GloboTreks is reader-supported through affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I might earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support! – Norbert

Looking for the ultimate desert adventure amidst towering red cliffs, winding canyons, and breathtaking views? You’re in luck; this in-depth Zion National Park itinerary details the perfect way to spend your time in one of Utah’s most popular national parks.

I recently did a family trip that covered all five of Utah’s national parks. Zion National Park is, without a doubt, among the most stunning and worth spending a few days exploring it properly.

Whether you’re looking for thrilling hikes that end with stunning scenery or seeking more knowledge on the history and ecology of the region, this 3-day itinerary has you covered.

How To Get to Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located within driving distance from major hubs like Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, so you have various route options to get there. You can fly into the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), where you’ll then drive just under four hours to the national park.

If you choose to land at the Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, then you’ll only need to drive a shorter two hours and 30 minutes to Zion National Park.

It is highly recommended to book a rental car from Salt Lake City or Las Vegas airports, as this comes in very handy when exploring the lesser-visited parts of Zion National Park. 

Zion National Park Entrance Sign

Getting Around Zion National Park

After arriving in Zion National Park, you’ll need to decide on the best way to get around. Luckily, the park offers various ways to move around via a sophisticated shuttle system.

Driving your own vehicle is a fantastic alternative, but some routes only allow access to the free shuttle, typically during peak visiting season. In this case, you’ll have to hop on and hop off at specified shuttle stops when taking on this ultimate Zion National Park itinerary.

3-Day Zion National Park Itinerary: A Day-By-Day Guide

Characterized by oddly shaped cliffs and lush hills set along the Virgin River, Zion National Park is a haven for fun outdoor adventures. Here is a comprehensive 3-day itinerary that sees you exploring everything from the top attractions to the best hikes and hidden gems.

Day 1 – Explore Zion National Park Highlights

Hit the ground running on the first day of this ultimate Zion National Park itinerary by visiting its most popular landmarks. You’ll enter through the South Park Entrance from Springdale.

Stop By the Zion Canyon Visitor Center

Before doing anything else, first visit the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. Sitting just a skip away from the South Park Entrance, this center provides insight into the park’s rich history and geology. You’ll find informative displays, restrooms, and a water fountain to fill up on H2O.

The best time to come here is early in the morning, around 8:00 am when the center opens its doors. Parking is available at the center, but it quickly fills up, especially during peak season. Go on the short but moderately challenging hike along the Watchman Trail for serene early-morning vistas.

Visit the Zion Human History Museum

Delve into the rich history and geological wonders of Zion at the Human History Museum before setting out to explore. This adds a deeper understanding and appreciation for the dramatic landscapes.

The museum displays a collection of relics, artifacts, and exhibits on how elements like water had an impact on ancient communities. You’ll also learn about the park’s unique flora and fauna, as well as bird species like the Mexican Spotted Owl and California condor.

Zion National Park Scenic Road to the Park

Drive Along the Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway

Take a scenic drive along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for excellent canyon views. Stretching over ten miles from the South Park Entrance to Mount Carmel, this picturesque road winds through steep switchbacks before coming to an alluring “hole-in-the-rock” tunnel.

Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Highway takes you toward the East Entrance, passing gorgeous overlooks and offering hiking opportunities like trekking the Pine Creek Gorge Slot Canyon.

Marvel at the Checkerboard Mesa

Close to the East Entrance Ranger Station, you’ll find the iconic Checkerboard Mesa — a geological wonder that will leave you awe-struck. The intricate patterns of the sandstone cliff and its vibrant hues are the main draws, but so is its accessibility via the Carmel Highway.

You’ll find several pull-outs along the highway and trailheads leading into some of the Zion backcountry. The Checkerboard Mesa Canyon Trail is considered a challenging route, taking about 2-3 hours. Brace yourself for steep climbs and scrambling along the canyon floor.

Stroll Through The Narrows

Featuring thousand-foot-high canyon walls and a rocky path through the Virgin River, The Narrows provides one of the most scenic hikes in Zion National Park. Follow the bottom-up trail from the Temple of Sinawava and wade through the narrowest section of the canyon. (I go into more detail about The Narrows hike below)

An alternative (up-bottom) trail is also available. It begins at Chamberlain Ranch, heading down towards the Temple of Sinawava. You’ll need a permit to access this 16-mile trek.

Note: Hiking the Narrows can be strenuous, but you’ll be rewarded with towering canyon walls and the soothing sound of rushing water as you navigate this unique and unforgettable trail. 

Day 2 – Experience the Best Hikes in Zion National Park

The second day is fully dedicated to exploring the most rewarding hikes in Zion Canyon. Follow these tips to pack light for long hikes and prepare for spectacular desert treks. 

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do every hike listed here in one day, but you can either select one or two that pique your interest or spread them across a few days.

Pa’rus Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 134 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 1-2 hours

Connecting the visitor center and Canyon Junction, the Pa’rus Trail runs along the Virgin River, making for a leisurely stroll. Relatively easy to walk, this paved trail is accessible for bicycles and wheelchairs, and it’s also pet-friendly, so you can explore it with your fur buddy.

The hike features trailside exhibits, sharing insights about the plant and animal life in the area. This is a fantastic early morning hike, giving you wildlife-spotting opportunities and a chance to clear your mind and set the tone for the day ahead.

Expect good trail conditions; it is fairly flat and at ground level the entire way, crossing the Virgin River at several points. The Pa’rus Trail takes you through the heart of Zion Canyon.

Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park

Canyon Overlook Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 0.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 157 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Located just a skip away from the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel – East Entrance, the Canyon Overlook Trail offers you sweeping views of the rugged canyon. The moderately challenging trail starts with a series of sandstone steps with metal handrails to help keep your balance.

As you ascend to the overlook, you’re treated to panoramic expanses of stunning red and white-colored slickrock. At the end of the trail, you’ll find a fenced cliff edge viewpoint overlooking the main section of Zion Canyon, with great views of the Towers of the Virgin.

Emerald Pools Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 620 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 1-2 hours

Accessible via three trails, the Emerald Pools are one of Zion National Park’s most magical attractions. These hiking trails all lead to gorgeous cascading waterfalls and glistening emerald pools. Your hike begins at a parking lot across the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Cross the small bridge over the Virgin River, then proceed to trek the loop. Whether you go clockwise or counterclockwise, you’ll first come across the Lower Emerald Pool. Keep walking until you reach the Middle Emerald Pool, then proceed to the Upper Emerald Pool.

From the Lower Emerald Pools, you’ll follow the unpaved sandstone ledge towards the Middle Emerald Pools. This part of the trek is quite steep, bringing you panoramic views of Zion Canyon below. Further along the path, you’ll trek through shady pinyon-juniper woodlands before descending into the emerald-colored pools.

From there, you’ll climb up stone steps and wander through lush forests towards the last pools. Keep your eyes peeled for other Zion Canyon landmarks like The Great White Throne and Lady Mountain during your hike to the Upper Emerald Pools.

Norbert at Angel's Landing, Zion National Park
My favorite spot at the Angel’s Landing Trail

Angels Landing Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 4.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,827 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Known for being the most dangerous hike in Zion National Park, the trek through the Angels Landing Trail offers an adrenaline-pumping experience. The challenging ascent and dizzying heights of Angels Landing test your limits but reward you with epic views of Zion Canyon.

You can access the Angels Landing Trailhead along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive at the Grotto Shuttle Stop (or Stop 6). Walk over the footbridge then follow the West Rim Trail towards Angels Landing. It is quite a strenuous trail, so make sure you stay hydrated.

This hike features a number of switchbacks before merging into the Angels Landing Trail. From here, you’ll contend with narrow paths climbing up thousand-foot slopes before reaching the summit. There are chain handrails along the way to assist with your balance.

Trust me, it is a tough hike but totally worth it! It was also among my favorite hikes I did at Zion.

Note: You’ll need a hiking permit to access the trail to Angels Landing. These are limited permits available through a Seasonal and Day-Before Lottery.   

The Narrows at Zion National Park

The Narrows Bottom Up Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 8.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 695 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: up to 10 hours (depending on how well you hike in the water)

After Angels Landing, I think The Narrows hike is among Zion National Park’s most iconic and thrilling adventures, and it’s a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts visiting the park.

This trail offers hikers the chance to trek through towering thousand-foot-high canyon walls while wading through the Virgin River, immersing them in the beauty and grandeur of Zion’s natural wonders.

It feels surreal to walk in the river. Yes, most of this trail is literally walking in water, surrounded by canyon walls that slowly close in on you as you walk upstream. This is actually the narrowest section of the Zion Canyon.

Make sure you wear appropriate footwear for this hike, as you will be in the water most of the time and some rocks can be slippery. Also, remember that depending on the season, the water can reach up to chest height, but most of the trail is up to knee height in water depth.

In my case, I wore my Tropicfeel Sneakers, which are built for this kind of hike and dry up quickly. I also carried my flip-flops to have them available right after the hike.

Norbert in The Narrows Hike
Me hiking in The Narrows

There are two main routes for hiking the Narrows: the bottom-up trail starting at the Temple of Sinawava and the top-down trail beginning at Chamberlain Ranch.

The bottom-up trail is more accessible to visitors and doesn’t require a permit, while the top-down trail is a longer, more challenging hike that necessitates a permit and typically takes a full day or more to complete.

While the Narrows hike can be strenuous, it rewards adventurers with breathtaking scenery, including towering canyon walls, cascading waterfalls, and serene pools of emerald-colored water.

Note: Be mindful of your hiking time, as you can only reach the trail (and head back) via the park’s shuttle. Check the shuttle schedule to ensure you are back in time to catch it. Also, be mindful of the temperature; the river water can be cold, and you’ll be in it for hours.

Scout Lookout Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,116 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Another exhilarating hike available along the West Rim Trail is the trek to Scout Lookout. Boasting a moderate difficulty level and breathtaking scenery, the Scout Lookout Trail is perfect for those seeking adventure without having to hike all the way to Angels Landing.

It’s a strenuous trail, soaring over 1,000 feet above the canyon floor. Cross the Virgin River and then trek through several steep switchbacks along the way. The trail flattens at Refrigerator Canyon but resumes ascending at Walter’s Wiggles — a series of switchbacks leading to Scout Lookout and Angels Landing.

This flat rock lookout point offers great opportunities to spot the elusive California condors, get panoramic vistas of Angels Landing, and exceptional views of Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park Open Area

Observation Point via East Mesa Trail + Weeping Rock

Distance (roundtrip): 7 miles

Elevation Gain: 702 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 3-4 hours

Offering the most dramatic scenery of Zion Canyon, Observation Point offers great viewpoints without having to climb to dizzying heights. Accessed via the East Rim Trail, this moderately challenging path features sheer drop-offs and climbing parts up to Echo Canyon.

After reaching the fork between the East Rim and Observation Point trails, you’ll begin the ascent to Mount Baldy. This is where you’ll find a plateau looking down into Zion Canyon.

Have more time? Consider extending your trek to Weeping Rock — a massive arch-shaped nook boasting vibrant shades of red and orange. In warmer months, the scenery is even more spectacular, with water tumbling from above; then, in winter, you’ll find a frosted waterfall.

Note: The East Rim Trail and Weeping Rock are currently closed due to a major rockfall. Keep your eye peeled on the national park’s website to check current trail conditions.

Riverside Walk Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 194 feet

Estimated Hiking Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Take the Riverside Walk Trail for a relaxing trek amidst towering canyon walls. The path is paved, making it easy to navigate. Walk along the Virgin River as the red walls around you become narrower. Although it’s flat, some sections of the path feature minor drop-offs.

Along the way, you’ll find trail exhibits with information about the canyon’s erosion and ecological richness. The Riverside Walk begins at the Temple of Sinawava Parking Lot, where you’ll also find a restroom before the trail proceeds towards The Narrows.

Norbert Sitting at Angel's Landing, Zion National Park
Overlooking the canyon from Angel’s Landing. It’s so serene up there.

Day 3 – Dive Into the Remote Parts of Zion National Park

End your Zion National Park itinerary on a high note, exploring the least-visited parts of the park. These sections offer backcountry experience, so be sure to bring your best travel backpack.

Lava Point Overlook

Journey to the park’s remote northwestern corner for panoramic views of Zion Canyon. Lava Point Overlook offers a peaceful retreat from the busier sections of the park, away from large crowds. It is accessible between May and September (if the weather conditions allow it).

The viewpoint sits over 7,000 feet above the canyon floor, rewarding you with panoramic views of canyons, mesas, and the surrounding red rock formations. Access the overlook via the scenic Kolob Terrace Road, but you can opt for the alternative route on West Rim Road.

You won’t have to hike as Lava Point Overlook sits next to the campground’s parking lot.

Timber Creek Overlook Trail

Experience solitude and serenity on this lesser-known trail offering sweeping vistas. Totaling a mere one-mile trek, the Timber Creek Overlook Trail is the shortest hike in the park’s Kolob Canyons Section. It’s a relatively easy trek along a rocky ridge with minimal elevation gain.

The overlook offers expansive views of the surroundings, from Kolob Terrace to the Pine Valley Mountains and all the way to the Grand Canyon. The best time to visit the Timber Creek Overlook is in spring and early summer when the valley boasts vivid wildflowers.

Kolob Canyons, Utah

Kolob Canyons

Explore the majestic red rock formations and secluded trails of Kolob Canyons. Accessible via Interstate 15 (or Veterans Memorial Highway), this part of Zion National Park offers crimson canyons and lots of hiking trails.

Begin your adventure at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, where you’ll show your Interagency Park Pass or purchase an entry ticket to Zion National Park. From there, drive along the East Kolob Canyons Road through the rugged landscapes.

At the northwest corner of the park, you’ll find a narrow parallel box of canyons cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. These form majestic peaks and 2,000-foot cliff walls that draw eager backcountry enthusiasts to this lesser famous part of the park.

Where To Stay When Visiting Zion National Park

As one of Utah’s most visited national parks, Zion offers an array of hotels, lodges, and campgrounds, so you won’t struggle to find a place to stay. Check out these options:

SpringHill Suites by Marriott Springdale Zion National Park

Discover the charm and comfort of SpringHill Suites in Springdale, where luxury meets adventure in the heart of Utah’s stunning landscapes. The three-star-rated resort offers all the modern amenities, including sophisticated rooms with private bathrooms.

Spend your days hiking, biking, climbing, or horseback riding in Zion National Park before you unwind and indulge in the amenities that set SpringHill Suites apart. These include a seasonal outdoor pool, a hot tub, and unparalleled views of the canyon.

SpringHill Suites is only a short drive to other attractions like Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon, so you’ll have plenty to explore outside of the Zion Canyon area.

Zion Ponderosa Wagons, Utah
Looking at the stars from our wagon at Zion Ponderosa

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Nestled within a 4,000-acre ranch just 17 miles from Springdale, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort offers a serene retreat surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. These spacious homes and cabins boast fully equipped kitchens and complimentary Wi-Fi to keep you connected.

But I recommend staying in one of their Conetsoga wagons to spend your night out closer to nature.

Each western-style rental home exudes rustic charm and coziness, featuring modern conveniences such as a flat-screen TV, a fireplace, and BBQ facilities.

The resort offers lots of activities should you want to do them, including canyoneering, ATVing, or rafting through Zion Canyon and immersing in the on-site activities, from mini-golfing to splashing about in the seasonal pool. Coral Pink Sand Dunes is a regional attraction you can explore about 30 miles away.

Under Canvas Zion

Immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of Utah’s wilderness with a stay at Under Canvas Zion. Situated amidst stunning red landscapes, this glamping retreat offers a unique and unforgettable experience for the adventurous traveler.

Each luxury tent is thoughtfully designed to provide comfort and convenience while allowing you to connect with nature. With spacious interiors adorned with stylish furnishings, plush bedding, and rustic decor, you’ll feel right at home.

Wake up to birds chirping and the sight of majestic red rock formations outside your tent. Step outside to your private deck and take in panoramic views of Zion National Park’s landscapes. After the sun sets, enjoy s’mores at the communal fire pit under starry skies. 

Camping in Zion National Park

Experience the true essence of Zion National Park by camping amidst its awe-inspiring landscapes. There are several campgrounds to choose from; here are the options:

  • Watchman Campground: Nestled in the heart of Zion Canyon, the Watchman Campground offers easy access to the park’s iconic landmarks and hiking trails. Wake up to breathtaking views of towering red rock formations and the soothing sounds of the Virgin River. Try to reserve a spot about six months in advance.
Zion National Park Camping Tent
  • South Campground: Situated near the park’s South Entrance, the South Campground provides a tranquil setting surrounded by desert flora and fauna. You’ll enjoy spacious campsites with picnic tables and fire pits, ideal for relaxing after a day of adventure. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so come early.
  • Lava Point Campground: Sitting at over 7,000 feet, the Lava Point Campground offers a peaceful retreat away from the crowds, with stunning views of Zion’s backcountry. Accessed via Kolob Terrace Road, this campground is perfect if you’re seeking solitude. There are limited tent camping spaces, water, and other amenities.

Tip: Book and reserve your camping spot in Zion National Park through this official website.

Zion National Park Itinerary: FAQs

Still unsure about planning the ultimate Zion National Park itinerary? Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers that will put your mind to rest.

How Many Days Do You Need in Zion National Park?

The perfect Zion itinerary requires about two to three days to complete. This gives you enough time to explore the most popular attractions, best hikes, and lesser-visited gems.

How Long of a Drive From Zion To Bryce Canyon?

You can get from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park in just one hour and 50 minutes. This is a popular day trip for Zion visitors, as Bryce Canyon is home to epic oddly-shaped rocks.

What Is the Best Time To Visit Zion National Park?

Spring (October – November) and fall (March – April) are arguably the best times to visit Zion National Park, thanks to the vibrant wildflowers and foliage speckled across the area. But Zion National Park opens all year round, so a visit in summer or winter is a viable option.

Zion National Park Scenic Road

Wrapping Up the Ultimate Zion National Park Itinerary

With its awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse trails, and unparalleled beauty, Zion National Park promises an unforgettable adventure for visitors of all ages. From scenic day hikes to adrenaline-inducing adventures like canyoneering or horseback riding, Zion has it all.

Whether you’re embarking on a hiking trip along challenging trails like Angels Landing or simply looking to soak up nature at an overlook, each day brings new discoveries. The Zion Canyon Shuttle offers easy access to many trails, allowing you to explore most of the park.

Next Read: Ready for your next Utah adventure? Here are the best Moab hikes to try.

Zion National Park Itinerary - Three Days of Adventure
Adventure Awaits


Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Save Money on Flights!​

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *