3 Epic Days in Zion National Park

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Last updated Jan 28, 2023

Zion is arguably the most beautiful park of Utah’s Mighty 5. Located about 3 hours from Las Vegas, its location is convenient if you want to extend this trip to include the Grand Canyon and/or Bryce. The beauty of Zion, different from most other canyons, is that it allows you to enjoy it from within the canyon and from above.

In a place like this, it is always difficult to decide what to do and how to best spend your time. The list of things we suggest to do in Zion National Park includes day hikes, scenic drives, helicopter rides, and suggestions for delicious restaurants.

Things to Know:

Some hikes may be closed or have limited access due to rockfall or some other reasons. Before finalizing your trip double check the status of the park on NPS.GOV.

To do any of the Zion Canyon Trails from within the canyon, you have to take the shuttle into the canyon. Regular vehicles are not allowed into the canyon, this has been the case for a few years now. All the information you need for the Zion Shuttle Service is on RECREATION.GOV

If you will be visiting more than one national park in one year period it is a better deal to purchase National Park Annual Pass at USGS.GOV.  An annual national park pass is $80, where one park entrance fee is anywhere between $20 and $35.

Places to Stay Around Zion National PArk:

The only hotel inside of the canyon is Zion Lodge. It books up quick, so below are some other reasonable options in Springdale:
Cable Mountain Lodge – we have stayed here, and it was an excellent option for us.
Bumbleberry Inn
Holiday Inn Express
Canyon Vista Lodge

Depending on the time of the year the hotel prices change drastically. The most popular time to visit Zion is April-May and September-October and the cost of the hotels is much higher during these months.

Popular Hikes in Zion National Park

Zion HikesRound Trip (miles)Elevation Change (ft.)WaterToiletParkingShelter/PicnicDescription
Canyon Overlook1.0163 XX Limited parking.  Stairs and minor drop offs are part of the trail. End with a view of the lower Zion Canyon.
Timber Creek Trail1.0100 XX Follows a ridge to views of Timber Creek, Kolob Terrace and the Pine Valley Mountain.
Emerald Pools Loop3.0350XX XHike that leads to waterfalls, pools and cliffs. A sandy and rocky trail.
Angel’s Landing5.41488XX XHiking on a narrow ridge, not for people afraid of heights.
Observation Point6.7695  X Mostly easy hike, with some elevation change towards the observation point. A sandy and rocky trail.
The Narrows8.4334XX  This hike is in the river and water temperature can be very cold.  Uneven surface and hiking poles are highly recommended.

Day 1 In Zion National Park

Start the day early with a shuttle pass for 8 am. Board the shuttle at the Visitor Center, there will probably already be a line of people waiting, but it goes quick. Stay on the shuttle until the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. This is where The Narrows trail starts.

Before setting off on the trail, make sure you use the restroom and fill up your water bottles if you haven’t done so already. The first mile of the hike is just walking on the paved trail by the river. After about a mile is where you start walking in the river. It doesn’t matter what time of the year and how hot it is outside the water will be cold.

There is a local Zion Outfitter store that rents neoprene socks and water shoes to hike in, plus the hiking stick and waterproof backpacks where you can pick up all this equipment for about $25/day. We brought old throwaway sneakers with us, wool socks and used our hiking poles. For the backpack we lined it with a dry bag, or you can use a garbage bag to line the inside of your backpack with it. We were here in September and the water level never got that high where we had to worry about the backpack getting wet.

The Narrows Zion National Park

This is probably the most popular hike in Zion, so there will be a lot of people doing this hike at the same time, which is why we recommend starting early. It will be colder and you probably will not feel the sun until you are on your way back, but the amount of people that were walking up when we were walking down made the water really murky and the hike not enjoyable at all.

You can make this hike as short or as long as you want. A little over 3 miles into the hike is when you come to an intersection with Orderville Gulch canyon to your right and The Narrows ‘Wall Street” in front of you and this is where most people turn around after snapping a few photos.

Zion National Park Hike

TIP: During the summer months the Virgin River in the Zion Park experiences a toxic Cyanobacteria bloom. Walking in The Narrows does not seem to be a problem, but drinking the contaminated water needs to be avoided. This is more of a risk for pets than anything else.

Upon your return from The Narrows take the shuttle to The Zion Lodge stop where you can have lunch. After lunch, you can do a quick 3-mile loop to the Emerald Pools. The trail to the Lower Pools is paved and you are surrounded by lush vegetation and at the end rewarded with a view of waterfalls and pools. From there the trail is sandy and rocky and at the Upper Emerald Pool, you are walking at the base of the cliff.

TIP: Often after big rainstorms the middle or upper emerald pools experience a lot of damage and the trail closes down.

Back in town for dinner you can choose between many different restaurants. We enjoyed our dinner at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub.

Day 2

Today you have an option between doing Angel’s Landing or Observation Point combined with the Canyon Overlook hike.

Option 1: Angel’s Landing is one of the most strenuous hikes in Zion. It only takes about 4 hours to do, but it requires a lot of physical strength and NO fear of heights. If you do not fully understand what you are taking on by doing this hike, don’t do it! You are only putting yourself and others in danger. Unfortunately, when we were visiting Zion, Angel’s Landing was still closed, but we would have loved to do this hike.

Option 2: If Angel’s Landing is not your kind of thing, or if it is closed, The Observation Point is a great hike to do. Many people think that because the trail from the canyon is closed, due to a rockfall, you cannot see the Observation Point. That is not true! There is an alternate way, and from what we understand, a much less strenuous way to enjoy this view. If Observation Point is your choice you will not need a shuttle ticket for this day, but you will need to pack your lunch as there is no place to stop and grab something.

The Narrow Zion National Park
View for the Observation Point

For the afternoon we suggest the Canyon Overlook trail. It is a quick one-mile roundtrip trail, but we could have sat there for hours enjoying the views of the Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park

For dinner we ended up going to Oscar’s Café, a place that never sleeps. Be aware, portions are huge!

Day 3

To give your legs a break we suggest helicopter ride, scenic drives, and minimal hiking today.

On one of our drives in or out of town we noticed a helicopter pad and decided to look them up. We opted for 15-minute panoramic helicopter ride with Zion Helicopters, it was $80 a person, but it gave us a great perspective of how vast Zion is.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Since the helicopter ride is outside of Springdale on our way there we grabbed a light breakfast/lunch and packed some snacks for the rest of the day since we knew we wouldn’t be back in Springdale until the evening.

After the helicopter ride we decided to drive the scenic Kolob Canyons Road. Kolob Canyons are located in the northwest corner of the park off of Interstate 15, exit 40, approximately 45 minutes from Springdale. Kolob Canyons Road is a 5-mile scenic road through soaring cliffs of Navajo sandstone. There are a few hiking trails of the road that you can venture on as well. At the end of the road is a trailhead for the Timber Creek Overlook, a 1-mile round trip trail with great views of the Kolob Terrace.

Zion National Park

On the way back to Springdale, take a drive through Kolob Terrace up to the Kolob Reservoir. Another scenic drive with amazing views, elevation gain over 4000 ft, and about 20-miles later you are at the Kolob Reservoir. The drive is little nerve wrecking, especially for us flat-footed Floridian’s but is worth the experience and views.

Zion National Park

To conclude our stay in Zion we decided to dine at King’s Landing Bistro and besides great food enjoy a great bottle of Altocedro’s blend and a wonderful view of the Watchman from their patio.

Zion is a maze of beauty and you can spend weeks here and not get tired of the views. As we said at the beginning, it does not matter which hikes you choose, Zion’s beauty will leave you speechless.

Other helpful posts….
17-Day Grand Canyon and Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
Alternative Ways to Hike to the Observation Point in Zion
Grand Hike in the Grand Canyon – South Kaibab to Tonto to Bright Angel Loop
5-Day Road Trip – Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon
Figure 8 Loop – The Best Hike in Bryce




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