The Ultimate 2 to 3 Days in Zion National Park Itinerary

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by Audrey Webster

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A favorite of the American Southwest, planning a 2 or 3 days in Zion National Park itinerary is an excellent way to see this incredible natural area in southern Utah. Deep canyons carved by roaring rivers, wildlife, and plenty of outdoor adventures await those who visit Zion.

There are countless amazing things to do in this gorgeous park no matter how long you have to spend. So if you’re planning a trip to the Southwest, make sure not to miss inimitable Zion.

How Many Days in Zion National Park?

Your days in Zion will be packed with impressive sites and memorable adventures. While you can certainly get a feel for the area and enjoy some beautiful scenery if you only have one day in Zion, 2 days is generally considered the baseline for a visit to the park.

With 2 days in Zion, you can do a longer hike (like the famous and picturesque Angel’s Landing) and a scenic drive.

However, 3 days in the park is absolutely ideal, as it allows you to see more of the area, enjoy more iconic hikes and see more breathtaking views.

If you have more time, you can always use it to explore other parks in the area, such as Bryce Canyon National Park, located about a 2-hour drive away.

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park
Kolob Canyons

Planning a Visit to Zion National Park

Packing for Zion 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. However, it might not be the best time to visit Zion if you’re not used to these conditions. Check the weather before visiting and pack accordingly. 

If you have more time to spare in Utah, many people opt for a Utah road trip that visits five different national parks: Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands.

Getting To & 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 Zion shuttles take visitors to the nearby town of Springdale and the park’s main visitor center. Here you can also visit the Zion Human History Museum. 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.

Welcome to Zion sign
Entrance of the park

Some visitors opt to stay outside the park in nearby Springdale or St George. 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 enter the park.

When planning your itinerary, remember that there are two parts of the park: Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons. The former is the most popular section of the park, 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 visitor 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 to get to Zion, you can browse 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.

Scenic drive in Zion national park
Scenic drive in Zion

2 to 3-Day Zion National Park Itinerary

For your time in Zion, 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 NP.

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 visit and get an excellent view of Zion. 

Angel's Landing Hike
Angel’s Landing Hike

Visit the Emerald Pools

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.

We recommend taking a quick lunch break to rest your legs before setting out again. There are several places to picnic or purchase including some options closer to Emerald Pools such as restaurants in and near Zion Lodge.

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. 

Waterfall at the Lower Emerald Pool
Waterfall at the Lower Emerald Pool

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. 

Kolob Canyons on a bright sunny day
Kolob Canyons on a bright sunny day

Visit the Watchman for sunset

You can’t leave Zion NP without watching the sunset for at least one evening. We recommend visiting the Watchman to finish your 2-day Zion 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, the sunset at Watchman is the more impressive show of lights against the rocks. Prepare for there to be some people at Watchman during the evening, but there usually aren’t excessive crowds. 

Beautiful lighting at the Watchman
Beautiful lighting at the Watchman

Day 3 – The Narrows Hike

Hike the Narrows

Looking at pictures of Zion, 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 they’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.

The Narrows
The Narrows

Visit Observation Point

On your third and final day, 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 time in Zion.

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.

View from Observation Point
View from Observation Point

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

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.

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.

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.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options near Zion!

The Virgin River in Zion National Park
The Virgin River

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 trip to Zion. 

Are you planning to visit Zion National Park? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Audrey Webster is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an Oregon native who has visited countries across the globe and currently spends her weekends exploring the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states. Her approach to traveling combines exploring famous tourist sites and wandering off the beaten path to discover new destinations.


  1. Hi there!
    We are visiting Zion in 2 weeks, may 12. My husband is recovering from a broken ankle. So, he will be in an ankle brace and limited hiking ability. Do you have ideas on how to best see the park without strenuous hikes? We are planning to bring our e bikes. I am very interested in the narrows. But, how to get there? Perhaps the guided UTV tour?
    Thanks so much!


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