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Zion National Park In Utah
Let me guess you’re reading about Zion National Park in Utah because you saw a picture on social media and now you’re dying to go?!?!? Well that’s 100% what happened to me!! My coworker posted a bunch of photos of her trip to Zion National Park in Utah and I quickly added Zion to my bucket list (aka my travel Pinterest board). We finally had the opportunity to go Zion National Park last October and it was amazing!! As you know I do a TON of research when planning trips so hopefully all of my hard work will save you some time. I’ve put together the perfect Zion National Park 2-3 day itinerary for you.
Before You Go
- To truly enjoy Zion you need to plan and make reservations. You can’t just show up and go on some hikes. It’s one of the most popular national parks in the US so plan ahead!!
- First things first, reserve your sleeping arrangements (hotel, AirBnb, campsite, etc). If you want to camp in Zion, check their website for details. Their reservation policies change so I don’t want to mislead you. Be sure to read the details about reservation windows! Our reservation window opened at 9am (CST). I set an alarm and I had 3 devices ready to click the reserve button at exactly 9 am (coworker was helping me). Y’all think I’m crazy but get this…I only got 1 site!! The sites go that fast!! In less than 5 seconds the entire place was booked!! I’d recommend doing what I did and give yourself a practice round. If you want to start camping Friday then do a practice run for Wednesday and Thursday. If worse comes to worse then you can always do some boondocking.
- Next reserve your shuttle passes (try to get an early morning shuttle pass). The main stretch of the park is for “shuttles only” so you need a shuttle pass. Again check their website for the details on reserving shuttle passes (it changes so I don’t want to mislead you). Once you know the date/time for purchasing shuttle passes, set an alarm and mark your calendar. There are hundreds of shuttle passes available for each day but they still go pretty fast!! I recommend an early morning shuttle pass so you can avoid the crowds while you hike and you’ll be able to park for free at the visitor center. One morning we arrived at 9:30am and the free parking at the visitor center was already full (FYI: you’ll have to park in town and hike into Zion then). If you aren’t able to make a shuttle pass reservation, then I recommend reserving an electric bike or a shuttle through one of the outfitters in town. They’re A LOT more expensive but at least you’ll be able to get into the park.
- Download the All Trails App and subscribe to their yearly membership. The membership lets you download trail maps to your device and gives you exact GPS coordinates according to the map. We didn’t have service most of the time but our All Trails App could always helps us stay on route with the trails.
Getting to Zion National Park in Utah
If you live close enough, driving is definitely an option. Otherwise I recommend flying into Las Vegas, renting a vehicle, and making the drive from Vegas. We decided to rent a camper van and it was amazing!! Such an adventure!! If you’re interested in renting a camper van, then I recommend checking out Escape Camper Vans (and if you use my link you’ll get 10% off).
Where to Stay in Zion
There are several hotel, air bnb, and camping options around Zion National Park. I recommend staying close to Springdale since that’s where the shuttle meets and it’s close to the main attractions. You can stay further out but then you’ll be fighting for parking every morning and at the end of a long day of hiking no one wants to drive an hour back to their airbnb. Also as the park closes each evening, the traffic is bumper to bumper as people are leaving the park. Pay the extra fee and stay in Springdale, I promise it’ll be worth it!
When to Visit Zion
September and October are probably the best months to visit Zion National Park in Utah. It’s not too hot for a long day of hiking but its warm enough to enjoy hiking the Narrows. The Narrows is one of the highlights of Zion National Park, and if you can’t hike the narrows then I wouldn’t go (personal preference). You’ll be missing out on the best hike Zion National Park has to offer. The Narrows are too cold to hike in the winter months, and in the Spring the water levels will be too high. The summer is a good time to hike the Narrows but it’ll be way too hot to enjoy the rest of the park. September and October are definitely the best months to visit Zion National Park.
Zion Day 1
Lets get the trip started with one of the most challenging trails in the park, Angels Landing. Angels Landing is one of the most dangerous hikes in the US. It’s tough but the view at the top is breathtaking and totally worth it. The hike up to Angels Landing is a constant incline with lots of switchbacks (5.5 miles round trip). The path is mostly paved until the last 1/4 mile or so when you have to hold onto the chains to climb upwards. Honestly if you’re not okay with doing the chains then skip this hike. It’s just not worth it unless you go all the way. If Angels Landing is too intense for you and your group, then I recommend hiking to Observation Point instead. It’s a longer hike but the view from the top is equally amazing!! You can hike the East Mesa Trail (no shuttle pass required) to get to Observation Point.
Once you’re done with your Angel’s Landing hike, follow the Grotto Trail over to the Zion Lodge. It’s a short hike (maybe 15 minutes) and it’s faster than hopping back on the shuttle. You can enjoy a nice picnic at the lodge or eat at their café. Relax for a little bit before continuing on your awesome adventure!
After lunch take the shuttle back to the Visitor Center and hike the Watchman Trail. It’s about 3 miles round trip but it’s one of the easiest hikes in Zion (perfect hike after you’ve done Angel’s Landing). Then head into Springdale to check out some shops, get your souvenirs, clean up, and enjoy a nice dinner. If you’re looking for a good place to eat check out either Meme’s Cafe or Oscar’s Cafe.
Zion Day 2
Today’s itinerary will probably be the highlight of your Zion Trip!! Rent some waterproof gear (shoes, socks, and hiking sticks) from Zion Outfitters and head out on your adventure…the Narrows!! To get to the Narrows you’ll take the shuttle to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava. Then you’ll hike the Riverside Walk Trail, which is about 2 miles round trip (1 mile each way). Once you get to the end of the trail, you’ll start hiking in the river. Yes, you’re going to be hiking in the river!! It’s such a fun experience!! I recommend hiking for about 2.5 to 3 miles so you can see Wall Street. The great thing about the Narrows is that you can hike in as far as you feel comfortable. If you only want to go for a half mile that’s fine. If you want to go to for 6 hours like we did that’s fine too!! Be sure to read all of my tips for hiking the Narrows here. Also it’s important to save this hike until day 2 or 3 because it can leave you extremely sore and you may get blisters on your feet from the water socks/shoes.
After the Narrows head over to Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset. It’s a super short hike (about an hour, 1 mile round trip) but the views are amazing!! We were exhausted by this point and thought about skipping it but I’m glad we didn’t miss out!! Y’all know I’ve got some FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)!!
Zion Day 3 (if time permits)
Start your morning with a nice cup of coffee from Deep Creek Coffee Co. I love trying local coffee shops during our travels, it’s something I research and look forward to every trip we take. After your coffee starts to kick in, head over to a local outfitter and rent some electric bikes for the day (it would be better if you reserved these in advance actually). Some of you might be saying “I don’t need an electric bike, a regular bike will be fine.” Well I don’t need an electric bike either but it sure is nice to relax a little bit after 2 long days of hiking. You’re going to start your journey on the Pa’rus Trail by the Visitor Center. The Pa’rus trail is mostly paved and runs along the river. It’s absolutely gorgeous so be sure to stop for some photos. The Pa’rus trail will eventually run into Scenic Drive (the main roadway into Zion National Park). Continue on this road until your heart is content, then turn around and coast back into town. Scenic Drive provides some of the best views of Zion, be sure to take your time and enjoy the day. Round trip on an electric bike could take you anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, depending on your pace and how far you go. If you’re looking for a quick alternative, then I recommend renting a normal “old school” bike, taking the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, and coasting down to the visitor center. It’s the same route but it’s only 2-4 hours since your only doing half of the loop.
After your “relaxing” day of biking, drive over to the Kolob Canyon’s Visitors Center. The Kolob Canyon’s Visitor Center is a 45 minute drive from Springdale, plan accordingly. The best hike in this area of Zion National Park is the Timbercreek Overlook Trail. It’s a short 1 mile hike, takes about 30 minutes, and is perfect for sunset photos. If you’re way to tired by this point and don’t think you can hike Timbercreek Overlook, that’s fine. It’s not a “must do” in my opinion but it is a nice hike if you’re still searching for more adventure.
Hopefully your Zion National Park Trip will be full of amazing memories and adventures! Be sure to follow along for updates on the rest of our 10 day Utah Trip!!