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ZION TO BRYCE CANYON: 3-DAY ADVENTURE
(WITH MAPS AND PHOTOS)
Zion to Bryce Canyon is an ultimate 3 day road trip adventure!
If you have 3 days, then I have these great ideas for how you can spend your time in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in 3 days.
Check out this 3-day Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary.
ZION TO BRYCE CANYON
HOW TO GET TO ZION TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
1. ROUTE: LAS VEGAS TO ZION TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Las Vegas is located 160 miles from Zion National Park. It takes about 2.5-3 hours to drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park.
You can fly into Las Vegas (LAS), Nevada, rent a car and then drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Check out the map below for Las Vegas to Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip.
2. ROUTE: SALT LAKE CITY TO ZION TO BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Salt Lake City is located 308 miles from Zion National Park. It will take you about 4.5-5 hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park.
Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah, just like Las Vegas (LAS), Nevada, is an international airport, and you can directly fly into either one.
First of all, there are two smaller Regional Airports located in St. George (SGU), Utah and Cedar City (CDC), Utah that you might consider flying into. St. George, Utah is located 41 miles from Zion National Park (about 1 hour drive) and Cedar City, Utah is located 58 miles (about 1 hour and 10 minutes drive).
Second, if you prefer change this road trip and go Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park, it is not a problem at all. Bryce to Zion itinerary can be done as well.
The driving distance from Las Vegas, Nevada to Bryce Canyon Utah is 260 miles (about 4 hours), and the driving distance from Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon is 286 miles (about 4 hours). How far is Bryce Canyon from Zion National Park? Bryce Canyon is located 72 miles (about 1 hour 20 minutes) from Zion.
I have done Bryce National Park to Zion National Park instead of Zion to Bryce several times due to bad weather. So, always check the weather forecast and adjust Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park accordingly.
ZION TO BRYCE CANYON IN 3 DAYS
- DAY 1 – ZION NATIONAL PARK
First Day – There are a lot of options on how you can spend your first day in Zion National Park. My recommendation is to explore a couple of stops along Zion Scenic Drive, do some hiking, and finish off the day with either a spectacular sunset or a bike ride. So, keep reading! All the details are listed in the section right below: DAY ONE – Zion National Park (how to spend the first day of your 3-day itinerary).
- DAY 2 – ZION AND BRYCE CANYON
Second Day – You simply cannot leave Zion National Park without hiking the Zion Narrows. Zion Narrows is a legendary hike! You are hiking the Virgin River upstream. The river is your trail. But, do not worry! I got you covered with step-by-step guide how to hike Zion Narrows.
After the Zion Narrows, hop into your vehicle and head from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park. There are a couple of pretty cool stops along the way! So keep reading! Everything you need to know about DAY TWO – Zion and Bryce Canyon (how to spend day two of your 3-day Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary).
- DAY 3 – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Third Day – Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its sunrises! If you are put to it, then get up super early and head to the park for a spectacular sunrise. Next, make sure to put Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive along best viewpoints on your itinerary. Finally, you need to see the famous hoodoos up close and the only way to do it is to hike in Bryce Canyon. There are many easy and short hikes, as well as, challenging trails in Bryce Canyon. All the details are right below: DAY THREE – Bryce Canyon National Park (how to spend day three of your 3-day itinerary).
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WHERE TO STAY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
When visiting Zion National Park, you can stay inside the park or near the park.
Hands down, nothing beats staying inside the park!
However, accommodations are very limited and you should make reservations well ahead of your visit.
1. STAYING INSIDE ZION NATIONAL PARK
- ZION LODGE
Zion Lodge is the only lodge located inside Zion National Park. Reservations must be made well in advance!
Zion Lodge is open year-round.
Several different types of accommodations are offered at the lodge: Cabins starting at $220 per night, Hotel Rooms at $230 per night and Suites at $288 per night.
My recommendation is to get a Cabin. They all have gas log fireplaces, private porches, full baths, microwaves and mini refrigerators. These cabins are within walking distance of the lodge.
- CAMPGROUNDS INSIDE ZION NATIONAL PARK
South Campground is located about 0.5 miles from the South Entrance. It is open from March through October.
South Campground has 117 sites, however reservations need to be made online up to two weeks in advance at Recreation.govor by calling 877-444-6777. Campsites cost $20 per night.
Watchman Campground is located about 0.25 miles from the South Entrance. Tent and electric campsites are available year-round.
Watchman Campground has 190 sites. Reservations can be made online at Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777 six months prior to your arrival.
Electric campsites are $30 per night and tent campsites are $20 per night.
LAVA POINT CAMPGROUND
Lava Point Campground is located about 1-hour drive from Zion Canyon on the Kolob Terrace Road.
This campground is typically open May through September, as weather allows.
There are 6 primitive campsites available first come, first serve. The campground has pit toilets and trash cans, but no water. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campground.
2. STAYING NEAR ZION NATIONAL PARK
- SPRINGDALE, UTAH
If you want the convenience of staying right at the entrance to the park, then consider lodging in Springdale, Utah. However, be prepared to pay high prices for hotels in Springdale, Utah.
Following are two places in Springdale, Utah that I stayed at:
La Quinta Inn & Suits at Zion Park/Springdale. Prices during summer months start at $389 per night.
Hampton Inn and Suits Springdale Zion National Park. Prices start at about $318 per night during high season.
My recommendation is to stay in La Verkin, Utah!
- LA VERKIN, UTAH
Considering all of the above, I am recommending that you stay in La Verkin, Utah. It is located 20.6 miles from the Zion National Park.
I have stayed at La Quinta Inns & Suites La Verkin – Gateway to Zion.
I like it a lot! It is actually a brand new hotel which opened in September 2018.
It is very clean and well managed. The rooms have microwaves and refrigerators. In addition, you will get a complimentary breakfast.
Prices start at $164 per night.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ZION NATIONAL PARK BEFORE YOU VISIT
- Zion National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. However, some facilities reduce the opening hours during winter.
- All visitors to Zion National Park need to purchase a recreational use pass. You can purchase the recreational use pass at the entrance to the park. The pass is valid for 7 consecutive days including the date of purchase and costs $35 per vehicle.
- You should consider purchasing an annual pass instead of a weekly recreational pass! The cost of the annual pass is $80. However, the annual pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, such as national parks, national wildlife refugees, national forests and grasslands. If you are planning on visiting several national parks throughout the year, then you are going to save some money! The entrance fee vary from park to park. Check the updated list here.
- If you are visiting Zion National Park between the months of March through November, then you will have to use the shuttle. No private vehicles are allowed inside the park. Zion Shuttle is super easy to use and the entrance ticket covers the cost of the shuttle.
- There are two shuttle routes. The first shuttle route is located inside the park. It runs from the visitor center up the Zion Scenic Drive and makes nine stops along viewpoints and trailheads. The second shuttle route is located in the town of Springdale. It also stops at nine locations and picks up and drops off visitors to the national park.
WHAT TO DO IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
There are things to do for everyone in Zion National Park! Whether you like challenging trails, or easy short walks, or you prefer to explore the sights along the Zion Scenic Drive, or go horseback or bike riding, I am sure you will find something cool and fun to do in Zion National Park.
1. TAKE THE ZION SCENIC DRIVE
Most of the visitors to Zion National Park take the Zion Scenic Drive. It is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Zion National Park.
The Scenic Drive through the Zion Canyon is approximately 8 miles long one-way.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to do the drive without any stops or about 30-40 minutes if you take the shuttle.
If you plan on stopping along the way and exploring at each of the nine stops, then it might take you about 6-8 hours.
If you think that Zion Scenic Drive is something you might like to do then make sure to check out my post: Scenic Drive in Zion National Park (with Maps and Photos).
FOLLOWING ARE MY RECOMMENDED BEST STOPS ALONG ZION SCENIC DRIVE
- COURT OF THE PATRIARCHS
Now, what you need to know is that right at the shuttle stop number four, there is a path that goes up to the viewpoint. It is no more than a 5-minute hike, but it will give you a bit more elevation and the view of the Court of Patriarchs will be so much better!
What you will see are three neighboring sandstone peaks. They are named after fathers from the Old Testament. From left to right, or south to north, you can see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And, in front of Jacob, is Mount Moroni.
- EMERALD POOLS
Emerald Pools is Zion Shuttle stop number five on Zion Scenic Drive.
Lower Emerald Pools is a short and easy trail (less than 0.5 miles) which is going to take along and under beautiful waterfalls and you will see amazing pools.
I have to mention that the waterfalls are reduced to a merely a trickle during summer months. However, if you are visiting in the spring, fall, or winter, you will definitely see an abundance of waterfalls!
- WEEPING ROCK
Seriously, Weeping Rock Trail is one of my favorites! It is a short and easy hike. It is no more than 0.5 miles round trip.
The Weeping Rock Trailhead is located at Zion Shuttle stop number seven.
Weeping Rock Trail will take you along “weeping walls” with water dripping down the rocks and you will see small rushing streams almost everywhere (depending on the season). But, what is cool about this hike, is that you will see Zion’s famous hanging gardens.
Eventually, the trail will take you into a large bowl-shaped alcove with water flowing over its recess.
I know that it is a compact road trip and you need to be selective of what you do and see, however, I need to mention Zion Human History Museum. It is located at Zion Shuttle number two. Hands down, it is an awesome museum!
The permanent exhibits display the rich human history of Zion National Park. They showcase American Indian culture, historic pioneer settlement, and Zion’s growth as a national park.
If you can spend more time in Zion (4 day itinerary Zion and. Bryce), then most definitely include Zion Human History Museum on. your list of things to do in Zion National Park!
2. HIKE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
There are plenty of great hikes in Zion National Park! Whether you looking for short and easy hikes, or more challenging trails, you will find one of the best trails in Zion National Park.
SHORT AND EASY HIKES IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
There are plenty of short and easy hikes in Zion National Park that are great for the entire family.
- EMERALD POOLS TRAIL
Emerald Pools Trail is a Zion classic. It is an absolute delight to hike this trail. It intertwines past a small stream that rolls down the cliffs and forms several pools.
I need to mention that Emerald Pools Trail consists of three sections: Lower, Middle and Upper. However, Lower Emerald Pools Trail section is a perfect family-friendly hike in Zion. It is a paved trail with very little elevation change.
It takes about 2-4 hours to complete the entire trail, however the hike to Lower Emerald Pools takes not more than 30 minutes.
- PA’RUS TRAIL
Pa’rus Trail is another great easy trail with very little elevation change. It is a perfect trail for the entire family. The entire trail is paved, which is ideal for strollers and wheelchairs.
The trail is about 3.5 miles round trip and can be leisurely done in no more than 2 hours.
Have your camera ready! You will capture great photos of the stunning red-rock, the Watchman, which glows with all the colors of sandstone: pinks and reds, orange, yellow, and all shades of white.
- RIVERSIDE WALK
Riverside Walk Trail is an easy, paved trail with little elevation change. The Riverside Walk Trailhead is located at Zion Shuttle stop number nine.
The trail is about 2.2 miles round trip and it should take you no more than 1.5 hours to complete the hike.
Riverside Walk Trail goes alongside Virgin River and the views along the way are just simply off the charts!
CHALLENGING TRAILS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
If you are looking for longer and more challenging trails, then you will definitely find them in Zion National Park.
- OBSERVATION POINT TRAIL
Observation Point Trail is definitely one of the more challenging trails in Zion National Park. It is 8 miles long (round trip) and it will take you about 4-5 hours to complete this trail.
The trail starts off with a series of strenuous switchbacks. Eventually, you will reach the Echo Canyon, which is quite spectacular with a number of small slot canyons.
What is really cool about Observation Point Trail is that the view off the Observation Point is the best view in the entire Zion National Park! You are going to be amazed by the views!
To your right will be the West Rim Trail and the inspiring Angels Landing. A little farther down canyon you will be able to see the Three Patriarchs.
On the left will be the East Rim, Cable Mountain, Great White Throne. Far down canyon, you will be able to see the Watchman.
And, right below you will be the valley with the Virgin River going around the Organ and the Angels Landing and forming the Big Bend.
- ANGELS LANDING TRAIL
Angels Landing Hike is the most famous hike in Zion National Park! It is known as America’s scariest hike.
Make sure you are up to it. Check out my post: Angels Landing Hike (Map and Photos) – Step-By-Step Guide to America’s Scariest Hike
Angels Landing Trail starts at the Grotto Trailhead. It is shuttle stop number 6. The roundtrip distance is about 5 miles and it usually takes about 4-5 hours to complete the hike.
First of all, Angels Landing is a strenuous hike. It starts off with a series of switchbacks and needless to say, almost entire hike is straight up with the elevation gain of 1,500 feet. Hands down, you need to be in good physical shape to be able to do the hike.
I must say that the views are just awesome right from the start!
Second, Angels Landing hike is not for people with the fear of heights. The last section of the trail is on the narrow spine of the mountain. You will have to use chains to help you up.
At he end of your hike, you are rewarded with incredible views of the Zion Canyon!
For step-by-step details how to hike Angels Landing, make sure to check out my post.
- THE ZION NARROWS TRAIL
If you are planning a trip to Zion National Park, then hiking the Zion Narrows needs to be at the top of your list because the Zion Narrows is a legendary hike!
You are hiking the Virgin River upstream. The river is your trail.
The starting point for this hike is the last stop on the bus shuttle, number 9, Temple of Sinawava. You start with the Riverside Walk, which is about 1 mile long.
The Riverside Walk takes you to the Zion Narrows and it used to be called the Gateway to the Narrows.
Most visitors to the Zion Narrows hike to the section called Wall Street. It is about 1.75 miles from the trailhead.
Some advance planning and preparation is necessary, if you decide to hike the Zion Narrows.
Make sure to review my detailed post: Zion Narrows Hike – Everything You Need to Know.
3. GO FOR A BIKE RIDE IN ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park allows bicycles in the park!
Check out the Pa’rus Trail. It is an awesome bike path that follows the Virgin River with several bridge crossings. And, it is great for the entire family with very little elevation change.
The Pa’rus Trailhead is located at the Visitor Center. It goes 1.75 and ends at the Canyon Junction.
However, you may continue on the main road in the canyon, which goes for 6 miles. The main road ends at Temple of Sinawava, which is shuttle stop number 9.
If you are thinking about doing some biking in Zion National Park, then check out my post: Biking in Zion National Park and if you do not have a bike, it is not a problem. There are several places where you can rent a bike either inside the park or near Zion National Park.
Looking for more things to do in Zion National Park? Go horseback riding!
Hands down, you will love it!
Check out all the details about horseback riding in Zion National Park.
WHERE TO STAY AT BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
1. STAYING ISIDE BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
- THE LODGE AT BRYCE CANYON
There is only one lodge, The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, available inside the park.
Reservations must be made well in advance.
It is definitely a great place to stay since it is situated just steps from the rim. You will be able to access most of the trails without driving. And, what a perfect location to just go out and watch sunrise or sunset.
Several different types of accommodations are offered at the lodge. Western Cabins at $231 per night, Sunrise and Sunset Lodge Room at $131 per night, Guest Suites at $271 per night, and Guest Studios at $176 per night.
My recommendation is to rent one of the Western Cabins. They are super cozy with gas fireplaces and cute rustic decor.
- CAMPGROUNDS INSIDE BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
North Campground is first-come, first-served. It has 99 sites open from Spring through Fall and 30 sites in Loop A are open year-round. Campsite fees for RVs are $30 per site per night and $20 for tents per site per night.
Campsite fees for RVs are $30 per site per night and $20 for tents per site per night.
2. STAYING NEAR BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
WHERE TO STAY BETWEEN ZION AND BRYCE
There are several options where you can stay between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park. Make sure to look them all up and get the best rate. However, if you get a good rate, then book it as soon as possible, because they sell out very fast especially during summer months.
- The two places that I stayed at near Bryce Canyon National Park are: Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn (starting at $171 per night) and Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (starting at $305 per night).
- In addition, I stayed at Bryce Canyon Inn Cabins in the town of Tropic, UT located about 15 minutes from the park (starting at $144 per night).
- All in all, my top choice would be Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. It is conveniently located just a few minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park. In addition, the rooms are clean and very spacious. But, it has a bit old-fashioned decor. Breakfast is included with your stay.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK BEFORE YOU VISIT
- Bryce Canyon National Park is open 24 hours per day throughout the entire year. If you are visiting Bryce Canyon during winter months, then you need to keep in mind that there may be temporary road closures during and shortly after winter snowstorms. Roads stay closed until plowing is completed and conditions are safe for visitor traffic.
- Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm during summer (May through September); 8 am till 6 pm during spring and fall (April and October); and 8 am till 4:30 pm in winter (November through March). It is closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
- All visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park need to purchase a recreational use pass. You can purchase the pass at the entrance to the park or you can buy it online. It costs $35 per vehicle. My recommendation is to buy an annual pass. The cost of the annual pass is $80. However, the annual pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, such as national parks, national wildlife refugees, national forests and grasslands.
- The best way to get around in Bryce Canyon National Park is either by shuttle or by car, or you can walk/hike.
- Shuttle Service is offered in the Bryce Canyon. You can hop on (with proof of park admission) and hop off at any of the shuttle stops. Shuttle is not mandatory, however it is highly recommended especially during summer months, since finding a parking spot could be very challenging. In the spring and fall, shuttle runs from 8 am till 6 pm. During summer months (May through September), shuttle service is available from 8 am till 8 pm. Buses typically come by each stop every 15 minutes. You can time the next bus with Shuttle Tracker.
WHAT TO DO IN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
1. TAKE THE SCENIC DRIVE ALONG EPIC VIEWPOINTS IN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The Scenic Drive along best viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park needs to be on your Bryce Canyon itinerary.
Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive is an out-and-back drive that spans the length of the Bryce Canyon National Park and hits all the park highlights.
If you have only one day in Bryce Canyon National Park, and you have never experienced the hoodoos protruding from this vast landscape, then I my recommendation is to start at the end of the Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and work your way back.
You will gradually get to appreciate the scenery and eventually get to the ‘WOW’ viewpoints in Bryce Canyon. So, drive all the way to the end of Bryce Canyon Scenic Road and then, start gradually making your way back.
2. HIKE IN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
What makes Bryce Canyon National Park famous are geological formations called hoodoos. So, you need to do some hiking in Bryce Canyon to see the famous hoodoos up close!
Hoodoos are thin spires of rock protruding from the bottom of the Bryce Canyon. And, you really have to see these rock formations for yourself to understand how nature can be so incredibly fantastic.
Need more ideas for things to do in Bryce Canyon National Park? How about horseback riding! Seriously, you will love it!
BEST TIME TO VISIT ZION AND BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARKS TO AVOID CROWDS
Hands down, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are great destinations to visit at any time of the year.
I have visited Zion and Bryce so many times at different times of the year and I have to honestly say that no matter what month I visited, I had a great time!
- SPRING AND FALL (April-May and September-October)
Needless to say, April and May and then September and October, are my favorite months to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. The temperatures are mild with daytime temps in 60s and 70s F. By the same token, you will see less crowds and have some serene experiences on trails and at viewpoints.
- SUMMER (June through September)
Summer is the high season. The number of tourists skyrockets during these months. Needless to say, expect a lot of companionship on the trails and everywhere throughout the park.The temperatures skyrocket as well ranging from high 80s to 100s F.
- WINTER (November through March)
Finally, winter, specifically November through March, is a good time to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National. Above all, you will be able to find some solitude. Snow seldom reaches the canyon floor and that being the case, the scenic drives and some hiking can be enjoyed during that time. Temperatures can range from low 50s to sometimes low 70s F.
However, I need to mention that Bryce Canyon National Park sits at a high elevation of 8,000 to 9.000 feet. With this being the case, the temperatures can be much lower compared to any other Utah National Parks.
Winter is truly magical in Bryce Canyon! To see the hoodoos covered up in snow is something else!
No matter when you are visiting Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks, pack some warm clothes and dress in layers. Even in the summer the evenings can be chilly.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ZION TO BRYCE CANYON 3 DAY ADVENTURE
- Appropriate footwear – trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support.
- Plenty of water – without enough water your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty, but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness.
- Food – food will help keep up energy and morale.
- Rain gear and extra clothing – the weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat.
- First aid kit – prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter.
- Knife or multi-purpose tool – these enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, etc.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hat – especially in the summer time, you will need sunscreen to prevent sunburn, but a sun hat will be even better.
- Daypack/backpack – you need something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in.
- Trash Bag – this will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.
- Camera – make sure to pack your camera. Both Zion and Bryce Canyon are photographer’s dream places! You will be taking thousands of picture, so make sure to pack spare batteries as well.
DAY ONE – ZION NATIONAL PARK
HOW TO SPEND THE FIRST DAY OF YOUR 3-DAY ITINERARY
This is the first day of your 3-day adventure itinerary, and here are my suggestions how you should spend the day:
1 . ANGELS LANDING HIKE
My recommendation is to start the day with hiking Zion’s famous Angels Landing!
However, keep in mind that it is a strenuous hike and it is definitely not for people with the fear of heights. So, prepare and plan accordingly. Check out my post and find out all the details, and take a good look the pictures of the last section of the hike where you will need to use the chains!
2. LOWER EMERALD POOLS HIKE
After hiking Angels Landing, you will need to slow down a bit to get your energy back.
Lower Emerald Pools hike needs to be on your itinerary! You will love it! It is a short and easy trail that will take you to along and under several waterfalls and to a couple of pools.
3. CANYON JUNCTION BRIDGE
The spot right at Canyon Junction Bridge (shuttle stop number three) is the one of best photography locations in Zion National Park to capture the Watchman Mountain with the Virgin River flowing below. Hands down, it is the most iconic view of Zion National Park.
It is especially spectacular at sunset!
DAY TWO – ZION AND DRIVE TO BRYCE CANYON
HOW TO SPEND DAY TWO OF YOUR 3-DAY ITINERARY
1. THE ZION NARROWS HIKE
Start your day two itinerary with hiking the legendary Zion Narrows.
Needless to say, some advance planning is necessary!
First of all, the Zion Narrows is open year round. However, the National Park Service closes the Zion Narrows whenever the water flow is above 120 cubic feet per second. Historically, the month of June has low water levels. During the summer months, July and August, the North American Monsoon can bring on rapid afternoon rainstorms which may cause flash floods. Weather forecasts need to be taken very seriously.
Second, the water is cold and the current is strong. You will be hiking in knee deep to waist deep water. The riverbed has sections of sand and sections of slippery rocks. So, some protective gear is absolutely necessary! Check out my post to ensure you are ready to tackle the Zion Narrows!
2. DRIVE ZION-MOUNT CARMEL SCENIC HIGHWAY
After your hike through the Zion Narrows, hop back on the shuttle and head back to where you parked your car.
Next, drive to Canyon Junction Drive and take Zion Mount Carmel Scenic Highway and start heading towards Bryce National Park.
It will take you about 1 hour and 40 minutes (79 miles) before you reach Bryce Canyon National Park.
There are a couple of interesting spots along Zion-Mount Carmel Drive: Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and Canyon Overlook Trail.
- ZION-MOUNT CARMEL TUNNEL
First, you will be going through Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Needless to say, Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is considered to be an engineering marvel!
Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920’s and was completed in 1930.
At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States.
Image Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr
Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920’s and was completed in 1930.
At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States.
The purpose of the building the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway) was to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park.
The tunnel climbs 289 feet from the west to east end at a 3.3 percent grade, sits approximately 800 feet above the Zion Canyon floor and 20 feet inside the sandstone monolith in which it is housed.
The fact that workers began at each end of the mile-long project, drilling and blasting through solid rock and darkness and somehow ended up less than a foot off from meeting perfectly in the middle, is an amazing example of cooperation!
Vehicles wider than 7 feet 10 inches or higher than 11 feet 4 inches must have a tunnel permit to enter.
The tunnel permit costs $15 in addition to the park entrance fee.
Traffic through the narrow tunnel is regulated by park rangers.
- CANYON OVERLOOK TRAIL
Once you exit Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, be on the lookout for the trailhead to Canyon Overlook Trail.
Hands down, Canyon Overlook is one of the best views of the Zion Canyon!
The parking area is located on the south side of the road, and the trailhead is across the street, on the north side of the road.
The hike from the trailhead to the Canyon Overlook is about 1-mile one-way. It is a moderate hike however, it is totally worth it and you should not miss it.
Needless to say, you will be rewarded with some incredible views of the Zion Canyon with the switchbacks below the west end of the Mount Carmel Tunnel, West Temple, the Towers of the Virgins, the Streaked Wall, and the Beehives.
Once you reach Bryce Canyon National Park, my recommendation is to rest and relax before the busy next day at Bryce Canyon National Park.
DAY 3 ITINERARY – BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
HOW TO SPEND DAY THREE OF YOUR 3-DAY ADVENTURE TO ZION AND BRYCE
1. WATCH SUNRISE IN BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Start your day three itinerary in Bryce Canyon National Park with watching a sunrise. Hands down, sunrises are spectacular at Bryce Canyon!
Inspiration Point is a popular spot to photograph sunrise as well as sunset. Or, to photograph the Bryce Canyon at any time of the day from sunrise to sunset. It is the best place to catch all the colors of the Bryce Canyon from glowing reds, and oranges, to bright pinks.
Also, Inspiration Point is the best place to see the Bryce Canyon and to really get the idea how vast the entire area is.
To be honest, Bryce Canyon National Park is a photographer’s dream! You will not be able to stop taking pictures. The views are out of this world.
If you love taking pictures, then check out my post: Best Photography Locations In Bryce Canyon National Park, plus, it has a lot of useful tips on how to take photos in Bryce Canyon.
2. TAKE THE SCENIC DRIVE IN BRYCE CANYON
After watching a spectacular sunrise, hop into your car and take the Scenic Drive in Bryce Canyon.
My favorite stops along the way are:
- NATURAL BRIDGE BRYCE CANYON VIEWPOINT
Natural Bridge is one of the best known natural arches in Bryce Canyon National Park.
It is a massive formation of eroded, deep red-hued limestone jutting from the edge of the overlook.
- SUNSET POINT
Keep reading! I have included Navajo Loop Trail and Queens Garden Trail in your day 3 Bryce and Zion itinerary.
- SUNRISE POINT
Sunrise Point another one of my favorite viewpoints in Bryce Canyon National Park.
In my opinion, it is the best spot to watch the sunset in the park. It sits at the most northernly spot in the Bryce Canyon and you can watch the sun’s final light along the western horizon for the longest time.
3. NAVAJO TRAIL AND QUEENS GARDEN TRAIL
Next, it is time to do some hiking to see the famous hoodoos up close.
One of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon where you can see some of the most famous hoodoo formations is Navajo Trail and Queens Garden Trail.
- Roundtrip Distance: 3.2 miles (loop)
- Trail Location: Sunset Point
- Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Elevation Change: 550 feet
- Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
The trail starts with a series of switchbacks that lead you down a cool ravine all the way to the main valley of Bryce Canyon.
Eventually, the ravine narrows and starts resembling a slot canyon.
This section is known as Wall Street, due to the high, vertical cliffs and narrow passages.
Once you exit Wall Street section, the trail levels off and starts meandering through a wooded area.
The garden is a beautiful semi-circular ridge of phantom-like rock spires. And, at the center of it all is a swirling, elevated formation thought to resemble Queen Victoria.
Soon enough, you will start climbing back up to the rim. The switchbacks will gradually guide you back up to the rim and you will end up at Sunrise Point.
Once you make it to Sunrise Point, you will be greeted again by magnificent views. Thousands of chiseled pinnacles extending all the way to Fairyland Point are simply incredible. In addition, you will be able to see Aquarius Plateau and the Sinking Ship, a sloping mesa that looks like a ship’s stern rising out of water.
Next, continue along the Rim Trail until you reach Sunset Point where you started your hike.
On the way, you will be passing by one of the most famous hoodoo formations called Thor’s Hammer!
4. STARGAZE IN BRYCE CANYON
Bryce Canyon offers world-class stargazing due to its exceptionally high air quality and long distance from sources of light pollution.
Wall Street and Sunrise Point are two of my favorite locations for stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Another location that I highly recommended for stargazing in Bryce Canyon National Park is Sunrise Point.
ZION TO BRYCE CANYON – 3-DAY ADVENTURE
– GETTING BACK HOME AFTER EXPLORING BRYCE CANYON
At the end of your day in Bryce Canyon National Park, it is time to start getting back home. It is about 4-hour drive from Bryce Canyon National Park before you reach Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.
If you have more time, then head to Grand Canyon National Park (the distance from Zion to Grand Canyon is 98 miles, about 2-hour drive and Bryce Canyon to Grand Canyon is 144 miles, about 2 hours and 40 minutes).
Check out these posts to get inspired:
Another one of my favorite road trips is Zion to Arches National Park (310 miles, about 5-hour drive) or Bryce Canyon to Arches National Park (244 miles, about 4-hour drive).
INTREPID SCOUT’S POINTERS FOR WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE ZION TO BRYCE CANYON DRIVE
- Be Prepared for Crowds
Both Zion and Bryce Canyon are very popular national parks. If you are visiting during summer months, be prepared for crowds.
- Use the Shuttle Service
Zion and Bryce Canyon offer shuttle service. It is the best and most efficient way to get to all the trailheads and sights.
- Stargazing in Bryce is awesome! There are many Ranger Programs that offer cosntellation tours.
Some of the best hiking tours in Bryce Canyon National Park that I have done included winter snowshoe hikes, full moon hikes, and constellation tours.
- A trip to Bryce Canyon Zion National Park is perfect paired with a side trip to Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, or Canyonlands, Capitol Reef National Parks.
Did you know that Utah has five national parks known as ‘The Mighty 5‘. Have you visited any of them? Which is your favorite Utah National Park?
- Arches National Park
- Bryce National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Capitol Reef National Park, and
- Zion National Park
I usually get asked these questions:
- Can you see Zion and Bryce in one day?
Yes, you can! It is possible to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon. You would have a few hours in Zion t o make a couple of stops along Zion Scenic Drive, then you would head on to Bryce and finish off your day with a walk along the Rim Trail.
- Which is better, Zion or Bryce Canyon?
In my opinion, Bryce Canyon is better! For me, it is the ultimate Utah National Park! The views are off the charts! All I can tell you is that when you look at the fascinating landscape of Bryce Canyon, you see thousands of chiseled pinnacles, delicate spires and intricately carved rock formations molded by the endless cycles of rain, freeze and thaw, by the capriciousness of wind and water. There is nothing like that in the entire world!
- What is the driving distance from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon?
The driving distance from Zion to Bryce Canyon is 79 miles and it takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get from Zion to Bryce Canyon.
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Are you planning a trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks?
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Also, make sure to click on any of the images below to get inspired and help you plan your trip to Zion and Bryce and to other Utah national parks.