Utah

How to Spend 2 Days at Zion National Park: The Best Hikes for a Short Trip to Zion

January 18, 2022

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Updated for Visiting in 2022

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!

A view of the Narrows trail. You can see the a river with several rocks next to it and towering canyon walls on either side. There is one hiker in the distance.
The Narrows

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 2022

  • 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.
  • Early in the pandemic, Zion was requiring a shuttle ticket to be reserved in advance. That is no longer required and shuttles are now first come first serve. - Keep in mind that lines can be long, arrive early and allow extra time!
  • As of April 2022, there is a new permit system for the famous hike Angel’s Landing. You can find more details in the Angel’s Landing section.
  • Zion costs $35 for a weekly pass or is free with the America the Beautiful Pass!
  • I highly recommend downloading the Gypsy Guides 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

A view looking down at the tall canyon walls in Zion National Park. This is from right before the chains of Angel's Landing.
Views from Angel's Landing

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

I flew into Las Vegas and made the three hour drive to Zion. I can usually find great flight deals into Las Vegas from Dallas (I paid less than $100 for the flight). 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

A bighorn sheep on an orange rock face on the Canyon Overlook trail.
Bighorn sheep sighting on the Canyon Overlook Trail

The summer months are the most popular time of year to visit Zion. I visited in August and felt it was a great time to visit, despite experiencing hot weather and crowds. If you are planning on hiking the Narrows, I’d recommend coming in the summer so that the water isn’t too cold.

Spring and Fall are nice times to visit for cooler weather and slightly less crowds. It sometimes snows in the winter and usually has below freezing temperatures for most of December and January.

Where to Stay near Zion National Park

The exterior of La Quinta in Springdale, UT. There are red rock cliffs behind the hotel.
The La Quinta in Springdale

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. T

here 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.

Where to Eat near Zion National Park

A mural on the outside of Whiptail with a lizard and abtract shapes.
Whiptail Grill

A take out box from Whiptail with Spaghetti Squash enchiladas.
Spaghetti Squash Enchiladas

As a result of Covid, I was only eating takeout from restaurants in summer 2020. So I was really surprised to find that several restaurants in Springdale wouldn’t even accept takeout orders. (we were turned away from 3 places!).

We successfully got takeout from Whiptail Grill (had to order in person because they didn’t answer the phone) and it was delicious! Whiptail Grill serves Mexican food and has multiple vegetarian options. 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!

A rustic coffee shop that reads "Feel Love" with the orange cliffs of Zion in the background.
Feel Good Coffee

How to Spend 2 Days at Zion National Park

Lydia hiking away on the Angel's Landing trail in Zion National Park.
Hiking Angel's Landing

Lydia standing in front of the Zion National Park park sign outside of the park.
Zion National Park

Day One

Hike Angel's Landing

A view of the rim where the Angel's Landing chains are from the West Rim trail in Zion National Park
View of Angel's Landing from the West Rim Trail

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 goes into effect April 2022. Permits will be issued using a lottery system in multiple batches. For example, you will apply for hiking the trail in the summer in April and apply for hiking it in the fall in July. An additional lottery will occur one day prior to your desired hiking date. Apply for your permit at Recreation.gov.

Lydia sitting on the edge of the cliff right outside of the chain portion of Angel's Landing
Zion Canyon Views

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!

A view looking down at switchbacks that lead up to Angel's Landing.
The first set of switchbacks

Looking down at a set up tight switchbacks on the Angel's Landing trail.
Walter's Wiggle - 21 switchbacks

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.

Lydia standing in front of a chain and a sign that reads "Trail Closed"
Proof that the chain portion was closed!

Take a Scenic Drive through Zion

An orange cliff with a giant orange arch in the rock face.
The Great Arch

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

A car entering the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel seen from the Canyon Overlook Trail

Lydia and Joe with an orange cliff behind them on the Canyon Overlook trail

A path of a trail with a railing on the Canyon Overlook trail.

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.

Lydia hiking on a bridge, under a rock overhang, on the Canyon Overlook trail.
Canyon Overlook Trail

Day Two

Hike the Narrows

A view of the river flowing between tall canyon walls on The Narrows trail.

Lydia standing waist deep in the water on The Narrows trail in Zion National Park.

Hiking the Narrows

Lydia standing with her arms in the air in front of a giant boulder on The Narrows trail.
Big Rock - The point where we turned around

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 tennis 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. 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.

A giant boulder in the middle of the water with towering canyon walls above it.
Hiking the Narrows

A view of how crowded The Narrows was in summer 2020. There are many people in the water of the canyon.
It was crowded, we kept our masks on most of the time

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.

Looking down at Lydia's feet in the water during the Narrows hike.
Hiking the Narrows

Nearby Zion National Park

Lydia hiking over an orange canyon at the Pioneer Park in St. George.
The view from Pioneer Park

White flowers with an orange canyon behind it at Pioneer Park.
Pioneer Park

On your way back to Las Vegas, consider stopping in St George and exploring Pioneer Park. 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.

Lydia deep in a narrow slow at the Pioneer Park.
Squeezing through the slot canyon

The top of two orange cliffs with a narrow gap between them.
Above the slot canyon

The slot canyon is more child size, adults will have a bit of tough time fitting through!

If you have more time

Lydia hiking on pink sand in Kolob Canyons.

A path with a sand and greenery with orange cliff walls in the distance.

The South Fork Taylor Creek Trail

The Kolob Canyons portion of Zion National Park is located about 45 minutes from the Springdale. This portion of 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.

In addition to the Kolob Canyons area, Bryce Canyon National Park is only about an hour and a half from Zion. I definitely recommend combining these two in one trip if you have time! That was my original plan but time did not allow. I can’t wait to go back to Utah and continue to explore more of the incredible parks and nature it has to offer.

*Are you visiting Bryce or Capitol Reef on your Utah vacation? Check out my blog posts on the best day hikes in Bryce and how to spend one day in Capitol Reef.

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Learn about how to spend 2 days in Zion National Park and discover the best hikes in Zion, where to stay near Zion and more.

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Learn about how to spend 2 days in Zion National Park and discover the best hikes in Zion, where to stay near Zion and more.

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Learn about how to spend 2 days in Zion National Park and discover the best hikes in Zion, where to stay near Zion and more.

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