10 Best Stops on a Zion to Grand Canyon Road Trip


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Zion and the Grand Canyon are two iconic national parks tourists like to visit in one trip through the desert Southwest. On your Zion to Grand Canyon road trip, you’ll also see some of the most beautiful sites in all of southern Utah and northern Arizona. There is a reason you’ll see tourists from all over the world at these sites: they have a natural wonder that is unmatched.

Make the most of this road trip by stopping at some of these majestic sites on the way, which include red rock formations, canyons on the Colorado River, and some great gems of roadside and Hollywood history. You can also learn a considerable amount of Navajo history and culture by visiting the sites in this area. You’ll be sure to have a great western adventure with stunning sunsets and vistas.

Planning a Zion to Grand Canyon Drive

The road conditions on the drive from Zion to Grand Canyon are generally good in Utah and somewhat worse in Arizona, where the roads are often bumpy and in need of repair.

The traffic will be light except at some of the most popular sites here like Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam around holidays. As always in the desert, prepare for the heat in summer by making sure you have plenty of water, sunscreen, and the right gear to keep you protected from heatstroke.

Horseshoe Bend - a highlight of driving from Zion to the Grand Canyon
Horseshoe Bend

There are a decent number of restaurants and gas stations in the towns of Mt. Carmel, Kanab, and Page, otherwise, you should make sure you are well stocked with food and gas if you are making other stops and especially if you plan to go camping in remote areas.

A great place to stop overnight is Page, which has lots of hotels and campgrounds and is near many of the sights you’ll want to see.

If you need to rent a car for your road trip, you can find great deals on Rentalcars.com which aggregates results across major providers. You can also rent an RV from Outdoorsy if combining this road trip with other popular routes such as from the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas or from the Grand Canyon to San Diego.

How Far is Zion to Grand Canyon?

The distance from Zion to Grand Canyon is 239 miles (around 385 kilometres) if you are headed to the South Rim. The most common route is to take Highway 9 east out of Zion to Utah Heritage Highway 89, which then goes south through northern Arizona to Cameron, and then take Highway 64 to the Grand Canyon.

You can also split off on 89A from Kanab to Bitter Springs to see the south side of the Vermillion Cliffs area, which may be the best route from Zion to Grand Canyon.

The total Zion to Grand Canyon drive time without stopping is just over four hours, but you should plan for at least a full day to enjoy some of the incredible scenery on the way.

The spectacular Grand Canyon
The spectacular Grand Canyon

10 Best Zion to Grand Canyon Road Trip Stops

Thunderbird Restaurant, Utah

You’ll start out from Zion taking Highway 9 east. Stop for lunch or coffee at the Thunderbird Restaurant in Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah where 9 meets Highway 89. The business originally started as a gas station in 1931 until the pies that owner Fern Morrison handed out to truckers became so popular, she opened a restaurant.

The fabulous thunderbird neon sign will beacon you in to sample the diner favorites and famous pies—another neon sign also advertises the restaurant as the “Home of the Ho-Made Pies” (those missing letters were due to having to shorten the letters of the original sign).

This retro restaurant has expanded now to also include a resort, gift shop and a 9-hole golf course. It also offers package tours of the sites in the area.

Maynard Dixon Legacy Museum, Utah

Drive few miles north on Highway 89 for a detour to the Maynard Dixon Legacy Museum.

Dixon remains one of the most famous landscape artists of the Southwest, He captured the canyons, mountains, plants, native people, and workers, in a new style called social realism influenced by his second wife, photographer Dorthea Lange.

He had a summer home in Mount Carmel Junction, which is now the museum maintained by the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts.

You can tour the home and see some of Dixon’s artwork for an entrance fee of $20 for a guided tour or $10 for self-guided. The foundation also supports a gallery for new artists and summer retreats for artists and photographers.

Little Hollywood Museum, Utah

Drive south on Highway 89 to Kanab, Utah, which has been a location for shooting many movies, including Stagecoach, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and Point Break.

At the Little Hollywood Museum, you can see take a tour of the sets from some of these movies, see a live western skit, eat at the chuckwagon, and buy Native American crafts and jewelry and Stetson hats at the gift store.

The Little Hollywood Museum is open daily (closed in the winter months) and entrance to the museum is free. If you are a western film buff, this is one stop you won’t want to miss on your Grand Canyon to Zion drive.

Old saloon in Kanab, Utah
Old saloon in Kanab, Utah

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, Arizona

From Kanab, take Highway 89 to the Glen Canyon Dam, which created the sprawling Lake Powell. At the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, you can learn about the dam with exhibits and presentations and go on a guided tour that starts here.

To spend some time on Lake Powell, head to the nearby Wahweap Recreation Area where you can launch your boat to explore the lake or camp nearby at the Beehive campground.

You can drive up Lake Shore Drive on the west side to stop at some scenic viewpoints to get great shots of the dam and the lake. On the east side of the dam is the popular hiking spot called the Hanging Gardens and more scenic overlooks.

Glen Canyon Dam in Page
Glen Canyon Dam in Page

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Just down the road from Glen Canyon Dam is Horseshoe Bend, a stunning, almost circular curve in the Colorado River, known as an entrenched meander, a geologic formation due to the earth lifting up rapidly underneath the river.

The canyon it creates is known as the east rim of the Grand Canyon. For a quick visit, you can park near the overlook for a $10 fee and hike less than a mile to the overlook and get some great photos. The best time for photos of Horseshoe Bend is at sunset.

It is not possible to hike down to the water, however, there are options in the area for guided river rafting trips on the Colorado River that go through Horseshoe Bend and you can also take a helicopter tour.

This vista is one stop you will not want to miss on your drive. If you are driving on Highway 89A, you’ll want to stop here on the reverse Grand Canyon to Zion road trip or backtrack a bit up 89 just to see this stunning photo op.

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Just a few miles east on Highway 98 from Horseshoe Bend is Antelope Canyon, a stunning slot canyon, with winding walls and ceilings that bend in all directions due to flash flooding over time.

There is also streaming light from above that appears mystical, a beacon for photographers. This canyon is on Navajo land and is a sacred site, so you can only see it by going on a guided tour by a member of the Navajo Nation.

The Upper Antelope Canyon has no decline and is a short walk to get to, making it a popular choice. Lower Antelope Canyon is a longer hike that takes you underground and will require you to go up and down ladders. Some tours also add on excursions to nearby Rattlesnake Canyon and Owl Canyon.

As the most photographed slot in the United States, tours fill up quickly and will be crowded in the summer.

Antelope Canyon
Antelope Canyon

Jacob Lake, Arizona

If you are headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon or the south side of Vermillion Cliffs, take Highway 89A from Kanab and stop at Jacob Lake, a peaceful recreation area in the North Kaibab National Forest.

At the lake, which is surrounded by ponderosa pines, there is a lodge with cabins, a restaurant, a campground, and a store. There are also hiking and mountain biking trails.

This area is a nice change of climate from the rest of your road trip. Many visitors to the North Rim prefer to stay at Jacob Lake due to the limited lodging available at the national park. It is also a great spot to just stop for a picnic or sample the fry bread at the food truck in the parking lot of the gas station.

Coyote Buttes, Arizona

As you drive along Highway 89A, you’ll pass by Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, one of the most incredible red rock formations in the Southwest.

If you are an expert hiker, you may want to take your chances on one of the online or walk-in lotteries to hike either at Coyote Butte South or Coyote Butte North, where you can see the Wave, a famous swirling red and white sandstone formation you have probably seen in photographs.

These can be dangerous hikes though, so if you are attempting either of them, be sure you bring plenty of food, water, a map, and follow all regulations. The hike to the wave is almost seven miles round trip, and the southern route, which you will have a better chance of getting a permit, is 25 miles.

There are no paved roads within Vermillion Cliffs, and you will need a 4-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicle to drive there. Spare tires, mats, and shovels are also recommended due to the sand you’ll be drive through.

Since it is easy to get lost on the route to and from the Wave, you may want to consider doing a guided tour of one of the Coyote Buttes to ensure a safer trip.

Coyote Buttes South
Coyote Buttes South

Paria Canyon, Arizona

Another gorgeous area to explore in Vermillion Cliffs is Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch, one of the longest slot canyons in the world. At 15 miles, this slot canyon is an adventure to hike through, with towering cliffs that narrow down, puddles to wade through, and boulders to climb over.

There are also petroglyphs to view at Wire Pass Wash. There is no permit required to hike the canyon, making it an alternative for those who can’t get permits to Coyote Buttes.

Like the Coyote Buttes hiking areas, you’ll need to be a well-trained hiker and in good if you are attempting to hike the entire canyon. And unlike the Coyote Buttes, you can camp overnight in Paria Canyon, which you’ll need a permit for. You can enter Paria Canyon either from the White House Trailhead in Utah off Highway 89 or from the south.

There are also other shorter, spectacular hikes at Vermillion Cliffs like White Pocket and Sun Valley Mine Trail that don’t require permits and are definitely worth checking out.

Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry, Arizona

If you’re taking the 89A route, make your last stop on the Zion to Grand Canyon road trip at Marble Canyon on the Colorado River. You can walk the length of the Historic Navajo Bridge, built in 1929, which is now a pedestrian bridge that parallels the newer one. The bridge offers a great view of the canyon.

Drive down Honey Moon Trail to see Cathedral Rock, and you can park at the Cathedral Wash trailhead to hike down to the river.

A little further down the road is Lees Ferry, the first regular crossing of the Colorado River connecting Arizona and Utah, started by John D. Lee, an exiled Mormon banned from Utah due to his involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

There is a campground here and a beach where most group river trips down through the Grand Canyon launch from. You can also go trout-fishing here or launch your own boat to go upstream.

You can drive the rest of the way on Highway 89 and then take 64 to the Grand Canyon to complete your Zion to Grand Canyon road trip.

Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River
Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River

Where To Stay on the Zion to Grand Canyon Road Trip

Though the drive from Zion to the Grand Canyon isn’t a long one, there are so many great stops along the way that you’re likely going to need to find a good place to base yourself for a night or two between these two iconic National Parks. 

Where to Stay in Page

A great place to base yourself between Zion and the Grand Canyon is the city of Page, which is situated close to Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs and countless other sites listed here. If you’re wondering where to stay in Page, have a look at these suggestions:

Country Inn & Suites – A great option of you’re looking for a consistent and comfortable place to stay, this hotel has a lot to offer. They have a great location, countless clean and comfortable rooms, a swimming pool and even an on-site bar. Click here to see their availability

Red Rock Motel – If you’re travelling on a bit of a tighter budget, then this independent motel can be a great choice for you in Page. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms available (some including a full kitchen) and a great location for exploring the surrounding area. Click here to see their availability

Private Rental – Another popular option for accommodation is a private vacation rental, like this unique glamping experience. There are lots of properties to choose from and you’re sure to find something that suits your travel needs. Click here to browse more Page private rentals!

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Page hotels!

Where to Stay near the Grand Canyon

If you’re not staying or visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (which is only open from May to October every year), then the most logical place to base yourself is in the town of Williams located just south of the South Rim park entrance. If you’re searching for a great accommodation option, have a browse through these suggestions:

The Lodge on Route 66 – If you’d like a bit of luxury to end your Zion to Grand Canyon drive, then this hotel is an excellent choice. They have a number of beautifully decorated rooms available, a central location in downtown Williams and even include a buffet breakfast each morning. Click here to see their availability

El Rancho Motel – If you’re on a bit of a tighter budget, then this motel in Williams is a great option. Located in downtown Williams on the historic Route 66, they have a range of basic and comfortable rooms on offer and serves as a great jumping-off point for exploring the Grand Canyon and elsewhere in Northern Arizona. Click here to see their availability

Private Rental – If it’s a private vacation rental you are after, then you’ll be happy to know there are lots of options available near the Grand Canyon. Whether you’re looking for a luxury lakefront house like this one or something a bit more basic, there are lots of choices on offer. Click here to browse private rentals near the Grand Canyon

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Grand Canyon hotels!

Where to Stay near Zion

Basing yourself in the city of St George, Utah is an excellent choice when exploring Zion National Park as there are lots of amenities and services in the town that you don’t get closer to the park. If you’re looking for a great place to stay, have a look at these suggestions:

Inn On The Cliff –If you’re looking for a bit of luxury during your trip road trip from Zion to the Grand Canyon, then this hotel is a great choice for you. They have a number of clean, chic and comfortable rooms available, a great swimming pool with fantastic views, 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 for exploring Zion and a great jumping-off point for this road trip. 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 thisultra-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!

Zion National Park is the last stop on the Denver to Las Vegas drive
Zion National Park

The only difficult thing about planning a road trip from Zion to the Grand Canyon is figuring out which of the amazing sites to see in a short period of time! These stops will definitely make your drive through the Southwest a classic road trip adventure.

Are you planning a road trip from Zion to the Grand Canyon? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Kate Stewart is a writer for The World Was Here First. She is an archivist specializing in oral history who is based in Tucson, Arizona and grew up in the Midwest. Kate loves driving across the country and exploring the oddities of American and Southwest culture. In her spare time, she is a political activist, country music junkie, and baseball fan.

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