3 Days at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

Heading to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks? In this 3 day itinerary and guide we’re sharing how to combine both Zion and Bryce Canyon into one trip + tons of suggestions of things to do!

We are obsessed with National Parks and are trying to visit every single US National Park in our lifetime. Back in May 2018, we took an epic trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon in Utah and had the best time hiking and admiring the gorgeous scenery (you can read more about our trip here!).

Combining Zion and Bryce Canyon worked out perfectly for us, as they are fairly close to each other and not too large that you cannot accomplish a lot in a short period of time. We spent ~1.5 days in both spots and were able to see and do so much!

Zion National Park

Since our first trip, we have now been back to both parks for a second time (March 2021) and loved them just as much as the first time. We went to some of our favorite spots from our first trip, plus visited some new areas, and gained even more insight into the parks and how they have changed since our first trip (such as crowd levels, new rules, etc!) to make this guide even more helpful. Watch our experience!

If you’re heading to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, here’s our guide to 3 fun-filled days between both parks, including tips for your trip, where to stay at both spots, and an itinerary. We hope this helps make your National Park trip planning easier!

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Leave No Trace Principles

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

  1. Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
  2. Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
  3. Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
  4. Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
  6. Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
  7. Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.

Note: this blog contains affiliate links. Full disclosure– if you click on these links and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks

Utah is home to five National Parks, nicknamed the Mighty Five, which include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. These parks are all located in Southern Utah, which has a more desert climate, but each national park has its own awe-inspiring and unique scenery.

If you do not have time for all five Utah National Parks in one trip, Zion and Bryce Canyon are perfect to combine together in just a few days (or more if you have more time)!

About Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is the 4th most visited National Park in the United States and is home to steep orange and red cliffs, slot canyons, and the Virgin River, which winds through the park.

The park is split into four main hiking areas: Zion Canyon (the most popular and what this guide will focus on), Kolob Canyons, Kolob Terrace, East Rim, and Southwest Desert. Each area has a different vibe, but all offer incredible views of the canyon, peaks, and surrounding area.

However, the park is most famous for two hikes: Angels Landing, which requires chains and is said to not be for those who are afraid of heights, and The Narrows, which takes you through a river and slot canyon (you will get wet!). But from our experience, you cannot go wrong with any hike in the park, every inch of it is stunning!

How to get to Zion National Park

Vegas to Zion

The main area of Zion, called Zion Canyon, is located in Springdale, Utah, about 2.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. Springdale is a great little town, with tons of restaurants and coffee shops, outdoor stores, and anything you’ll need for your time in the park!

When we visited Zion and Bryce Canyon we flew into Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove to the parks. If you do this, we recommend spending an afternoon in the Las Vegas area. Check out our Las Vegas Guide for ideas of things to do!

On the way to Zion from Vegas, grab tacos at La Cocina Mexican Street Food in St. George. St. George is the largest city near the park, so we also recommend getting groceries for your trip here too!

You can also fly into Salt Lake City, but it’s 4.5 hours away. However, it can be a great starting point or ending point if you plan to visit all of the Mighty Five!

When to visit Zion National Park

Zion National Park is open year round, but there are a few things to consider:

  • School holidays and the summer are very busy.
     
  • The winter can have snow, so make sure you bring micro spikes for any higher elevation hikes in the wintertime. However, the winter will be less busy.
     
  • Early spring and late fall are great times to avoid most of the crowds and have nice, cool weather! You can also avoid the shuttle requirements (mentioned below) by visiting during this time.

Cost to enter

It costs $35 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles) to enter Zion National Park, which covers 7 days. However, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.

About Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for having the world’s largest collection of hoodoos, which are rock columns, that form over millions of years due to erosion from ice and rain.

Bryce Canyon became a national park in 1928 and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon settler that lived near the park. He built a logging road into the canyon and locals began calling it “Bryce’s canyon.” But back in 1200 AD, well before European Americans and Mormons explored the area, it was occupied by Paiute Indians.

And despite its name, Bryce Canyon is not actually a canyon, but rather a collection of natural amphitheaters, which sit along the eastern slope of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

How to get to Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion to Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is located in Bryce, Utah, which is about 1 hour 45 minutes northeast of Zion National Park. It is not close to any major cities in Utah, so you’ll want to make sure you’re stocked up on supplies beforehand (Ruby’s Inn General Store does have some groceries!).

Similar to Zion, we suggest flying in and out of Las Vegas to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. But if you do plan to visit the other Utah National Parks, Salt Lake City can be a good place to start or end your trip (depending on where you go first or last).

When to visit Bryce Canyon National park

Bryce Canyon is open year round and different seasons bring a different experience!

  • In the winter and early spring, there will be snow on the hoodoos, which is a magical sight! However, some areas (roads and trail) do close in the winter because of ice and snow.

    You will want to pack micro spikes for trails during the winter so you don’t slip on the trails and layers for the morning, as it gets really cold!
     
  • Similar to Zion, the late spring and summer will be busy due to school holidays and summer vacations, but it will have great, warmer temperatures. For less crowds, we suggest visiting in the late fall, winter, or early spring!

Cost to enter

It costs $35 per vehicle ($30 for motorcycles) to enter Bryce Canyon National Park, which covers 7 days. However, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.

Tips for visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon

Navigating two National Parks can be tricky if you’re not prepared! Here are some tips from our experience at both parks.

Zion Tips

  • Parking at the Visitor Center fills up fast, so arrive early to secure a spot! If you can’t get a spot in the park, you can park in Springdale (paid) and take the free Springdale shuttle to the park entrance. We also used this shuttle to to grab food and coffee during the day.
     
  • Between March and November, Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (the road to Angels Landing and the Narrows) is only accessible by the park shuttle (no private vehicles allowed), Zion Lodge guests (only to the lodge and then the shuttle is required further down the road), and pedestrians, and bikes. The park has a FREE park shuttle that you can hop on at the Visitor Center to get to these hikes, but the lines can get pretty long, so arrive early and be prepared to wait a bit.

    Don’t want to wait around for the shuttle? We are noting which hikes require the shuttle and which do not in this guide.

     
  • Since Zion is the 4th most visited National Park in the US and gets very busy, especially during school holidays and summer break, we highly recommend doing hikes early and late to avoid the crowds.
     
  • We also recommend visiting some of the lesser visited parts of the park, like Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons for more solitude. While we are not including these areas on the main part of the guide, we are including things do to there in the “if you have extra time” section! If you want to avoid the mid-day Zion Canyon crowds, we suggest going to these areas instead during the afternoon and then returning to Zion Canyon for sunset.
     
  • Driving a large vehicle? Anything over 11’4″ (3.4m) tall or 7’10” (2.4 m) wide must get a $15 tunnel permit to go through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. This is because you will have to drive in the middle of the tunnel, taking up both lanes and they’ll have to shut down one way so you can go through. There are also specific times you can access the tunnel if you’re an oversized vehicle.

Bryce Canyon Tips

  • Bryce also has a free shuttle, but we didn’t have any issues getting parking, so we recommend parking at the park. However, between April and October, any vehicle over 20 ft long (like our van!) cannot drive in the main amphitheater area during shuttle hours. You can learn more about the shuttle hours, stops, and oversize parking here.
     
  • Make sure to pack warmer clothes! It gets cold at Bryce Canyon due to the elevation. The farther down the canyon you go, the warmer it gets, so having lots of layers will help you stay comfortable.
     
  • We noticed that Bryce gets busier for sunrise, as it’s the best time to take photos in the park (it faces east!) and then the crowds disperse a bit right after sunrise. During our latest visit, the trails were pretty quiet between right after sunrise and 9 AM, so take advantage of that window to do a hike!

Where to Stay at Zion

Zion

Glamping

  • One of the coolest places to stay at Zion is Under Canvas, which is a glamping campground with luxurious tents (some have bathrooms too!) and a chef on-site.
  • The Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort also has some glamping tents and wagons that are available to rent.

​Camping

  • Zion has two campgrounds on site, South Campground and Watchman Campground. These can fill up fast so make sure to reserve as early as allowed!
  • There is also camping available at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. We camped here and it was a great alternative to the park campgrounds (although a bit farther from the park)!
  • During our second visit, we stayed at the Old Highway 89 FREE dispersed campground and loved it! There aren’t tons of spots (most of it is an open area), but we never had an issue getting one, even during spring break. It’s close to Kanab and the east entrance of Zion.
  • Hurricane Cliffs is another popular free campground, on the west side of Zion Canyon, but you are only allowed to camp in designated sites and despite there being 40+, we couldn’t find an open one during our visit.

Resorts and Hotels

Vacation Homes/Airbnb
These spots are a bit more spacious and offer access to kitchens.

Where to stay at Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Camping

  • Bryce Canyon has two campgrounds on site, Sunset Campground (closed in the winter) and North Campground (has one loop open year round).
  • Ruby’s Inn is a great spot for camping and even has some tipis you can camp in! We stayed in one of the tipis and it was super fun! It’s also a super quick drive to the park.
  • Tom’s Best Spring is an awesome FREE, dispersed camping area about 15 minutes from the park!

Resorts and Hotels

Airbnb

Where to stay between Zion and Bryce Canyon

Zion

If you’d rather stay in one spot the whole trip, convenient to both Zion and Bryce, here are a few spots to check out! All of these spots have access to kitchens.

Day 1: Zion National Park

Zion
  1. Watch the sunrise from the Canyon Overlook Trail (no shuttle required). It’s only 1 mile round trip and a 163 ft elevation gain, making it easy to get to in the dark. 
     
  2. Have breakfast and coffee at Deep Creek Coffee Co. This spot has an amazing upstairs deck, plus delicious coffee and breakfast!
     
  3. Spend the morning and afternoon hiking at Zion (make sure to pack a picnic lunch!). Here are our top hike recommendations, a mix of easy and difficult trails and all with beautiful views of the park. You can find more trails on the official Zion map.
     
    • Observation Point via East Mesa (no shuttle required)– 6.7 miles, 695 ft elevation gain. This hike is our must-do, as it is less crowded, less scary, and has higher views than Angel’s Landing. The original trail has been closed due to rock slides, but if you hike via East Mesa you can still get to the epic view at the end!

      Check out our guide to hiking to Observation Point

      Note: The East Mesa trail is located outside of the Zion Canyon area, so you will need to plan for some extra time to get in and out of the park. The road to the parking lot is very rutted (4×4 or AWD recommended), so we suggest parking park 0.5 miles from the trailhead (here) and walking to the start of the trail.
       
    • Angel’s Landing (shuttle required)– 5 miles, 1,630 ft elevation gain. One of the most popular hikes in the park, but can get very crowded (there is sometimes an hour wait to get to the top). If you’re afraid of heights this hike may not be for you, as you walk along very narrow cliffside trails with chains to hold onto.
       
    • Watchman Trail (no shuttle required)– 3.1 miles, 646 ft elevation gain. We really enjoyed this trail and the views from the top.
       
  4. Walk around the town of Springdale and have dinner at Oscar’s Cafe. While you’re in Springdale, make sure to swing by Zion Outfitter by the visitor center and pick up equipment for the Narrows hike tomorrow.
     
  5. Sunset walk on the Pa’rus Trail (no shuttle required). This is an easy 3.5 mile round trip paved walk that goes along the river and has great views for sunset. Stop at the Canyon Junction bridge to see the sunset with the Watchman in the background. This is also the only dog friendly trail in the park!

Day 2: Zion + Bryce Canyon National Parks

  1. Watch the sunrise​ along the Pa’rus Trail (no shuttle required). We recommend the area across from the Zion Human History Museum. You get great views of the Watchman, West Temple, and Altar of Sacrifice.
     
  2. Have breakfast and coffee at Cafe Soleil or Perks! (open at 6 AM, which is great if you want to get an early start).
     
  3. Hike the Narrows (shuttle required)– This is an incredible and unique hike through a river! Yup, that’s right, you hike IN the water—so cool! (literally and figuratively). Read our guide to hiking the Narrows
     
    We recommend going 3-4 miles in (6-8 miles round trip) to the famous Wall Street section. Make sure to pack a lunch to enjoy on the rocks during the hike!
     
    Note: Sometimes the Narrows closes due to flash floods. You can check the status here.

    Don’t want to deal with the shuttle? Kanarra Falls, located about 50 minutes northwest of Zion Canyon is an AWESOME mini Narrows alternative hike, where you hike through a creek and slot canyon to a waterfall. It costs $12/person and they only allow 150 people a day, so book your tickets early!
     
  4. Take the Zion shuttle back towards the visitor center and stop to see some of the scenic viewpoints! We recommend stopping at the Court of the Patriarchs.
     
  5. Head to Bryce Canyon National Park, around a 1 hour, 45 minute drive from Zion.
     
  6. There are not many places to eat near Bryce Canyon, so for ​dinner we recommend cooking over a campfire, but if that is not an option, check out Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant or Stone Hearth Grille (a fancier option).
     
  7. If you arrive to Bryce Canyon before sunset, watch the sunset at Sunset Point

Day 3: Bryce National Park

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  1. Catch the sunrise at Sunset Point, which despite its name, is actually better at sunrise. It is magical! You can also enjoy sunrise at Sunrise Point or anywhere along the rim between the two points. There is really no bad spot!
     
  2. As mentioned before, Bryce Canyon does not have many options for food. For breakfast we recommend making your own food (if you have access to a campfire or stove) or going to Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant. Right after sunrise is also a great time to hit the trail and beat the post-breakfast crowd!
     
  3. Spend the rest of the morning and afternoon hiking around Bryce Canyon (make sure to pack a picnic lunch!) Here are our three top hike recommendations in the park:
     
    • Navajo/Queens Garden Loop–3.5 miles, 662 ft elevation gain. This hike gets you up close and personal with the hoodoos in the park.
       
    • Fairyland Loop Trail– 7.9 miles, 1,545 ft elevation gain. This hike is pretty challenging, but way less crowded and you get great views of the park. You can either start at the Fairyland Loop trailhead or at Sunrise Point.
       
      If you start at Sunrise Point, we suggest going clockwise and if you start at the Fairyland Loop trailhead, we suggest going counter clockwise. This way, you get the “boring” part out of the way first.
       
      To learn more about the Fairyland Trail, read our guide to the hike!
       
    • Figure Eight Trail– 6.3 miles, 1,499 ft elevation gain. This hike combines the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop, Wall Street, and Peekaboo Loop into one gorgeous hike through the hoodoos!
       
  4. Soak up the views from the Rainbow Point, Natural Bridge, Inspiration Point, and Bryce Point overlooks (accessible by car–Inspiration Point and Bryce Point require a tiny walk from the parking lot). If you have enough time, you can also stop by Mossy Cave, which is located outside of the main park area, to see a waterfall and a cool mossy cave.
     
  5. End your day by watching the sunset at Inspiration Point or Bryce Point.
     
  6. For dinner, either cook over a campfire or head to Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant or Stone Hearth Grille.

If you have extra time…

Food

Coffee

Activities

  • Visit Kolob Canyons (Zion): This area is GORGEOUS and way less busy than the main canyon. The only downside is that it does have less hikes to choose from, but we recommend looking into: Middle Fork Taylor Creek (4.9 miles), Timber Creek Overlook (1.1 mile), and Kolob Arch (13.7 miles).
     
  • Visit Kolob Terrace (Zion): We LOVED this area! Similar to Kolob Canyons, it is way less busy than Zion Canyon and still has great views! The Northgate Peaks trail was easy and had an awesome payoff at the end.
     
  • Walk through water and a slot canyon to Kanarra Falls! This is a mini version of the Narrows hike, but with the bonus of having capacity limits (150 people a day) and a fun ladder and waterfall! Permits cost $12 per person and dogs are not allowed. This is a great hike to combine with Kolob Canyons! Read our guide for Kanarra Falls
     
  • The Subway Trail (Zion)–7.0 miles, 1,305 ft elevation gain (requires a permit)
     
  • Looking for dog friendly hikes in the area? Near Bryce Canyon National Park is a gorgeous area called Red Canyon, which is dog friendly and has similar views! Kodachrome Basin State Park also came highly recommended to us and is dog friendly, but we haven’t checked it out yet.

Heading to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks?

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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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