Road to Canyon Overlook Trail

Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is a breathtaking destination that attracts millions of visitors each year. With stunning canyons, towering rock formations, and diverse wildlife, Zion offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration. If you only have two full days to visit Zion, here’s how you can make the most of it.



Grand Canyon Map

Day 1

If you’re driving from Vegas or Salt Lake City, arrive as early as possible and check into your hotel. We stayed at the Bumbleberry Inn which included a hearty breakfast at their Porter’s Restaurant. You can take your chances on a parking spot at the Visitor Center, or take the free Springdale Shuttle from one of its many stops along the main road. It’s a short ten minute ride, though your chances of getting a seat increase the further away from the Zion Visitor center that you stay. We had no problem getting on at Bumbleberry, which was stop 5.

Disembark at the Visitor Center, where you can pay your entrance fee. The receipt you receive is your ticket and valid for one week. The Visitor Center opens at 8:00 am and closes at 6:00 pm. Don’t forget to pick up a park map and get hiking recommendations from the rangers. 

From the Visitor Center, take the shuttle bus to Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is closed to private vehicles during peak season (late March through November). The shuttle bus is the only way to access the scenic drive, and it runs every 10-15 minutes from early morning until late evening.

The scenic drive is a 6-mile stretch of road that runs through the heart of Zion Canyon, offering breathtaking views of towering sandstone cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and the Virgin River. You can get off the shuttle at any of the nine stops along the way to explore the park’s trails and landmarks. Since we arrived later in the afternoon, we opted for a shorter hike called the Watchman Trail that leaves from the Visitor Center, no shuttle involved. It’s a moderate ascent with beautiful views of Springdale and the mouth of the canyon.

If you have more time on your first day, choose a trail of your choice and then stop at the Zion Lodge, which offers dining options, a gift shop, and access to several hiking trails, including the easy Riverside Walk and the more challenging Emerald Pools hike. After taking in the scenic drive, head to the Zion Lodge for lunch. The lodge offers a variety of dining options, including a café, a grill, and a restaurant. After lunch, explore the Emerald Pools Trail, which is a moderate 3-mile hike that takes you past three beautiful pools, each with its own waterfall. This trail is suitable for all ages and offers fantastic views of the park’s red rock formations.

After exploring the Zion Lodge area, take the shuttle to stop 9, Temple of Sinawava. From here, you can hike the famous Zion Narrows, which is a 16-mile slot canyon that offers a truly unique hiking experience. However, if you don’t have time for the full hike, you can still enjoy a short walk along the river or take the Riverside Walk trail to enjoy the scenic views.

In the evening, we took the shuttle back to Springdale for dinner. There are a variety of dining options. Wait times can be long. Luckily, there are plenty of stores and art shops to poke in while you wait.

Day 2

With a full day to explore the park, it’s a perfect time to try one of the famous longer hikes at Zion: The Narrows, Scout Lookout, or Angel’s Landing (if you’re lucky enough to get a permit). Start early to avoid the crowds (at 7 am you can walk onto the shuttle, at noon we waited 45 minutes in a long line). When we visited in mid-April, the Narrows was closed due to flooding. It’s over 1,000 feet deep and only 20 to 30 feet wide in some places. The hike through The Narrows is a unique and unforgettable experience that takes you through the middle of the canyon, with towering cliffs on either side of you. The hike can be done in a few hours, but it’s recommended to give yourself at least half a day to fully enjoy the experience. 

We chose to do Scout Lookout via West Rim Trail, leaving from Shuttle stop 6, the Grotto. I applied for a permit to hike Angel’s Landing. We didn’t win one in the lottery at the National Park website, but were able to view it from Scout Lookout as it is the last 1/4 mile of the West Rim Trail. It’s not for the faint of heart.

In the evening, we drove through the Zion Tunnel, a 1.1-mile engineering feat of the 1920s with “windows” cut through the rock for light and views, and parked near the Canyon Overlook Trailhead. It’s a short one mile round trip that offers stunning views of the canyon below. We arrived shortly before sunset to find a wedding party taking photographs and families arriving with pizza boxes to enjoy the natural display.

Day 3

We had a flight to catch in Vegas in the evening, so for the second half of our full day, we rented e-bikes in Springdale and rode the whole scenic drive ourselves. It was a great way to stop and take photographs where we wanted, and not have to wait in the lines for the shuttle. Alternatively, you could take a horseback ride through the park’s backcountry with Canyon Trail Rides. The ride takes you through stunning scenery and offers a peaceful and relaxing way to end your day in Zion National Park. Or, visit Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, which offers a variety of activities for visitors, including horseback riding, zip-lining, and ATV tours.

Final Thoughts:

While two full days in Zion National Park may not be enough time to see everything the park has to offer, it is certainly enough time to experience some of the park’s most stunning sights and activities. Remember to pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes for hiking, and plan your visit in advance to make the most of your time in this beautiful destination.