Vacation Planner (ZION)

Red rock, green grass, and blue sky © Navin Rajagopalan

If you’re visiting between April and October, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive can only be accessed by the free shuttle buses and guests of Zion Lodge. Alternatively, you can bike or walk to the canyon via Pa’rus Trail. Provided below is a three-day itinerary, allowing two days to explore the main canyon and one day at Kolob Canyons. Kolob Terrace Road leads to some of the park’s more extraordinary hiking opportunities, but popular routes like Left Fork Trail to the Subway require advanced planning and a backcountry permit, so it is excluded. The park has a few options for camping and lodging. Nearby dining, grocery stores, lodging, festivals, and attractions are listed in the What’s Nearby section. If you plan on traveling to the park in an oversized vehicle or RV be sure to check the size requirements for Zion Tunnel, because you may require an escort or not fit altogether.

Day 1: Entering Zion’s East Entrance, make a quick stop just before Zion Tunnel to hike the 1-mile trail to Canyon Overlook. It’s a great spot to view Zion Canyon before entering it. The short hike also gives you an opportunity to see the exterior of Zion Tunnel and the rock that was blown apart to build it in 1930. After the hike, return to your car and pass through the tunnel. On the other side is a set of switchbacks that makes for an easy descent to the canyon floor.

Continue along Zion – Mount Carmel Highway to Zion Canyon Visitor Center (if you enter at the South Entrance begin your trip here). Check the schedule of programs, browse the exhibits, and if you are hoping to procure a walk-in backcountry permit, see if any are available. If members of your group are notorious for spending excessive amounts of time at gift stores, bookstoresany kind of storeleave them at the visitor center and go hike Watchman Trail.

Once you’re back together and ready to go, head to the shuttle stop just behind the visitor center. Hop aboard a shuttle and ride until you reach the Grotto, where you’ll hike to Angel’s Landing. After cautiously making your way across this knife-edge ridgeline nothing about Zion will be intimidating. It’s strenuous, but feasible for those in average physical condition. Children are usually fearless of the precipitous drop-offs that mark the last 0.5-mile, so be sure to watch them closely. If you don’t feel up to reaching the Landing, the view from Scout’s Lookout is still worthwhile. Anyone fearful of heights might want to stay aboard the shuttle bus and exit at Weeping Rock, where you can hike to Observation Point. It’s another strenuous hike with exposed cliff-faces, but not nearly as intimidating as Angel’s Landing. Complete the hike, climb back aboard a shuttle and complete the circuit around Zion Canyon Loop. If you’re spending the night in the park, check if there’s an evening program at the lodge or campground.

Day 2: Take it easy in the morning. Maybe attend a ranger program, hike to Canyon Overlook (if you didn’t yesterday), or walk along Pa’rus Trail into the canyon. In the afternoon, ride a shuttle bus back into the main canyon to hike the Narrows. Make sure that you have sturdy hiking shoes on. If it’s an abnormally cold day or there’s a chance of thunderstorm, find an alternate activity. The Virgin River is perpetually cold and flash floods can occur with the slightest rainfall. With cooperative weather take the shuttle to Temple of Sinawava and follow Riverside Walk to the canyon’s mouth. Here you will often find hiking sticks left, by previous hikers propped against the canyon walls; taking one is a good idea. Beyond Riverside Walk the canyon is your trail. There’s no marked route. You simply choose your own way proceeding as fast or as slow as you like. The entire trek is only 3.5-miles (one-way) to Orderville Canyon, but it’s extremely slow going as you are constantly negotiating slippery and rocky river-bottom while weaving back and forth across the Virgin River. You’ll want to rest your feet after the hike. Maybe stop at Zion Human History Museum to watch its 22-minute film

Day 3: Drive to Kolob Canyons. The area’s most exciting hike is another long one. If you feel like recording 14 more miles on your hiking boots, head for Kolob Arch. Otherwise drive the Scenic Road and hike 5 miles along Taylor Creek Trail to Double Arch Alcove . This trail proceeds along a gradual grade to views of a large alcove in a massive wall of red sandstone.


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