Julie United States 77 Comments

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.

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

Go Hiking

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

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.

Zion Itinerary

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.

Best Hikes in Zion

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. 

Zion Hike

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. 

Zion Travel Guide


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.

Zion Road

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.

Zion Mount Carmel Highway

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

Canyon Overlook Zion National Park Itinerary

The view from Canyon Overlook Trail | Zion National Park Itinerary

 West Rim 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 Zion National Park Itinerary

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

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

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 Itinerary with Zion Narrows

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. 

Utah Travel Guide

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.

Zion National Park Itinerary

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.

Hotel Cable Mountain Lodge

Cable Mountain Lodge

Practical Information

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.

HIKES IN ZION: Angels Landing, the Zion Narrows, Observation Point, and the Watchman Trail are some of the top hiking trails in Zion. For the full list, read our Best Hikes in Zion guide.

NATIONAL PARKS BY SEASON: Zion National Park appears in our Best US National Parks in JanuaryBest 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.

BEST OF ARCHES: While in Arches National Park, top experiences include the Devils Garden Trail and a visit to Delicate Arch. Get the full list in our Best Things to Do in Arches 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.


Read all of our articles about Utah in our Utah Travel Guide and the United States in our USA Travel Guide.

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Comments 77

  1. Avatar for Scott Lundberg
    Scott Lundberg

    Good Evening. We will be doing a roadtrip to Utah end of the month after a conference in Las Vegas.
    This is what our week looks like :
    Oct 28-Sat Drive from Las Vegas to Zion-Springdale
    29 and 30 Zion
    Oct 31- Drive to Bryce -early am . Day in Bryce overnight Bryce Lodge
    Nov 1 Drive to Cap Reef – day here overnight in Torrey
    Nov 2 Drive to Canyonlands – day here and overnight in Moab
    Nov 3 -Arches overnight in Moab
    Nov 4 Drive to SLC – overnight home on Nov 5.
    I have my lodging secured with itinerary . However , having last minute panic with travels between parks .
    Any thoughts to put me at ease .
    Also, there are many blogs about when to do Delicate Arch. Sunset vs Sunrise. Everyone has an opinion. I was going to do Devils Garden first off then . Balanced Rock , Windows and Sunset at Delicate . Please advise .

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Scott. I think your itinerary looks excellent. You are visiting at a very nice time of year, when the weather isn’t too cold or hot and crowds are relatively low (the most recent time we were here we started a 10 day trip through Utah on Nov 4 and crowds were relatively light for these parks). As for your Arches itinerary, it’s exactly what we recommend. We’ve done Delicate Arch in the morning and late afternoon. Late afternoon is definitely better for lighting but the morning is crowd free. If you want good lighting for photos, do it late afternoon/just before sunset. If you want low crowds, go first thing, but then you will have some crowds on the Devils Garden hike. Our Delicate Arch Guide has photos both from the morning and afternoon so you know what to expect. You can also take a look at our One Day Arches Itinerary for more ideas on how to plan your time. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Scott Lundberg
        Scott Lundberg

        Thank you for your insight .
        I would also like your opinion for Bryce.
        We will be traveling from Zion to Bryce on Hwy 89 in the am . Hopefully on the road by 8 am. Staying at the Lodge.
        When we arrive should we do the Amphitheater -hiking the Navaho-Queen’s Garden Loop from Sunset to Sunrise .
        Then , take in Bryce Pt and Inspiration Pt . Then, drive the scenic drive to the end Yovimpa Pt Rainbow Pt then hit the points of interest on the way back (Natural Bridge, Fairview Pt .
        Or should I do scenic drive first . I thought it might be good to do hike first to stretch the legs .
        Consider Paria View for Sunset

        1. Avatar for Julie Post

          Yes, I think that is a good order and very similar to how we spent our time at Bryce Canyon. We started with the hike first, when the trail was less busy, and then drove to the other viewpoints in the park. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Sarah M
    Sarah M

    Thanks for posting all of this great info! We’ve been using your website for National Parks info for about a year now, our oldest was in 4th grade last year and got the Parks Pass which started us on our NP bucket list! We are planning Zion for the first week of October, and we’ll be camping in the Watchman campground.
    Planning on trying the Narrows from the bottom, and the East Mesa route to Observation Point for our long hikes. Not sure how our kids will do. We’ve done a few 4-milers and they handled them well as long as the hike was interesting and we took our time!
    For shorter hikes, we will for sure do Canyon Overlook. Also debating the River Walk, Emerald Pools, and Watchman, but not sure yet. Any thoughts? I want to maximize our time there but not overwhelm our kids.
    Angel’s Landing will have to wait about a decade until our youngest is in middle school!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Sarah. You will do the Riverwalk to get to the Virgin River to hike the bottom part of the Narrows. Depending on how you do Emerald Pools, it can be somewhat strenuous. However, Emerald Pools may be more interesting for your kids (but if they can do the East Mesa route they should also be able to handle Emerald Pools). We thought Watchman was just OK but its advantage is that you don’t have to ride the shuttle into the park. However, in October, crowds shouldn’t be as big as they are in the busier summer months. Have a great time in Zion! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Francois Desjardins
    Francois Desjardins

    Hi !

    We are planning a trip for Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands for this summer. I would like to know what is the best app in your opinion to guide us through all hikes and avoid getting lost.
    I know cell coverage is poor to none depending on where we are in the park, but I think some apps work with GPS coordinates… ?

    Thanks !

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Francois. As an app, we mainly use AllTrails. For a fee, you can get offline access to their maps, so this is one of your best options. I’ve also used Komoot but I like AllTrails better. Tim and I both have Garmin Fenix watches and these come with maps, so we can follow the trails right from our watch, which is very handy. You don’t absolutely need an app for the hikes in these parks, as they are very well signed and there will be plenty of people on the trails. The exception to this would be the primitive trail in the Devils Garden in Arches…this is not well signed and many people lose their way (we did our first time on this trail), but that is part of the fun of this hike. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Chad Taylor
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