3 Days In Zion National Park itinerary - post cover

3 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

3 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

Last updated on June 9th, 2022

A three-day visit to Zion National Park unlocks the opportunity to cover Zion’s top highlights and explore the scenic backcountry. In this sample itinerary, we’ll see how to spend three days in Zion National Park and how to best divide the time between sightseeing, hiking, and road-tripping.

Why Visit Zion National Park?

zion valley from angles landing trail
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.

1 day in Zion national park itinerary - post cover
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 3 Days In Zion National Park Itinerary

This sample itinerary includes three sections:

Additional Resources

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

Zion National Park Travel Guide

Three Days in Zion National Park Map

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

Three Days in Zion National itinerary Park Map
Quick Finds

Where to Stay?

On this three-day visit to Zion National Park, you’ll need to spend at least two nights in or close to Zion Canyon. Spend the next night in or near your next stop. Here’s a rundown of the best Zion Canyon accommodation 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 (see day three itinerary).

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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

Spend the first day driving the length of Zion Canyon using the free park shuttles. Start at the very last stop in the Temple of Sinawava to pick up the start of the Riverside Walk. This easy hike runs parallel to the Virgin River, and it’s enjoyable even if the sun has yet to rise above the canyon walls fully. The Riverside Hike ends where the Narrows begin; one of the best hikes in Zion National Park. Hiking the Narrows requires renting appropriate gear.

Riverside Walk - hiking in zion national park
Hiking the narrows in zion national park

Back on the shuttle, get off at Big Bend and see the Organ, the Great White Throne, and Angel’s Landing in a single frame. If the Weeping Rock trail is open, walk from Big Bend or take the shuttle to see this cavity in the rockface.

river bend view from angles landing trail - zion national park

Take the shuttle to the Grotto stop, where you can ditch the bus and walk to the next stop on the Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge. Take a break at Zion Lodge and then cross the road to hike to the Emerald Pools, another popular Zion hike. The trail leads to three oasis-like natural pools, but the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools are the most impressive. 

Emerald Pools hike - zion national park
emerald pools in zion national park hiking

Back at the Zion Lodge stop, it’s time for a picnic lunch on the shaded lawn. There’s also a restaurant if you fancy a sit-down meal and a cafeteria if you want to buy something. After the break, head to the Court of the Patriarchs and say hello to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, three of the canyon’s most iconic peaks. 

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Court of the Patriarchs Viewpoint - zion national park

Head to the visitor center and pick up the Watchman Trail to wrap up this busy day. This hike leads to a scenic overlook above the lower part of the canyon. There are some switchbacks to overcome on the climb, but the views are worth the effort. 

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Pro Tip

See this first-day itinerary in greater detail, including dinner recommendations, on this page.

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

Day two of our three days in Zion National Park itinerary begins with the ultimate Zion activity. Head back to the Grotto and pick up the trail to Angel’s Landing. 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 is a challenging hike that takes about five hours to complete without rushing things. A detailed description of Angel’s Landing hike and essential planning tips are available in the guide to the best hikes in Zion.

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A permit might be required to hike Angel’s Landing as trail traffic was unbearable during peak season.

switchbacks on angles landing trail zion national park
crowded trail - angles landing hike - zion national park
Zion Canyon sharp pinnacle from Angel's Landing hike
Zion valley from angles landing

After a well-deserved lunch, get back to your car and drive high above the canyon floor via the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Stop to check out the Great Arch and cross the historic Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. On the other side, continue for about six miles to see Checkerboard Mesa

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

To wrap this day, hike the short Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s just half a mile in each direction, but there’s a lot to see on the way. The trail ends at a unique viewpoint above the scenic highway and across Zion Canyon.

Canyon Overlook Trail - zion national park hike
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See this second-day itinerary in greater detail on this page.

Day 3: Kolob Terrace Scenic Drive or Kolob Canyons

On day three, it’s time to leave the Zion Canyon crowds behind and explore the park’s backcountry. The Kolob Terrace Road is a scenic drive that ends at Kolob Reservoir. The temperature in this area is colder than on the canyon floor. If you drive here in early fall, the aspen trees are already changing their color. Stop at Lava Point for a picnic lunch and check out the view. Sitting at the edge of the Colorado Plateau, the upper rim of Zion Canyon can be seen far in the distance. 

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Kolob Terrace Road - zion national park
Lava Point - zion national park

If you’re craving to see more canyon scenery, you can drive instead to Kolob Canyons. Accessed via Interstate 15, Kolob Canyons offers hiking and camping opportunities and a very short scenic drive to Kolob Canyons Viewpoint. The red-colored canyons are not as dramatic as Zion Canyon, but the lack of crowds is a big plus.

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The East Rim Trail is a good option if you want to do additional hiking in and around Zion Canyon.

What’s Next?

This three days in Zion National Park itinerary took us to its major highlights and even left time to explore the remote backcountry. Check out the Zion National Park travel guide collection for more information about Zion, including essential planning tips and the best hikes in Zion. If you’re visiting other parks in Utah, more resources are available.  

Zion National Park Travel Guide

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