Explore Zion and Bryce Canyon, two of Utah’s favorite National Parks on this 3 day epic road trip adventure! This in-depth guide will maximize your time in both parks with an action-packed itinerary. This itinerary includes to my favorite must-see stops, exhilarating hikes, and essential tips for an unforgettable journey from Zion to Bryce Canyon.
Whether you’re a thrill-seeking hiking enthusiast, nature lover, or just love the idea of an epic Utah road trip, this guide makes the most of your 3 days exploring the wonders of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission from any purchase – at no extra cost to you. This commission helps keep Brooke In Boots up and running. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!
Zion to Bryce Canyon Road Trip At A Glance
This 3 day Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary is a full 3 day loop, not including travel days. I recommend starting and ending this road trip from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, which are the closest major airports to Zion and Bryce.
This is an action-packed itinerary! If you only have 3 days in Zion and Bryce Canyon, this itinerary makes the most of your time and still hits all the “must-see” bucket list stops!
Day 1 – Zion National Park
- Hike Angel’s Landing or Observation Point
- Scenic Drive on Zion Mt.-Carmel Highway
- Zion Canyon Overlook
Day 2 – Zion National Park
- Hike The Narrows
- Drive to Bryce Canyon
Day 3 – Bryce Canyon
- Sunrise at Bryce Canyon
- Hike Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop
- Southern Scenic Drive
This guide covers all of these stops in tons of detail, below. I’ve also included some more suggestions for my favorite things to do in Zion and Bryce Canyon, where to stay and how to get around.
I’ve also included important things to to know about planning your trip to Zion , below.
Check Out These Blog Posts for More Resources on Visiting Zion & Bryce Canyon
A Quick Look at Zion National Park
With stunning red rock canyon vistas around every corner, soaring sandstone cliffs and narrow slot canyons, Zion National Park is a jewel of the National Park system. Whether you’re into strenuous hikes, family-friendly strolls, climbing, canyoneering, or scenic driving, there is bucket-list adventure to be found in Zion National Park.
The awe-inspiring scenery and world-famous hikes and canyon climbs makes Zion one of the most popular National Parks in the United States.
Zion National Park Quick Facts
Where Is Zion?: Springdale, Utah, about 2 hours southwest of Bryce Canyon.
Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle. $20 per person if entering as a pedestrian or via the Springdale Shuttle.
Traveling to more than 2 National Parks or National Forests this year? Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80, which covers entrance fees at all National Parks and NPS managed sites.
Dog Friendly: No. Dogs are only permitted on the paved Pa’rus Trail. Toxic algae blooms in the Virgin River are toxic to dogs, and have resulted in pet fatalities.
Zion National Park: Zion Canyon vs Kolob Canyons
Zion National Park is divided into two districts: Zion Canyon and the Kolob Canyons. Most visitors will spend their trip in the Zion Canyon area. The Kolob Canyons area is not accessible from Zion Canyon. It takes approximately 1 hour to drive to Zion Canyon to Kolob Canyons.
A Quick Look at Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is a relatively small park at only 55 square miles in size, and it receives a fraction of visitors compared with nearby Zion and Arches National Parks.
Still, Bryce is a totally other-worldly landscape worthy of National Park status. The striking colors and strange hoodoos enchant me every visit, plus the awesome hiking makes Bryce one of my favorite Southwest National Parks!
What is a Hoodoo?
Bryce Canyon is world famous for its colorful rock spires, called “hoodoos.” But what, exactly, IS a hoodoo?
A hoodoo is a unique geological formation characterized by tall, thin rock spires that rise from the ground. These towering pillars of rock are composed of sedimentary rock layers that have been eroded over millions of years by the forces of wind, water, and ice, creating a totally otherworldly landscape. Hoodoos can also be found around the American Southwest, including Goblin Valley State Park, and around the world like in Cappadocia, Turkey. But here, Bryce Canyon is home to the greatest concentration of hoodoos on earth!
Bryce Canyon National Park Quick Facts
Where is Bryce Canyon?: Bryce Canyon City, Utah, about 2 hours northeast of Zion.
Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle or $20 per person if you hike, bike, or take the free shuttle into the park.
Dog Friendly: Pets are only allowed on paved trails and areas, including campgrounds, parking lots, paved viewpoints, and the paved Rim Trail between Sunrise and Sunset point.
Zion And Bryce Canyon Are Indigenous Lands
The Southern Paiute occupied and used Zion and Bryce Canyon for hundreds of years, starting around 1200 AD/CE. The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah continues to live in the Zion and Bryce Canyon area to this day. Please respect and honor their land and ancestors while you explore.
The Best Time to Visit Zion & Bryce Canyons
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are both open year-round. The busiest seasons to visit are spring, summer, and early fall (April – October), and peak season is summer (May – September).
During summer, expect scorching hot temperatures (especially in Zion) and big crowds. In my opinion, fall (Sept – Nov) is the best time to visit Zion & Bryce Canyon. During autumn season you’ll have far less crowds to deal with and milder weather than summer. Spring is also a great time to visit Zion, although high water levels often close The Narrows during this time.
If you don’t mind snow and cold temps, there is something really magical about seeing the orange and red canyons and hoodoos all covered in snow.
Keep in mind that because Bryce Canyon is at a higher elevation (most of the Park is at about 9,000′) the temperatures are a bit cooler here in all seasons then at Zion and other areas of the Utah desert.
Want to learn more about planning an epic National Parks trip? Grab my free Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide, including 70+ pages of National Park packing checklists, planning tips, and everything you need to know to start planning a trip to all 63 National Parks!
Getting There: How to Get to Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks
The Best Airports to Zion & Bryce Canyon
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are accessible from several regional airports and a few hours from major international airports. Most visitors will want to fly into Las Vegas or Salt Lake City and drive to Zion and Bryce from there.
For more in-depth info on airports and getting to Zion & Bryce Canyon, check out these blog posts:
The best airport to get to Zion & Bryce Canyon is Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airpot. In my experience, Las Vegas is the best combination of inexpensive flights from major airlines and a reasonable driving distance from the Park.
This chart shows the approximate distance to the Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon Visitor Centers.
|Distance to Zion
|Distance to Bryce Canyon
|St. George Regional Airport (SGU)
|47 mi / 1 Hour
|156 mi / 2 Hours 30 Minutes
|Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC)
|60 mi / 1 Hour
|93 mi / 1 Hour 45 Minutes
|Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)*
|172 mi / 3 Hours
|273 mi / 4 Hours
|Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
|315 mi / 5 Hours
|275 mi / 4 Hours
Wherever you fly into, renting a car is a must.
There aren’t any easy public transportation options between Bryce and Zion. Plus having a car offers you the ultimate flexibility to explore and really make the most of your Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary.
Driving from Las Vegas to Zion to Bryce Canyon
Use this map to plan out your trip from Las Vegas to Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park and back to Las Vegas.
The drive from Las Vegas to Zion takes about 3 hours. From Zion to Bryce it’s a 2 hour drive. The drive from Bryce Canyon back to Las Vegas takes about 4 hours.
Driving from Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon to Zion
You can use this map to plan out your trip from Salt Lake City to Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park and back to Salt Lake.
The drive from Salt Lake City to Zion takes about 5 hours. From Zion to Bryce it’s a 2 hour drive. The drive from Bryce Canyon back to Salt Lake City takes about 4 hours.
Zion & Bryce Canyon Shuttles
Both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks have excellent Park shuttles to make getting in and around the Parks relatively easy, without having to worry about parking. This section covers when and how to use the Zion and Bryce Canyon Shuttles.
Zion Canyon & Springdale Shuttles
Zion National Park operates two shuttles in and around Zion. Inside the Park, the Zion Canyon Line ferries you from the Visitor Center to all major trailheads in the Canyon.
The Springdale Line makes stops throughout the town of Springdale and drops off at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
Do I need to Use the Zion Shuttles?
You’ll likely have to use the Zion Canyon Shuttle during your visit. That’s because Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private cars when the Zion Canyon Shuttle is running.
The Zion Canyon shuttle typically operates daily from March through November, as well as during the December holidays. That means you’ll likely be using the Shuttle when visiting most of your stops on this Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park itinerary.
Guests of the Zion Lodge can drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in order to access the Lodge.
The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion National Park Visitor Center with trailheads and sights along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Most visitors board at the Visitor Center. Guests staying at the Zion Lodge can also board the bus to go up canyon from the Zion Lodge Shuttle Stop (#5).
If you’re visiting during summer, especially on weekends, arrive early to avoid having to wait in super long lines to board the shuttle! It’s not uncommon to have to wait an hour or more just to get on the shuttle after 9am during the summer!
The Springdale Shuttle runs through the town of Springdale and provides service to Zion’s pedestrian and bike entrance, a short walk from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.
The Springdale Shuttle is free to use and runs April – October.
The Springdale line makes 9 stops along Zion Park Blvd (Utah Scenic Byway 9) throughout the town of Springdale. Most stops are located at popular hotels and restaurants. If you are within walking distance of the main road through town, Zion Park Blvd, chances are there is a Shuttle stop within easy walking distance.
Bryce Canyon Shuttle
Bryce Canyon offers a free park-and-ride shuttle from Bryce Canyon City (outside the Park) and to popular points and hiking trails throughout the Bryce Amphitheater.
This map shows the current shuttle route:
The shuttle operates April to mid-October, beginning at 8AM and running until 6PM or later. Check here for updated shuttle times and information.
To enter Bryce Canyon National park using the shuttle: Park at the Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City (if you aren’t staying at one of the hotels serviced by the shuttle) and ride to Sunset Point, the main jumping off point for your itinerary.
Once inside the Park, feel free to hop-on and hop-off the shuttle to your hearts content!
Most stops on this itinerary are accessible using the shuttle, but you’ll need your own car to access the entire Southern Scenic Drive.
Do I have to use the Bryce Canyon shuttle?
Honestly, no. I’ve never had to use the shuttle when we visited, but getting there early and not visiting during peak times (aka summer weekends) means you’ll have a better chance of driving into the park without a problem.
If you’re visiting on a busy day and don’t want to deal with the headache of fighting for a parking spot, the best places to park, by all means use it. The best places to park are the Visitor Center and Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City.
Driving From Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park
The drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park is quite frankly totally stunning and one of my favorite scenic drives the the American Southwest! The drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon takes about 2 hours without stopping.
The drive follows Utah Highway 9 through the east side of Zion National Park along the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. There are several must-see stops along this highway included in “Day 2” of your itinerary.
After leaving the Park, the road winds through canyons, high-desert plateaus, and farming valleys, eventually intersecting with US-89 at Mt Carmel Junction. Drive North on US-89 (left, if you’re coming from Zion), then left onto UT-12, a National Scenic Byway.
As the Byway enters the Dixie National Forest, you’ll catch your first glimpses of bright orange and red sandstone formations, arches, and of course, hoodoos.
If time permits, you can stop at the Red Canyon Visitor Center, located on UT-12. Here, Forest Service rangers can point you in the direction of some incredible off the beaten path hiking, mountain biking, and ATV trails in this area.
Turn right on UT-63 South and follow signs for Bryce Canyon to enter the Park.
Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway Vehicle Restrictions
If you’re driving an RV or towing a camper there are important things you need to know about to driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon.
The narrow and winding Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel was built well before modern RV’s and trailers became commonly used recreation vehicles. All large vehicles must be escorted through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel by an NPS Ranger. The ranger escort will temporarily limit tunnel traffic to one-way, to ensure safe passage.
A $15 tunnel permit is required to drive all vehicles over 7 feet 10 inches (2.4 meters) in width and/or 11 feet 4 inches (3.4 meters) in height or larger through the tunnel.
Large vehicle permit holders are only permitted to drive the Tunnel during posted seasonal hours. A ranger will assist oversized vehicles in safely navigating the narrow, winding tunnel. Learn more about Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel permits, here.
Alternate Routes to Bryce Canyon from Zion National Park
If the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway is closed, or your vehicle is unable to navigate the narrow roads of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, consider taking the alternative route to Bryce Canyon from Zion (or vice versa).
From the Zion Visitor Center/Springdale, take UT-9 west, away from the Park. In town of La Verkin, stay right for UT-17 North. Eventually, the road leads to Interstate 15. Take I-15 north for 67 miles to UT-20 East, then UT-89 South through the town of Panguitch to UT-12.
Follow UT-12 Scenic Byway through the Dixie National Forest, then follow signs for Bryce Canyon National Park / UT-63 South.
This alternate route from Zion to Bryce Canyon via I-15 takes about 2.5 hours.
Where to Stay in Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks
There are a plenty of hotels, campgrounds, lodges, and vacation rentals in and around both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. During my visits, I found there are more (and nicer) accommodations around Zion, as well as more grocery and dining options.
If you are visiting during the peak seasons (spring-fall) make sure to book your lodging well in advance!
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
Most visitors to Zion stay in the town of Springdale, which is located directly outside the Zion Canyon park entrance.
In Springdale, there are dozens of chain and independent hotels. Prices range from “budget” to luxury – but even the budget options may still cost a pretty penny in peak seasons.
The Springhill Suites by Marriott (Shuttle Stop #6) has particularly stunning views of the red rock formations, plus a pool and free breakfast. Other options include, The Best Western Plus (2.5 stars, free wifi, pools & breakfast) the Cliffrose Inn & Suites (4 Star luxury), or the budget-minded Bumbleberry Inn in downtown Springdale.
The Zion Lodge is the only hotel inside Zion National Park, and is my favorite spot to stay in Zion. The Zion Lodge, like most National Park lodges, is fairly rustic but in a superb location. Staying inside the Park means you don’t have to battle long lines at the entrance station or deal with parking, just jump on the shuttle right in front of your room. Book your stay at the Zion Lodge, here.
There are two established campgrounds inside Zion Canyon, the Watchman Campground and South Campground. Both tents and RV spots are available at both campgrounds. All campgrounds include drinking water, fire pits, flush toilets, and dump stations. Both campgrounds require advance reservations. Book Zion campgrounds on Recreation.gov, here.
Where to Stay near Bryce Canyon National Park
The Lodge at Bryce Canyon is the only hotel-style lodge inside the National Park. The Lodge is open seasonally, from April to November. I found the Lodge at Bryce Canyon to be pretty rustic when I stayed there, especially in their Western Cabins, but again, you can’t beat that location right on Bryce Canyon rim! There is no wifi and no TVs here, so I suggest bringing a book or some cards for when the sun goes down.
There are 2 established campgrounds inside Bryce Canyon National Park. North Campground is open year-round, and located across the street from the Visitor Center. Sunset Campground is open seasonally from April to October. Book both campgrounds, here.
Immediately outside the Park, the town of Bryce Canyon City has a few hotel options. The Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn is clean and convenient, located a short walk from the Shuttle Stop, and includes a pool, free breakfast, plus there’s an onsite general store and restaurant.
There’s also a Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (confusing, I know), located across the street with a pool, breakfast, and slightly more updated rooms, although the cost is sometimes a few dollars more.
You can also use the Zion area as a basecamp and visit Bryce Canyon on a day trip. The two parks are only 2 hours apart, and there are much more hotel, vacation rental, and restaurant options near Zion.
3 Day Itinerary Zion to Bryce Canyon National Parks
With 3 days in Zion and Bryce Canyon you can explore all the highlights and “must-sees” in both amazing National Parks. This itinerary assumes you have 3 full days to explore both Parks.
This itinerary also assumes you’ll be spending the night at both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. You can also use the Zion area as a basecamp and visit Bryce Canyon on a day trip. The two parks are only 2 hours apart, and there are more (and nicer) hotel, vacation rental, and restaurant options near Zion than outside Bryce.
Don’t forget, if you’re traveling in an RV or oversized vehicle, you’ll need a permit to drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, or take the alternate I-15 route to Bryce Canyon.
Day 1: Zion National Park – The Narrows
On your first day in Zion, you’ll be tackling one of my favorite hikes in any National Park: The Narrows.
The Narrows is a 16-mile slot canyon at the northern end of Zion Canyon. Hiking some, or all, of this canyon is one of the most popular activities in Zion National Park, and a must-do for families and experienced hikers alike!
Trail Distance: 2 – 9 Miles Round Trip
Difficulty: Moderate due to “trail” conditions
Estimated Time: 1 – 5 hours
Getting up early is the best way to avoid the crowds on this popular hike. If you can, try and get the first shuttle from the Visitor Center, which is usually at 6 a.m. during summer.
To access the trail, ride the shuttle all the way to the last stop (#9) the Temple of Sinawava. The paved Riverside trail takes you from the Shuttle to the river.
Here the wide Zion Canyon narrows significantly until it is just wide enough for the Virgin River to flow through. There is no trail here, just follow the Virgin River up to 5 miles upstream, before turning around.
This route does not require a permit or canyoneering experience. Flash floods are deadly in this canyon. Learn more about safety and hiking the Narrows, here.
Do not ever drink the water or submerge your head in the river. The Virgin River has experienced high-levels of cyanobacteria, a toxic algae, in recent years. Learn more, here.
What Gear Do I Need for Hiking The Narrows?
You WILL get wet on this hike. Depending on conditions and how far you hike, you may be wading through water up to your waist. Wear moisture-wicking layers you don’t mind taking a swim in (not jeans or cotton), and don’t forget to bring a warm layer jacket. It gets chilly in the shaded canyon, even in summer. For shoes, it’s best to choose sturdy, closed-toed shoes with a good grip like hiking boots, trail runners, or canyoneering boots. Some hikers opt to wear closed-toe water sandals, but the riverbed is full of small sharp rocks and slippery boulders, so I was glad for the stability and protection of real shoes.
Trekking poles will help you keep your balance on the rocky riverbed. A dry bag will keep your electronics, snacks, and warm layers safe if you take a fall or have to wade through high water.
In colder temps, you may need to wear waterproof pants, or dry suits to protect yourself from the cold water temperatures.
Waterproof gear can be rented from outfitters in Springdale like Zion Outfitter.
After finishing your hike, return on the shuttle and enjoy a picnic lunch in front of Zion Lodge or grab a burger and fries from the Castle Dome Cafe.
If you still have the energy, cross the street and over the bridge from the Zion Lodge to access the Lower Emerald Pools Trail. Lower Emerald Pools is an easy 1.5 miles round trip. Middle and Upper Pools is a moderate 2.5 miles round trip.
2023 Update: The bridge to access the trail from Zion Lodge / Shuttle Stop #5 is closed indefinitely due to structural issues. Unfortunately, that means there are no easy ways to access this trail while the bridge is closed. To access the Lower Pools trail, bridge access is avai3lable from Shuttle Stop #4, Court of the Patriarchs, which adds 3 miles of moderate hiking, and Stop #6, the Grotto, which adds 2 miles of moderate hiking. Check trail updates, here.
Explore the verdant cascades before returning to your hotel or campsite after day one in Zion National Park.
Day 2: Zion – Angel’s Landing, Scenic Drive & Drive to Bryce Canyon
Your last day in Zion is all about adventurous hikes and absolutely epic canyon views! Get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds on your hike. In the afternoon you’ll drive the scenic highway to Bryce Canyon.
Depending on your hiking abilities, tolerance for risk, or fear of heights, there are a few different hikes you should consider exploring today. I recommend hiking one of the following hikes on your second day in Zion:
- Angel’s Landing (Strenuous, 5 hours)
- Scout’s Lookout (Moderate,2 hours)
- Observation Point (Strenuous, 5 hours)
Looking for more easy hiking suggestions in Zion? Check out 7 Easy Family-Friendly Hikes in Zion National Park.
Not sure which hike is right for you? Keep reading to explore each of these hikes in detail.
No matter which hike you pick, make sure to pack plenty of water, bring a map or GPS download (cell phones won’t work on these trails!), and carry the rest of your day hiking essentials.
After finishing your hike, return on the shuttle and enjoy a well deserved lunch in Springdale.
Option 1: Angels Landing
Angel’s Landing is Zion’s most famous, and infamous, hike. This 4.3 mile, 1,850′ gain strenuous hike is commonly called “The Most Dangerous Hike in America.” To hike all the way to the top, you’ll need an Angel’s Landing Permit Reservation.
Trail Distance: 4.3 Miles
Difficulty: Strenuous / 1,850′ Gain / Class III Scramble
Estimated Time: 5 Hours
Angel’s Landing Permits
A permit is required for all hikers traveling beyond “Scout’s Lookout” to Angel’s Landing (aka all “chains” sections). A permit is NOT required to visit Scout’s Lookout. Learn more about Angel’s Landing Permits and Zion Reservations in my in-depth guide, here.
Angel’s Landing permits are issued by lottery on recreation.gov. Most lottery permits will be issued through quarterly preseason lotteries. A select number of permits will be issued in daily day-before lotteries.
Day-before lottery applicants should apply on recration.gov between 12:01AM and and 3PM the day before they intend to hike. Applicants will be notified by 4PM.
|Lottery Application Dates
|Lottery Results Announcement
|Dec 1, 2023 – Feb 29, 2024
|Oct 1 – Oct 20, 2023
|Oct 25, 2023
|Mar 1 – May 31, 2024
|Jan 1 – Jan 20, 2024
|Jan 25, 2024
|Jun 1 – Aug 31, 2024
|Apr 1 – Apr 20, 2024
|Apr 25, 2024
|Sep 1 – Nov 31, 2024
|Jul 1 – Jul 20, 2024
|Jul 25, 2024
|December 1 to February 28, 2025
|Oct 1 – Oct 20, 2024
|Oct 25, 2024
If you secured an Angel’s Landing permit, head out on the earliest shuttle possible (6 a.m. during peak season) to the Grotto shuttle stop and start your climb. The entire hike takes about 5 hours.
After ascending 21 steep switchbacks called “Walters Wiggles”, hikers make it to Scout’s Lookout. Here, a ranger will check your permit. Hikers must climb the final 0.5 miles over a narrow ridge with 1000’+ cliff drops on either side. At times the trail is only a few feet wide (or less) and requires the use of anchored chains to climb up and down.
Make no mistake, this is NOT the hike for you if you have any fear of heights. Fatalities from falls do occur on this trail. Brave hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of Zion Canyon below.
In 2022 I attempted Angel’s Landing when there was some sketchy ice and snow conditions present. I made it about 0.1 miles into the chains section when I decided “nope!” and turned around! The lesson: don’t make yourself do something you aren’t comfortable with just for the photo!
Option 2: Scout’s Lookout Trail
Don’t have an Angel’s Landing permit? Traveling with kids? Or just don’t love the idea of dangling 1000 feet above the canyon floor? You can still hike the Angel’s Landing trail until Scout’s Lookout.
Trail Distance: 3.6 Miles
Difficulty: Moderate / 1,200′ Gain
Estimated Time: 2-3 Hours
This 3.6 mile round trip hike with 1,200′ elevation gain ascends the same route to the canyon rim as Angel’s Landing. You’ll be rewarded with awesome views of the canyon below, and a peak at the perilous permit-only chains section that you won’t have to traverse.
The hike to Scout’s Lookout takes approximately 2-3 hours.
Option 3: Observation Point
For a longer hike, with arguably even BETTER views than Angels Landing, hike to Observation Point via the East Rim Trail.
On this strenuous trail, you’ll climb through the narrow Echo Canyon to one of the best views in Zion National Park.
Trail Distance: 6.8 Miles
Difficulty: Strenuous / 2,650′ Elevation Gain
Estimated Time: 5 Hours Round Trip
This 7-mile hike starts at the Weeping Rock trailhead and climbs a series of switchbacks to the East Rim Trail. After 2,650 feet of elevation gain, hikers are rewarded with incredible views looking down on Zion Canyon and Angel’s Landing.
To access the trail, take the Zion shuttle to Weeping Rock (Shuttle Stop #7). This hike takes approximately 5 hours round trip.
East Rim Trail is closed until further notice due to a major rockfall. Observation Point can be accessed via a 7.0 mile round trip hike via the East Mesa Trail This trailhead is located outside the National Park. A 4×4 vehicle is required to make it to the trailhead. East Zion Adventures offers a paid seasonal shuttle to the trailhead.
Afternoon Drive on the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway to Bryce Canyon
In the afternoon, drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway to the Canyon Overlook parking area.
The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway connects Zion Canyon with Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon North Rim via Highway 89.
Spend a 1-2 hours exploring this magnificent scenic drive, with views of Pine Creek Canyon and Zion’s famous sandstone rock formations. Along the drive, stop and explore the overlooks and short hikes like Grand Arch, Checkerboard Mesa and the Canyon Overlook hike.
The 1.1 mile Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel is an engineering marvel. The Highway and Tunnel were constructed over 3 years and completed in 1930. They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is one of Zion’s best easy to moderate hikes.
Trail Distance: 1 Mile
Difficulty: Easy / 200′ Elevation Gain
Estimated Time: 1 Hour
The Overlook has breathtaking views of Zion Canyon, comparable to Angel’s Landing, This trail however is kid-friendly and theres no death-defying climbing at the end. The 1 mile out and back trail is mostly flat and easy. There are some steep canyons drop offs on the side of the trail, so watch small children carefully.
If you’re staying at Bryce Canyon tonight, continue driving the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway out of Zion National Park. From here its less than 2 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you’re spending another night in Zion, head back to your lodging and enjoy dinner in Springdale after a long day! You’ll want to get to bed early because you have another early morning wake-up call tomorrow.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon
Today you’ll be spending your last day exploring the weird and wonderful Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you drove to Bryce Canyon yesterday, you’ll be ready to get up in time for a stunning sunrise at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater. If you’re visiting Bryce Canyon as a day trip from Zion, try and get as early a start as possible to maximize your time in this second park.
The glowing orange hoodoos at sunrise are absolutely magical, and entering the Park before dawn means you’ll beat the heat and the crowds.
Sunrise Point is the most popular spot for sunrise (no surprise here). The panoramic view here offers a front-row seat to the amphitheater’s transformation as dawn breaks over the Park, painting the hoodoos in a warm, golden hue.
The massive bowl-shaped canyon before you is called the Bryce Amphitheater. The Bryce Amphitheater is home to the biggest concentration of hoodoos in the world.
Don’t forget to wrap up in warm layers – mornings in Bryce are chilly, even in summer!
Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail
Sunrise Point is also the starting point for your next stop, the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trail. This loop trail is the signature “must-do” hike in Bryce Canyon! If you only have time for one thing to do in Bryce Canyon – don’t miss this hike!
Trail Distance: 3.1 Miles (via Two Bridges) or 3.2 Miles (via Wall Street)
Difficulty: Moderate / 650′ elevation gain
Estimated Time: 2 Hours
You can access the loop trail from either Sunrise (clockwise) or Sunset (counterclockwise) points.
Either way, you’re hiking into a canyon you’ll have a steep downhill to begin with, then the trail is mostly flat, and a long uphill at the end. The hike back up to (or down from) Sunset point is steeper, but with switchbacks, and the hike up/down to Sunrise is more gradual, but longer.
We did this hike clockwise, starting and ending Sunset Point, which connects to Sunrise Point via the paved rim trail. This route was easier on the knees and you get spectacular views into the amphitheater as you descend.
To hike the trail using the same route we used, walk along the paved trail from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point (or start at Sunrise point if you made it here for sunrise!). Descend down into the canyon on the red dirt trail.
Each step further into the canyon offers a new angle of this surreal landscape. You’ll pass through arches, wind around hoodoos and pretty much feel like you’re on an alien planet the whole time.
The trail wanders by multiple named rocked formations, including the “ET Hoodoo” (☎️ home), and Queen Victoria (which lends the trail it’s ‘Queens Garden’ name).
Once you reach the Navajo Loop junction, you’ll have 2 options for hiking back out of the canyon: the first is the slightly shorter “Two Bridges” route, which is open year-round; and the “Wall Street” route, which is closed in winter due to the steep icy trail conditions.
Either way, you’re ending with a breath-taking climb (literally – you’re at 8,000′ remember!) up a series of switchbacks back to Sunset point!
When you reach the rim, take a moment to catch your breath and appreciate one of the coolest hikes in the Southwest! The whole hike takes about 2 hours to complete.
Extend Your Hike on the Peakaboo Loop
If you’re looking to extend your hike, theres a whole maze of interconnected trails that loop through the Amphitheater.
Consider exploring the “Peakaboo Loop” which connects to the Queens Garden/Navajo Trail via the Tropic Trail at the Navajo Benchmark junction. The entire Peakaboo/Queens Garden/Wall Street loop (really its a figure 8) takes about 4 hours and is 6.2 miles long with about 1,500′ gain.
Scenic Drive on the Southern Scenic Drive
As the temperatures warm up in the afternoon, spend your remaining time in Bryce exploring the Park’s scenic drive, which begins south of Sunset Point and the Bryce Amphitheater.
Bryce Canyon National Park Road is the main drive through the Park. The road winds along the rim of Bryce Canyon and through pine forests for 18 miles before ending at Rainbow and Yovimpa Points. The length of the Park Road south of the Bryce Amphitheater is also called the “Southern Scenic Drive.”
There are dozens of marked (and unmarked) picnic areas, vistas, and trailheads along this scenic drive. It takes about 40 minutes to drive all the way from the Visitor Center to Rainbow Point.
I recommend driving all the way to Rainbow Point first, then working your way backwards and stopping at viewpoints on the way back. That way, most stops will be on your right hand side and you can avoid having to make the sometimes iffy left turns that can hold up traffic or cause accidents.
Don’t feel like you have to stop at every viewpoint along the way. Like visiting the Grand Canyon, stopping at every single turnout gets kinds boring after a while, in my experience.
Here are some of the “must-see” stops along the Southern Scenic Drive (ordered from south to north):
1. Rainbow Point
Drive all the way to the road’s end at park at Rainbow Point. You might need a moment to catch your breath, you’re all the way at 9,115 feet in elevation (the Visitor Center was “only” 7,894′). This area of the park is much older than the hoodoos you saw at the Amphitheater, and time and erosion have done their work. Take the short path to Rainbow Point.
From here, a series a trails branch off, from the easy 1 mile Bristlecone Loop to multi-day backcountry trails like 23 mile Under-the-Rim trail.
2. Yovimpa Point
From the southern end of the Rainbow Point Parking Lot, follow the paved, wheelchair accessible path to Yovimpa Point. From here you can see the wide expanse of the Paunsaugunt plateau and the not-too-distant cliffs of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. On a clear day you can apparently even see all way to North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
3. Natural Bridge
After Rainbow and Yovimpa Point, turn around and head north on the Scenic Drive. Your next must-see stop is 5.5 miles or about a 10 minute drive up the road.
Nearby Arches National Park is famous for its natural stone arches, but did you know Bryce has a few arches of its own? Natural Bridge visible from the small parking area just off the Scenic Drive. Ironically, this formation isn’t a bridge at all, but a natural arch spanning 85 feet across.
4. Bryce Point
Don’t miss this stop! Bryce Point is probably the most iconic viewpoint on the Southern Scenic Drive. From here you can take in the wide expanse of the entire Bryce Amphitheater. This area is home to the greatest concentration of rock-spire hoodoos in the world.
Bryce Point is located about 12 miles or a 20 minute drive from Natural Bridge. To reach Bryce Point, follow the Southern Scenic Drive north and make a right turn onto Bryce Point Road. Follow Bryce Point road to the parking lot at the end.
If you’re looking to get out and stretch your legs, consider walking to your next stop, Lower Inspiration Point via the Rim Trail.
The Rim Trail follows, well, the rim of Bryce Amphitheater from here at Bryce Point past Inspiration Point, Sunset and Sunrise Points, all the way to Fairyland Point, 5 miles away (one way).
From Bryce Point its an easy 4 miles (round trip) to Lower Inspiration Point and back. The trail is mostly rolling hills, with a couple of steep sections.
At Bryce Point, you can also access the 5.1 mile Peakaboo Loop, the 23 mile Under-The-Rim trail, and other backcountry trails.
5. Inspiration Point
The last stop (if you’re going south to north, of course) on the Southern Scenic Drive is Inspiration Point. Like Bryce Point , Inspiration Point has wide views of the stunning Bryce Amphitheater.
To get to Inspiration Point, leave Bryce Point and drive back towards the Southern Scenic Drive. Shortly before reaching the Drive, make a right turn onto Inspiration Point Road and drive to the parking area.
Sunset in Bryce Canyon & Stargazing
After a day of hiking, driving, and exploring, it’s time for the sun to set on your one day in Bryce Canyon. If you’re headed back to Zion, now’s a good time to head back in time for dinner and drinks in Springdale.
If you’re sticking around Bryce for sunset, or staying in the Lodge or campgrounds, don’t miss the sun casting its final golden glows over Bryce Amphitheater.
Some of the best spots to view sunset at Bryce Canyon are:
- Sunset Point (duh)
- Sunrise Point
- Paria View – This is one of the only viewpoints where the hoodoos face West, making it the perfect spot to capture the sunset glow. Paria View is located off Bryce Point Road.
During the busy season, the popular viewing spots can get pretty crowded, so arrive a bit before sunset and grab a comfy rock-seat. Don’t forget to bring a jacket, temperatures drop quickly as the sun goes down, even in summer.
To be honest, sunset isn’t nearly as impressive as sunrise in Bryce, so if you only have time for one I’d pick sunrise.
Tips for Visiting Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks
After several visits to both these parks, here are some important tips I’ve learned for making your Zion to Bryce Canyon trip as enjoyable and epic as possible!
Start early. Zion and Bryce Canyon are very busy parks, especially in Summer. To avoid the worst crowds, try and start your day as early as possible. The first shuttle leaves the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at 6 a.m. during peak season.
Download the National Park Service App: NPS now offers a new and, frankly, very awesome free app for your phone! From here you can access park maps, listen to audio tours and see updated trail and road conditions and hours of operations. Download the official NPS App, here.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles when the Zion Canyon Shuttle is operating (usually late-May to Thanksgiving). That means most visitors will have to use the Shuttle system to access most stops on their itinerary, including Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, and Emerald Pools. Check updated Shuttle schedules here.
Plan your hardest hikes (Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, Queen’s Garden Loop, the Narrows) first thing in the morning when desert temperatures are at their lowest and crowds are at their smallest.
Don’t forget lunch! Hiking in the desert is hard work, and you’ll want a midday break to relax, re-energize, and avoid the peak crowds during your 3 day Zion and Bryce Canyon itinerary. The Castle Dome Cafe at Zion Lodge offers coffee and breakfast pastries in the a.m. and burgers, hot dogs, and french fries for lunch.
In Bryce Canyon, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves soups, salads, and sandwiches. The Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop (located across from the Lodge) opens at 11:30 AM and serves pizza, salads, and other baked goods.
Don’t underestimate the elevation: Bryce Canyon is pretty high up, elevation wise. The rim of the Amphitheater sits at 9,000′ to 8,000′ feet. If you aren’t acclimated to a high elevation, don’t be surprised that even an easy hike may really exhaust you! It’s extra important to drink plenty of water at high elevation, and protect yourself from the sun! If you start to feel signs of altitude sickness (headache, dizziness, nausea) rest and head to lower elevations. Learn more about hiking at high altitude in Bryce, here.
Hike prepared: The trails at Zion and Bryce Canyon are well maintained and heavily trafficked – but don’t underestimate them! Bring sturdy footwear, plenty of water, and sun protection.
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