Utah is a state full of hidden gems, home to the mighty five National Parks, and some of the most unique landscapes in the Southwest. One of the best road trips in the state is going from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon. Easily accessible and just a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas, you’ll find canyons, cliffs, and mesas with unlimited outdoor opportunities.
Read below the suggestions from our guest writer, Kate, who has been to both Zion and Bryce 3 times and have done all the best hikes and activities in and around the national parks at all different times of year.
In this post I’ll share my favorite things to do, the best time to go, where to stay, and more in this 3 day itinerary from Zion to Bryce Canyon! Plus– how to get Angels Landing permits and the best alternative if you don’t get them!
Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon: 3-Day Itinerary
Since there are more diverse hiking trails and landscapes to explore in Zion compared to Bryce, it is better to spend a full 2 days in Zion and 1 day in Bryce.
This itinerary also assumes that you have flown in and arrived to the Zion area and are all set to go on day one.
- Day 1: Zion National Park. Hike Angel’s Landing. Drive the Mount Carmel Highway & hike Canyon Overlook trail. No permits for Angel’s Landing? Check out Observation Point!
- Day 2: Zion National Park. Hike the Narrows. Pick 1-2 other small hikes such as Weeping Rock, the Watchman trail (great sunset!), Emerald Pools, or Pa’rus trail. Option to drive to Bryce Canyon in the evening.
- Day 3: Bryce National Park. Watch the sunrise. Hike the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop and do the scenic drive around the park. Watch the sunset or drive back to Las Vegas.
Day 1: Zion National Park
The two hikes in Zion National Park that are first on everyone’s list are Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. If you plan to do both, it is best to do one each day. Plan your day around whenever your Angels Landing hiking permit is for.
Top Zion Hiking Trails
How to hike Angels Landing in 2023
Angels Landing has gained a lot of popularity throughout the years. Dubbed as ‘America’s Most Dangerous Hike’, people have been flocking from all over to line up and walk along the chains. But because of this popularity, there are now restrictions and things you need to know before planning your hike here.
Permits: Starting in 2022, you must have a permit to hike Angels Landing. The old way of waking up early and catching the first shuttle to do the hike no longer applies.
You can apply for the permits on a 3 month rolling basis and pick from 7 different dates/times. Permits are issued via a lottery system. Note that there is a 6U$D nonrefundable fee when applying for permits via the lottery. If you didn’t win the right permits in advance, you can also try your luck 1 day in advance to do the hike the following day.
Angels Landing Hiking Stats: 4.4 miles roundtrip, out & back trail, 1600 ft elevation gain. Not for those fearful of heights or small children. There are high risk drop offs throughout the chains section. Not to be dramatic, but people have unfortunately died throughout the years doing this hike so it is important to be an informed hiker. Wear hiking shoes with good grip, and avoid hiking the trail during the winter when it can be icy. The Angels Landing hike starts at Shuttle Bus Stop #6 for The Grotto.
Hike to Observation Point – Angel’s Landing Alternate Hike
No permits for Angels Landing? Don’t think of attempting to hike it without one- there are rangers stationed at the chains that will check for permits.
But no worries! The hike to Observation Point is actually much easier, more accessible, and offers a better view! This hike is actually located just outside of the park near the East Zion entrance. It is 7 miles roundtrip with 700 ft elevation gain.
At the end of the Observation Point hike you get all the views you would get if you had hiked Angels Landing, including Angels Landing itself! Sunrise and sunset make this spot really shine!
Driving the Mount Carmel Highway
I’ve been to Zion 3 times but everytime I drive through that Zion- Mt Carmel tunnel my jaw drops. It is a really stunning drive with plenty of stops along the way!
Make time for these stops on the drive:
- Checkerboard Mesa
- The Great Arch
- Canyon Overlook Trail (1 mile round trip, 185 ft elevation gain)
- Multiple pull outs along the highway, especially around the Mt Carmel tunnel
Where to Stay near Zion National Park
There are a few towns to pick from when staying near Zion depending on your budget and how close you want to be to the park. I have listed below the different towns with distances and lodging options.
St. George is the farthest away, at about 50-60 minutes from the park’s entrance but you will find a lot of lower budget options. You’ll find more chain hotels here as well.
- St. George Inn and Suites: Very affordable motel option.
- Staybridge Suites: Highly rated large hotel with breakfast included.
The towns of Hurricane, La Verkin, and Virgin are about 20-30 minutes away from the park entrance.
- Zion Wildflower: Located in Virgin, UT is a highly rated glamping option.
- Hurricane Wingate: Lower budget option in Hurricane, UT with continental breakfast included.>
Springdale is the closest and most convenient, right outside Zion.
- Red Rock Inn Cottages: Modern cottages close to the Zion entrance, highly rated.
- Pioneer Lodge: Lower budget option near the park, features an outdoor pool.
Camping near Zion National Park
You can camp inside the national park at the beautiful Watchman Campground, the park’s largest campground. Be sure to book your sites in advance, especially during the peak tourist spring and fall months. On May 1 all dates between May and October 30 go on sale.
Where to stay between Zion and Bryce
If you follow the 3 day itinerary below, the easiest place to stay between Zion and Bryce is right outside of Bryce National Park.
You could stay in Kanab, UT but you will be driving an extra 40 minutes round trip out of the way.
The towns of Panguitch and Hatch offer many lodging options directly on the route from Zion to Bryce.
- The Mountain Ridge Cabins & Lodging offer modern rooms and cottages in Hatch, UT at affordable prices.
- The Wonder Inn Outbacklocated in Panguitch, UT is a highly rated budget option with free continental breakfast every morning.
- The Panguitch House is a lovely bed and breakfast option in Panguitch.
Camping near Bryce Canyon:
Bryce has two campgrounds located inside the park. The first is the Sunset campground; sites are first come first served April 15- October 31.North Campground is first come first served May 1- May 19, 2023 and then is reservable May 19- October 7.
Tips Before Embarking on your Trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon
- America the Beautiful Pass: This is an annual National Parks pass that pays for itself if you go to 3 parks in the year. Plus it makes going in the parks easier if you already have your pass ready to go!
- Check road and trail closures on the National Park Service websites for Zion and Bryce. The desert is a place of extremes; flash floods, rockfall, and high heat can cause trail and road closures. Be informed and stay up to date.
- Get your permits and reservations in advance, especially during peak season.
- Shuttle system in Zion: During the months of March- November you cannot drive on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. You must get on the shuttle; you don’t need to reserve this in advance. This means to get to trailheads such as Angels Landing and the Narrows you must use the shuttle system.
After all of your big hiking is done for the day and head back into Springdale, go to the Zion Brewery to enjoy a refreshing drink out in the sunshine! It was one of the best parts of my day after hiking Angels Landing.
Zion Travel Tip: If you want to hike the Narrows the following day, pick up your gear rentals on day 1 at Zion Outfitters! You can pick up your Narrows gear the day prior between the hours of 3-7pm.
For sunset, enjoy a nice leisurely stroll along the Virgin River close to the park entrance. Canyon Junction Bridge has one of the best views of Zion with the Virgin River in the park, and it requires little to no effort!
Stay up for a few hours after the sun goes down and go stargazing. The stargazing is unmatched in both Zion and Bryce! The months of February- October make for great milky way viewing.
Day 2: Zion National Park
On your second day in Zion take the first shuttle of the day to hike the Narrows to beat the crowds. Get to the shuttle 30 minutes before the first ride of the day to ensure you get a spot on the bus!
For the Narrows you’ll take the shuttle and get off at the last Bus Stop #9 for Temple of Sinawava.
How to Hike the Narrows
The Narrows is a well known, world renowned hike that really does live up to the hype. The entirety of the hike is in the Virgin River in a slot canyon. It is unique and truly beautiful, between the blue river and the orange canyon walls. Sometimes the water will get up to waist level- it is really a hike to remember!
The Narrows is really a hike that you make of it. Your hike can be as much as 10 miles round trip or you could walk down just a mile or two and turn around.
A common goal for hikers is to get to Wall Street; this is where the slot canyon walls get narrower and taller and is one of the most beautiful parts. From the Temple of Sinawava to Wall Street is 6 miles total round trip.
I recommend going to Zion Outfitters and renting some gear for the hike. During the warmer months all you need is the canyoneering boots and neoprene socks. A dry bag is highly recommended as well to keep your belongings safe and dry. The boots provide balance and stability and help to keep your feet warm. The walking stick provided also helps to maintain balance as well.
By the way, there’s no way to avoid getting wet on this hike- you literally walk through the river the entire time!
You do not need permits for this hike, but be sure to check conditions and flash flood warning before starting your hike.
After the Narrows
The Narrows hike will take about half a day, so afterwards drop off any gear you rented in town and get a bite to eat. One of my favorite spots in Springdale is Whiptail Grill for great Mexican food. And you’ve gotta stop by FeelLove Coffee Zion for amazing coffee and vegan soft serve!
Other great hikes around Zion National Park
Head back into the park in the afternoon to explore 1 or 2 easier trails. Choose from these:
- Weeping Rock: 0.3 miles round trip, 36 ft elevation gain. From Shuttle Bus Stop #7.
- The Watchman trail: 3.1 miles round trip, 635 ft elevation gain. Great for sunset; fantastic view of Zion for the effort. You don’t have to take the shuttle for this one, just walk to the trailhead from parking at the visitor center.
- Lower Emerald Pools: 1.4 miles round trip, 125 ft elevation gain. Get access to a beautiful waterfall in the canyon. From Shuttle Bus Stop #5.
- Pa’rus trail: 3 miles round trip, 130 ft elevation gain. Easy, paved trail with great views of Zion and the Virgin River. Start from the Visitor Center or at Shuttle Bus Stop #3.
If you want to make the most of your time in both Zion and Bryce, I would personally stay until sunset in Zion and then drive ~1 hour over to the Bryce area and spend the night. That way you can wake up early the next day to explore Bryce.
Day 3: Bryce Canyon National Park
If there’s anything you do in Bryce- I highly suggest waking up early and watching the sunrise. The hoodoos truly glow with the rising sun. The best viewpoint for sunrise is at Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon.
Afterwards pick between the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop trail or the longer Fairyland Loop Trail. This trail will take you through many parts of Bryce Canyon to soak in all the scenery.
The Queens Garden and Navajo Loop is a 3.1 mile round trip trail with an elevation gain of 650 ft. You will hike down into the hoodoos themselves and see them from a different perspective. This trail will also take you down Wall Street, a unique and beautiful trail that switchbacks down the hoodoos.
Or picker the longerFairyland Loop trail is about 8 miles round trip with 1545 ft of elevation gain. This is a well loved trail in Bryce that takes you around much of the park.
After your hike, drive the Bryce Canyon scenic drive and make stops at:
- Natural Bridge
- Farview Point
- Ponderosa Canyon
- Rainbow Point
- Yovimpa Point
If you have the rest of the day to spend in Bryce and don’t have to make a flight early the next morning, sunset in Bryce is beautiful as well. You won’t see the actual sun set over the canyon but the sky will change colors and the hoodoos take on different lighting!
How to Get to Zion and Bryce
The easiest and quickest way to access these national parks is by flying into Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport.
You will need a rental car to visit both national parks, so pick one up easily from the Las Vegas airport.
Have extra time on your drive from Las Vegas to Zion? Go to Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park on the way. You can easily spend just a few hours here and hit some of the best views of the park. The best things to do in a short amount of time are: Fire Wave (1.5 mile hike), Elephant Rock, Pink Canyon, and the Beehives.
Traveling to Zion and Bryce FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Zion and Bryce.
- How far apart are Zion and Bryce? The distance from Zion to Bryce is about 72 miles and takes about 1 ½ hrs driving time.
- Driving distances at a glance
- Driving time from Las Vegas to Zion: 2 hrs & 10 minutes minutes. 152 miles.
- Driving time from Zion to Bryce to Canyon: 1 hr & 30 mins. 72 miles.
- Driving time from Bryce Canyon back to Las Vegas: 4 hrs. 260 miles.
Best time to go to Zion and Bryce
The overall best times to go to Zion and Bryce Canyon are the spring and fall months. During these months, you will have the most comfortable and temperate weather with the least percentage of precipitation and the most activities available.
However, the spring and fall months are the peak tourist seasons so you will have to tolerate the increased crowds. Be sure to book your lodging and any reservations needed well in advance if traveling during the spring and fall.
The summer months can also get crowded and bring average high temperatures in the 90s. Hiking in the middle of the day is not recommended due to the dangerous heat, so plan your outdoor activities in the early morning or evening. July and August is also monsoon season for the desert so it is important to be aware of flash flood warnings.
Winter can bring solitude and less crowds, but a higher probability of some trails being closed or more inaccessible due to snow and ice. The winter months bring temperatures as low as 11°F in Bryce Canyon. Pack appropriately for the cold and be prepared for trail and road closures if visiting during the winter.
Always check the weather forecasts before heading out hiking!
Zion vs Bryce Canyon
While being very close in geographical location, Zion and Bryce national parks are quite different.
Zion National Park
Zion sits at a lower elevation than Bryce, making Bryce a little cooler in the hot summer months.
Zion is a canyon made up of high sandstone cliffs and walls with the Virgin River cutting through the middle of it.
Bryce National Park
Bryce is actually not a canyon despite the name, but is defined by its’ cluster of distinguishing pointy ‘Hoodoos’. These hoodoos were formed over thousands of years of erosion and frost.
Bryce is very distinct with the unique hoodoos that glow in the sun, but Zion is much more diverse with all the outdoor opportunities and landscapes.
Wrap up: Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon 3 day Itinerary
And that ends your 3 day itinerary from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon!
Overall, since the distance from Zion to Bryce Canyon is under 2 hours, combining these 2 national parks makes for the perfect long weekend excursion. They are also easily both accessible from Las Vegas International Airport.
While Zion and Bryce Canyon are close to each other, they offer unique landscapes and views with plentiful hiking and outdoor activities.
A road trip from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is sure to ignite your wanderlust. Look up at the towering red rocks, breathe in that fresh air, stargaze at night, and soak in the desert sun during the day. “If you are looking for other stunning American Southwest scenery, consider a trip down to Arizona! From driving the historic Route 66, hiking Merry Go Round Rock around Sedona, or visiting the ancient Native American dwellings of Canyon de Chelly, you are in for a treat.
Guest Post Author
Kate did travel nursing for two years all over the West Coast taking many road trips in between assignments. She’s lived in California, Colorado, Arizona, & Washington. Now she’s based out of Philadelphia but still travels every chance she gets. When she’s not traveling or working as a nurse she writes for her travel blog, Kate Roams the World.
Have you been to Zion or Bryce Canyon? Did you enjoy your experience? What was your favorite thing to do?
If you are looking for more trip ideas in the US, check out our posts on USA travel blog articles, or for more hiking trips around the world, check our hiking posts from Mongolia Altai to Papua, Pakistan to Europe.
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