Zion to Bryce Canyon is part of the ultimate Utah road trip. You can read an overview of the top 7 parks to visit in Utah. This article will be part of a series that goes into more detail for each leg of the trip.
A Zion to Bryce road trip is a pleasant surprise. You see, if you are driving along I-70 through Utah, you may be convinced that there is nothing to see in these vast wastelands. The scenery rolls by like a Flintstones background. Rock, desert, cactus. Rock, desert, cactus.
At least, that’s what I thought growing up when we would drive through Utah on our annual California road trip. Just something to get through on the way to our destination.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I saw firsthand how much I had been missing just a short drive off of the highway.
From ski slopes and evergreen forests to hoodoos and slot canyons, Utah seems limitless in its diversity.
Why is Zion and Bryce the Ultimate Utah Road Trip Destination?
First of all, Zion National Park offers some of the most majestic views of the southwest part of Utah. It’s located at the edges of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau giving it a unique look at all three geologies.
As you drive into the park and enter Zion Valley, the views are almost overwhelming. The giant cliffs rising over the lush valley is almost too amazing to comprehend.
And even though Bryce Canyon is just about 60 miles away from Zion National Park, it is completely different. A little higher in elevation, erosion has carved a different masterpiece altogether.
However you want to explore them, the National Parks have made these incredible natrual landscapes accessible. Drive, hike, or ride into these two treasures of the American Southwest.
How to Explore Utah: From Zion to Bryce Canyon
If gawking at beautiful places is your thing, Utah has to be high on your list. And while each of the State and National parks could be a destination by themselves, a road trip is the best way to explore them.
Zion and Bryce are two parts of a perfect southwest road trip. Whether confining it to Utah alone, or combining it with a road trip from the Grand Canyon to Zion. It would take an entire book to describe the full road trip.
So, we want to provide all of the resources for just this leg of the journey. This will be an in-depth article, so put on a pot of coffee and let’s get to it!
If you don’t want to read all of the details and just want a suggestion for an ideal itinerary, look no further. Here is the quick guide to visiting Zion and Bryce:
Ideal Itinerary: 3 Days in Zion and Bryce National Parks
Zion to Bryce Canyon can be a trip all in itself, but most likely, you will connect it with a bigger southwest road trip.
You can either start in Zion and head to other Utah National Parks, or connect it with a visit to the Grand Canyon (2-½ hours from the North Rim; 6 hours from the South Rim). However you get here, these two parks make for an awesome road trip.
Day 1: Arrive in Zion and set up camp or check into your lodging. Take a drive along the Mount Carmel Highway or take a hike along one of the shorter trails. You could easily complete the Middle Emerald Pools or the Watchman trail in a couple of hours.
Day 2: Hike Angels Landing in the morning before the temperatures get too hot. In the afternoon in the summer, head to The Narrows to get in the cool water with some shade in the afternoon. In the cold weather, spend the second half of the day hiking one of the many other trails or take one of the excursions mentioned below.
Day 3: Drive out the Mount Carmel Highway for spectacular views. You will pass through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. Stop at the Canyon Overlook Trail for one last quick hike on your way to Bryce Canyon.
Drive to Bryce and hike the Figure 8 Trail to get the most famous sites. Finish the day by setting up camp or check into your lodging nearby.
Can you visit Zion and Bryce in one day?
You could technically visit Zion and Bryce in a single day. In the summertime finding parking, catching a shuttle, and taking a short hike in Zion may take a half a day or longer. It’s always a good idea to get an early start. Then it is about 1-½ hours to Bryce where you could hop on a trail in the afternoon.
Or you could just do a quick drive-through to see some of the impressive features of both parks.
However, most people would spend at least one day in Zion and a half day in Bryce. Especially if you want to finish the best hikes in each park.
Did you know:
Bryce has the most hoodoos anywhere in the world. These spires are leftover from thousands of years of erosion, leaving giant columns up to 200 feet tall.
How to Plan Your Zion to Bryce Road Trip
Now for all of the nitty gritty details on how to make this work. We have tried to cover as much of the essential research as possible. As you will notice, there are tons of links for further information and final planning.
Note: some of these links are affiliate links.
What we will cover:
- How to get to Zion and Bryce Canyon
- What to do and see in both parks
- Where to stay near Zion and Bryce Canyon
- How long to spend in each park
- The best time to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon
- The best hiking trails in the area
Things to know before you go
- Always check the trail conditions (for Zion and for Bryce) before heading out. At the time of writing, Hidden Canyon, Weeping Rock Trail, and Observation Point (via the East Rim Trail from Weeping Rock) were closed due to large rock falls.
- Flash floods. Some hikes are in narrow canyons that quickly turn into deadly torrents. Always check the weather before hiking.
- Wildlife. Despite all of the pictures of barren rock, there are actually forests in the parks. Mountain lions and bears are common. Practice safe camping habits.
- Traffic. During summer months the main roads are closed to private transportation. Shuttles are provided. Expect traffic at peak times.
- Dangerous trails. With exposed ledges and loose rock, parts of these trails can be dangerous. Read descriptions carefully before bringing children or those afraid of heights.
- Accessibility in Zion. At this time only Pa’rus Trail is accessible. However, other facilities are made available.
- Accessibility in Bryce Canyon has even less trails available with only a small portion of the Rim Trail considered accessible. For all other compliant facilities, see the NPS page.
- For rules on pets in the national parks, refer to Zion’s page or Bryce Canyon’s page.
For quick access, jump to:
- Things to Do In Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
- Where to Stay In and Near Both Parks
- How to Get there
- Hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon
- How Long to Go
- When to Visit Zion and Bryce Canyon
Zion and Bryce: Things to Do (Besides Epic Hiking)
- Airplane tour
- Mountain Biking
- Jeep Rentals
- Hot air balloon festival – Summer – Panguitch
- Hot air balloon flights – St. George
- Canyoneering Bryce
- Canyoneering Zion or take an introductory course
- Climbing near Zion (not allowed inside the park)
- Rappelling in Bryce
- Dark sky photography – Bryce is a Gold Tier member of the International Dark Sky Association
- Helicopter Zion
- Climbing near Zion (not allowed inside the park)
- Horseback riding
- Check out this post for the best things to do in Kanab, Utah.
Where to Stay: From Zion to Bryce Canyon
You have so many choices to make. Do you backpack, car camp, stay in an RV? What about glamping, vacation rental, or a hotel? Then again, there are lodges, cabins, and cottages to consider.
Not only what type of accommodation but where to stay. Do you stay near Zion and drive to Bryce? Or vice versa? What about staying in between?
Both parks have campgrounds and cabins to choose from. In addition, they each have commercial lodges. Plus there are towns just outside the parks with a variety of lodging.
If you are willing to drive a little further, there are small towns to stay in between the two National Parks. Check out Duck Creek Village or Kanab. Duck Creek makes the drive to Zion a little longer while Kanab is a bigger town with more stores and restaurants should you want to be closer to civilization.
However, this does make for long drives each day. My recommendation is to stay at each park separately. Let’s take a look at each of them next.
Zion National Park Camping
This is probably the most popular way to experience the National Parks. And especially so in this part of the desert southwest.
While so much of the Western United States has changed through development since the early explorers, some things remain the same. The quiet seclusion has greeted residents and passersby for generations. Why not experience it for yourself?
Let’s start with camping in Zion National Park.
There are 3 campgrounds in Zion: Watchman, South, and Lava Point (Don’t worry. It’s not hot lava).
The pros of camping in a Zion National Park campground are the convenience of staying so close to all of the trails and natural wonders. The cons are they have no showers or laundry facilities. However, Springdale is within a couple of miles of the South entrance and has pay showers and other basic necessities.
Watchman Campground is near the South entrance of Zion National Park. It has everything from walk-in, to drive-in, to RV sites. The RV sites do not have full hook-ups, though. But there is a common dump station near the entrance. Refer to the campground map.
South Campground is the second of the Zion National Park campsites near the park’s south entrance…thus the name. It is more of an overflow since it is usually only open from March through October.
It also lacks RV hookups. But you can fill up on your way in and use the dump station on the way out. For handicap accessible bathrooms, you will have to go to the Watchman Campground about a quarter-mile away. Check out the South Campground Map for a layout of the campsites.
Lava Point Campground is more than an hour away from the other two campgrounds. It is remote and basic, with pit toilets and no running water. But if you are looking for a rustic campsite in Zion National Park, this is your place.
Typically only open from May to September (weather depending), it is a starting point for visiting the northern trails of the park. It is also over 7,000 feet in elevation, so winter in Zion can make this road dangerous or impassible at times.
Now these campsites fill up quickly. But there are other campgrounds in the area, just not as convenient as staying in the park itself.
Backpacking/ Wilderness camping in Zion
For details, refer to the Zion National Park map.
Note: Be sure to check trail conditions and closures. For the latest, see the Zion National Park Backpacking Information Page.
Rules for Backcountry Camping
- Permit required for all overnight wilderness camping
- Backcountry sites – designated wilderness campsites
- At-large sites – no designated sites; just be out of view of the trail, 200 feet (60 m) from all streams and trails, and ¼ mile (400 m) from natural springs.
- Leave no trace
- Bring water – 1 gallon per person per day
- The National Park has produced a comprehensive guide, including a map of Zion National Park. (Also available in Spanish, French, German, and Italian here.)
Or you can order a physical map of Zion National Park. These are waterproof and tear resistant. I always recommend this when traveling off the grid. It’s best to have in an emergency when your electronics may be dead or wet.
And they’re great for planning or remembering. Write out your plans. Make trail notes along the way. Talk about them over a cup of coffee. We wouldn’t be Maps Over Coffee without some recommendations for both maps and coffee.
Camping at-large (no designated campsite)
2 Designated sites only
10 Designated sites only
6 Designated sites only
12 Designated sites only
9 Designated sites only
Camping at-large (no designated campsite)
Be sure to check the trail conditions when planning your trip and before you hike. Many of the trails have been temporarily or indefinitely closed due to rock slides.
Free Camping Outside of Zion National Park
For those of you that are looking for cheap or free camping but aren’t up to an overnight hike, there are plenty of free options nearby.
- Free BLM South of Highway 9 map; and BLM North of Highway 9 map; This article has more details if you are interested.
Free camping by Bryce Canyon National Park
- Dixie National Forest has free dispersed camping very close to Bryce.
Tip: The easiest way to find free camping is the Dyrt app from Apple or Android; you can search your area and filter by features such as “free”.
- National parks, forests, state parks
Bryce Canyon National Park Camping
North Campground is located near the visitors center. There are tent and RV sites, however there are no utility hookups. There are flush toilets and laundry at the campground and pay showers at the general store nearby. North Campground is open year-round.
Sunset Campground is another 1-½ miles from the visitor center. There are additional tent and RV sites but have the same lack of utility hookups, flush toilets and pay showers at the general store. Sunset Campground is open from April – October.
Backpacking/ Wilderness camping In Bryce Canyon
- Reservations ($5 pp) at the visitors center only; no online reservations
- Trails are rugged and strenuous
- Water sources are unreliable; bring at least 1 gallon per person per day
- Wildlife include mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, and snakes
- Shuttle service does not reach the south end of the park; hitchhiking is illegal
Be sure to check out the Bryce Canyon Trail map from the National Park Service. It includes the two main overnight hiking trails
And I recommend bringing a physical Map of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Under-the-Rim Trail has 7 backcountry sites.
Riggs Spring Loop Trail has 3 backcountry sites
Other camping by Bryce Canyon National Park
Ruby’s Inn has an RV and tent campground just about 1 mile outside of the park. Or about 10 minutes away is the Bryce Canyon Pines RV and campground.
There is free dispersed camping in Dixie National Forest. The National Forest Service has information on RV and tent camping.
The Dyrt’s pro app allows you to find free camping wherever you are.
Lodging in Zion National Park
So, the best way to experience the wilderness is to spend some nights out in it. There is nothing more amazing than experiencing the dazzling display of stars. Utah offers wide open spaces with very little, if any light pollution. Perfect for getting lost stargazing.
There are, however, reasons to stay indoors. Like if you have small children, are expecting bad weather, or need some of the amenities of modern living. The parks and towns nearby have you covered too.
However, we prefer some sort of a combination. We love to spend a few nights camping and backpacking followed by a night or two recuperating. This is our favorite way to travel and find this to be the best of both worlds and justifies the extra expense.
Other than camping, Zion Lodge is the only accomodation within the boundaries of the park. From hotel rooms to private cabins, this is the most convenient lodging in Zion national park.
Lodging Near Zion National Park
Outside of the park you have other options. Springdale is a small town just outside of the border of the park. It has plenty of hotels, bed and breakfasts, lodges, and even glamping (check out the Stargazer Suite at Under Canvas in Virgin, Utah).
We stayed at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch and I have to say it is amazing. They offer their own luxury tents, cabin suites, campground and RV park. We spent a couple of nights in their cowboy cabins and stayed cozy during our winter Zion trip.
Orderville is only about 20 minutes away where you can find tiny homes, yurts, and even a treehouse.
Lodging In Bryce Canyon National Park
The Bryce Canyon Lodge is conveniently located in the park. Built in 1925, it has become a quintessential part of the landscape. They offer lodge rooms and suites as well as camping and an RV park. There is also a restaurant, pizzeria and coffee shop.
Lodging Near Bryce Canyon
If you are looking for a place to stay near Bryce Canyon you could do worse than the Countryside Cabins located in Panguitch. Or you could just rent a house for a couple of nights. This is especially suitable for families or groups.
Panguitch has many other properties to choose from. From lodges to cabins to hotels, you will find something to suit your needs.
Sevier Ranch & Cattle Company is just outside of Hatch, Utah and about a half-hour drive to Bryce. They offer small bungalows up to a 3 bedroom house.
Or check out these options for houses, bungalows, cabins and cottages in Hatch.
How to Get to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Of course, Zion and Bryce can be just two stops on an even greater road trip. Driving across country allows you to see so much diversity. And it connects you with past generations when driving was the only way to travel long distances.
However, the lower costs of airfare and limited vacation days have made flying a better option for some. So we want to cover the 4 nearest airports to Zion and Bryce.
While the smaller airports will get you to the parks quicker, it may make sense to fly into one of the bigger cities and just have a longer road trip.
So next , we can consider the best choices for flying and driving to Utah.
Closest Airport to Zion National Park
If you are considering flying to Zion National Park, you have plenty of options. Notice the map below
The 4 nearest airports to Zion are in St. George (45 minutes), Cedar City (1 hour), Las Vegas (2+ hours), and Salt Lake City (4-½ hours)
The most common option for flying to Zion and Bryce would be to fly into Las Vegas. Generally one of the cheaper destinations, McCarran International Airport is about 160 miles (a little over 2 hours) away from Zion National Park and about 260 miles (4 hours) from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Depending on how you plan to get to the National Parks, it may be worth looking into the regional airports. If you are going to take a shuttle from the major airport, it may be cheaper to fly into St. George and shuttle in from there.
You can alway rent a car from each of these locations, but of course the larger airports have more options available as seen below.
Driving or Shuttle Options From the Nearest Airports
Zion to Bryce Canyon is just one leg of the Ultimate Utah Road Trip. Or they could be part of other amazing road trips across the southwest.
Then again, you could make a road trip out of just these two parks. As you will see, there is plenty to explore to fill up a week or two in these beautiful reserves.
For this article, let’s take a look at the options for flying into one of the nearby airports and then driving or riding to the parks.
Flying Into Las Vegas
The obvious choice for most visitors would be to rent a car and drive. Check out Kayak for availability from the major brands at the airport of your choice.
Or if you have ever wanted to experience vanlife, this is your chance. Native Campervans is a great option. Rates start around $129 per day for a small van with a 100 mile per day allowance (additional mileage packages are available). They also have a location in Salt Lake City.
They offer winter packages including sleeping bags, space heaters, hand warmers, hot water bottles, and snow chains.
Escape Campervans offers rentals from Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. They also have addons including a rooftop sleeper, kitchen kit, and bedding. They also offer a winter kit including Rumpl blankets for that extra warmth on those cold desert nights.
You will have to get a Lyft or Uber to get to either of these locations, but then the adventure begins.
Shuttle Service From Las Vegas to Zion
You can catch the St George Shuttle for around $100 per person to Zion. But it stops in St. George for a couple of hours, so it could take up to 6 hours each way.
Flying into Salt Lake City
Depending on your itinerary you may fly into other international airports. Salt Lake City International Airport is about 4-1/2 hours from Zion and about 4 hours from Bryce.
Wandervans for a campervan rental out of Salt Lake City starting at $89/day. However, you will have to take a Lyft or Uber to their rental location. And you will have to factor in the 150 mile per day limit ($0.30 per mile over that).
Native, mentioned earlier, has a location in Salt Lake City as well.
Shuttle Service From Salt Lake City to Zion
The St. George Shuttle is around $120 per person to Zion. However, it will take a minimum of 6-½ hours each way.
Flying into St. George
St. George Regional Airport is only about 45 minutes from Zion. This is the closest airport to Zion National Park. And although a bit pricier than the major airports, you will be on the trails in no time.
Car Rental in St. George
The major car rentals in and around the airport include Alamo, Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz. Check out CarRentals.com for the best rates.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many campervan choices in the area. But Outdoorsy and RVShare both offer RV owners the chance to rent out their recreational vehicles. You can choose sizes from a full size motorhome to a pop-up trailer (some have delivery to your site, for a small fee). Or you can rent a classic VW van converted to a campervan, part of a fleet from retroVWs.
Note: If you are considering renting an RV and having it delivered, make sure the owner has a commercial license to rent inside the parks. Here is the Parks official notification:
“ATTENTION: If you plan on renting an RV or camping equipment and having it delivered to Zion National Park, it is your responsibility to make sure that the individual or business that you are renting the equipment from has a valid permit to do business in the park. It is illegal to conduct business in a park area without a permit, contract, or other written agreement. Renting from a business or individual without a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) with the park may leave you without accommodations as the RV/camping equipment may be turned away upon delivery.”
Be sure to ask before you book a rental. You may have the unexpected privilege of sleeping in your car.
Alternatives to Car Rentals From St. George to Zion
Again, the St. George Shuttle is available for around $70 per person to Zion
Uber will cost around $200 round trip (Lyft was not available at the time of writing). It may be worth considering if you aren’t renting a car but traveling with a group.
Flying into Cedar City
Cedar City Regional Airport is about 1 hour away from the Zion park entrance. Enterprise and Avis both have locations serving Cedar City.
Car Rentals in Cedar City
Although a smaller airport, Avis and Enterprise are available. Look at Kayak for the best rates.
RVShare has some RVs for rent in or near Cedar City. Outdoorsy didn’t have any in town. But since they both have delivery options, it really doesn’t matter. And even if you rent a trailer, you won’t need a truck to get it to the park.
Nor will you need to worry about backing up a rented RV into a tight spot. Just show up and enjoy camping under one of the darkest skies imaginable.
Alternatives to Car Rentals From Cedar City to Zion
The St. George Shuttle starts at $81 round trip per person. Check the schedule since fares and travel times vary.
Uber estimates a $150-$200 round trip while Lyft will cost between $250 and $360 depending on the size. (Always check availability before your trip!)
Getting Around In Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
Each park has its own internal bus system. These are convenient ways to get around the park, especially on long hiking trails. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you don’t have to make the trek back. Nor do you have to cut your hike short just to make sure you have time to get back to your starting point.
Getting around in the parks depends on the time of year. During peak season, the main roads in Zion are closed to traffic except by park shuttle.
However, the shuttles are a convenient and free way to get around each park. Below are the schedules and routes to their respective services.
- Zion Canyon Shuttle System
- Bryce Canyon Shuttle System
Getting from Zion to Bryce Canyon
Since the shuttles don’t go between the two National Parks, you will have to use other means to travel between them. Below are some of the options.
Each of the airports mentioned offer rental cars. Of course, the International airports are going to have more options. But you won’t be left stranded flying into the Southern Utah regional airports.
If you didn’t rent a car, the National Park Express operates between Zion and Bryce. They have a daily schedule that should work out for your trip.
Fun Things to Rent Near Zion and Bryce
Of course, there are so many ways to explore these southwest gems. For many, a leisure drive through the main drag is all they need to enjoy the park. Others will want to hike, bike, and backpack.
But for those looking for something a little more adventurous and off-roady, check out Southern Utah Adventure Center in Hurricane. They rent UTVs, Jeeps, dirt bikes, kayaks, SUPs, mountain bikes, boat/jet skis and more. Perfect activities for the surrounding landscape.
The perfect plan for the perfect road trip. Zion and Bryce Canyons. Two masterpieces sculpted by time.— Maps over Coffee (@MapsOver) December 20, 2020
Hiking In Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks
While there are so many things to do in both parks, hiking is the most popular activity. And for good reason.
From leisure strolls on flat, paved trails to hair-raising clamber up cliff sides for unforgettable views. But of course, most of the trails are something in-between.
Choose from half-day hikes up steep trails, or even wade up the Virgin River through narrow slot canyons. There are plenty of opportunities for a challenging hike without the risk of making the evening news.
So let’s next cover the best trails in each park.
Best Trails in Zion National Park
While Zion and Bryce both have great options for backpacking, a majority of visitors will opt for shorter hikes. It is possible to hit several of these in one day.
Keep up to date with this brief hiking guide from Zion’s National Park Service.
To get the most out of your day, plan as many or as few as you like. Below are the best day hikes in Zion National Park:
Definitely a popular spot, if you have the stamina and courage this is the one to tackle. This is a half day investment into a lifetime of memories.
If you have seen more than one picture of Zion, chances are it was of this park classic. You could think of worse things to do in the summer than hiking and wading through the cool water of this canyon.
The Emerald Pools Trail
Combining the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools Trails makes for a beautiful hike without all of the elevation gain of Angels Landing nor the river wading of The Narrows. However, you will walk under the waterfall.
Canyon Overlook Trail
This is a good 1 hour hike coming into or leaving the park. It’s not super strenuous but leads to a great panorama of the Upper East Canyon and Pine Creek Slot Canyon.
An easy stroll along the river is a striking contrast to some of the more difficult hikes. But it is a nice respite after the vertigo-inducing, quad-busting journey to Angels Landing.
For a full list of trails in Zion National Park, check out the park’s guide. There is a brief overview and current closures and warnings for each trail.
One Day in Zion National Park
If you only have one day in Zion National Park, there is no way you can see all of the sites. And depending on the time of the year, some of the trails will be more crowded than others.
But if you want to have the quintessential Zion hike, there are 2 definite must-do hikes. If you only have one day in Zion, you could potentially do both of them. If so, you will see the canyon at two of the most extreme elevations.
Angels Landing is a precarious perch overlooking Zion Valley. While The Narrows goes deep into the valley floor. Let’s explore each to get an idea for seeing the best of Zion in one day.
Angels Landing Zion National Park
Despite its difficulty and dizzying heights, Angels Landing is one of the most popular hikes in Zion. Needless to say, it gets busy during the summer months. Narrow trails with sudden drops of 1,000+ feet make this less attractive during busy times.
The trail starts out easy enough, meandering along the Virgin River. But soon it starts to climb, slowly getting steeper until you get to Walter’s Wiggles. With 21 switchbacks, you will make your way up the side of the mountain until you get to Scout’s Lookout.
From here, it gets downright scary. Portions of the trail are only a few feet wide as you cross the ridgeback toward the final ascent to the viewpoint. With a final push up a sheer face, you are assisted by chains held by a death grip.
However, the rewards are worthwhile as the valley opens up and you realize that there is 1,500 feet of sky between you and the floor you were on a couple of hours ago.
For a full description, see this step-by-step guide that drills down into the details.
- Distance: 5.4 miles (8.7 km) (round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 1488 feet (453 km)
- Trailhead: Across the road from the #6 Shuttle stop The Grotto
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time Required: 4 hours
The Narrows Zion National Park
The other of the most popular and photogenic trails in Zion’s Narrows. Where Angels Landing looks down on the wide open maw of the canyon, at the far end it constricts tighter around the Virgin River until the only thing left is the river itself. Which is where The Narrows gets its name.
More than half of this hike is in water. From ankle deep to over waist-high, plan on getting wet for this hike. Which sounds refreshing in the hot Utah summer. Not so much in the colder months.
Most start from the bottom and walk upstream. This doesn’t require a permit while the top-down approach does.
You can hike as far up as you like before turning back. Along the way you will see geographic history tiered above you. It is incredible to see the relentless power of water over time.
Warning: Always check the weather before attempting this hike. Flash flooding is no joke and can take hikers by surprise. You will be surrounded by cliffs up to 1,000 feet high, so you can easily be trapped.
For more information, the National Park Service has what you need to get there and back safely.
- Distance: 9.4 miles (15.1 km) (round trip)
- Elevation Gain: 334 feet (453 km)
- Trailhead: At the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop (#9)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time Required: 1-8 hours
Bonus: If you aren’t up to a strenuous hike in Zion, try one of these activities:
Adventurous: Airplane tour
See the sites: Shuttle ride or drive the scenic route
Excursion: Horseback riding
Best Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park
Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop combination. (add Peek-a-boo)
This is the most popular loop in the Bryce. If you come to see the notorious hoodoos and rugged canyon, this is the hike for you…Granted you are in superior athletic shape.
Hat Shop (boulders balanced on top of monolithic hoodoos)
One Day In Bryce Canyon National Park
Figure 8 Trail – Queens/Navajo/Peek-a-boo Combo Loop
If you only have one day in Bryce Canyon, this is the hike to do. It is known as the Figure 8 Trail and combines the popular Queens Garden, Navajo Loop, and Peek-a-boo Loop Trails.
It is moderately strenuous as it covers over 6 miles and 1,600 feet elevation gain. But along the way you will see some of the park’s most iconic sites including Thor’s Hammer, Two Bridges, Wall Street, and the Wall of Windows.
- Distance: 6.4 miles (10.2 km)
- Elevation Gain: 1631 feet (497 m)
- Trailhead: Sunset Point (or Sunrise Point) Trailhead
- Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
- Time Required: 4.5 hours
If you still have some energy left, take on the Hat Shop. And no, I’m not suggesting a shopping spree here (Hopefully you brought your hat, though…).
The Hat Shop gets its name from the boulders decorating the tops of the hoodoos. It looks like the spires are throwing a silly tea party.
- Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
- Elevation Gain: 1075 feet (328 m)
- Trailhead: Sunset Point (or Sunrise Point) Trailhead
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time Required: 3 hours
Easy alternative: Rim Trail
If you’re busted from either one of these hikes and you would rather something a little easier on the muscles, try the Rim Trail. It is out and back, so whenever you have had enough, head back to the trailhead and get to camp to start your recovery.
Bonus: If you need a break from hiking, try one of these activities around Bryce Canyon:
See the sites: Take the scenic drive and stop along the way
Excursion: Hot air balloon ride
Of course, when planning a road trip you will want to make sure you have everything you need. Especially when spending any time outdoors, there is always another tool or gadget that just makes life a little more comfortable.
If you have a local gear shop, buy there first if possible. It may cost a few dollars more, but it helps the local economy in ways that your tax dollars can’t. And it helps to feed families that you probably know.
But when you can’t buy locally and need to search online, check out www.usoutdoor.com. They will hook you up with every creature comfort for your outdoor adventure.
Most Likely you will have all of the hiking and camping equipment with you. Half of the fun of being outdoors is to try out new tools and an excuse to break in your new hiking boots.
But it never fails that we forget something, lose something, or just want something useful as a souvenir.
Or you may just decide to fly in and rent all of your camping equipment.
Whatever the reason that you need extra gear, from clothing to camping equipment, no worries! The surrounding areas have you covered. Besides the major stores in St. George and Kanab, check out these options nearby:
Springdale has a shop for Gear and apparel when visiting Zion.
If you need the full kit, find Zion Camping Rental for everything you need including set up.
Likewise, Lowegear has what you need for Camping equipment rental near Bryce Canyon
Zion to Bryce Canyon: How Many Days Should You Spend?
You could easily spend a week or more visiting Zion and Bryce Canyons. If so, you could explore all of the trails, slot canyons, and take some of the excursions we have listed.
More than likely though, you are going from Zion to Bryce as just a portion of a greater road trip. Whether visiting all of Utah’s national and state parks or linking with a Grand Canyon junket, you probably have limited time. So, we have included a 3 day itinerary to get the most out of the park in the least amount of time.
When is the best time to go to Zion and Bryce Canyon?
When deciding on the best month to visit Zion and Bryce, the two biggest factors are the weather and the crowds. Personally, I prefer to go when the weather starts to cool off and the hordes of people start to diminish.
We went in March and had occasional snow and freezing rain. But we had all of the trails largely to ourselves and could drive to any part of the park.
Early fall would be nice too. Use the slider on the chart below to see when your ideal balance of population and weather.
Zion National Park in Spring
Spring in Zion brings new flowers and melting snow. Some trails are still closed. The water levels rise in The Narrows and ice can cover some of the trails at higher elevations.
The weather during the day can reach the 60’s F, but the nights are still cold. Ideal weather for hiking and hot chocolate.
Later in the spring months conditions begin to improve, trails open, and the crowds begin to arrive.
In order to accommodate, the buses run more regularly. But you can still drive yourself to all of the trailheads if you prefer.
That all changes in the summer.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Spring
Bryce is at higher elevation, delaying spring conditions when compared to Zion. Late season snow is still possible through March and April, so be sure to check conditions before heading out. Some of the roads may be impassible.
Late spring brings milder temperatures. By May the average is in the mid-60’s for high temperatures making even long hikes more comfortable. And the low temperatures rise above freezing, making for some cool but not unbearable camping.
Zion National Park in Summer
As you would expect, Zion is busy during the summer months. To control access, shuttles are required to access Zion Scenic Drive. At times, the parking lots in the park are full. In those cases you will have to park in Springdale and take the town shuttle into the park.
The only way to access many of the trails in the summer is by taking the shuttle, so plan your trip accordingly.
Daytime highs can top 100° F (38°C) and can remain hot all night. Nighttime temperatures seldom drop below 60° F (16°C). Bring plenty of water on any hike since there are no facilities beyond the trailheads.
Campgrounds fill up as well, so you may have to look for alternatives outside of the parks.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Summer
Bryce’s elevation makes for a much milder summer. With highs closer to 80°F (27°C) at their peak, Bryce offers a reprieve from the heat of Zion Valley.
Additionally, it gives you a break from the crowds. Less than half as many visitors make the drive to Bryce, giving you a little more space on the trails.
Zion National Park in Fall
The temperatures begin to drop as fall approaches. The crowds take a little longer to dissipate.
While the autumn weather brings milder temperatures and changing foliage, the number of visitors don’t drop until late September. The shuttles are still required to get around the most popular areas of the park.
However, by November the number of tourists drop considerably. This makes a visit tempting, but the weather can be a bit more unpredictable. Always check conditions before setting out.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Fall
Bryce’s elevation brings the cooler weather much sooner than in Zion. Snow is possible by late October, but could hold off until November.
Otherwise the days are comfortable while the nights drop below freezing. Camping becomes a bit more challenging in these conditions without winter equipment.
Snowstorms make for some beautiful pictures. However, trails can get slick so be flexible with your hiking plans as winter approaches. Check the weather before setting out on a long hike.
Zion National Park In Winter
If you visit Zion National Park in winter, you will have the park virtually to yourself. Crowds drop to the lowest of the year giving you the convenience and solitude seldom experienced in any other season.
Admittedly, there is sufficient reason for this. Even though Zion is milder than parks like Bryce at higher elevation, snow and ice can create some hazardous conditions. Be sure to check current conditions for trail closures.
Otherwise, Zion National Park weather is ideal for hiking during the colder months. With highs in the 50’s, you’ll be comfortable all day in a light coat. Just be sure to get somewhere warm at night since the temps are well below freezing.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter
Bryce is a different story. It is at a higher elevation so the temperatures are colder and the snow is heavier. Average highs are in the 30’s and the lows are in the teens.
Parts of the Navajo trail, the Rim Trail, and the Agua Connecting Trail are closed during the winter. Be sure to check current conditions in Bryce when planning your trip.
How to pack for winter in Utah
Are You Ready For Your Zion to Bryce Road Trip?
As you can see, there are so many details to planning a road trip. And the options are almost limitless just visiting these two parks. Whatever you decide to do, you will not be disappointed on this stretch of your epic road trip.
Of course, Zion to Bryce Canyon is just a small portion of a Utah parks road trip. While there are many ways to approach it, check out our recommendation in the 7 best road trips in North America. Not only will you see an overview, you may be inspired to take one of the other options on the list.
If you need help planning your trip, be sure to sign up for our newsletters. We include all kinds of helpful tips If you have any questions, leave a comment below or respond to my email. I answer all of them personally.
In a nutshell
Best time to go to Zion and Bryce? – April-May; Sept-Oct
What to do in Zion and Bryce Canyon? – hiking, camping, canyoneering, climbing, off-roading, or relaxing
How to get there? The closest airport is in St. George. The closest international is in Las Vegas
How many days? While you can visit both Zion and Bryce in one day, we recommend 2-3+ days to get the most in the shortest time
Where to stay? Camping is the most popular option. But glamping, hotels, lodges, and ranches are all available
I always recommend having a physical map anytime you are in the backcountry. You can get a National Geographic map of Zion National Park at Amazon.If you also want a Bryce Canyon National Park map, get one here:
Or get a Utah National Parks map bundle for all of the Parks on the Ultimate Utah Road Trip.