Zion National Park, Utah, USA – What to do in 2 days

Zion National Park, Utah, USAAfter already enjoying 3 national parks in the US on this trip so far, I decided when I hired a car in Las Vegas to see more national parks rather than drive up the west coast.  The first park I decided to see from Las Vegas was Zion National Park.

Zion became a national park on the 19th November 1919 when it became the 15th national park and the 1st national park in Utah.

I picked up in the car in the morning in Las Vegas and drove the 120 miles to the hotel to drop off my bags before continuing on to Zion which was a further 42 miles.  I decided to upgrade and buy an Annual National Park Pass when I arrived as I had already in the past few days paid entrance to Yellowstone & Grand Teton which was $50 and the entrance to Zion was $30 which was the same price as upgrading and getting my annual pass.  If you plan on doing a few parks on your trip then it might be worthwhile.

I normally stay in hostels while I am travelling but around the Zion area there were no hostels available and the cheapest place for me to stay was in Rodeway Inn Red Hills in St George.  It was about an hours drive from Zion National Park but in the US an hours drive is not far and the roads are easy to drive.

After I had bought my pass, my first stop was to the visitors centre to find out exactly what I should be doing while I was in the area.  Also from spring until autumn (fall) the canyon is not open to cars and only to the shuttle buses that will drop you at various points through the park.  You catch the shuttle bus from the visitors centre.  It’s not a huge park and this is a great way to get around as the buses are very frequent.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

My first stop was the Zion Human History Museum where there are indoor exhibits and there is also a 22 minute film on the history of the park.  Well worth watching if you have time.  I also got my first picture in the canyon.

I then decided to get the shuttle bus out to some of the stops so I could get some pictures of the views and to do a little walk from the Grotto to the Zion Lodge.  As it was getting to dusk I saw some deer too.  Dusk is a great time to see animals and the time when I have seen the most in all the national parks.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Deer at Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Once I got back to the visitors centre it was back in the car for the drive back to the hotel.

The next morning i was up early so I could be back to the park and able to park in the carpark before it was full.  It does get full early so it is worth getting there early otherwise you will have to park outside the park and walk in.  I once again went to the visitors centre to check the weather forecast, I was wanting to hike part of The Narrows but the risk of flash flooding was high that day and they advised against hiking it.

The Narrows is a gorge carved through the canyon by the river and is 16 miles long and in places only 20 – 30 feet wide. The path is through the river, though at times you can walk along the side, but you need to be prepared for wading and sometimes swimming through the river.  You always need to check with the rangers before attempting it as it might be a sunny day at Zion but 50 miles away there might have a storm and that water can travel down the river causing a flash flood.

As the risk of rain and flash flooding was at its highest I decided instead to just do the Riverside Walk, this takes you from the final bus stop up to the start of The Narrows and is a 2.2 mile roundtrip.  It’s a nice easy walk and getting to the start of The Narrows did make me want to give it a go especially when I saw a few people setting off, but as the risk was at it’s highest I decided to be sensible and give it a miss for this trip.  I will be back though as it does look like an amazing hike.

Zion National Park, Utah, USAZion National Park, Utah, USA

After this I decided to stop at the weeping rock trail which is a short 1/2 mile walk.  From here there is the option of a couple of other longer hikes, the Hidden Canyon Trail which is 2.4 miles or to the observation point which is 8 miles.  I decided against these as I wanted to do the Emerald Pools Trail.

I then caught the bus from the Weeping Rock to the Zion Lodge to start the Emerald Pools Trail to the Upper and Lower Pools.  It is a 2.2 mile high, but is quite steep and tricky in places but well worth it to see the views.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

After this hike I then got the shuttle bus to canyon junction where I got off and walked the final 1.75 miles to the visitors centre along the river, amazing views and great to be able to do a final walk.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Another hike I really wanted to do but was advised against due to the weather, though the sun had come out in the afternoon was Angel’s Landing.  It is a tough 5.4 mile hike (generally takes 3-4 hours), up to the summit 450 metres high.  The last half mile is hiking along the sandstone ridge and this trek can be very dangerous after rain as it gets very slippy.  It can also be a problem for people with a fear of heights.

As the weather wasn’t good for the 2 hikes I wanted to do, I will be back in the future to complete these!! They both look amazing and I am excited about returning for them.

Once I was back to the visitors centre it was back in the car for the 75 mile drive to Panguitch, where I would stay overnight before exploring Bryce Canyon National Park the next day.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

To get to Bryce the quickest way is on the Zion Mount Carmel Highway, this road goes up through the park and through a 1.1 mile tunnel cut through the mountain.  Anything larger than a car needs to have the traffic stopped as they need to drive down the middle of the tunnel.

As you can see when I entered the tunnel it was a beautiful day with a few clouds in the sky, when I left the tunnel 1.1 miles later, probably not even a 5 minute drive later, the heavens had opened and the rain was unbelievable.  I put my windscreen wipers on full and still couldn’t see anything.  Thankfully there was a car park next to the entrance of the tunnel and I pulled in there to wait until it eased.  While I was waiting I could see and hear the hail coming down and hitting the car, it was the size of a tennis ball!!! After about 10 minutes it eased off a bit so I got out to check the car.  What I saw and heard when I got out of the car amazed me.  Below me was the river, raging and carrying huge trees downstream as if they were twigs.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

The ranger controlling the traffic came over and told me that 10 minutes ago where the water was coming down into the river below, it had been totally dry.  Now there was a huge amount of water coming over the edge and into the river below.   Now I saw how quickly things can change.  Five minutes before it has been a sunny day, now there was a huge torrent of water where there had been a dry river bed and I had seen how quickly a flash flood can happen.  I was certainly pleased I had made the decision not to hike in The Narrows.  It just shows that if the rangers are advising against hiking in an area due to flash floods, to listen to their advice.  Zion will always be there for you to return and have another attempt in the future.

After it had stopped raining so hard I continued my journey down Highway 89 until I reached my hotel and chilled out for the night.  The scenery along the way was stunning and we even got a rainbow after the rain had stopped.Zion National Park, Utah, USA Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Zion National Park was certainly one of my favourite national parks to visit in the US and if you are in the area one you must certainly visit.

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Zion National Park, Utah, USA



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46 thoughts on “Zion National Park, Utah, USA – What to do in 2 days

  1. We’ve been to Vegas countless time but we’ve never rented a car to drive out to Zion. What an incredible place with such stunning landscape! Great tip on visiting multiple parks to get our money’s worth. Will definitely keep that in mind when we plan our US National Parks trip in the future.

  2. The natural wonders of USA have always attracted me. Zion national park looks like a place I can spend an entire week in. That rainbow picture had me staring for 2 minutes. My maternal aunt lives in California. She keeps calling me to USA to visit her. Hopefully soon.

  3. The landscape at Zion is so breathtaking! Your photos look like paintings! Beautiful! I’m sure you would say that the long trip going there was worth it. And how lucky are you that a rainbow decided to show up when you were there? 🙂 You captured it so perfectly too!

  4. Zion National Park is one of the few major national parks in the states that I have yet to visit. It is probably the number one place in the US that I want to visit. What a bummer that you didn’t get to hike the Narrows, but I would have skipped it too if there was a flash flood advisory. That is something I just don’t take chances with. You still got some beautiful pictures!

  5. I also bought the Annual National Park Pass when traveling around the US. I actually used this card as a student card at the movie theater in Mexico a couple of times too as they couldn’t understand English so I got an extra bonus out of it! Having said that, I missed Zion National Park and after seeing your photos I wish I had visited. Those flash floods are scary though, I was in Death Valley when there was a flash flood warning and had no idea what I was supposed to do!

  6. It’s such a shame that you were unable to do the hikes you wished for because of the weather warnings. I love hiking and I can see that Zion National Park is a perfect place to go on the trails and experience beautiful views at every step. It’s also pretty cool that you can buy an annual pass that allows you to visit more parks, saving money.

  7. The landscape here is simply beautiful. You were able to take some really amazing pictures. I had not heard about Zion but I learned a lot from this post. Looks like a wonderful 2 days!

  8. That’s a gorgeous place. I’ve never been to the American continent yet and I hope to visit in my future. Till then, thanks for this virtual tour. I too prefer to stay in hostels when I travel. Too bad there aren’t any here. The climate seems so fluctuating. Though it rained, glad you got to see a rainbow in that spectacular landscape.

  9. Zion is beautiful! I really need to make it a priority to make it out to the national parks. I love the red color of the rocks, and the hikes sound like so much fun! Thanks for sharing about it and glad you had a good trip (:

  10. So scenic and beautiful from your pictures, and I love that shot of the rainbow! We haven’t made it to a national parks in the US yet – but it’s on the list, we like hiking too so I think we’d enjoy it, thanks for the tips!

  11. The pictures of the landscape are gorgeous! It’s great to see such natural beauty. And I definitely would love to see how the Narrow looks likes. I will be recommending this to a friend who lives there, who doesn’t fully explore his own backyard.

  12. Okay seriously, those pictures don’t even look real. I reallllllly want to do like a long road trip to all the National Parks, especially Zion. Seems like you packed your schedule full of excitement and adventure while here. Super jelly, you really make me wanna go!

  13. I’ve been to Vegas a few times, but never gone to see a national park. If I return I will for sure. The nature looks so special and fantastic with the eroded hills standing out and the canyons created by rivers. Glad you listened to the rangers and were not caught by a flash flood. Great pictures 🙂

  14. Zion looks amazing! It is on my to visit list for sure! Also good thing you decided to go to Zion over the CA coast! Its been a mess weather and road wise here!

  15. I’d love a chance to go here! It’s too bad you had to drive an hour to get there, because I’m sure you were exhausted to drive the hour back after hiking! But wow, the views definitely look like they were worth it!

    • In the USA you get used to spending most of your time driving, most days I would be driving over 400 miles a day!!!

  16. I love reading other peoples’ Zion stories. We always tell people to do the hikes you really want to do even if the weather is bad UNLESS the rangers expressly state not to (like in your situation). The weather shifts so quickly and the chances of scoring a perfect weather situation the next time are low. But those spots, like the Narrows, they’re soooo dangerous if the rain hits. I hope you can return and get the full sunny Zion experience. 🙂

  17. I haven’t been to Zion before, but somewhere similar .. Lake Mead. I never get tired of those red rocks The great thing about them is that they change colour depending on the light and time of day. Great use of 2 days by the look of it. Thanks for sharing such great photos ..

  18. Now that I think about it, I’ve never visited a national park. Reading this post and seeing your beautiful photos makes me want to bump it up on my list!!! And watch out for that hail! Those blocks of ice can be dangerous!!

  19. The whole idea of flash floods absolutely terrify me! So glad you decided not to do that particular hike in the end, seems that it worked out for the best. I’ve never actually heard of Zion National Park before (not very clued up on US geography!) but it looks absolutely incredible. All of your photos look totally other-worldly.

  20. I’m always in awe of natural beauty and the more I read about American the more interesting it gets with the diversity in its natural parks. Had never heard of Zion and it’s a great idea that you’ve made it a point to travel and discover various nature parks more. The rugged terrain with the impacting cliffs truly stand out at Zion and love the overall topography. I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit National Parks in US but this is definitely one that interests me because it looks less touristy.

  21. I haven’t been to the US yet, but I’m always interested to visit there. I’ve been reading lots of post about the diversity in nature in US, and your post is one of my favorite! Love your pictures! They are so gorgeous!

  22. Wow, Zion National park looks amazing! I would love to go hiking there in the summer. 🙂 I especially love your photos of the Emerald Pools trail!

    • Its dryer earlier in the year around may, june but everything is changing in the world and no one can predict when its going to rain now. Yes there are a few campgrounds there. I put a link on my blog page, just click on Zion National Park and it will take you through to the parks website 🙂

  23. Such a beautiful place. I have seen so many pictures of Utah and I wonder why is it so underrated as a destination. Love the cliffs and gorges. Fabulous pics!! 🙂

  24. These photos are positively STUNNING! I have yet to visit a single US national park but I really hope I get the chance to do a few of them some day. You’ve inspired me 🙂

  25. Really love this article! The landscape of Zion Park is breathtaking, great shots and thank you for letting me discover this new awesome place

  26. I’ve only flown into the Utah airport. I really need to plan the SW USA road trip that has been on my bucket list forever. It’s good that you didn’t take chances with your safety. Weather out there can change so fast!

  27. You really made the most out of your car rental seeing all those national parks. Good tip on the year pass. It sounds like you had some crazy weather between the flash floods and the huge hail.

  28. My late mother, who was a Mormon, visited Utah during a visitation tour. During her free time, she hiked the Zion National Park. Totally awesome place! The scenery is stunning, and the red cliffs are just out of this world. This would be paradise for us since we love camping and rock climbing. 🙂

  29. That was a wonderful account of zion national park. Right from how to get there, where to stay and the annual pass to various hikes and trails. It was a perfect virtual tour with you and to end it all, the rainbow made it perfect.

  30. I *almsot* made it to Zion a couple of years back when I was travelling in the US, but unfortunately had to change my plans. Looking at your pictures and I am kicking myself – it is such a beautiful park! Can only imagine how much fun hiking around there is.

  31. Totally agreeing on your part, as a traveler we must listen the advice of locals and always take decision as per the weather forecast. That would prove beneficial to us, I believe its worthwhile if you couldn’t make out to Narrows. For that you can give a next chance but not to your life.

  32. wow Zion National Park is an amazing place despite the rain, and you were lucky to spot the rainbow! Glad to know that there are shuttle buses dropping people at various stops in the park 🙂

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