If you are planning your Zion National Park itinerary, this is a great place to start.
Zion National Park is a hiker’s paradise. This relatively small park is packed with some of the most thrilling hikes in the United States. From the awe-inspiring hike up Angels Landing to the bucket list-worthy Zion Narrows to the family friendly Riverside Walk, there is something here for everyone.
In this post, get all of the information you need to plan your Zion National Park itinerary. This includes the top hikes, the best viewpoints, how to get around, where to stay, and where to eat.
Let’s get started!
With high crowd levels, trail closures, and high levels of cyanobacteria in the Virgin River, Zion can be a challenging park to visit right now. If you are planning a visit to Zion, make sure you read our post 5 Things to Know Before Visiting Zion to avoid any unfortunate surprises.
Table of Contents
Zion National Park: A Quick Geography Lesson
There are two sections to Zion National Park: the “main section” of the park, which is located along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and Kolob Canyons.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is the main road that runs through Zion National Park. It starts at the Visitor Center and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. It is along this road that you have access to the most popular hikes, such as Angels Landing, the Narrows, and Observation Point.
For most of the year, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to private vehicles and the Zion Shuttle carries visitors up and down this road. The shuttle is included with your entrance fee into the park.
Kolob Canyons is a smaller section of the park that sits to the north of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. This area has a few hiking trails and its own visitor center.
There are other hiking trails that start outside of the park, or near the boundary of the park, and end along the Scenic Drive. The Zion Narrows and the West Rim Trail are several examples. These are point-to-point hikes that require some advance planning (more on these later in this post).
Best Things to do in Zion National Park
Without a doubt, hiking is the #1 thing to do in Zion National Park.
For many people, the main reason to plan a trip to Zion is to hike Angels Landing and/or the Narrows.
Important Note: Numerous trails are closed in Zion National Park. Hidden Canyon has a long term closure due to a rockfall and Observation Point cannot be accessed from the Weeping Rock trailhead, because of the same long-term closure due to a rockfall. Visit the National Park Service website for updates.
Here are 10 great hikes to do in Zion National Park:
1. Weeping Rock: This short but strenuous hike ends at Weeping Rock, a large overhang of rock that is dripping with water.
2. Emerald Pool Trail: This short, popular trail connects two pools of water, Lower Emerald Pool and Upper Emerald Pool. This hike is 1.5 to 3 miles, depending on how far you hike and where you start.
3. Canyon Overlook Trail: For one of the best views in Zion, put this short, fun trail on your list. It is only 1-mile round trip and starts near the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel.
4. Watchman Trail: This short trail starts near the Visitor Center and offers nice views over the southern part of Zion National Park.
5. Riverside Walk: This paved path is a beautiful walk that is perfect for all ages and ability levels. It is 2.2 miles round trip and ends at the Virgin River.
Riverside Walk | Zion National Park Itinerary
6. Hidden Canyon: This trail is currently closed due to a rockfall but it is one of the most thrilling hikes in Zion. Sections of this hike are similar to Angels Landing, with vertigo-inducing trails that come with chains to help you keep your balance. This trail does not climb as high or have the panoramic views like Angels Landing, but Hidden Canyon also gets fewer visitors, which makes for pleasant, less crowded experience. It is 3 miles round trip and can be combined with Observation Point.
Hidden Canyon | Zion National Park Itinerary
7. Angels Landing: This is the most popular hike in Zion National Park. The final climb involves scaling a narrow ridge high above the valley floor. With chain-assisted rock scrambling sections and stunning views, this really is a thrilling hike. If you plan to hike to Angels Landing, you must have a permit. Learn more here.
Angels Landing Trail | Zion National Park Itinerary
8. Observation Point: For jaw-dropping views over Zion National Park, it’s hard to beat Observation Point. There are two ways to hike to Observation Point. Currently, you can get here on the East Mesa Trail, a 7 mile hike that starts outside of the park. The main trailhead is currently closed due to a rockfall.
9. The Narrows: Hike in the Virgin River through one of the most beautiful slot canyons in the USA. You can start at the Riverside Walk, hike upriver for several miles, and turn around when you are ready (this is the bottom-up version of the hike). But the ultimate experience is to hike the entire Narrows from the top-down, a journey that is 16 miles long and can be done as an epic day hike or two-day backpacking trip.
If you choose to hike the Narrows from the top-down, you will need to apply for a permit. If you choose to do this over two days, you will also need to apply for a campsite. Visit our Guide to the Narrows for full details on how to do this.
The Narrows | Zion National Park Itinerary
10. West Rim Trail: The West Rim Trail is a long-distance hike through Zion National Park. With amazing views, very few hikers on the trail, and a chance to walk the length of Zion National Park, this hike rewards your efforts. The West Rim Trail can be hiked as a long day hike or as a two-day backpacking trip.
You do not need a permit to hike the West Rim Trail. But it is a point-to-point hike, so you will need to arrange a shuttle service in advance. Get the details on how to do this here.
Drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
This winding scenic drive connects the Visitor Center to the east entrance of the park. Along the switchbacks between Canyon Junction and the tunnel you have great views of Zion National Park.
Between the tunnel and the east entrance the landscape is beautiful, with striated sandstone rocks, like those of Checkerboard Mesa. Keep your eye out for Bighorn Sheep.
Note: There is $15 fee for oversized vehicles to drive through the tunnel. An oversized vehicle is any vehicle that is 11 feet 4 inches or higher and 7 feet 10 inches wide or wider. If your vehicle is taller than 13 feet 1 inch you cannot pass through the tunnel.
Watch the Sunset from the Canyon Junction Bridge
This is the place to capture the iconic photo of the Virgin River and Watchman peak. Expect big crowds at sunset.
Zion Human History Museum
If you want to learn about the American Indians and the pioneers who lived on this land, then the Zion Human History Museum is worth a visit. It is one of the first stops on the Zion Shuttle.
Best Viewpoints in Zion National Park
If you want a spectacular view of Zion National Park, here are our top 5 viewpoints:
- Observation Point
- Angels Landing
- Canyon Overlook
- Canyon Junction Bridge
- West Rim Trail
The view from Canyon Overlook Trail | Zion National Park Itinerary
View from the West Rim Trail | Zion National Park Itinerary
How to Get Around Zion National Park
For most of the year (mid-February through November), the Zion Shuttle is in operation. During this time, private vehicles are not permitted to drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
From mid-February through mid-March, the shuttle operates on the weekends and private vehicles are allowed on Zion Canyon Road on the weekdays. The shuttle operates 7 days a week beginning mid-March. For the full schedule and hours of operation, visit the NPS website.
Park at the Visitor Center or take the Springdale Shuttle to the main entrance. You can hop on the shuttle at the Visitor Center and ride it to the Temple of Sinawava. If you are heading into the park to go hiking, make sure you know the correct shuttle stop for your hike.
Starting mid-morning, lines to board the Zion Shuttle can be very long. We are talking an hour wait or longer. To have the best experience, plan on being on one of the first two shuttles of the day. During peak season and holiday weekends, plan to get in line 30 minutes before the first shuttle. I know that’s early, but if you are planning to hike Angels Landing, you will have a much better experience going early, since you can hike the chain section without two-way traffic. It’s worth the early start!
If you get to Zion and find that lines to board the shuttle are ridiculously long, there is still plenty to do in Zion without riding the shuttle. Read our article 10 Things to Do in Zion if You Don’t Want to Ride the Shuttle for more information.
You are permitted to drive from the Visitor Center to the east entrance all year.
When the shuttle is not in operation (December, January, and February) you are permitted drive along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Just be aware that parking is limited so it still helps to get an early start.
There is a second shuttle system, the Springdale Shuttle, that connects the hotels in Springdale with the main entrance of Zion.
Walters Wiggles (on the hike to Angels Landing)
How Many Days Do You Need in Zion?
Ideally, you need at least two to three days to visit Zion National Park. This gives you enough time to hike the longer, more popular trails, such as Angels Landing and the Narrows, and you can also add in a few of the shorter, easier trails, such as the Riverside Walk and Canyon Overlook.
When deciding how much time you should spend in Zion, pick out the hikes you want to do. For each big hike (a hike 5 miles or longer), add one day to your itinerary.
If you plan to hike Angels Landing, the Narrows, and Observation Point, you will need three days in Zion.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: I recommend checking the Zion National Park website for updates on trail closures to avoid any surprises. Do this when planning your Zion National Park itinerary and just before your visit.
Angels Landing | Zion National Park Itinerary
A Sample Day in Zion National Park
Start early!! Being on one of the first shuttles is the key to having a great hiking experience in Zion. This will help you avoid the crowds on the trail, which is very important if you plan to hike the Zion Narrows.
In the spring, the first shuttle leaves the Visitor Center at 7 am. In the summer, the first shuttle is at 6 am. I recommend getting in line at least 15 minutes before the first shuttle of the day if you plan to hike Angels Landing or the Narrows. By 8 am, the line can be very long to take the shuttle into the park.
In the morning, hike one of the longer, more strenuous trails.
Midday, have a picnic lunch in the park or grab a bite to eat at the Zion Lodge or at the Visitor Center. You can also exit the park, have lunch in Springdale, and relax in your hotel for a few hours. This is what we do and it works great because we avoid the hot temperatures and high crowd levels midday.
Mid to late-afternoon, hike a shorter, easier trail. Canyon Overlook, Emerald Pools, and the Riverside walk all fall into this category. This is also a great time to watch the sunset from Canyon Junction Bridge.
Have dinner in Springdale.
Observation Point | Zion National Park Itinerary
Planning Your Zion National Park Itinerary
One Day Zion National Park Itinerary
With one day in Zion National Park, getting an early start is critical for the best experience.
Take the first shuttle of the day and hike the trail of your choice. For most people, that would be Angels Landing or the Zion Narrows. If you plan to hike Angels Landing, you must have a permit.
If you are fit and fast, you can hike both trails on the same day. Hike Angels Landing in the morning, take a break and recharge midday, and hike the Narrows from the bottom-up in the late afternoon.
Or, hike a longer trail in the morning, have lunch midday at the Zion Lodge or in Springdale, and then hike a short trail in the afternoon. Watch the sunset from Canyon Junction Bridge and have dinner in Springdale.
Two or More Days in Zion National Park
Here are sample daily Zion National Park itineraries. You can piece these together depending on your interests.
1 Day: Angels Landing + Canyon Overlook
Hike Angels Landing in the morning. You have the option to add on Emerald Pools after Angels Landing, since the trailheads are located near each other. Take a midday break. In the afternoon, drive the Zion-Mount Carmel Road and hike Canyon Overlook.
1 Day: Observation Point
Hike to Observation Point from the East Mesa Trail.
1 Day: The Narrows from the Bottom-Up
Be on the first shuttle of the day. Get off at the Temple of Sinawava and walk the Riverside Walk to the Virgin River. Hike the Narrows as far as you like, or until you reach Big Springs.
1 to 2 Days: The Narrows from the Top-Down
This is one of the most epic hiking experiences in Zion National Park. You can do this over two days, camping along the Virgin River, or you can do it as a big day hike.
1 to 2 Days: West Rim Trail
This long-distance trail starts near Kolob Canyons and ends near Angels Landing. You essentially hike from one side of Zion to the other. Like the Narrows from the top-down, this can be done as a two-day backpacking trip or as a massive day hike.
Putting This All Together: Sample Itineraries
Popular Hikes + Zion Narrows Day Hike
Day 1: Angels Landing, Emerald Pool, Canyon Overlook
Day 2: Observation Point
Day 3: Zion Narrows Bottom-Up OR Zion Narrows Top-Down Day Hike
Day 4: West Rim Trail as a Day Hike
Days 4 & 5: West Rim Trail as a backpacking trip
Popular Hikes + Zion Narrows Backpacking Trip
Day 1: Angels Landing, Emerald Pool, Canyon Overlook
Day 2: Observation Point
Days 3 & 4: Zion Narrows Top-Down Backpacking Trip
Day 5: West Rim Trail as a Day Hike
Days 5 & 6: West Rim Trail as a backpacking trip
These are long days with lots of back-to-back hikes. Consider adding an extra day for a little relaxation, to recharge your legs. You can hike a short trail, explore Springdale, or visit the Kolob Canyon section of Zion. If you plan to hike the Narrows, you will need some time in Springdale to get your gear, if you do not have your own.
Zion Narrows | Zion National Park Itinerary
Road Trip Ideas
Combining Zion National Park with other nearby national parks makes an excellent road trip idea. You can either combine Zion with one or more of the other parks in Utah (Utah’s Mighty 5) or do a loop from Las Vegas where you add on the Grand Canyon.
For an overview about Utah’s Mighty 5, read our Guide to Utah’s Mighty 5.
For ideas on how to plan a one to two week road trip through Utah, where you visit Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks, take a look at our post The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary.
If you have 14 days, check out our Two Week American Southwest Itinerary: Grand Canyon & Utah’s Mighty 5. On this epic road trip, you get to visit six national parks (including Zion) as well as Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and several great state parks in Utah.
Best Time to Visit Zion National Park
You can visit Zion National Park all year.
Spring is a wonderful time to visit Zion. The weather is pleasant, with warm daytime temperatures and cool nights. Just be aware that you may not be able to hike the Narrows. In the spring, flow rates in the Virgin River will be high and the trail most likely will be closed (the Narrows usually reopens in May).
During the summer months, expect big crowds and very high temperatures. Zion is the most crowded from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day.
Fall is a spectacular time to visit Zion. The weather will be warm during the day and cool at night. September and October are the best months to visit Zion, in my opinion. Crowds are thinning, the weather is spectacular, and in October you can see the fall colors.
If you don’t mind cold temperatures, winter is a very nice time to visit Zion. Crowds will be low and hiking trails will be empty. The Zion shuttle does not operate in the winter so you can drive through the park in your own vehicle.
View from Angels Landing | Zion National Park Itinerary
Where to Eat
King’s Landing Bistro. This is our favorite restaurant in Springdale. This restaurant has a “fine dining” feel to it with an amazing menu.
Café Soleil. This place is quick, reasonably priced, and serves delicious sandwiches.
Oscar’s Café. The perfect spot after a long day of hiking. Oscar’s café serves great nachos and huge portions of Mexican food.
Zion Pizza and Noodle Café. This is another budget friendly place that serves pizza, pastas, and salads.
Where to Stay
Zion National Park Lodge. This is the only lodge inside of Zion National Park. Due to its excellent location, make your reservations far in advance (at least 6 months in advance).
The remainder of these properties are in Springdale.
Holiday Inn Express. This is our go-to hotel in Springdale and highly recommend it. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and quiet, and it has an excellent location in Springdale. It is located on the Springdale Shuttle Route, so you can get around town without a car.
Flanigan’s Inn. This very highly rated property has a wide range of room types. Some rooms can accommodate up to six people and you also have the option to stay in your own private house. Prior guests love the location and state that they could walk to Zion National Park.
Red Rock Inn Cottages. Stay in a one or two-bedroom cottage. Some cottages have a seating area and kitchen. Free breakfast is offered daily.
Cable Mountain Lodge. This is as close as you can get to Zion National Park without staying inside of the park. Located near the Visitor Center, this highly-rated hotel offers some rooms that can accommodate up to 8 people.
Cable Mountain Lodge
Zion National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The entrance fee is $35 and is valid for 7 days.
Learn more about the Angels Landing permit on the National Park Service website.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Check for trail closures, road closures, and get important updates before your visit on the official National Park Service website.
If you have any questions about planning your Zion National Park itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.
More Information About Zion National Park & Utah
ZION NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Zion National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
NATIONAL PARKS BY SEASON: Zion National Park appears in our Best US National Parks in January, Best US National Parks in October, Best US National Parks in November, and Best US National Parks in December articles. For more information about the best times to visit the national parks, check out our Best National Parks Month-by-Month Guide.
BRYCE CANYON: Take a look at our Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Guide for important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.
AMERICAN SOUTHWEST ITINERARY: If you have 10 days, learn how to road trip through the American Southwest, visiting several national parks, state parks, and scenic spots in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.
USA TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more great ideas on where to go in the United States, check out our article Best USA Road Trips, which has 18 sample itineraries for your next big adventure. You can also see more travel itineraries on our Travel Itineraries page and our National Park Itineraries.
Visit More National Parks:
- US NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete Guide to the US National Parks
- US NATIONAL PARKS: The Complete List of US National Parks (+ Free Printable Checklist)
- GRAND CANYON: One Perfect Day in the Grand Canyon
- CANYONLANDS: Best Things to do in Island in the Sky: Canyonlands National Park
- YELLOWSTONE: Yellowstone Itinerary: How to Spend 1 to 5 Days in Yellowstone
- BIG BEND: 15 Great Hikes to Do in Big Bend National Park
- HAWAI’I VOLCANOES: Top 10 Things to Do in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
- KATMAI: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Katmai National Park, Alaska
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