Zion National Park Itinerary – Ultimate Guide
Pack your hiking backpack and put on your best hiking shoes because Zion National Park has a lot to offer. You’ll get to experience one of the vast canyon landscapes of the United States. Whether you’re seeking thrill hiking or leisure nature walks, the park has the perfect trails to explore.
There’s too much to see and do to fit it all in one day, so it’s best to plan out your trip before you arrive. Let’s check out some of the best hikes and points of interest and how you can make the most of your time in the park.
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a fantastic destination for hiking and climbing enthusiasts. It was established in 1919 as the first national park in Utah. Today, it’s the most popular park in the state, welcoming millions of visitors every year. Day trips from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas are common, but there’s enough to see and do to spend multiple days in the park.
The park’s main feature is Zion Canyon, a breath-taking sight with red rock cliffs rising as high as 2,000-ft. Many of the park’s activities highlight natural landmarks like the canyon, Virgin River, Angel’s Landing, Emerald Pools, and the Kolob Arch.
There are miles of hiking trails and lots of climbing hotspots. The park is also popular for horseback riding, swimming, backpacking, and camping. The Zion Canyon scenic drive gives an excellent park overview. Most of the activities provide incredible views and the thrill of exploring the preserved landscape.
Join other travelers in visiting the famous national park to discover the wonders waiting for you inside.
One Day – Angels Landing
Plan a day around Angels Landing, one of the most challenging hikes in Zion National Park. Angels Landing is a massive monolith with a narrow ledge that’s open to the public to climb. If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity, the hike will surely do the trick.
Start your day early for the best experience on the hike. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the park, so it can get very crowded along the trails. Get to the Zion Shuttle by 7 am and you’ll already see a line – most people heading on the same hike. Take the shuttle bus to the stop for The Grotto to reach the trailhead.
The beginning part of Angels Landing starts on the West Rim Trail, but you’ll get a chance to explore more of it another day. It’s only a couple of miles on the trail before you reach Walter’s Wiggles, a zig-zagged path as you begin the ascent.
Take some time to enjoy the views at the Scout Lookout Viewpoint, one of the best canyon overlook sites. You’ll have incredible views of Zion Canyon that many consider to rival the Grand Canyon. Many people reach the viewpoint and turn around, but there’s a bit further to hike – and the most challenging.
The next section of the hiking trail is a climb on the monolith ledge. The path is very narrow, and you only have a chained rope for support. The summit is over 1600-ft high, with 360-degree views of the park.
The entire hike can take upwards of five hours to complete and is very strenuous on your body. It’s approximately five miles long and predominantly an uphill trek.
After your finish the hike, spend some time hanging around The Grotto. There are leisure trails to reach nearby picnic areas to eat or explore the Grotto landmark. There is plenty of time to explore the area before returning to the visitor center on the last shuttle for the day.
One or Two Days – The Narrows
Hiking the Narrows is an all-day activity, and perhaps longer depending on your route. You should dedicate an entire day to the hike to appreciate the incredible scenery you’re about to witness. It’s one of the top hikes in Zion National Park that gives a unique hiking experience.
Zion Narrows, or the Narrows, takes you on a journey through a canyon carved out by the Virgin River. The thing to note is that the river still flows through the canyon. To complete the hike, you’ll spend a lot of time wading in the river.
The most common hiking route is the Bottom Up route, which you can do in a day. The Top-Down route is much longer, and most visitors spread the load across two days. There are several camping sites along the river if you’re planning for multiple days.
Take the Zion shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava to begin the hike. Approximately a mile away from the temple starts the Riverside Walk. You’ll have views of the Narrows in this section, but the real fun begins after reaching the North Fork of the Virgin River.
The canyon walls begin to slope up on the sides of you while you trek through the water. The river is shallow at first but can reach your waist or higher depending on your height. It’s best to have water shoes, a walking stick, and leave your electronics behind at home.
The entire hike is 16-miles long, where you’ll have incredible views of the colorful canyon walls and erosion patterns. For a one-day trip, you can turn around and return to the Temple of Sinawava for the shuttle back. Or, if you’re planning a two-day excursion, stop off at a campsite for the night and continue the journey ending at Chamberlain’s Ranch.
One or Two Day – West Rim Trail
The scenic views in Zion National Park are one of the main reasons to visit. You’ll get a chance to see much of the park’s beauty in a day when you embark on the West Rim Trail. It’s a popular hike stretching across the entire park. You’ll pass by several natural landmarks and lots of fun hiking the trail.
West Rim Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the park. It starts at The Grotto and ends at the Lava Point Lookout. You can also hike the course in reverse order. Although it’s not a difficult hike, the long distance can be challenging to some. Many people accomplish the hike in a day. Others choose to split it up into two days and camp in the park. If you’re doing a day hike, plan to for about 8-12 hours to complete the hike.
Take the Zion shuttle to The Grotto for the West Rim Trailhead. The beginning of the hike is the same as Angel’s Landing until you reach Scout Lookout. It’s the first observation point for the day, but there’s plenty more ahead of you.
The West Rim Trail covers the entire park. You’ll start in the canyon floor while making your way past points of interest like the Horse Pasture Plateau and Cabin Spring. Cabin Spring offers one of the best views in the park, with sweeping views of the canyon landscape.
There is a slight elevation climb when you start at The Grotto to reach the plateau to continue the hike. It’s a forested plateau with lots of shade from the mid-day sun. The last stop on the trail is the Lava Point Lookout, which overlooks the national park. You’ll see just how far you’ve come (or looking ahead to what’s to come).
There are designated camping sites along the way. Be sure to bring snacks and plenty of water for the trip. If you time it right, you could be watching a scenic sunset at Lava Point Lookout or Scout Lookout.
Tips for Visiting Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a major park system that can take some getting used to if you’re unfamiliar with it. While it can be fun to take a spontaneous trip to the park, being prepared before you arrive can make your experience much better.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you visit:
Plan out your trip. If you’re reading this post, then you’re already ahead of the game! Zion National Park is huge with lots of activities and places to see. Plan your itinerary before and check out the reviews of trails so that you’ll have everything you need when you arrive.
Have appropriate permits. Zion National Park has entrance fees and permits required for certain activities like camping overnight. You need permits before you arrive. You can also make reservations for the shuttle and more to have a seamless visitor experience.
Arrive early to avoid crowds. Since it’s the most-visited park in Utah, it’s hard to find a place all by yourself. Get to your destination early to beat the crowds and have the trails all to yourself. It’s also much easier to find parking.
Check advisory warnings. Zion National Park is a preserved park with great attention to its care by officials. There can be unexpected closures and delays due to natural causes, such as fallen boulders or high water levels. Check to see if there are any warnings before you arrive at your activity to ensure it is open.
Be mindful of the time. One of the best ways to get around is by using the Zion Shuttle. Bike rentals are also popular. Keep in mind that the last shuttle arrives back at the visitors center at 6:30, so be at the stop way in advance. You’ll typically see a long line waiting to get back. You won’t want to have to walk through the park for a few miles in the dark to exit.
How Long to Stay in Zion National Park?
Your Zion National Park itinerary mainly depends on how many days you plan to visit. You can include multiple activities in one day, while some of the hikes can take more than one day to complete.
An entrance fee is required to enter the national park, which grants seven consecutive days to visit (excluding overnight stays). One week is more than enough time to see many of the top attractions in the park, but most people stay for much less.
Most leisure travelers spend 2-3 days in the park, which is enough to complete the popular hikes and see a few other attractions. If you’re a frequent hiker or climber, you should consider staying 5-7 days to maximize the pass and experience.
If you’re ready to book your trip, check out the resources below. Make sure to shop around between the different platform to compare prices and find the deal
- Airbnb – I’ve always had a great experience with airbnb. Make sure to check the reviews and the final price before booking.