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2 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

2 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

Last updated on June 9th, 2022

Perfectly carved out of reddish Navajo Sandstone and still fine-tuned by the forces of the Virgin River, Zion’s beautiful desert oasis is a worthy reason for sharing your visit with millions of annual visitors who flock to Southern Utah. In this two days in Zion National Park itinerary, we’ll cover all the highlights in and around Zion Canyon, including a few memorable hikes, both on your feet and your soul.

Why Visit Zion National Park?

Zion National Park Travel Guide- post cover
Zion Canyon

Marvel at Zion’s star attraction from magnificent vistas on the canyon floor and above. Its reddish sandstone walls tower beyond 2,500 feet above the Virgin River, eroded to perfection by nature’s finest artists.

Hiker in Canyon Overlook Trail - Zion National Park
Compact and Accessible

Zion is relatively compact compared to other national parks. It also offers many opportunities for every visitor type to enjoy the incredible natural beauty.

zion canyon from angel's landing
Hiking Opportunities

From the famous Zion Narrows to breathtaking Angel’s Landing, Zion offers plenty of ways to explore its beauty on foot, with easy trails on the canyon floor and challenging hikes to its rim.

What’s Included in this Zion Itinerary? 

Two sections make up this two days in Zion National Park itinerary.

Additional Zion & Southern Utah Resources

Check out the Zion National Park travel guide collection for additional information, including Zion planning tips, the best hikes, and top things to do. Then, leverage additional Southern Utah guides to create a memorable road trip in one of America’s prettiest corners.

Zion National Park Travel Guide

Two Days in Zion National Park Map

Find all of the places mentioned in this Zion itinerary on this companion map. Simply click on the image to open it in Google Maps.

Two Days in Zion National Park itinerary Map
Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

Spending two days in Zion National Park means you’ll need to overnight at least once. Here are the best options.

Inside the park: the Zion Lodge is the only place to stay inside Zion Canyon. Even during shuttle season, when cars cannot drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, lodge guests receive a special pass and can park their car at the lodge.

Outside the park: sleeping in Springdale is the most convenient option if not staying at the Zion Lodge. The park’s free shuttle operates a dedicated line that travels between the edge of Springdale and the visitor center. Though accommodation prices are slightly higher, using the free shuttle eliminates paying for parking. Beyond Springdale, the best options are at La Verkin and Hurricane. Both towns are only about 30 minutes away from Zion Canyon.

Camping: the Watchman and South Campgrounds are Zion Canyon’s campsites. A third campsite is at distant Lava Point along Kolob Terrace Road.

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Pro Tip

Here are all the Zion National Park region accommodation options that can be booked online via Booking.com.

Day 1: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive & Hiking

Today, we’ll focus on highlights along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, using the free shuttles to get around. The day will mix visiting scenic viewpoints and light hiking. 

For most of the year, private vehicles cannot enter the canyon (except for Zion Lodge guests and getting to/from the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel). However, the free park shuttles run the length of the scenic drive from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava. 

public shuttle bus in zion national park
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Pro Tip

Pack something warm but lightweight for the morning hours, as even during the hot summer months, it can be pretty cold in Zion Canyon until the sun fully rises.

Sunrise in Zion Canyon

Consider rising early and catching the sunrise in Zion Canyon if you have the will. The best-known spots for watching the sunrise in Zion are at Canyon Overlook Trail (but we’ll hike this trail tomorrow) and on the canyon floor at the Court of the Patriarchs (see if the free shuttle schedule allows).

Riverside Walk

Zion Canyon is at its prettiest when the sun is high in the sky, and all the interesting features of the reddish sandstone cliffs are visible. The Riverside Walk is a good morning option as it is beautiful and enjoyable even in the shade. 

Take the shuttle to the last stop at the Temple of Sinawava. There’s an interesting rock formation near the shuttle stop, but the goal is to pick up the trail to the Riverside Walk. This is an easy two-mile (return) hike on a paved path parallel to the Virgin River. In the early morning hours, watch for deer on the sandy riverbank. 

Riverside Walk - hiking in zion national park

The Riverside Walk ends where the famous Zion Canyon Narrows begins. Many hikers continue the push upstream from here, feet in the water. Before turning back, check out the towering Mountain of Mystery.

Hiking the narrows in zion national park

Optional Hike in the Narrows

From the end of Riverside Walk, continue upstream and explore the narrowest section of Zion Canyon on the Narrows, one of Zion’s top highlights. Special gear is needed to hike the Narrows, as you’ll walk in the river over an uneven rocky surface. In addition, the water can sometimes be waste-high. Therefore, you’ll need to bring or rent a wooden pole, protective clothing, and boots from one of the outfits near the visitor center. 

Hiking the Narrows can take the better part of the day, but many simply hike for about an hour and turn back. At times, thousand-foot walls are separated by just twenty feet, leaving hikers feeling like ants as they make slow progress in the water. 

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Pro Tip

Read more information about hiking the Narrows on the park’s official website.

Big Bend & Weeping Rock

The next shuttle stop is at Big Bend, where the Virgin River makes… a big bend. You’ll better appreciate the symmetry of this spot from above the canyon floor on the Angel’s Landing hike, but stop to see some of the canyon’s famous “residents”, the Organ, the Great White Throne, and Angel’s Landing in a single frame. Also, be on the lookout for condors, often spotted patrolling the skies. 

river bend view from angles landing trail - zion national park
view from top of angles landing trail - zion national park hiking

The next shuttle stop is at Weeping Rock, but you can also walk here from Big Bend. If the trail is open, it’s a brisk walk to this interesting moist depression in the canyon wall. A more impressive “sister” is on the Emerald Pools trail.

The Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge

We’ll return to the Grotto shuttle stop tomorrow morning to hike to Angel’s Landing, but for now, we’ll stop at this popular picnic spot to spice things up by walking to the next shuttle stop on the Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge. This easy trail presents a tempting opportunity to ditch the shuttle, enjoy the view at your own pace, and listen to the sound of the birds. This trail runs parallel to the main road, and it only takes about twenty minutes to complete.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

Hike to the Emerald Pools

The Grotto Trail ends at the Zion Lodge shuttle stop. Cross the small bridge, and pick up the trail to the Emerald Pools. On this popular hike, discover Zion Canyon’s desert oasis with a visit to three natural pools.

Emerald Pools hike - zion national park

The first of the three pools is the Lower Emerald Pool, fed by a picturesque waterfall cascading from the canyon wall. During the dry months of the year, the waterfall slows to a trickle, but it still flows constantly and makes for a pretty scene.

The Middle Pool is not that impressive, and things become slightly more challenging on the leg to the upper pool. Turn around and return to the trailhead if you find it too difficult. The Upper Emerald Pool is more secluded than its “sisters”. This stunning oasis reflects its surroundings like a perfectly polished mirror. 

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emerald pools in zion national park hiking

Picnic Lunch at Zion Lodge

After the Emerald Pools hike, it’s time for a well-deserved lunch. Together with the Grotto, the Zion Lodge shuttle stop is a popular spot for a picnic lunch. At the Red Rock Grill, enjoy a sit-down lunch on the terrace with lovely views of the west rim. For a picnic lunch, grab something from the cafeteria (queues can be unbearable) or your packed lunch and find a shaded spot on the lawn. 

Horseback Riding in Zion Canyon

Fancy experiencing Zion Canyon on horseback? One or three-hour trips are available, departing from close to Zion Lodge.

Court of the Patriarchs Scenic Viewpoint

Get back on the shuttle at the Zion Lodge stop and get off at the prettiest viewpoint on the Zion Canyon floor. Named for three towering figures from the Old Testament, sandstone cliffs called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob hold court over Birch Creek Canyon. All three peaks rise to nearly 7,000 feet in height. 

Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint - zion national park

Zion Human History Museum

If you’re interested in learning about the area’s Native American and pioneer history or in need of a break from the rain or the heat, pay a visit to the Zion Human History Museum. Check out the various exhibits and watch the popular short film.

Watchman Trail

We’ll wrap up the first of our two days in Zion itinerary with a hike on the Watchman Trail. The trailhead is right next to the visitor center, so you’ll be able to make a quick exit out of the park after seeing the picturesque views of Zion Canyon. This moderate hike reached its climax at a scenic overlook, but getting here requires overcoming some switchbacks. However, the views from the top are well worth the effort.

View of Zion Canyon from the Watchman Trail

Dinner

If you’re staying outside the park in La Verkin or Hurricane, head to Lonny Boy’s Barbecue or the Stage Coach Grille for an authentic southwest dinner. The Stage Coach Grille also has a Springdale location.

Day 2: Angel’s Landing & Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Drive

We’ll start the second day in Zion National Park with the park’s most thrilling ride, followed by a scenic drive and a short hike to a fitting scenic lookout to end the visit.

Angel’s Landing Hike

The hike to Angel’s Landing is the top highlight of their visit to Zion National Park for most visitors. Perched atop a seemingly impossible-to-reach cliff 5,790 feet above the canyon floor (1,765 m), the views from Angel’s Landing are hard to forget. 

This challenging hike starts across the small bridge next to the Grotto shuttle stop. It will take about five hours to complete, including stops, but be prepared for heavy traffic along the trail. After a gentle start, the paved trail quickly ascends above the canyon floor via switchbacks and enters a narrow crack in the canyon wall known as Refrigerator Canyon. More switchbacks are then on the menu, this time via Walter’s Wiggles, an impressively-constructed series of quick turns that end at Scout Lookout.

switchbacks on angles landing trail zion national park

The last leg of the trail is the most challenging, less so from a physical perspective. From Scout Lookout, hikers must cross the narrow ridgeline to Angel’s Landing. Chains assist some sections, and you’ll need to watch your footing in others. 

crowded trail - angles landing hike - zion national park

You’ll understand how Angel’s Landing got its name when you make it to the top. From up here, Big Bend is beneath your feet, and Zion Canyon is stunning in every direction. So take your time up here to celebrate your achievement, say hello to the unshy resident chipmunks, and see if any condors are patrolling the skies. 

Condor in Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing hike
zion valley from angles landing trail
Zion valley from angles landing
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Pro Tip

Check the park’s official website to see if a permit is required to hike to Angel’s Landing.

Lunch

Back on the canyon floor, enjoy a picnic lunch at the Grotto or head to the Zion Lodge stop for a proper sit-down lunch or a picnic on the shaded lawn. See if the outdoor bar is open and treat yourself to a well-deserved ice-cold beer.

Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Drive

Well-rested from the memorable hike, head back to your car and enter Zion Canyon, only to turn right to the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. You’ll need to purchase a vehicle pass with your park ticket to drive on this road. 

As you twist and turn above the canyon floor, pull over in designated spots to enjoy views of Zion Canyon and the Great Arch, still not entirely detached from its “mothership”. The highlight of this scenic drive is crossing the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, an engineering marvel constructed in the 1920s. The one-lane tunnel was blasted through the sandstone and usually requires a bit of waiting for your turn to enter. Continue for about six miles after exiting the tunnel to see the peculiar-looking Checkerboard Mesa.

zion mount carmel tunnel from canyon overlook trail
Zion Mount Carmel Scenic Highway from Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook Trail

We’ll bid farewell to Zion Canyon on the Canyon Overlook Trail. Pick up the trailhead at the tunnel’s eastern entrance. 

Though just a mile long (return), this hike is rewarding from start to finish. The trail weaves its way above a creek rich in pine and juniper trees. Check out the eroded sandstone that created many exciting highlights, such as arches, caves, and jagged pinnacles. 

Canyon Overlook Trail - zion national park
cave on canyon overlook trail - zion national park

The trail ends 1,000 feet above the Zion Canyon floor at Canyon Overlook. The highway you’ve driven on now appears like a tiny snake. Straight ahead, enjoy the last views of Zion Canyon. Try spotting two of its iconic peaks, the West Temple and Sentinel.

What’s Next?

On this two days in Zion National Park itinerary, we covered the top highlights in and around Zion Canyon and hiked some of its top trails. Check out the Zion National Park travel guide collection for more information about Zion, including additional itineraries, essential planning tips, and descriptions of the best hikes. If you’re visiting other parks in Utah, more resources are available. 

Zion National Park Travel Guide

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