How to Spend 2 Days at Zion National Park (Plus Helpful Tips!)
June 7, 2023
At Zion National Park you’ll find orange sandstone cliffs, expansive canyons, archeological sites and an assortment of wildlife like bighorn sheep and mule deers. While visiting the southern Utah park, you can participate in rock climbing, incredible hiking and breathtaking views no matter where you are. A visit to Zion should be on everyone’s USA bucket list!
This post contains trail information on hikes inside of Zion. If you are new to hiking, visit my beginner hiking tips blog to learn more! If you are looking for new hiking gear, check out my ultimate day hike packing list. Stay safe and come prepared!
Please make it a priority to Leave No Trace when exploring the outdoors. This includes leaving nothing behind, respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting those around you, planning ahead and traveling on durable surfaces. For more details, read about the seven principles at lnt.org.
What To Know About Visiting Zion in 2024
- Be sure to check current conditions on the national park website before your visit in case there are closures.
- You cannot drive your car to the most popular trails in the park, such as Angel's Landing and The Narrows. You can either take the free shuttle, ride a bike or purchase a ticket from a private authorized transportation company.
- Shuttles to get around the park are first come first serve. - Keep in mind that lines can be long, arrive early and allow extra time!
- There is a permit system in place for the famous hike Angel’s Landing. The permits can be obtained via a seasonal lottery and a day-before lottery. Get the full details on the national park website.
- Zion costs $35 for a weekly pass or is free with the America the Beautiful Pass!
- I highly recommend downloading the Guide Along audio tour to learn more about the park while you're driving! The tour includes recommendations on where to stop, history of the park and more.
The Layout of Zion National Park
There are two main sections of the park - the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyons. The Kolob Canyon portion was closed when I visited due to Covid, but has since reopened. The Zion Canyon portion is the more popular area with the most well known hikes. Kolob Canyon has some equally amazing views with fewer people, so visit both areas if you have time!
How to Get to Zion National Park
One the easiest airports to fly into to visit Zion in Las Vegas. You will generally find cheaper flight options there, but it is a 3 hour drive between Las Vegas and the park.
However, the closest airport to Zion is St George. The airport is a lot smaller but it’s only an hour from the park.
When to Visit Zion National Park
The summer months are the most popular time of year to visit Zion. During the summer, you'll experience high temperatures and will want to be careful about hiking in the middle of the day. If you are planning on hiking the Narrows, summer is a good time because the water can be quite cold. Summer always bring large crowds to the park.
Spring and Fall are the best times to visit the park for more mild weather and less people.
In the winter, you may have freezing temperatures but there will be a lot less people. If you visit in the winter, come prepared with micro spikes and winter gear.
How to Spend 2 Days at Zion National Park
Hike Angel's Landing
Heavy traffic on the Angel’s Landing trail has made it overly dangerous in recent years. In response, the park service has issued a permit system that went into effect April 2022. Permits will be issued using a lottery system, and you can apply either a few months before, or the day before. Apply for your permit at Recreation.gov.
Angel’s Landing is one of most famous trails in the park. It is also known to be dangerous. Multiple publications have listed it to be among the most dangerous hikes in the world, so come prepared.
The hike includes a steep climb through multiple switchbacks leading to incredible views of the Zion Canyon. The trail is 5.4 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,488 feet.
On your way up, you’ll hike through Walter’s Wiggle, a section featuring 21 switchbacks in quick succession. The final portion of the hike has chains with steep drop offs on both sides. Be sure to come prepared with plenty of water for this hike, but the views are absolutely worth the climb!
The chain portion of the hike was closed due to Covid when I visited. I wasn’t too disappointed because I was a bit fearful of climbing the chains. After reaching the chain portion, hike a bit further up the West Rim Trail to experience astonishing views that are similar.
Take a Scenic Drive through Zion
Take your time driving the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and stop at some of the scenic viewpoints along the way. You’ll have perfect views of the Great Arch, a giant arch on the walls of the canyon. Then drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
This 1.1 mile long vehicle tunnel was built in 1930 and is the longest tunnel of its kind in the United States. It's so tight that they shut down the entire tunnel when larger vehicles travel through so that they can drive in the middle of the road!
Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail
On the other side of the tunnel, the trailhead for the Canyon Overlook trail is immediately on the left. This short trail offers amazing canyon views and is perfect for a quick hike! The trail is 1 mile round trip and has a lot of steep drop offs but also railings throughout. The entire trail has great views but at the end you’ll be gifted with an expansive look at the Zion Canyon. The final overlook is right above the Great Arch.
Hike the Narrows
The Narrows are another very popular and unique hike in the park. The hike takes you along the North Fork Virgin River with canyon walls towering above. Here are some things to know about hiking The Narrows:
- You can hike the Narrows from the Bottom-Up or the Top-Down. I hiked the Bottom-Up - you need to obtain a permit to hike the Top-Down.
- Come prepared with the right gear. You’ll definitely want a trekking pole or walking stick. My partner and I split trekking poles using one each and that was enough.
- Some people rent canyoneering boots. We just wore old hiking shoes and felt that it worked well. We did buy neoprene socks beforehand that kept our feet warmer but I wouldn’t say they were necessary for the summer. Rent the gear if you really want some extra support but I recommend just wearing old tennis shoes. Some people were wearing sandals and I would advise against that as the river is very rocky.
- Flash Floods are common and dangerous. Be sure to check the weather and conditions before going.
- It’s an out and back trail, so you can go as far as you like. I hiked to ‘Wall Street’ - an area with monumental canyon walls surrounding both sides of the river. Wall Street is an incredible part of the hike. The walls are 1500 feet tall while the river is only 22 feet wide.
- While it’s only a couple of miles, allow 6 to 8 hours to hike to Wall Street and back. Walking through the water means slow traveling.
- There were so many people hiking the Narrows while I was there. It made me a little nervous in regards to Covid. Start early and the further out you hike, the more the crowd will thin out.
- The water level when I visited was about a foot deep for the most part. A couple parts involved getting waist deep. You may want to wear a bathing suit or bring a dry bag, but it’s not strictly necessary! It will depend on the water level and your height.
I had never hiked through a river before, so hiking the Narrows was an incredible experience. The only downside was that I had to look down almost the entire time, carefully plotting every step between the rocks. It was hard to find time to look up and admire the walls of the canyon. Even if you don’t go very far, I highly recommend trying it out. Walking beneath the magnificent canyon walls was something I’ll never forget.
More Hikes in Zion
Here are 3 more hikes in the main area of Zion that offer beautiful views.
The Emerald Pools trails are a great area to visit on your way back from the Narrows. There are a few different trails in this area, including the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools trails. The trail leads to some beautiful waterfalls (if they are flowing) and small pools of water. To combine all of the trails, it's 3 miles round trip.
Another great trail that begins from the Zion Visitor Center is the Watchman Trail. This 3.1 mile hike gives you a great view of the Watchman mountain and a vantage point looking down at the visitor center.
The Pa'rus Trail is a paved path that connects the visitor center and canyon junction. It is wheelchair and stroller accessible, and great for bikes.
Nearby Zion National Park
Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park is an incredibly underrated park that is located just about an hour from Zion. The scenery feels a bit like a smaller version of Zion with colorful orange rocks, lava tubes and more. One short but epic trail to check out is the Petrified Dunes Trail.
Snow Canyon charges a fee of $15 for out-of-state residents and $10 for in-state.
The Kolob Canyons portion of Zion National Park is located about 45 minutes from Springdale. This portion of the park sees much less visitors, so its the perfect way to avoid crowds! I did the South Fork Taylor Creek Trail (2.7 miles) and walked through pink sand with canyon walls towering up around me.
It was an incredible trail, especially near sunset. Another great short trail is the 1.1 mile Timber Creek Overlook Trail which has wonderful views.
If you're traveling to Zion with kids, Pioneer Park is a great area to visit. The park offers views of St George and includes a beautiful desert garden and a narrow slot canyon.
The Red Hills Desert Garden is 5 acres and has a wide variety of desert life to admire on paved trails. A bit deeper into the park, you’ll find a tiny slot canyon that you can crawl through. There is also an arch to enjoy. This is a quick and fun spot if you are traveling through St George.
The slot canyon is more child size, adults will have a bit of tough time fitting through!
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
Hotels Near Zion
One of the great things about Zion is the proximity of the town of Springdale. You can walk, drive or take a free shuttle from your hotel in Springdale into the park. There are also a variety of restaurants and shops in easy walking distance.
I stayed at the La Quinta in Springdale and it had great views and a good value.
There are plenty of other hotels in Springdale depending on your price range. There is also a lodge inside of Zion National Park if you want to be right in the middle of everything. The lodge is a bit expensive, so keep in mind that staying in Springdale is still very close to everything.
Camping in Zion
Zion National Park offers 3 different campgrounds. The Watchman Campground is open year round and reservations can be made up to six months ahead of time.
The South Campground is only partially open as of this writing due to renovations. Reservations can be made up to two weeks ahead of time.
If you’re willing to drive a bit further, the Lava Point Campground is located about an hour from Zion Canyon (the main area of the park).
Where to Eat near Zion National Park
One delicious place for Mexican food is Whiptail Grill. They offer multiple vegetarian options and I really enjoyed the spaghetti squash enchiladas!
Zion Pizza & Noodle Co is located in a former Mormon Church and serves pizza to-go, but make sure to get there well before closing because we arrived too close to closing to get an order in.
For coffee and breakfast, check out Feel Good Coffee! They are located right outside the park and serve a variety of coffee options. They even have vegan ice cream!
See More of the Utah Mighty Five
Bryce Canyon National Park is only about an hour and a half from Zion and the best Utah park to combine with Zion if you have enough time. I recommend having at least 3-4 full day if you want to visit and hike in both parks (although you could easily spend longer).
If you have enough time to add a 3rd Utah National Park but not all 5, the next one to consider is Capitol Reef. It is located about 3.5 hours from Zion and I think it's very underrated!
Finally, if you have a lot of time, you can also head to Moab and visit Arches and Canyonlands. Moab is located just under 5 hours from Zion.
Read my Utah Mighty 5 itinerary for a guide to visiting all of the Utah parks!
I hope this guide helps you see the highlights of Zion if you only have 2 days! Whether you plan to hike the iconic Narrows and Angel's Landing or just want to take in the views from the road, Zion is an incredible park for everyone and often considered one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States.
For More guides on the Utah National Parks, check out these guides:
- The Best Days Hikes in Bryce Canyon
- The Best Things To Do in Bryce Canyon
- How to Spend One Day in Capitol Reef
- How to Spend 3 Days in Moab
Thanks for Reading!
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