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Zion to Bryce Canyon: Itinerary for 1, 2, or 3 days (+Map & Tips)

Zion to Bryce Canyon: Itinerary for 1, 2, or 3 days (+Map & Tips)

Thinking of visiting Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in one trip and not sure how to best plan your trip? In this guide, we share suggested itineraries that will enable you to see the best of both parks in 1, 2, or 3 days. Plus, you’ll find insider tips and useful information for planning a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon. Find out!

Utah in the southwestern USA is known as home to some of America’s best National Parks. Two of the most popular National Parks – Zion and Bryce Canyon – can be easily visited together, even if you only have a day or two-three.

The drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon is just about 2 hours, so this is one of the best Utah road trips, allowing you to see some of the best scenery and viewpoints in the state. These beautiful deserts will have you excited to get up for sunrise, smiling around every corner, and collapsing into bed after a full day each night because there were just so many amazing places to see!

But how to make the most out of your Zion and Bryce Canyon trip if you have limited time? Can you travel from Zion to Bryce Canyon in just a day and still see some of the best views? And how to plan your trip if you have 2 or 3 days in the area and want to see as much as possible and do some hiking as well?

For this – in addition to our own experience – we asked for advice from fellow family travel blogger Jessica Averett from BikingKids.com. She lives in Utah and loves to explore and go on outdoor adventures with her husband and 5 kids. They know Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks inside out, and this article is filled with their tips and recommendations to help you plan the most amazing trip to these two parks. Take a look!

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park
 

Good to know: This article is structured in such a way that it first gives you a good idea of what to expect from each park and all the practical information for traveling to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Further below, you will find three suggested itineraries for Zion – Bryce Canyon road trips for 1, 2, and 3 days. We also include maps for each itinerary indicating the very best places to see in that timeframe.

Whether you are just driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon in a day, or have a few days for these two amazing parks, we hope that our tips will help you make the most of the time that you have. These itineraries will also work if you are driving in the other direction – starting from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park. Of course, in that case, you’ll have to turn things around and adjust the planning.

Zion to Bryce Canyon drive map

Below, you can see the map of the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon. It indicates the driving time and distance from Zion National Park Visitor Center in Springdale to Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center.

As you can see, the distance between (the visitor centers in) the two parks is about 85 miles (137 km). The drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon takes almost 2 hours.

Zion to Bryce Canyon drive map
Zion to Bryce Canyon drive
 
 

Differences between Zion and Bryce Canyon

Zion and Bryce Canyon are both located in southern Utah and are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. They each have their own unique features that make them stand out from one another. However, the two parks are very different!

Here is a list of some of the biggest differences between Zion and Bryce Canyon:

Elevation

Zion National Park is located at 3,900 ft, whereas Bryce Canyon is at 7,600 ft. This is nearly 4,000 feet in elevation difference! The main way that you’ll feel this is with the temperature. Bryce Canyon is often 10-20 degrees cooler than Zion. So even though the two parks are relatively close geographically, they are quite different in temperature. This makes Zion more of a desert landscape and Bryce Canyon a high-desert.

Geology

Zion is made up mostly of tall cliff walls and steep canyons carved into the Navajo Sandstone. As it turns out, Bryce Canyon isn’t really even a canyon. Most of the park starts at the top of a mesa and from there, the “canyon” portion of the park is just a series of eroded hoodoos that slopes downhill towards the town of Tropic.

Vegetation

While most people think of Zion National Park as a desert (and it is), with the Virgin River flowing through it, there’s a surprising amount of vegetation. You’ll find tall cottonwoods, pinion pines, juniper, and a huge variety of cacti.

In Bryce Canyon, there isn’t as much shade or water as you’ll find in the main Zion canyon. The most common plants at Bryce Canyon are ponderosa pines and sagebrush, with a few aspens sprinkled around the park.

Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon
 

What is Bryce Canyon City like? (Bryce Canyon National Park)

Bryce Canyon City is located just outside of Bryce Canyon and has a very old west feel. While the town technically has over 200 residents, most of the town is made up of a few hotels and the Ruby’s Inn complex of hotels and activities. The overall vibe is a very old west feel, and it’s very kid-friendly too.

In Old Bryce City, you’ll find a rock shop, candy store, and ice cream shop. Nearby you’ll also find all kinds of organized tours such as ATV trips, horseback rides, or bike rentals. A sightseeing tour of the main highlights is also available and is a great option for those who are really short on time and want to see all the musts in just a few hours.

The big event here is the rodeo that runs every Wednesday-Saturday throughout the summer months.

For dinner, you can enjoy a dinner and music show at Ebenezer’s Barn, or head over to Ruby’s Inn for a few dining options. We find that the best food in Bryce City is at the Cowboy Buffet and Steakhouse inside Ruby’s Inn. Overall, the prices in Bryce Canyon City are very reasonable for both food and accommodation.

Old Bryce Town
Old Bryce Town – Photo nicousnake/Depositphotos.com
 

What is Springdale, UT like? (Zion National Park)

Springdale Utah is located directly outside of the South Entrance to Zion National Park. Springdale has a more refined and high-class feel to it. Here, you’ll find art galleries, boutiques to shop in, and a wide variety of ethnic and fine dining cuisine. Plan on getting a dinner reservation in advance as most of the dining options here fill quickly during the high season.

Springdale has a big variety of both chain hotels and boutique accommodation and is the best place to stay near Zion National Park. Prices are on the higher end for the area, but you pay for the location. And in most places, the service and quality of the accommodation seem on par with the prices.

If you are looking for guided tours, more special activities like helicopter flights over Zion, or need some gear for any adventures that you plan to do in or around Zion National Park, you’ll easily find what you’re looking for in Springdale.

READ ALSO: Where to Stay near Zion National Park

Springdale town in Utah
Springdale
 

Getting Around Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is really easy to get around and you can drive your own car or take a shuttle which has lots of different stops. The easiest parking for your personal car is at the shuttle stop in Bryce Canyon City or at the Visitors Center.

There is also a shared-use trail that’s perfect for biking. If you have a bit more time here, we highly recommend bikes as an easy way to get around Bryce Canyon.

Getting Around Zion National Park

Zion National Park is becoming one of the most visited National Parks in the US, so crowds are at an all-time high. In the high season, you are required to use the shuttle to access the main canyon (Angels Landing, Observation Point, The Narrows, Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools), and wait times for shuttles can be up to an hour.

With at least one full day in Zion NP (and depending on what you want to see), you could also skip the shuttle and bike instead. Zion is one of the best National Parks for biking. The Pa’rus trail follows the Virgin River and will give you a much better view of Zion than you’ll ever get from the shuttle. Also, the shuttle stops at 7 pm, so most of the crowds die down then. But if you have a bike, you can easily stay out until dusk (around 9 pm in summer) and enjoy Zion without the crowds.

While the best and most popular sights are concentrated in the main canyon, some other parts of Zion can also be reached by car. For a quick drive, take the Mt Carmel Scenic Road through the Mt Carmel Tunnel. Here, you can hike the short and very rewarding Canyon Overlook Trail.

Anyway, how you get around and what you can see and do will depend a lot on the time that you have in each park. So be sure to check out our suggested itineraries below on how to best plan your itinerary between Bryce Canyon and Zion!

Zion National Park Shuttle
Zion National Park Shuttle
 

Zion to Bryce Canyon 1 Day Itinerary & Map

Yes, it is possible to see both Zion and Bryce Canyon in one day, but it will be one VERY FULL day. A lot depends on where you start and end your trip, of course.

If you are staying in Las Vegas, for example, and want to see both parks in a day, opt for a guided tour (this will be so much more relaxing than driving yourself). Whereas if you are passing by the two parks by car anyway, see our itinerary below.

For this Zion – Bryce Canyon 1-day itinerary, spend the night in one of the Springdale hotels and start as early as you possibly can! We recommend being on the Zion shuttle by 7-8 am. Also, be sure to pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water.

Here’s what your day touring from Zion to Bryce Canyon could look like (see further below for all the details):

  • 7-8 am: Shuttle from Zion NP Visitor Center to Zion Canyon.
  • Emerald Pools.
  • Shuttle and drive to Canyon Overlook trailhead.
  • Canyon Overlook trail.
  • 1 pm: Picnic lunch at Checkerboard Mesa.
  • 1.30-3 pm: Drive to Bryce Canyon.
  • Best viewpoints in Bryce Canyon.
  • Canyon Rim Trail to Sunset Point.
  • Dinner and accommodation in Bryce Canyon City.

And here is a map indicating all these places that you could see in Zion and Bryce Canyon in one day.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

Early Morning: Zion Canyon & Emerald Pools

Time: shuttle + 1-3 hours.

First, take the Zion shuttle into the canyon. It’s a nice scenic ride with multiple stops. We recommend going up to Zion National Park Lodge, where you can do some easy hiking and enjoy nice scenery.

The Emerald Pools are a nice respite from the heat and the crowds in Zion, and make for a very easy hike. There are three different pools here, each with its own character.

The Lower Emerald Pool is the most popular, as it’s the easiest to get to and has a small waterfall. The Middle Emerald Pool is much quieter, as it’s a bit of a hike to get to. The Upper Emerald Pool is the furthest from the trailhead but has the best views. All three pools are beautiful and serene, so take your time enjoying them. Depending on how far you want to hike, this can take between 1 and 3 hours.

After exploring the Emerald Pools, take the shuttle back to the Visitor Center.

Emerald Pools trail in Zion National Park
Emerald Pools trail in Zion
 

Canyon Overlook

Time: 30 minutes + driving/parking.

As you start heading out from Zion National Park in the direction of Bryce Canyon, make sure to stop at the Canyon Overlook Trail.

This is a very easy 0.6-mile hike (a bit over 1-mile round-trip), with very rewarding views at the end. The trail is paved and has a few stairs, but nothing too strenuous. It’s an easy way to see some of the best views in Zion National Park before you start heading out!

Also, the scenic drive in this area is absolutely stunning, so don’t rush through!

Zion Canyon Overlook
Canyon Overlook
 

Picnic lunch at Checkerboard Mesa

One of the best places to stop for a picnic when driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon is at Checkerboard Mesa on the east end of Zion. 

While there is not a designated picnic area, there are plenty of flat rocks here that make a perfect picnic spot.  Best of all, the views of Zion from Checkerboard Mesa are totally different from what you’ve seen at Emerald Pools and Canyon Overlook, so this gives you a chance to see the variety of scenery in Zion National Park.

Checkerboard Mesa on the way from Zion to Bryce Canyon
Checkerboard Mesa
 

Early afternoon: drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon

From Checkerboard Mesa in Zion to Bryce Canyon, the drive is about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Enjoy the downtime, because you’ll be busy again as soon as you get to Bryce Canyon.

In Bryce Canyon, park your car at Sunset Point.

Best viewpoints of the Bryce Canyon

Time: 2-3 hours.

One of the easiest ways to see the best scenery of Bryce Canyon in just a few hours is by driving the main park road and stopping at a few of the best viewpoints.

Of course, you can go hiking as well – in that case, see the 2-day itinerary below for a suggested short hike into the canyon. But if this is your first time in Bryce Canyon and you want to enjoy the nicest landscapes, we recommend checking out the views.

There are many easily-accessible viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. Don’t miss the Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, and the Paria View. If you drive even further down the Main Park Road, you can also check out the Natural Bridge and many other outlooks all the way to the Rainbow Point at the end of the road.

Also, don’t miss the Sunrise and the Sunset points as well – see below.

Child at Sunset Point viewpoint in Bryce Canyon
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Canyon Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point

Time: 15 minutes.

The Queen’s Garden trail will bring you to Sunrise Point. From here, you loop back via the Canyon Rim trail. This is a paved path that goes along the edge of the Bryce Canyon above the hoodoos. 

This trail will take you from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point (where you left the car). This is an easy short hike offering some of the best views in Bryce. The colors are stunning in the afternoon when the sun gets lower in the sky.

TIP: Look up the sunset time in Bryce Canyon for the day of your visit and absolutely make it a point to be at Sunset Point for sunset. We recommend arriving at least 20-30 minutes before sunset and staying 10-15 minutes after. In summer, the sun regularly sets after 9, but in winter it sets closer to 5, so make sure to double-check ((you can simply check on Google).

Good to know: There’s a good picnic area at Sunset Point if you want to have a picnic dinner. But after the whole day of sightseeing, you’ll probably want to drive into Bryce Canyon City and find a restaurant. It’s less than 10 minutes drive from here.

Stay at a hotel in Bryce Canyon (see the options here and be sure to book in advance!).

Bryce Canyon Sunset Point at sunset
Thors Hammer near Sunset Point at sunset
 

Bryce Canyon & Zion National Park 2-day itinerary

With 2 days between Zion and Bryce Canyon, you can dedicate a full day to each park. This will allow you to see some of the best scenery in each area at a somewhat more relaxed pace.

Here’s how you could spend 2-days in Zion and Bryce Canyon:

DAY 1: Zion National Park:

  • 7-8 AM: Zion shuttle and do one longer hike or opt for a few shorter trails.
  • Picnic lunch.
  • Early afternoon: Emerald Pools.
  • Shuttle and drive to Canyon Overlook trailhead.
  • Canyon Overlook trail.
  • Overnight in Kanab.

DAY 2: Bryce Canyon National Park:

  • Early morning: Drive to Red Canyon and do a short hike here.
  • Drive to Bryce Canyon.
  • Queen’s Garden Hike and Navajo Loop Trail. Alternative – viewpoints without hiking and/or ATV trip or a horseback ride (tours take just 1 – 3 hours and there are multiple departures every day).
  • Canyon Rim Trail to Sunset Point.
  • Dinner and accommodation in Bryce Canyon City.

Below, you can see the map indicating all these places.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

Day 1: Zion National Park

With a full day to spend in Zion National Park, you could tackle one of the longer hikes, such as the famous Angels Landing trail (this one requires a permit) or the Lower Narrows (info below).

But there are also plenty of easier trails that allow you to see some of the best scenery in Zion. After that, explore the Emerald Pools and enjoy the views from Canyon Overlook. A more relaxing alternative could be a short scenic helicopter tour to enjoy the stunning views of Zion.

Zion Canyon Shuttle & Hiking

Start your day with the shuttle ride to the starting point of the hike you choose. Whatever you decide on, try to get an early start so that you can beat the biggest crowds.

If you rather NOT do any of the strenuous hikes, you could just take the Zion shuttle and hop off at a few areas where you can do some short and easy walks. Some options include the Weeping Rock, Emerald Pools, or Pa’rus Trail.

TIP: Check out our guide to the best hikes in Zion National Park and pick one or two that interest you the most.

If you are looking for a really special experience, we recommend hiking the Lower Narrows – see below.

Zion Canyon
Zion Canyon
 

Hike the Lower Narrows

Time: depends on how far you hike.

While hiking The Narrows from the top down requires a permit (and is over 9 miles), you can do a part of this hike from the bottom up, without one. This hike can be challenging as you’re literally hiking in the river for large portions of the hike, but – with just a day in Zion – we recommend just going 1-2 miles up the river before turning around. 

Start your hike at the Temple of Sinawava (the last stop on the shuttle bus route) and head up the Riverside Walk. This trail is about a mile long, and this is where the fun of walking in the river begins. The lower Narrows has some of the most scenic sections of Zion National Park, so we recommend bringing a camera in a waterproof bag.

Good to know: Since you’ll be hiking in the river, sturdy hiking boots are a must, and trekking poles are also really helpful. They’re going to get totally soaked, so you may want to take your old hiking boots here. Also, make sure you have another pair of footwear for the remainder of your trip. In July-September you can hike here in regular shoes, but if you’re visiting during the rest of the year, you’ll want to rent a dry suit and special boots from Zion Outfitters in Springdale. Note that this hike is not recommended for young children.

Warning: Flash flooding is a REAL DANGER in Zion National Park, especially in slot canyons like The Narrows. Make sure to check the weather in the entire park’s drainage system (not just overhead you), to check for any chance of rain. It could be sunny overhead, but a rainstorm 20 miles away could trigger a deadly flash flood where you are. One of the best places to start is the ‘current conditions’ report on the official website of the park or at a visitor center.

Hiking Lower Narrows in Zion National Park
The Narrows in Zion
 

Emerald Pools Hike

Time: 1-3 hours.

In the afternoon, head to the Emerald Pools. The trailhead can be found across the road from the Zion National Park Lodge.

At this point in the day, your legs will be a bit tired, but luckily this hike is short and relatively easy.  If you just go to the lower pool, you can easily be done in under an hour, but a hike to the upper pools will take you a bit longer. You can find information about these hikes in our Zion hiking guide.

Afterwards, take the shuttle back to the car and drive towards Bryce Canyon.

Emerald Falls in Zion National Park
Emerald Falls in Zion National Park
 

Canyon Overlook

Time: 30 minutes + driving/ parking.

As you drive from Zion towards Bryce Canyon through the Mt Carmel Tunnel, be sure to stop at the Canyon Overlook Trail.

This is an easy 1-mile round-trip hike that offers some amazing views at the end. The paved trail has some stairs, but it’s really doable, also for families with kids. It’s one of the best easy hikes in Zion National Park and could be a great place to be around sunset!

However, parking here can be somewhat problematic, so keep that in mind and foresee some extra time in case you have to wait a bit.

Overnight in Kanab

Kanab is located just outside of the East Entrance to Zion. Even though it’s a short detour from the Zion – Bryce Canyon drive, it can be a good place to stay since it will be closer to Bryce Canyon for your trip there the next day. Also, accommodations in Kanab will likely be much cheaper than in Springdale.

But you can sleep in Springdale too, especially if that’s where you stayed the previous night and don’t feel like changing hotels too often.

Zion NP Canyon Overlook at sunset
Canyon Overlook at sunset
 

Day 2: Bryce Canyon National Park

On day 2 of your trip, leave Kanab just after breakfast and drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon. 

The drive from Kanab to Bryce Canyon is about 80 miles and takes +- 1.5 hours. However, we recommend you first make a nice stop along the way and visit the Red Canyon, which is about 60 miles and just a bit over a 1-hour drive from Kanab.

Red Canyon

Time: 1-3 hours.

The road from Zion to Bryce Canyon on Highway 12 will take you through Red Canyon (part of Dixie National Forest). You’ll know you’re there when all of the scenery starts turning a bright shade of orange-red.

Here you’ll drive through rock tunnels and the scenery is stunning. We highly recommend stopping to stretch your legs and going on one or two short hikes in Red Canyon.

There literally are hikes EVERYWHERE in Red Canyon. The best thing to do is to stop at the visitors center and look at a trail map. You’ll find everything from short loops that toddlers will love, to steeper hikes up to incredible viewpoints. Just keep in mind that you’ve got some more hiking to do once you get to Bryce Canyon, so don’t overdo it!

Biking in the Red Canyon Utah
Red Canyon is a great place for biking and easy short hikes – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Bryce Canyon tour

If you plan ahead, you could also add a nice Bryce Canyon tour to your itinerary.

There is a highly-rated ATV tour that takes just 1 hour and has multiple departures every day. Another popular option is horseback riding, with tours between 1.5 and 3 hours depending on the one you choose. This is a great way to get a bit off the beaten path and explore more of this beautiful park.

 

Queen’s Garden – Navajo Loop Hike OR Viewpoints

Time: 2.5 hours

Next, head to Sunset Point which is the starting point for one of the nicest hikes in Bryce Canyon, the Queen’s Garden – Navajo Loop. You can take advantage of the great picnic area at Sunset Point for a picnic lunch too.  

Hiking the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trail is the best way to see all of the highlights of Bryce Canyon in just a few hours. The scenery here is absolutely stunning. This loop hike is about 3 miles in total. It can get a little more crowded here in the afternoon, but don’t let the crowds deter you – this hike is worth it!

While this hike can be done in either direction, we recommend doing this hike counterclockwise. So start on the south (the Sunset Point area) and hike down Wall Street first (it can be a daunting climb out) before joining the Queen’s Garden trail. Plan on taking lots of pictures because this trail is one of the best ways to get up close to the hoodoos.

Alternatively, if you are not interested in hiking, you can also just drive to various easily-accessible viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. In that case, check out Sunrise Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Natural Bridge, and the Paria View. End your day at the Sunset Point – see below.

Queen's Garden - Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah
Queen’s Garden – Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Sunset Point

The Queen’s Garden trail will bring you to Sunrise Point. From here, you loop back via the Canyon Rim trail. This is a paved path that goes along the edge of the Bryce Canyon above the hoodoos. 

This trail will take you from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point (where you left the car). This is an easy short hike offering some of the best views in Bryce. The colors are stunning in the afternoon when the sun gets lower in the sky.

Wrap up your 2 day Zion and Bryce Canyon trip by watching the sunset at Sunset Point.  Know that you won’t be alone because word has gotten out about just how magical sunset is at Bryce Canyon. 

If the sunset crowds at Sunset Point are too much for you, just about anywhere along the Rim Trail will be beautiful at this time of day!

Overnight in Bryce Canyon City

After sunset, head to Bryce Canyon City where you’ll find some restaurants and accommodations. This is the best place to stay near Bryce Canyon so be sure to book your stay in advance!

Sunset Point view Bryce Canyon NP
Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon NP – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Zion to Bryce Canyon: Itinerary for 3 Days

With 3 days for your Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip, you can easily see the best of both parks without rushing all the time. In addition to a few of the main highlights, you can make time for some fantastic adventures too. 

Just as with the shorter itineraries, this plan assumes that you’ll be starting in Springdale (or nearby St George) and then heading north to Bryce Canyon afterwards.

Here’s how you could spend 3-days visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks:

DAY 1: Zion National Park:

  • Early morning: Zion shuttle.
  • Angels Landing hike (permit required) or hike to Scout Lookout.
  • Picnic lunch.
  • Emerald Pools.
  • Virgin River.
  • Overnight in Springdale.

DAY 2: Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park:

DAY 3: Bryce Canyon National Park:

  • Sunrise at Sunset Point.
  • Choose between one of the many guided tours and/or explore the park on your own.
  • Queen’s Garden Hike and Navajo Loop Trail + Canyon Rim trail back to the car.
  • Mossy Cave OR Tower Bridge hike OR drive to various viewpoints.
  • Stargazing.
  • Same accommodation as last night (Bryce Canyon City).

Below, you can see the map indicating all these places.

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

Day 1: Zion NP: Angels Landing & Emerald Pools

Plan on getting up early today and starting off your Utah National Parks trip with a bang – one of the best hikes in Zion National Park!

Angels Landing

Time: 3-5 hours.

Angels Landing is one of the most iconic hikes in all of Zion National Park. It’s also so popular that the park now requires a permit for the last section of this hike. See here for more information and try to get the permit in advance. They have some last-minute permits too, so you can also try the day before your trip.

The trail is only 5 miles round trip, but don’t let that fool you – this is a strenuous hike with some very exposed sections. There are several very steep climbs and other areas with sheer drops of over a thousand feet. The first 2 miles are especially grueling, culminating with 21 steep switchbacks of Walter’s Wiggles to get you to Scout Lookout. If you have a big fear of heights or exposure, you may want to turn around here.

The next 0.5 miles of the hike is the highlight for many, but terrifying for others. We recommend starting the hike as early as possible to avoid the heat and the extremely large crowds.

TIP: If you aren’t able to get a permit for all of Angels Landing, you are still allowed to hike up to Scout Lookout without a permit. The views from there are STUNNING, so it’s well worth the hike.

If Angels Landing is too strenuous for you or if you can’t get a permit and have a few hours to spare, you could also opt for one of the other popular hikes in Zion National Park.

Angels Landing in Zion National Park
Angels Landing in Zion National Park
 

Emerald Pools Hike

Time: 2.5 hours.

The Emerald Pools hike is a must-do in Zion, so we recommend it no matter how long you’ll be in the park. Depending on which option you choose – Lower or Upper Pools, the hike here is relatively short. Either way, it will feel pretty easy after just hiking Angels Landing.

After finishing your hike at Emerald Pools, take some time to sit by the Virgin River and cool off. There are lots of areas on the banks of the river with large cottonwood trees for shade, and after a long day of hiking, taking off your shoes and soaking your feet in the river for a while can feel incredible.

End the day with a relaxing dip in the pool at your hotel and dinner in Springdale.

READ ALSO: Best Hotels in Springdale, UT

Emerald Falls in Zion National Park
Emerald Falls in Zion National Park
 

Day 2: Zion and Bryce Canyon

Today, you’ll do a combination of both Zion and Bryce Canyon. Luckily, the parks are only about 2 hours apart, so you’ll have plenty of time for adventure.

Hike the Lower Narrows OR explore slot canyons

Time: depends on the hike/ activity you choose.

Hiking the Zion Narrows is an adventure that you won’t soon forget.  While it’s not a good hike to do with young kids, it can be fantastic for teens and adults who love to explore.  This hike can be difficult as you’re literally hiking in the river for large portions of the hike, so plan on just going 1-2 miles up the river before turning around.

See the 2-days itinerary above for more information if you decide to do this hike. If you’d like to do this hike but feel uncertain about tackling it alone, you can also opt for a guided tour. However, in that case, this will probably be the only thing you can do on this day of the trip. This hike could also be a nice option for day 1 of this itinerary – it really depends on your preferences and interests.

Alternatively, head to East Zion (which is on the way to Bryce) for some outdoor fun exploring the slot canyons and driving an ATV through a beautiful desert. On the way, you’ll pass the scenic Mount Carmel Highway and could also check out the Canyon Overlook – see below and adjust the order of this itinerary if needed.

The Narrows in Zion National Park
The Narrows in Zion
 

Mt Carmel Scenic Highway

As you climb out of the canyon floor driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon, you’ll head east on the Mt Carmel Scenic Highway. Along this drive, you’ll be treated to some of the most incredible views in Zion National Park. It’s truly one of the most scenic roads in the world!

There are a few viewpoints as you climb the switchbacks, which will give you great views of the Court of the Patriarchs. It’s worth stopping at the information signs to learn about the history of this road and tunnel!

Mt Carmel Scenic drive in Zion National Park
Mt Carmel scenic drive in Zion National Park
 

Canyon Overlook

Time: 30 minutes.

Canyon Overlook is an easy short hike that you really should try to do when driving between Zion and Bryce Canyon. It will give you some of the best views of Zion Canyon and the Court of the Patriarchs. 

While it may be tempting to rush past this trailhead and go straight to Bryce Canyon, this is just a short stop with some really impressive views, so don’t skip it!

Canyon Overlook views in Zion National Park
Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
 

Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes from Canyon Overlook.

Head out the east exit of Zion until you reach highway 89, where you’ll turn north. The drive will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes once you leave Zion, but it’s almost 2 hours from the Canyon Overlook Trail.

Red Canyon

Before you reach Bryce Canyon, you’ll drive east on highway 12 through Red Canyon, part of Dixie National Forest. Here you’ll drive through rock tunnels and the orange-red scenery is stunning. We highly recommend stopping here for a short hike.

While you’re here, stop at the Red Canyon visitors center to learn more about the area, and take a short hike through the rocks. There are several small loops less than 0.5 miles long and longer hikes too, so you can always find something that suits this itinerary and your interests.

If you have a bike (or can rent one), you can also enjoy the area around Bryce Canyon by bike. There’s a fantastic paved trail that starts at the lower Thunder Mountain trailhead and heads east up the canyon. It’s a really gentle grade so even kids can do it, and the trail is in great condition. If you’re not traveling with bikes, keep traveling 10 minutes farther to Bryce Canyon City where you can rent bikes at Ruby’s Inn.

Yet another nice way to explore the Red Canyon is by joining this highly-rated horseback riding tour. In the high season, there are daily horse riding tours with morning and afternoon departures. But if you want to do this (or any other organized activity for that matter), be sure to book in advance and adjust your sightseeing plan for the day to fit it in.

Kids biking in Red Canyon Utah
Red Canyon is a great place for biking. Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Dinner at Ebenezer’s Barn & Overnight in Bryce Canyon City

After you get settled into your accommodation for Bryce Canyon, head to Ebenezer’s Barn for a chuckwagon buffet and music show.

It’s a fun western way to learn about Bryce Canyon and has some of the better food in town (there aren’t many options). If you’re traveling during the high season, be sure to reserve in advance.

Stay in Bryce Canyon – see accommodation options here and be sure to book in advance! There’s not that much choice in the area.

Ebenezers Barn Bryce Canyon
Ebenezer’s Barn in Bryce Canyon City
 

Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park

On the third day of your trip, you’ll be focusing on exploring Bryce Canyon. Hopefully, your legs still have some energy because the best way to experience Bryce Canyon is on the trail!

The good news is that there are quite a few nice ways to see some incredible scenery of Bryce Canyon without (much) hiking as well. If you want to take it really easy, you can just drive to the main viewpoints (or opt for this popular and highly-rated 3-hour sightseeing tour of the highlights).

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous and want to get a bit off the beaten path without hiking, you can also opt for the earlier-mentioned ATV tours or horseback riding tours.

Anyway, if you want to do it all yourself (or a combination of tours and sightseeing), see our suggestions below.

Horseback riding in Bryce Canyon National Park
Horseback riding is a fun way to explore a bit more of the Bryce Canyon
 

Sunrise at Sunset Point or Inspiration Point

I know that it sounds confusing, but one of the best places to watch the sunrise in Bryce Canyon is at Sunset Point (and you’ll beat all the crowds who are at Sunrise Point instead).

Another really nice spot is the Inspiration Point just a fit further down the road.

But you really can’t go wrong with any of the viewpoints – watching the sun come up over the hoodoos is nothing short of spectacular.

Sunrise in Bryce Canyon
Sunrise in Bryce Canyon
 

Queen’s Garden / Navajo Loop Trail

Time: 2.5 hours.

This trail is a combination of the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop trails and is about 3 miles in total. Hiking here is one of the best ways to get up close to the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon.

While this loop hike can be done in either direction, it’s best to start at the Sunset Point and hike down Wall Street first. If you have kids, make sure to sign them up for the ‘Hike the Hoodoos’ program before you start, as several of the markers they need to find are along this trail.

We recommend starting early in the day to avoid the crowds (and the heat in summer). This hike ends at Sunrise Point, from where you take a short walk along the Canyon Rim Trail back to the car park at Sunset Point.

Afterwards, you could do one of the hikes described below or simply drive to various viewpoints and enjoy the best views of Bryce Canyon without much effort.

Queen's Garden Navajo hike in Bryce Canyon
Queen’s Garden – Navajo hike in Bryce Canyon – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Hike to Mossy Cave

Time: 1.5 hours. Best option for a hot day.

If you’re hiking in Bryce Canyon on a hot day and need a way to beat the heat, head to Mossy Cave. The trailhead is east of the main area of the hike, and a bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trek.

The Mossy Cave trail is fairly easy, and less than a mile long, but it follows a creek nearly the whole way. This is a great place to splash in the water and soak your feet a bit to escape the heat. The trail then culminates in a small waterfall and cave.

This is one of our personal favorite Bryce Canyon trails, and definitely worth the effort.

Mossy Cave hike in Bryce Canyon National Park
Mossy Cave hike in Bryce Canyon
 

Tower Bridge Hike

Time: 2.5 hours. Best option for a cooler day.

If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon on a cooler day, we recommend hiking to Tower Bridge. This hike is 3 miles and is moderately strenuous.

The trail will take you to a great viewpoint where you can see Tower Bridge. You’ll see lots of different types of rock formations along this hike, so it’s great for geology lovers too.

Alternative: If you want to tackle a longer hike, Tower Bridge can also be seen from the 8-mile Fairyland trail. This is one of the most scenic (and more difficult) hikes in Bryce Canyon. However, you’ll likely need a big part of the day for this hike, so start early and plan accordingly.

Tower Bridge hike in Bryce Canyon
Tower Bridge hike in Bryce Canyon – Photo courtesy of BikingKids.com
 

Attend a Bryce Canyon stargazing or astronomy program

One of the really unique features of Bryce Canyon is that it’s a designated Dark Sky area, and is one of the best National Parks for stargazing.

There are over 100 ranger-led stargazing and astronomy programs in Bryce Canyon every year, so it’s the perfect place to learn about the night sky. Some of these programs do require reservations, so check the schedule on the official National Parks Service website in advance.

Overnight in Bryce Canyon City

Stay at the same accommodation as last night – in Bryce Canyon City.

Bryce Canyon stargazing at night
Bryce Canyon at night
 

Extra tips for your visit

  • Get an America The Beautiful National Parks Pass in advance. This pass is valid in all US National Parks and many other areas and will give you streamlined access to Zion and Bryce Canyon. It will practically pay for itself in 3 days and you can afterwards use it for other parks as well.
  • Always carry plenty of water. Both of these parks are in a desert and there aren’t always lots of places to refill bottles along the trail, so come prepared.
  • Plan to go early or stay late. The parks (especially the shuttles) are the most crowded in the late morning and early afternoon. Go before 7-8 am or plan to stay out until dusk to beat the crowds.
  • Wear good hiking shoes and socks. Visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon requires a lot of hiking. Wear well broken-in hiking shoes and don’t forget good hiking socks as well (to wick moisture and prevent chafing from the sand). REI is a good place to get quality hiking footwear.
  • Dress in layers. Both of these parks experience huge temperature swings throughout the day. Dress in several thin layers so you can easily add or remove clothing throughout the day. Merino wool is one of the best options for both heat and cold.
  • Book in advance! Both – Zion and Bryce Canyon – are among the most popular national parks in the USA. Be sure to book your accommodation well in advance, and in high season, it’s a good idea to reserve the most popular restaurants as well. Also, see if you need any permits for the activities you are planning. If you want to do any tours (horseback riding, ATV, guided hikes, etc.), it’s also best to look them up in advance. Not only can you compare itineraries and prices, but also make sure to plan your days accordingly.
 

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions for planning a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks:

Can you drive through Zion National Park to get to Bryce Canyon?

Yes, you can drive on Utah State Route 9 through Zion National Park to get to Bryce Canyon. At Mt Carmel Junction, take US-89 northeast and then UT-12 east to Bryce Canyon. The drive from the east entrance of Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is approximately 72 miles and takes about 1.5 hours. Please note that you’ll have to pay the National Park entrance fee to drive through Zion, even if you are just passing by.

Can you visit Zion and Bryce in one day?

Since the two parks are just 1.5 hours drive from each other, it is possible to do both – Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in just one day. You can see some of the main highlights at both parks and enjoy the stunning scenery from short hikes and easily-accessible viewpoints. There are even tours that visit both parks in a day from Las Vegas.

Is the drive from Zion to Bryce pretty?

The most scenic part of the route between Zion and Bryce Canyon is Mount Carmel Hwy (SR-9) located on the eastern side of Zion National Park. The scenery here is absolutely amazing and it’s well worth coming here even if you are only passing by. The drive on UT-12 at the Red Canyon just before you reach Bryce Canyon is also quite nice.

Is Bryce Canyon or Zion better?

Despite their proximity, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks have totally different landscapes. Zion NP is much bigger than Bryce and offers a bigger variation in scenery. In comparison, Bryce Canyon is rather small and is mostly known for its hoodoos. Both parks offer great hiking possibilities and plenty of other outdoor activities so you can’t go wrong with either, but if you can, we highly recommend visiting both.

 

So, this is our guide to visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in one trip. As you can see, it’s possible to cover some of the main highlights even if you only have a day or two. At the same time, the possibilities are endless, so you can easily spend more time in the area and explore both parks deeper.

We hope that this guide will help you plan an unforgettable road trip visiting two of Utah’s best National Parks.

TIP: If you are planning a longer trip in the area, be sure to check our other guides as well:

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to bookmark it and share it with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin these images!

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks trip itinerary
How to plan a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah USA
 

More travel inspiration for the National Parks in the USA:

Seasonal guides:

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Lynette

Friday 15th of July 2022

Greetings from Reno, NV!

I am a new to subscriber to your website and your information and photos are outstanding and very comprehensive. How lucky your children are to experience such incredible travels! I am going to be spending some quality time reading all your articles and blog posts. Would it be possible to direct me to the person who took the photo of the incredible Voodoos of Bryce Canyon (panoramic second photo from top), as I would like to have a very large print made of it to put over the bed in our bedroom. I've been all over Etsy looking at this type of photo, but when I came across this one, I feel it is probably the best I've seen. I could either enlarge from a photo JPG, which of course I would pay for, or pay for and have one made by the photographer him/herself. Any help would be most appreciated.

Keep up the great work! Lynette

Jurga

Friday 15th of July 2022

Hi Lynette, thanks for your kind feedback and your interest in our blog. I have answered your question in regards to the photo by email. Happy travels!

Michael Cicchi

Sunday 8th of May 2022

We were at Bryce Canyon but all we did was drive through and stop at one viewpoint. We were also at Zion National Park one time but that was only to hike The Narrows. So we missed most of both national parks (That is because our main destination was the Grand Canyon.) We will definitely be returning to both places as main destinations. I will use this article when we do. šŸ™‚

Michael Cicchi

Monday 9th of May 2022

@Jurga, Oh yes, we will be there again for sure. šŸ™‚šŸ‘ Until your next article, ciao.

Jurga

Monday 9th of May 2022

Yes, indeed, Michael. There are just too many beautiful places to see in that region that most people have to make choices. Seeing 'everything' is impossible unless you have a few weeks for the Utah parks alone, not even to mention the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Sedona, Vegas, and countless others... Hope you get to visit again!

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