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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park

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Hey there, fellow adventurers! If you're as obsessed with road trips and national parks as I am, then you're in for a treat. I've just put together the ultimate travel guide to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, and trust me, it's going to blow your mind! Picture waking up at the crack of dawn, exploring hidden gems along the way, and hiking until your legs feel like jelly. It's the kind of adventure that fuels our wanderlust souls! So buckle up and get ready for an epic road trip through two of the most awe-inspiring national parks in Utah. This guide has got everything you need to plan your dream escape, from detailed itineraries to must-see attractions, handy tips, and even recommendations on where to stay. Let's make memories that will last a lifetime in the breathtaking landscapes of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Are you ready? Let's hit the road and embark on an adventure of a lifetime!


Why should you embark on a Utah National Park road trip?

Utah is home to five National Parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Park—and is popularly known as the “Mighty Five.”


The national parks of Southern Utah are all worth visiting. Each park is unlike any other, from the arid, desert landscapes at Bryce Canyon National Park and the canyons that almost seem to be carved by an artist's hand at Zion National Park. If you’re in a hurry or if you’re new to Utah and just starting out with national parks, these two are the best to start with. Zion National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States and is home to some of North America's most iconic rock formations. Two hikes—Angels Landing and The Narrows—are especially popular among visitors to Zion.


On the other hand, Zion National Park—famous for its soaring red-rock cliffs carved by rain and ice over thousands of years—offers a completely different experience. Zion is much larger and thus more spread out, making it necessary to drive between areas; some visitors find this tedious. Zion is also much more remote than Bryce, meaning that the park often feels empty even during high season; some visitors prefer this solitude while others prefer busier parks.


What do these two must-see parks have in common?

These two parks are great for hikers and leisurely walkers alike! Their proximity to each other makes it simple to get around, thanks to their convenient shuttle systems. And if you’re more about driving from stop to stop, there are a ton of great viewpoints you can catch right from the parking lots. Once you dive into this itinerary, you’ll see why these two parks pair so well together and why they make for the perfect Utah national park road trip!


How many days for a Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park road trip?

As with many other road trips, I’d say the more days you have, the better! With more days, you’ll be able to travel slower and see more. We are huge fans of getting off the beaten path. Having said that, I’d recommend no less than 3 full days for a Zion and Bryce National Park road trip. At a minimum, you need 2 full days at Zion National Park and 1 full day at Bryce Canyon. This itinerary covers both National Parks across 3.5 days, which will allow you to see the best of both parks. The trip I outline below will take a total of 5 days (4 nights). It makes the perfect long weekend road trip from anywhere in the United States!


What airport to fly into for Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park ?


Zion National Park

Zion National Park is located in Springdale, Utah, which is in the southwest corner of the state. By plane, you can fly to the following major airport:

  • LAS – McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (170 miles from the park) – 2.5-hour drive

  • SLC – Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah (311 miles from the park) – 4-hour drive

Two airports are near the parks; travelers typically rent a car at one of these airports and drive themselves to the parks.


Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah, near the city of Bryce. Your options are pretty similar to those offered by Zion National Park. From Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, you can fly to the following airports:

  • SGU – St. George Regional Airport in Utah (143 miles from the park): Small regional airport with limited commercial flights (fewer flight options, more expensive) – 2.5-hour drive

  • SLC – Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah (273 miles from the park) – 4-hour drive

  • LAS – McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (270 miles from the park) – 4-hour drive

When visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, we flew into Las Vegas, Nevada, rented a car, and drove to the parks in Utah. We did Bryce Canyon first and Zion second to lessen the drive on the way back, but you can experience them in whatever order you prefer.


When we go on road trips, we like to pick up rental cars from a nearby airport (there are often more available at the airport than at rental car shops in town). For this road trip, aim to pick up a rental car from the airport you fly into.


Best Time to Visit Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park

I recommend making the drive between September and October. The scenery has a unique, vibrant beauty at that time of year. August is very hot, so I recommend traveling during the fall season. The best time for a road trip along this route was the last week of September; there were fewer crowds, and it was cooler (not too hot).


Zion National Park

April through September is when most visitors to Zion National Park visit.

  • May through September is a great time to enjoy warm weather and a wide variety of activities. However, this period is also the most crowded and hot.

  • The best times to visit a place are during the Spring or Fall seasons (April and May, or September and October).

  • The best time to hike The Narrows is from May to September.

  • During the spring, when snowmelt causes the river to rise dramatically, The Narrows is often closed to hikers. During the fall and winter months, it's possible to hike here, but the water can be cold.

  • In the winter, there is a chance of snow and ice storms (December to March).


Bryce Canyon National Park

There really is no wrong time to visit Bryce Canyon. Each season has its perks!

  • Summer is the most crowded season because everyone wants to escape the heat and humidity of the other seasons.

  • Spring and Fall are ideal times to visit because crowds are smaller, and weather conditions are more comfortable.

  • Winter is a great time to visit the park and experience some of the winter activities offered. The park is gorgeous, with snow on the ground, but it can get pretty cold (the elevation is over 8,000 feet).

  • Bryce Canyon National Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round. However, some roads, campgrounds, and other visitor facilities are closed from October through May or have reduced hours. Check Bryce Canyon’s NPS website for the latest conditions.


What to See in Bryce Canyon National Park

To get your Bryce Canyon day off to a great start, try watching the sunrise from Sunset Point. You can also watch the sunrise from Sunrise Point or anywhere along the rim between Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. If you get up early enough, I'd highly recommend this! Top recommended vista points include Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point. After catching an epic sunrise, it's time to take a hike. This is a great time to hit the trails because you'll beat late risers and post-breakfast crowds!


These are three of our favorite hikes in the park:

Navajo/Queens Garden Loop – 3.5 miles roundtrip

  • The hike to the hoodoos is a popular one, as it lets you see these natural wonders up close.

Figure Eight Trail– 6.3 miles roundtrip

  • If your schedule allows, combine the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop, Wall Street, and Peekaboo Loop into one jam-packed hike through the hoodoos. You'll see more of what this amphitheater has to offer.

Fairyland Loop Trail – 7.8 miles roundtrip

  • The Fairyland Loop trail at Bryce Canyon is longer than some others, but it’s less crowded and well worth the effort. You’ll be taken on walking paths with sweeping views and close-up views of the hoodoo formations. You can either start at the Fairyland Loop trailhead or at Sunrise Point. (From the Fairyland Loop trailhead, go counter-clockwise. From Sunrise Point, go clockwise. By doing it this way, you’ll get the less exciting parts out of the way first.)


What to See in Zion National Park

If you’re looking for a beautiful and rewarding hike, hike the Narrows at Zion National Park. It’s one of the United States’ most iconic trails and one of the world’s best slot canyon hikes.


The Narrows hike, one of the most famous trails in Zion National Park, starts at the Temple of Sinawa (the last stop of the Zion shuttle). We recommend that hikers go 3-4 miles into the canyon (making this a 6-8 mile round trip day hike) to see the famous Wall Street section. Wall Street is the narrowest part of the trail, where millions of years of river erosion have formed incredible 1500-foot walls around you. Hikers should pack snacks and even a full lunch to enjoy during the hike!

Depending on when you start this hike, it may or may not be quiet at first. There will be people everywhere when you begin, but the further you trek, the fewer people you will see. Many people just want to sample The Narrows, so eventually, crowds will thin out. Better for us! No matter what, don’t forget to rent water shoes from Zion Outfitter. You won’t get far without them! Alternatively, you can bring/use your own trekking poles for balance.


Tip: Hiking the Narrows is a full-day activity, and it can be quite tiring; however, it is worth the effort. I am used to hiking 6-8 miles in a few hours, no problem, but The Narrows was different. With all the constant zig-zagging and water wading, I was completely wiped out at the end of the day. Take this into consideration and try not to plan too much after hiking The Narrows.


Once you’ve finished exploring the Canyon, take the Zion shuttle back to the visitor center and drop off your gear at Zion Outfitter. You’ll probably want to change into some more comfortable clothes by now! If you still have some energy left, hop on the shuttle again and ride to some other scenic viewpoints. I recommend stopping at the Court of the Patriarchs.

I hope this Ultimate Travel Guide to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park has ignited your wanderlust and inspired you to embark on an epic adventure. From the majestic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to the towering cliffs of Zion, these national parks are a feast for the senses. Whether you're a hiking enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone seeking awe-inspiring landscapes, this road trip will exceed your wildest expectations. So grab your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime. Let the beauty of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park leave you breathless, and may the freedom of the open road lead you to incredible discoveries. Remember, life is a journey, so embrace every moment and make this Utah national park road trip the adventure of a lifetime. Happy travels, my fellow explorers!


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Hi, Thanks for stopping by!

I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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