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Zion National Park in One Day: How to make the most out of your trip

Passing by Zion National Park but only have one day? I’ve got you covered! Seeing all of Zion National Park in one day is an impossible challenge, but you can certainly see the highlights, all while saving something to return for.

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How to get to Zion National Park

The best way to get to Zion is by car. The closest airports are Las Vegas (~2hrs away) and Salt Lake City (~4 hours away). I’d recommend entering Zion via the Springdale entrance; this is the side of the park with all of the classic viewpoints.

Zion National Park in one day: my favorite things to do

There are so many wonderful things to do in Zion National Park. Here are some of my favorites!

Hike Angels Landing

Angels Landing is possible one of the most famous hikes in the US. Known for it’s stunning views and sheer exposure. This five-mile hike is incredibly beautiful and quite challenging—you can read my trail guide here.

Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

This trail is on the other side of the Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel. If you’re heading to Bryce National Park, it’s right on the way! This is an easy, 1-mile hike that is super rewarding for minimal effort—the views are great!

If you’re planning on doing both Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in one day, this blog post is for you.

Scenic Drive

I know what you’re thinking—a scenic drive?! This is an adventure travel blog! Give me the hikes!

While I love to see national parks through hiking, this drive is a photographer’s dream drive. I highly recommend either driving it in the off-season, when the road is open, or biking this in the summertime. During peak season, this road closes and you can only take the shuttle or bike it. I’ve taken the shuttle before; they can get super crowded and really make the park feel like Disneyland, so I’d strongly suggest biking when the road is closed to cars. You can rent both standard and electric bikes in Springdale.

Hike The Narrows

Another bucket list hike! The Narrows hike will require you to wear waterproof shoes and a drysuit as you wander through the the Virgin River, where the canyon starts to narrow. Rent equipment in Springdale and drive/take the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava where this hike begins. To get to the water, hike a mile in, and then explore as far as you’d like to go (within reason).

Walk along the Virgin River on the Pa’rus Trail

This is such a lovely trail to walk along—the views of the valley are absolutely beautiful and I love that you can make this walk as long or as short as you’d like. If you’ve just driven loads and want to get out of the car, but aren’t up for a big hike, this is the hike for you.

Sample itineraries for one day in Zion National Park

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite things to do in Zion, I’m going to be putting them together into a few sample itineraries.

Hiking heavy itinerary – iconic hikes and sweeping views

Morning: Big hike!

Wake up and head to the Angels Landing or Narrows trailhead! If you want to feel swallowed up by Zion, the Narrows is the hike for you. If you want classic views, Angels Landing is your best bet! The key is to start early to avoid crowds.

If you want to avoid crowds during peak season, I’d recommend either going before the first shuttle, being ON the first shuttle, or swapping this itinerary around so that you’re hitting the iconic hikes at 2-3pm, when the crowds have disappeared.

Afternoon: A second, chill hike.

Hike along the Virgin River on the Pa’rus Trail or drive to the Canyon Overlook Trail. You’ll be able to take in more of Zion National Park without heavy energy expenditure. Both of these hikes offer great views—The Canyon Overlook Trail gives you a view from above, whereas the Pa’rus Trail has amazing river views.

Bike or drive the scenic drive – a great overview of Zion National Park in one day

This is an all-day activity—the scenic drive is only 7 miles but offers so many places to stop and explore. I loved driving along the road, stopping whenever I wanted to get a photo of a great view. Again, I’d recommend biking in the peak season and driving in the off-season, although the shuttle is also an option if you don’t mind waiting.

Here’s my guide to the stops along the scenic drive.

Stop 1: Zion Visitor Center

This is where you’ll be able to grab snacks and drinks, use the bathroom, and buy souvenirs. Also a great stop for learning more about the park’s history and geology.

Stop 2: Zion Human History Museum (shuttle return only)

There’s a pretty view from here that might be worth pulling over for if you’re on a bike or driving in the off-season, but note that the museum closes for the season.

In the peak season, this shuttle stop is only accessible on the return (from the Temple of Sinawava to the Visitor Center).

Stop 3: Canyon Junction (shuttle return only)

In the peak season, this shuttle stop is only accessible on the return (from the Temple of Sinawava to the Vistor Center).

From here, you’ll get views of both the Virgin River and the Canyon. This is where the Scenic Drive begins and intersects with the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway.

Stop 4: Court of the Patriarchs

The Court of the Patriarchs are three huge rock formations. From this stop, there’s a small trail uphill where you can get a good view of them. Across the road from the stop (going towards the Temple of Sinawava), you can access the Sand Bench Trail, which has beautiful views along the river.

Stop 5: Zion Lodge

Stop here for the Emerald Pools Trail or for a snack! This can be quite busy regardless of season but is a great stop if you’re on a bike or want a little rest from exploring.

Stop 6: The Grotto

Stop here for Angels Landing. Nice views and worth a little explore of the nearby trails!

Stop 7: Weeping Rock

This is typically where you’d stop for the Weeping Rock hike, however this trail is temporarily closed (and has been for a while!), so I’d recommend skipping this stop.

Stop 8: Big Bend (shuttle return only)

This stop is only accessible on the return towards the visitor center if you’re taking the shuttle, but if you’re here in the off-season, there’s a viewpoint where you can pull off the road around here. Definitely worth a stop—some of the best views of the park are here.

Stop 9: Temple of Sinawava

Stop here for the Riverside Walk and the Narrows. The Riverside Walk is a 1-mile paved trail that takes you to the start of the Narrows, which is both a hike and aptly named—it’s where the canyon starts to narrow in. The Riverside Walk is nice. You get a different view of the park and it’s an easy trail, but it’s not known for the vast views of the park.

Where to stay when visiting Zion National Park in one day

Stay in Springdale

Springdale, UT is the place to be! This town is located just outside of the park and has plenty of hotels, restaurants, and gear rental spots. Here are some options:

Camp in the park

The Watchman Campground is open year round and the South Campground is open during peak season. Reserve your campsite here.

I hope this post helps you ave the most magical day in Zion National Park. It’s truly one of my favorite spots!

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