Zion National Park is a favorite of the national parks in the American southwest. Deep canyons carved by roaring rivers, wildlife, and plenty of outdoor adventures await those who pay Zion National Park a visit. While creating your Zion National Park itinerary, there are a few places you should keep in mind.
If you have 2 to 3 days in Zion National Park to spend, you’re in luck because there is a lot of ground to cover. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best sites to add to your Zion itinerary. Keep reading for some inspiration as you plan a visit to one of Utah’s most popular national parks.
How Many Days in Zion National Park?
Whether you’re able to spend 2 days in Zion National Park or are lucky enough to get 3 days in Zion National Park, your days will be packed with impressive sites and memorable adventures. Three days in the park is ideal, but you can make two easily happen if you prioritize areas of the park you’d like to visit.
Two days is generally considered the baseline for a visit to Zion. In two days, you can do a longer hike (like to the famous and picturesque Angel’s Landing) and a scenic drive. In three days, you can venture into the lesser-known areas of the park.
Packing for Zion National Park can vary dramatically depending on the time of year you’re visiting. As with any time that you find yourself in nature, read up on the weather conditions and ranger reports (especially for some hikes like the Narrows).
Flash floods and other inclement weather are not uncommon in Zion during the summer, so make sure to do your research in advance. Summers in the park boast a dry heat. Pack comfortable shorts, shoes, and tops. Make sure to bring sunscreen and a water bottle so you don’t get dehydrated.
A visit during the colder months offers views of snow-spotted mountains, which is a spectacular site to see in the desert. Check the weather before visiting and pack accordingly.
If you have more time to spare in Utah, many people opt for a week-long Utah road trip that visits five different national parks: Zion NP, Arches NP, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef NP, and Canyonlands NP. Should you be lucky enough with more time to spare in the area, definitely explore itineraries for these nearby national parks.
Getting To and Around Zion National Park
Zion invites visitors to experience the park differently than most other national parks. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is regulated through spring, summer, and fall, forcing visitors to take the Zion Canyon Shuttle to reach the upper regions of the canyon. This is to prevent congestion as summer is when the majority of people visit the park. Private vehicles are not permitted on this road, keeping it open and running smoothly.
Separate shuttles take visitors to the nearby town of Springdale and the park’s main visitor center. The shuttle is very efficient and highly recommended. The visitor center parking lot has little room and is often completely filled early in the day.
Nine shuttle stops are throughout the canyon, it takes about 15 minutes to get from the first stop to the last stop. If you’re staying inside the park, this is an excellent way to get around without having to worry about driving and parking a car. However, if you’re visiting during the peak summer months, you should anticipate a line to get on the shuttle.
Some visitors opt to stay outside the park at nearby Springdale. This is usually the more affordable and available option. Like many national parks, Zion camping and lodge reservations fill up months in advance.
The Springdale shuttle allows visitors to easily access the park without having to worry about their own vehicle. Keep in mind that if you take the shuttle from Springdale into Zion NP, you’ll need to bring your National Park Pass with you or pay the $35 entrance fee at the gate. The shuttle drops riders just outside the park, they cross a pedestrian bridge to access the park.
When planning your Zion National Park itinerary, remember that there are two parts of the park: Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons. The former is the most popular of the two, it’s where the most famous sites like Angel’s Landing and the Narrows are found. It’s also where you’ll find most of the park’s visitors centers, shops, dining, and campgrounds.
Kolob Canyons takes visitors off the beaten path with incredible hikes and scenic drives. It’s usually less busy than Zion Canyon, so if you need a day away from the crowds, this is your place.
If you need to rent a car for this trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com which aggregates prices across many car hire companies. Alternatively, consider renting a campervan or RV from Outdoorsy which might be a good option if combining a visit to Zion with other national parks such as Arches or Canyonlands.
2 to 3 Days in Zion National Park Itinerary
For your 2 to 3 days in Zion National Park, there are countless places to explore. We’ve designed each day to include some of the most popular sites (popular for a good reason–they’re incredible) and some lesser-known places that will get you away from the crowds. No matter where you visit in the park, you will be rewarded with incredible vistas.
Day 1 – Angel’s Landing & Emerald Pools
Hike Angel’s Landing
Beginning April 1, 2022 permits are required to climb Angel’s Landing. This should hint at just how popular this climb is in Zion National Park.
This narrow, tall, and impressive climb puts hikers at the very top of the park with epic views of support. However, the views are not without some strenuous climbing. Those with a fear of heights should seriously reconsider hiking all the way to the top as the trail does become steep and narrow. Near the top, there is a section of the trail that requires hikers to climb over boulders that might be daunting, especially when high in the air.
To reach Angel’s Landing, hop the shuttle and get off at the Grotto. You’ll hike the West Rim Trail to the famous Walter’s Wiggles. Here’s where the trail starts to get strenuous. These steep switchbacks are notorious for slowing down even the most advanced hikers.
At the top of the wiggles, you’ll hike just a little more before reaching the base of Angel’s Landing. To continue from here forward you need to show proof of a permit.
You should anticipate the permits to sell out fast, so make sure to reserve a spot as soon as possible. It’s also advised that you start as early in the morning as possible. Even those who don’t go all the way to Angel’s Landing still trek up Walter’s Wiggles for the view, so the trail quickly gets congested during the day.
Angel’s Landing is by far the most picturesque hike alongside the Narrows. If you can handle heights and get a permit, it’s the best way to begin your first day in Zion National Park.
Visit the Emerald Pools
We recommend taking a quick lunch break to rest your legs before setting out again. There are several places to picnic or purchase. Afterwards, pay a visit to the Emerald Pools. To see the Emerald Pools, hop the shuttle and get off at the same stop as you did for Angel’s Landing–the Grotto, stop 6.
Instead of following the crowds to Angel’s Landing, cross the street and a footbridge to start on the Kayenta Trail. After trekking for one mile on a relatively easy trail, you’ll arrive at the three Emerald Pools. This is a great hike if you’re looking for something away from the crowds and easier than most other hikes in Zion.
The order of the pools is a little counterintuitive. First, you’ll arrive at the middle Emerald Pool that offers a great view of the canyon. Next, the Upper Emerald Pool beneath a giant slab of rock. The Lower Emerald Pool is last and completes the loop, cutting hikers back through a narrow trail.
Here, two waterfalls cascade over the trail, so prepare to get a little wet. This could be a nice relief from regular summer heat. Hiking to the Emerald Pools is about 2.5 miles with just 500 feet of elevation gain.
Day 2 – Explore Kolob Canyons
Kolob Scenic Drive
You should begin day two by venturing away from the crowds and into Kolob Canyons. The drive is about 45 minutes, but the views you’ll get along the way make it worth it. The five-mile road has several places where you can pull out for a photo op or do a quick morning hike.
Taylor Creek and Timber Creek are two popular hikes, but don’t expect the same crowds you saw at Angel’s Landing. Along the drive, you’ll most likely encounter mountain goats and large birds of prey. Likewise, keep an eye out for Kolob Arch, one of the longest natural arches in the world.
The drive ascends 1,000 feet in the five miles that it stretches. The bright green trees against orange rock is a striking contrast of color.
Keep in mind that if you’re driving through Kolob Canyons, you’ll need to stop at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center to show proof of your national park pass. The canyon also tends to be closed during winter due to snow and ice making the road unsafe to drive, so read up on the plow status if you’re planning to visit in winter.
A visit in summer ensures the entire road is functional, but you might run into more traffic than other seasons. Still, Kolob Canyons is one of the least visited areas of the park that is accessible by car.
Visit the Watchman for sunset
You can’t leave Zion National Park without watching the sunset for at least one evening. We recommend visiting the Watchman for your 2 day Zion National Park itinerary. To reach the lookout point, take an easy 3-mile hike with a slight ascent and few corners, before reaching the top of a towering rock formation that is the Watchman.
From here you can get 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Follow the loop that circles the top of the tower for a fresh view in every direction. If you’re not an evening person, you can also do the same hike for sunrise.
However, sunset at Watchman is the more impressive show of lights against the rocks. Prepare for some people at Watchman during the evening, but there usually aren’t excessive crowds.
Day 3 – The Narrows Hike
Hike the Narrows
Looking at pictures of Zion National Park, you’re probably seeing many photos of the Narrows. Trekkers are required to have (renting is available if the gear is not already owned) specific water shoes and a walking stick because you’re hiking through the river.
The Narrows hike begins on the Riverside Walk, a favorite by many visitors to the park. Eventually this walk ends and the Narrows begin, taking hikers upriver through the steep canyons.
This hike is spectacular, but notorious for its flash floods so make sure to check in with a ranger station or visitor center before setting out.
Visit Observation Point
On your third and final day in Zion NP, you’re probably a little tired and ready for a nice and memorable vista before saying goodbye to the park. Should this be the case, take a hike to Observation Point. This outlook might arguably be one of the best in the entire park, and a great way to cap off your 3 day Zion National Park itinerary.
You have two options for reaching the top. The first is a lengthy, strenuous 8-mile round trip hike that gains 2,600 feet of elevation. The second has you drive to the East Mesa Trailhead for a 6-mile round trip hike with only 600 feet of elevation gain. It’s a great sight to wrap up your time in Zion NP.
Where to Stay Near Zion National Park
When spending a couple of days in Zion National Park, you’re going to need to find a great place to rest your head during your time there. The city of St George makes for a great base as it’s located close to the park entrance and there are lots of options within the city, as well. If you’re wondering where to stay in Zion, have a look at these suggestions:
Inn On The Cliff — An excellent luxury option located near Zion, this hotel has a number of wonderful rooms available. There is also a beautiful swimming pool on site and a hearty continental breakfast included in the room price. Click here to see their availability
St George Inn & Suites — This is a great, mid-range option and makes for an excellent base when planning a Zion itinerary. They boast a range of comfortable and clean rooms and even have a swimming pool to enjoy. Click here to see their availability
Private Rental — If you’d rather find a private rental, then there are a number of great options for you when visiting Zion such as this ultra-cool cabin within easy reach of the park entrance. Click here to browse more private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options near Zion National Park!
Your 2 to 3-day itinerary in Zion National Park will be filled with sights and adventures you’ll never forget. Many of the best vistas in the park are rewarded to those who make the hard trek to scenic outlooks, but there are many other exciting sites to explore. Make sure to do your research for park conditions depending on the time of year you visit then plan the perfect Zion National Park itinerary.
Are you planning a trip to Zion National Park? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!