6 Perfect Days in Bryce and Zion National Parks
It is my 2013 trip to Bryce and Zion that really ignited my passion for national parks. I’d been to a handful of national parks before, but this was the first time I did some big hikes and realized how much more there is to see once you get out of your car! This is the exact itinerary I followed on that trip – you will be sore, but your soul will be immensely happy! But if you really want some more moderate options, check out my post about 3 easy hikes in Zion.
How to Get There
Zion is just a couple of hours away from Las Vegas.
When to Go
I’ve been to Zion over Labor Day weekend (late August/early September) and in March/April. Spring weather can be all over the place and you’re likely to have snow at higher elevations. Summer will be busy and hot during the day, with rainstorms rolling through. The weather at the end of August/early September was still hot during the day (in the 90s) but mornings were cool. Overall I’d say September/October would be a great time to visit.
Where to Stay
There are limited option close to Bryce. I stayed at the Best Western. In Zion, I recommend the Cliffrose. If you’re curious about accommodations in the park and why I prefer Cliffrose in Zion, read my post on national park lodges.
Day 1 – Arrival in Las Vegas, drive to Bryce Canyon and do the scenic drive
The 17-mile Bryce Canyon Scenic drive is a great way to get acquainted with this small but spectacular park. Drive all the way to the end to Rainbow point, then check out as many of the scenic pullouts as you want on the way back, when they will be on your right. I recommend Aqua Canyon, Natural Bridge and Paria Point lookouts.
Day 2 – Sunrise at Bryce point; Rim Trail to Sunrise Point; Queens/Navajo Loop Trail, drive to Zion
Bryce is great for sunrise and sunset viewings. Start your day with sunrise at Bryce Point. You can leave your car there and return later via the park shuttle.
Walk the portion of the Rim Trail from Bryce Point to Sunrise point, which will take you along the rim of the canyon for a couple of miles.
At Sunrise Point, descend down into the hoodoos using the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop trail. This is one of the most popular trails in the park.
Take the park shuttle to return to your car, then drive to Zion National Park.
Angel’s Landing is one of the most popular trails in the park, so start early to avoid crowds. Although this hike is not for those who are afraid of heights, the first half of the trail is doable for almost everyone. If you wan to do this hike but don’t want to cover the scary chain section, check out this post for options.
If you have enough energy left, check out the Emerald Pools in the evening. They’re best in spring when there’s lost more water, but they’re worth a visit any time.
Observation Point will take you to the highest point in Zion. There is little shade and it’s a challenging trail, so again, start early. You’ll have a birds’ view of Angel’s Landing at the top. If you don’t want to go the full distance, this post lists two good stopping points well before the top.
My favorite part of the trail is actually not the viewpoint at the top. It’s Echo Canyon, seen below.
In the afternoon/evening, check out the Canyon Overlook Trail. You’ll pass the unique Mt Carmel tunnel on your way there. This short, easy hike will take you to a great point overlooking the canyon.
Time it with sunset for the best views but be sure to bring a headlight for the way back.
Day 5 – The Narrows
This is a hike like no other. There is no trail – you’ll be walking in the Virgin river into the canyon it carved out. As you go deeper into the canyon, the walls will get higher and closer together. It’s an unforgettable experience. This hike is only doable when the river level is low, but you’ll still be waist deep in water some of the time.
I highly recommend you rent the special shoes seen in this photo – any adventure outfitter in Springdale will have them. They provide extra grip on the slippery river bed. Also be sure to check the forecast with a park ranger. You don’t want to be in the river if rain comes.
Day 6 – Kolob Terrace; depart from Las Vegas
On your way out of Zion, check out the Kolob Terrace section. It’s worth a drive at least, and there are some nice trails in this section should you have more time.