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If you’re looking for stunning viewpoints, towering red rock canyons, and once-in a-lifetime hikes, look no further than Zion National Park.
There’s a ton of different things to do in Zion, ensuring that both beginners and advanced outdoor enthusiasts will never get bored.
You can easily spend a whole week here, but if you’re short on time, I’ve put together a 2 day itinerary: Zion National Park edition to make your trip planning easy.
Location: near Springdale, Utah
Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days
Best Time to Visit
A day in Zion National Park is stunning no matter what time of year you visit! Having said that, you should know a bit about the seasons in the park when figuring out what is the best time to visit Zion for YOU.
- Spring: wildflowers start to bloom, and the weather is usually pleasant and cool in the spring months, but snow may still be present in the park. I would avoid Spring if looking to hike The Narrows, as the water flow may be high due to the snowmelt, keeping the hike closed.
- Summer: temperatures can regularly hit or exceed 100 degrees fahrenheit during the summer, making hiking unpleasant and sometimes unsafe in the middle of the day. Crowds will be at their peak, so be prepared to be in the park at sunrise.
- Fall: I love fall in Zion. The weather is way more pleasant than in the summer months, and you might need a jacket, but it’s still pretty comfortable. We hiked The Narrows in early October and the water wasn’t too cold.
- Winter: it can get super cold at Zion in the winter months – snow is not uncommon! The Narrows will likely be closed, and other trails can get really icy.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Zion is in early fall. The weather around this time will be cooler, the water in The Narrows won’t be too cold, and the summer rains will be (likely) gone.
We visited Zion in early October as part of our Utah Mighty 5 road trip, and the weather was just perfect.
How Many Days to Spend in Zion?
Honestly, you can easily spend a whole week exploring Zion. We only had a bit over 2 days in Zion National Park, and while we saw and did a ton of things, we still wished we were there longer.
Below I’ve put together a suggested itinerary for Zion National Park that will show you what you can realistically do and see with just two days in the park. If you have more time, read on for some options on how to spend your time here!
Quick Zion National Park 2 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Hike The Narrows
- Day 1: Eat lunch in Springdale
- Day 1: Do the Mt. Carmel Highway Scenic Drive
- Day 1: Check out Checkerboard Mesa
- Day 1: Catch the sunset at the Canyon Overlook Trail
- Day 2: Hike Angel’s Landing
- Day 2: Explore the Kolob Canyons
- Day 2: Hike Timber Creek Overlook Trail
- Day 2: Explore the Pa’rus Trail
Full 2 Day Itinerary Zion National Park
To make the best of this Zion 2 day itinerary, plan to start your days bright and early, especially if you’re staying outside the park.
Parking in Zion itself can fill up by 9am on summer months, so getting an early start means you’ll avoid wasting your time searching for parking!
Day 1 Zion Itinerary
If you only have one day in Zion National Park, I would absolutely recommend you spend it hiking The Narrows. You can pepper in a couple of more things during the day, but The Narrows is a must.
Here is what Day 1 of your 2 day Zion Itinerary could look like:
Sunrise: Hike The Narrows
- Length: up to 9.4 miles roundtrip bottom up
- Difficulty: strenuous
- Approximate Time: up to 8 hours
- Shuttle stop: #9, Temple of Sinawa
One of the best hikes I’ve ever done, The Narrows takes you through the narrowest part of Zion Canyon (hence the name).
In some of the most picturesque areas, you’ll be surrounded by giant walls up to a thousand feet in the air, and only twenty feet wide.
While The Narrows can be an intimidatingly long and difficult hike, one of the best things about it is that you can go as far along as you’d like and still feel pretty accomplished.
To get to The Narrows, you’ll need to take the shuttle up to the last stop, #9: Temple of Sinawa.
From there, it’s about a mile hike along the Riverside Walk trail to the Virgin River. Once you reach the Virgin River, you’ll immediately need to get your feet wet.
Most of the hike is wading (and sometimes swimming) through the river. You NEED good hiking boots for this hike.
Tip: Don’t be fooled by pictures showing only a trickle of water in The Narrows, like my boyfriend did. Your feet will be submerged, and you will get WET. Bring a change of clothes in a ziploc bag to keep it dry.
Most people hike to the Orderville Canyon junction, take pictures, and turn around. However, I recommend hiking beyond here through Wall Street, the most stunning, narrow part of the hike.
Plan to hike at least Floating Rock (a large boulder that divides the river in half), but keep tabs on the time. Remember you still have to hike back!
You should budget 4-8 hours for The Narrows. We took one of the first shuttles out, around 7:30am and didn’t make it back to our campsite until around 2:30pm and we were exhausted.
If you plan to do the entirety of The Narrows, you’ll want to pack a lunch to eat during your hike.
Originally, we planned to picnic at the Zion Lodge but were too exhausted from hiking The Narrows.
You can always get lunch in Springdale, there’s some good restaurants with plenty of carbs on the menu to replenish your energy.
For Mexican food, check out Oscar’s Cafe (we actually ate here several times!)
Zion Pizza and Noodle Company also has some pretty yummy food, and is the perfect place to carb load after a long hike. The pasta dishes are pretty good, I really liked the Asian cuisine inspired pasta #3!
Afternoon: Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway Scenic Drive
While all of Zion is stunning, some of the best views of the park are along the Zion Mt. Carmel highway scenic drive, especially in the afternoon light.
The Mt. Carmel highway scenic drive is a twelve mile stretch of highway that will take you from the south Zion entrance station in Springdale, through the Zion Mt. Carmel Tunnel, past the east entrance station. If you continue for another 12 miles, you’ll make it to the junction with Highway 89.
The drive is incredibly pretty, and will give you stunning views of the main Zion Canyon. The most memorable part of the drive is the series of switchbacks that climb about 1,000 feet in the air to the top of the canyon, before reaching the tunnel.
There’s a bunch of pull outs along the drive for you to stop and get some gorgeous photos of the red rock scenery!
Tip: bighorn sheep like to hang out along the Mt. Carmel highway scenic drive once you’re past the tunnel, going towards the East entrance station. We saw them prancing through the road in the late afternoon, so watch out!
Doing the drive in the afternoon will give you beautiful soft light, with the canyon walls in their full colorful splendor.
Once you get past the tunnel, you’ll almost immediately find a small parking lot on your right. If you park here, you’ll have access to the Canyon Overlook Trail, a short hike ending with great views (and the next stop on the itinerary).
Past all of this, you’ll come across Checkerboard Mesa, a super cool and weird giant rock that has a pattern on it which resembles a checkerboard and is worth checking out!
Note: If you have the time, you might want to continue driving north along Highway 89 toward Bryce Canyon – it’s one of the most gorgeous drives we’ve ever done!
Sunset: Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail
- Length: 1 mile round-trip
- Difficulty: moderate
- Approximate Time: about 1 hour
Starting right by the entrance of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, the Canyon Overlook trail is a short but stunning hike with a great payoff: picture-perfect views of Zion Canyon in full splendor!
A lot of the famous photos of Zion that you’ve probably seen have been taken from this overlook. It’s incredibly popular and picturesque.
The hike starts with some immediate elevation gain as you climb up through a set of stairs, and continues its path through the rocks.
There’s a railing/fence like structure on one side of the hike, leading to some steep drops offs. I generally don’t do well with heights, but didn’t find this hike scary at all!
You’ll continue along the path underneath some alcoves, watch out for greenery and even some water on the trail. Eventually, the rocky hike ends at the overlook, with the whole of Zion Canyon sprawling out beneath you.
You’ll see the switchbacks of the Mt. Carmel drive, the towering canyon walls, and the valley between the canyon in its full glory.
Due to its popularity, getting to the hike can be challenging. There’s only one small parking lot for the trailhead (right outside the tunnel), and it fills up really fast.
If you hope to catch the sunset here, you’ll want to leave plenty of time to find parking – I’m not exaggerating here at all!
Tip: A way to get around some of the crowds is to visit in the early morning for sunrise. You’ll still want to get to the parking lot at least an hour or two before sunrise, but parking should be easier to come by.
Day 2 of this Zion Itinerary
If you’re seeing the best of Zion National Park in 2 days, you probably have two hikes on your radar: The Narrows and Angels Landing.
I’ve written this itinerary to ensure that you get to do both of these hikes, and they’re easily interchangeable from one day to the other.
Read on for Day 2 of this suggested itinerary for Zion National Park!
Sunrise: Scouts Lookout to Angels Landing
- Length: 4-5.4 miles round-trip
- Difficulty: strenuous
- Approximate Time: about 4 hours
- Shuttle stop: #6, The Grotto
One of the most famous hikes in Zion, Angel’s Landing is a super challenging hike with massive elevation gain that rewards you with incredible views.
The hike to Angel’s Landing is not for the faint of heart. The trail climbs almost 1,500 feet and has steep drop offs along the way.
To do this hike, you’ll start along the West Rim trail, eventually climbing through a series of 21 switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles.
Note that there’s almost no shade along the trail, and the trail will be exposed to drop offs on one side.
Once you get to Scouts Lookout, the final bit of the trail continues onwards to Angel’s Landing through a narrow ridge section with drops on either edge. There’s a chain along this part for people to hold on to, but it’s not for anyone with fear of heights.
Honestly, as much as I’d love to hike Angel’s Landing, I probably won’t do it anytime soon due to my fear of heights, but if that doesn’t bother you, this is definitely a bucket-list worthy hike to do at Zion!
Alternatives: hike the Emerald Pools, or move on to the Kolob Canyon earlier in the day.
Pack a picnic lunch, eat at the Zion Lodge, or check out one of the many restaurants in the town of Springdale.
Afternoon: Explore the Kolob Canyons
One of my favorite parts of the two days in Zion National Park was exploring the Kolob Canyons.
This part of the park is much quieter and secluded than the main Zion Canyon, and I appreciated not having to deal with throngs of crowds.
To get here, you’ll need to drive up the highway to the Kolob Canyons entrance (located about an hour away from Springdale).
You’ll be greeted with majestic views of deep red canyon walls towering two thousand feet in the air above you. Best of all, you’re likely to be one of the few people that make the trek to this part of the park!
While you’re here, make sure you do the five mile scenic drive through the canyons. The drive is very pretty, and there’s plenty of pullouts for you to take pictures.
Continue on to the end of the drive to a viewpoint of the canyons, the views here are stunning.
If you have the time, make sure you do the Timber Creek Overlook trail. This short hike is only one mile long (roundtrip), and should take you about half an hour to complete.
Along the way, you’ll get gorgeous views of the canyons, and the final overlook is a great place to stop, enjoy the view, and eat a snack.
Sunset: Pa’rus Trail
- Length: 3.5 miles round-trip
- Difficulty: easy
- Approximate Time: about 2 hours
One of the most underrated trails in Zion is the Pa’rus trail. Starting by the South Campground, this trail takes you along the Virgin River through a beautiful meadow, ending at Canyon Junction.
The trail is paved, and is perfect for riding your bike or going for an easy sunset stroll. In the mellow late afternoon light, you may see deer hanging out in the meadow.
Depending on the time of year, tall yellow flowers might flank each side of the trail. Standing in stark contrast to the crimson canyon walls in the background.
Bonus: the trail gives you access to the Virgin River at several points!
The trail is surprisingly fun, and rewards you with amazing views with little effort. At the end of the trail, make your way to the Canyon Junction bridge for a breathtaking view of Zion as the sun sets behind the canyon walls.
Other Things To Know
Whether you’re spending one day or several in Zion, there’s a couple of things you should know in advance to help you plan the smoothest trip possible.
Read on for information on where to stay near Zion, what to pack for your adventure, and other tips and tricks that’ll help make your trip pretty memorable.
Entrances to Zion
There’s 3 entrances to Zion. The entrance that most people use is the South entrance, located right by the town of Springdale.
If you’re coming from Bryce Canyon National Park, you’ll need to use the East entrance, and go through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
Coming in an oversized vehicle, like an RV? Know the vehicle restrictions in advance so you don’t get stuck here. The National Parks website has all the info you’ll need on this.
Finally, the Kolob Canyons entrance is located along I-15, about an hour from the town of Springdale.
Getting Around: the Zion Shuttle
To get to some of the most popular hikes in Zion, you’ll need to ride the Zion shuttle. There’s no access to the Zion Canyon scenic drive during most of the year, and the shuttle is the only way to access hikes like The Narrows and Angels Landing.
The shuttle runs from the visitor center up through Zion Canyon, and makes stops in several locations along the way.
You’ll need to buy a $1 ticket in advance to reserve a time to ride the shuttle. Tickets sell out FAST, so it’s important to plan in advance as much as possible.
Some tickets are released the day before and day of (at 3pm), but seriously, planning in advance is the way to go here. Check out the Zion website for info on shuttle tickets when planning your trip.
Note: there’s a separate shuttle that runs in the town of Springdale, don’t confuse the two!
Best Hikes in Zion National Park
- The Narrows
- Angels Landing
- Pa’rus Trail
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Timber Creek Overlook Trail
Other stunning hikes worth exploring in Zion include: The Watchman trail, the Emerald Pools Trail, and the Subway.
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
I love to camp in the national park itself whenever possible so I have easier access to hikes and can hit the ground running every morning.
Having said that, because Zion is literally right outside the town of Springdale, staying at an Airbnb or at a hotel won’t add much time at all to the start of your day.
If it’s your first time at Zion, consider staying at any of the following well-reviewed Airbnbs:
- If there’s only two of you, this romantic cottage is the perfect place to stay. You’ll get gorgeous canyon views, access to a hot tub and a firepit at an affordable price. What else could you ask for?
- Looking for something more lux? This stunning villa is spacious, modern, and boasts easy access to a Springdale shuttle stop.
- For large groups, consider this large, stunning home with all the amenities you could hope for! Plus, super easy access to a Springdale shuttle, and gorgeous canyon views to boot.
Note: Zion has a lodge in the park itself, but reservations can be hard to come by. Check out the Zion Lodge website for more info.
Where to Eat near Zion
Our two favorite spots in Springdale for breakfast lunch and dinner were Oscar’s Cafe and Zion Pizza and Noodle Co.
If lines are too long at either of the above (which is likely, considering how good they are!) some other options include:
- MeMe’s Cafe: really popular spot, with long wait times
- Whiptail Grill: good alternative to Oscar’s for yummy Mexican food
- Deep Creek Coffee Company: get smoothies, acai bowls, and yummy breakfast items at this super popular spot across the street from Oscar’s
What to Pack for Zion
Your packing list for Zion will vary depending on what time of year you visit, but here are some essentials that you should bring with you no matter what.
- Hiking hat: there’s no shade on most of the trails at Zion, so create your own. This is my super affordable go-to hiking hat.
- Reusable water bottle: even if you’re not doing a lot of intense hikes, Zion can get HOT. This is my go to water bottle, but this one is also a good option, and will keep your water icy cold on those hot summer days.
- Daypack: to carry all of your stuff, an absolute must. This is the pack I have and love.
- Hiking boots: please don’t attempt The Narrows or Angels Landing without proper footwear. A good pair of hiking boots is a need when visiting Zion.
- Hiking socks: similarly to hiking boots, a good pair of hiking socks will help prevent blisters, and keep your feet dry. These socks are worth every penny, they got me through The Narrows without any blisters!
- Sunscreen: have I mentioned it gets hot in Zion? The sun will get you if you’re not prepared, so pack, apply, and reapply plenty of sunscreen. I love this brand, it smells like coconuts and is pretty lightweight.
- Lip balm: I learned my lesson about always carrying lip balm while visiting Arches and Zion. Bring lip balm with SPF, you won’t regret it.
- Hand sanitizer: in case the bathrooms are out of soap, and good to have in general. I like small versions I can easily carry in my pack.
- First Aid Kit: because you never know what could go wrong. This one is a good option.
- Bring plenty of water: it’s a desert environment, so come prepared. I took a large jug of water (like this one) to keep in the car for any emergencies on my Utah trip and highly recommend it.
- Pack snacks: especially if you plan to hike The Narrows or do any longer hikes. Yes, there’s food nearby in Springdale, but when you need a burst of energy in the middle of a hike, I’ve found these granola bars do the trick.
- Get a National Parks Pass: seriously, this is one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Not only will you be supporting our parks system, but for $80 you’ll get free access to national parks for a whole year!
Other Posts You’ll Love
- Check out this Utah Mighty 5 itinerary and guide to see all of Utah’s stunning national parks in one weeklong road trip.
- Wanting more red rock adventures? Visit Arches National Park for red-rock views that won’t disappoint.
- Have one more day to spare? Spend one epic day in Bryce Canyon National Park!