park but don’t want to rough out your night in a tent. One aspect I enjoy about this lodge is that they painted the lodge the same color scheme as the canyon, so it doesn’t look like there’s a massive retreat in the middle of nature. I appreciate that the National Park Service has done a great job at preserving this park from industrialism in its buildings, as well as pollution from cars and light pollution! Curl up by the fireplace, look up at Zion’s canyon walls, and enjoy a quiet desert retreat!
The Watchman Campground requires advance reservations. The sites roll out on a six-month basis for stays in March through Thanksgiving weekend in November. After that, sites are available on a first-come-first-served basis through February. Not only is this campground right under the Watchman rock formation, but it also gives you walking access to the Pa’rus Trail, Zion Visitor’s Center, and the Virgin River if you want to take a dip during those scorching summer days! If you’re planning on doing lots of sunrise missions, then this is a great option to grab those first shuttles into the park. The grounds have spacious campgrounds, toilets, NO showers, and electric hookups. The South Campground is basically the same as the Watchman, but with fewer amenities. The campground is open from early March to the end of October and reservations open 14 days before your trip. So if you need a campsite for March 14th through the 15th, you can book it beginning March 1st. This is great if your trip is being planned more last minute and you didn’t consider camping options far in advance. You’ll also have access to the Pa’rus Trail, Virgin River, and the Zion National Park Visitor’s Center from your campsite.
Outside of Zion, in Springdale, the Canyon Vista Lodge is an amazing option for a place to stay. Although it’s not IN Zion, it’s surrounded by Zion National Park on three sides of the property! Find comfort in the cleanest rooms, sipping on wine outside listening to the still whirr of the Virgin River. One of the biggest perks of staying here is your booking comes with a free breakfast from Oscar’s Cafe or Porter’s Smokehouse and Grill.
Accommodation options in and near Zion are endless from luxury stays to more budget-friendly options like the Pioneer Lodge and the Bumbleberry Inn. For other camping options, browse Campendium, HipCamp, or The Dyrt.
Best Time To Visit Zion National Park
Zion National Park is open year-round, but depending on what you want to do, some seasons are better than others. The most popular months to visit are going to be April through October, with the busiest months being May, June, and July, primarily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. If you want to avoid crowds in Zion, I recommend a spring or fall visit and avoiding major holidays.
Spring is a great time for visiting Zion National Park because the daytime temperatures are pleasant and there are a fraction of the visitors this time of year leaving trails a lot quieter. If you’re looking to hike the Narrows, you may want to push your trip to May or early fall because the flow rate of the Virgin River is high during this time so it’s likely to be closed.
Summertime, regardless of the heat, is one of the busiest times of year to visit Zion and all of Utah’s National Parks for that matter. The weather and crowds reach their peak this time of year. Getting on trails early in the morning and later in the evening will be crucial to avoid crowds and more favorable temperatures.
Fall is the best time of year to visit Zion National Park. After Labor Day, the crowds thin, the weather cools, and fall foliage peeks its way into Zion Canyon.
Winter isn’t considered a favorable time to visit Zion, but it has its perks. These are the months that Zion experiences the least amount of visitors and since the shuttles don’t run, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is open for passenger cars. The trails will be quiet and you may even get to spot a beautiful blanket of snow on Zion Canyon. However, keep in mind that due to snow, you may not have access to all the hikes.
HELPFUL GUIDES FOR YOUR ZION NATIONAL PARK 2 DAY ITINERARY:
LOOKING FOR MORE GUIDES TO UTAH NATIONAL PARKS? CHECK THESE OUT:
CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
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