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Zion to Bryce Canyon: Amazing 3 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Zion to Bryce Canyon: Amazing 3 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Are you planning an iconic USA road trip itinerary to visit both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park? We’re going to show you the best way to optimize your Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary for an unforgettable 3 day visit to Southern Utah.

What if you have more or less time? Well, we’re also going to include itinerary options for a 2 day and 4 day Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary, so every visitor can plan the perfect vacation.

Zion and Bryce Canyon are two of the most popular national parks on Utah’s legendary Mighty 5 road trip and we’re going to explain everything you need to know about both parks.

Let’s get right into the Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park road trip itinerary building action!

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Table of Contents show

Zion vs Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are equally as unique and spectacular but Zion is perfect for adventure hiking and canyoneering, whereas Bryce Canyon is better suited to families and photographers. Both parks offer endless outdoor opportunities and should be visited together.

Instead of comparing the two parks, you should try to visit both on your southwest Utah road trip itinerary because they are both among the very best US national parks.

Your adrenaline will spike as you tick off bucket list hiking trails at Zion, before your BPM levels out as you marvel at astounding hoodoos inside Bryce Canyon’s bowl-shaped amphitheater.

We think Zion and Bryce Canyon road trip double header is the perfect long weekend break from Las Vegas or as part of a wider US Southwest road trip.

We’ve visited both parks twice and can’t wait to go back for more.

Elevation Of Zion National Park And Bryce Canyon National Park

One of the major differences between Zion and Bryce Canyon is altitude of each landscape. The town of Springdale in Zion sits at 3,900 ft elevation, whereas Bryce City is at 7,650 ft.

That’s a hefty change in elevation when driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon.

Altitude sickness doesn’t typically start being a problem until 8,000 ft but Bryce Canyon isn’t far from that number, so if you usually have issues with altitude sickness, be sure to take some medication along on your trip.

Why Visit Zion National Park?

Zion National Park in Utah has an amazing hike through a slot canyon called the narrows

Zion National Park is world famous for its exciting adventure hikes such as Angels Landing, The Narrows and The Subway. All three trails are included in our popular guide to the 50 best hikes in the USA.

Stunning canyons with 2,000 ft tall sandstone walls flank valleys, rivers and creeks filled with hiking trails and immense natural beauty.

Did you know that Zion was the fourth most visited US National Park in 2019 with 4.5 million recreational visits?

The park is split into 3 main regions, known as the Main Zion Canyon, Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons. The main canyon is much smaller than you might imagine, and it receives almost all of the visitors.

Angels Landing and the Narrows are the most popular hikes in Zion National Park, and they are among an elite list of bucket hikes throughout the entire US National Park network.

But there are plenty of smaller and easier hikes for the whole family to enjoy, and there are other activities you can do in Zion but most people are here to hike.

Important update for 2022: Advanced reservations for the Zion Canyon shuttle bus have been discontinued as of May 1st 2021. But you will need a permit to hike past Scout Lookout to Angels Landing. Visit the NPS website get your permit.

Zion National Park Factfile

Address: Springdale, UT 84767
Website: nps.gov/zion
Phone: (435) 772-3256

Park Hours: All day, every day
Entrance Fee: US$ 35 Vehicle 7 Day Pass (free with America the Beautiful Pass)
Visitor Center: Open 8am – 6pm Spring & Fall / 8am – 7pm in Summer / 8am – 5pm in Winter

Campgrounds: South & Watchman (see campgrounds)
Accommodation: Excellent selection at nearby Springdale and other smaller towns (see lodging)

Backcountry camping: Backcountry Wilderness Use Permit Required (pay in advance)

Top Activities: Hiking, Camping, Canyoneering, Stargazing, Photography
Annual Visitors: 4.5 million
Best Time to Visit: Every season has pros and cons (see best time to visit)

Why Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?

Bryce Canyon National Park has awesome rock formations called hoodoo's deep oranges and oddly shaped

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the most expansive collection of hoodoos in the world. Photographers from around the world visit Bryce Canyon to photograph its remarkable needle-like amphitheater, which glows a burning red at sunrise and sunset.

A small number of entertaining hikes passing by weird and wonderful rock spires – also known as hoodoo’s – are at the heart of Bryce Canyon’s appeal.

Walking along Bryce Canyon Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trail almost feels like you’ve been transported to an orange rock maze, with towering cliffs to either side.

Bryce Canyon is much more compact and far easier to visit.

Bryce is a must visit for avid photographers and families of all ages looking for an easier hike. One of our favorite aspects here is its smaller size, which makes the park less overwhelming.

You’ll have an entirely different experience at Bryce Canyon National Park when compared to Zion.

Bryce Canyon National Park Factfile

Address: PO Box 640201, Bryce, UT 84764
Website: nps.gov/brca
Phone: (435) 834-5322

Park Hours: All day, every day
Entrance Fee: US$ 35 per vehicle 7 day pass (free with America the Beautiful Pass)
Visitor Center: Open 8am – 6pm Spring & Fall / 8am – 8pm Summer / 8am – 4.30pm Winter

Campgrounds: North & Sunset campgrounds (see campgrounds)
Accommodation: Few nearby hotels, better to book early (see lodging)

Backcountry camping: Backcountry Use Permit Required

Top Activities: Hiking, Camping, Stargazing, Photography
Annual Visitors: 2.6 million
Best Time to Visit: May, June or September (comfortable temperatures and less crowded)

Drive From Zion To Bryce Canyon

Let’s take a quick look at driving times and distances from Zion to Bryce Canyon, and from Las Vegas to Zion.

We’ll also briefly look at the closest airports near Zion National Park to give you an idea about where to fly into when visiting the American southwest.

Distance From Zion To Bryce Canyon

The distance from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park is just 85 miles. You can drive between Zion and Bryce Canyon in under 2 hours.

The roads and directions you need to use between Zion and Bryce Canyon are UT-9, US-89 N and UT-12 E. If you’re driving in the opposite direction from Bryce Canyon to Zion, simply reverse the directions.

There’s nothing of note to stop at between Zion and Bryce Canyon, which helps with keeping the road trip itinerary efficient and focused on the two national parks.

Las Vegas To Zion National Park

Many visitors to Zion and Bryce Canyon originate at Las Vegas McCarran airport. You’ll need to take I-15 N to exit 16 and UT-9. Driving distance from Las Vegas to Zion is 160 miles and drive time is just over 2 hours and 30 minutes.

We highly recommend stopping at Valley of Fire state park on the way to Zion if you have the time spare.

Airports To Use For Zion And Bryce Canyon

Las Vegas McCarran is the closest major international airport to Zion at 165 miles (2h 42m). Salt Lake City is the next best option for international travelers at 273 miles (4h 05m).

However, there is a regional airport at St. George which is only 40 miles to the west of Springdale (45 minutes). Domestic US travelers may find St George a more convenient option.

When we travel, we always use and highly recommend:

You might found our guide on how to find and book the cheapest flights helpful, before searching for your next air tickets.

What You Need To Know Before Visiting Zion And Bryce Canyon

Zion shuttle bus at Zion visitor center heading into the canyon

Let’s take a quick look at some important things you should know before planning your Zion and Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary:

  • Both Zion and Bryce can become extremely busy during peak visiting months. Zion in particular suffers from severe overcrowding in Summer months.
  • Bryce Canyon offers a free shuttle bus service between mid April and late October. Although highly recommended, using this bus service is not compulsory.
  • Conversely, between mid March and November, you must use the shuttle service to access Zion’s Main Canyon. This includes the popular hikes Angels Landing and The Narrows.
  • Parking your car in a free parking spot at Zion visitor center between March and November is challenging.
  • Arrive to the visitor center early to avoid paying for a parking space in Springdale. We can’t stress enough the importance of arriving early at Zion.
  • You will benefit greatly from early starts at both Zion and Bryce Canyon.
  • Angels Landing is the latest hike to require a permit in Zion National Park and we’ll get into that later.

FAQ’s For Planning A Trip To Zion and Bryce Canyon

Exploring both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park are among the very best things to do on a visit to Utah.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the questions we are asked the most about planning a road trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Can You Drive Through Zion National Park To Get To Bryce Canyon?

You can drive through Zion National Park to get to Bryce Canyon by entering Zion’s south entrance in Springdale, taking the Zion-Mt Carmel highway and leaving via Zion’s east entrance, before driving up to Bryce Canyon.

This would be perfect for anyone who is just passing through the area and wants to see parts of each park. One thing to note is that you might not get a spot in the free parking lot at Zion if you arrive mid morning onward.

It would be well worth taking a detour from a longer trip to see even just a tiny portion of Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Angels Landing at sunrise incredible landscape to hike during a zion to bryce canyon road trip itinerary in utah

Can You See Zion And Bryce Canyon In One Day?

Yes you certainly can can see parts of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in one day, but you wouldn’t have time to take on any of the major hikes in Zion’s main canyon and you would miss out on many of the best highlights in each park.

Bryce Canyon is easier to see in half a day, but Zion really does need at least one full day.

We wouldn’t recommend trying to visit both parks one day but you can get a taste for each of Zion and Bryce Canyon in just one day.

Our Zion to Bryce Canyon itineraries in this guide begin at 2 days because with one day you will spend most of it driving.

How Many Days Do You Need To Visit Both Zion And Bryce Canyon?

At a minimum you need one full day at Zion and half a day day at Bryce. However, 2 or even 3 three days in Zion with one full day in Bryce Canyon would allow you to slow down and experience more of the top highlights in each park.

If you’re a big hiker, you might need to plan for 3 full days in Zion and 1 full day in Bryce Canyon.

But 2 days is typically enough time for the average visitor to Zion National Park and that is what forms the basis of our 3 day road trip itinerary for Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Hiking In Zion National Park

Zion is made for hiking and it is one of the best places to visit in the US for those who love to take on unique trails.

It’s like someone moulded the landscape for adults to use as an adventure playground and the reason why most people choose Zion for a vacation.

There are over 20 awesome hikes ranging from easy to strenuous in Zion, but there are 2 world famous hikes that we will briefly discuss before getting into the itineraries.

They are The Narrows and Angels Landing.

Let’s take a quick look at permits first:

Zion Hiking Permits

The Subway top down and bottom up, The Narrows top down and Angels Landing all require hiking permits in Zion National Park.

You must apply for an advanced permit, or ask for a next day walk in permit on site when you arrive.

Here are the NPS sites you need for obtaining permits:

The Narrows

Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park on a 3 day road trip itinerary with bryce canyon wading through water waist deep with walls either side

The Narrows in Zion National Park is one of the United States most iconic trails and one of the world’s best slot canyon hikes.

This truly unique river hike through a narrow gorge at times 1000 feet deep and just 20 feet wide formed by the Virgin River is an unmissable hiking opportunity for your visit to Zion.

You will wade for up to 8 miles submerged to ankles, shins, knees and even your wait in the river. There are obstacles to navigate and you will need a pole for balance.

Hiking The Narrows makes you feel as though you are in an Indiana Jones movie or a computer game.

The further you hike upstream, the fewer people you will see, which adds to the incredible experience. There were periods when we didn’t see a single person for 30, 40, 50 minutes at a time.

There are two ways you can hike the Narrows on your visit to Zion:

The Narrows Top Down

The Narrows top down requires a permit, which you must ‘win’ in advance or on site as a next day walk in permit (which we will cover later).

Hiking top down is a 16 mile one way trek beginning at Chamberlain’s Ranch, which requires a shuttle to access. Canyoneering experience is suggested but many say that it isn’t necessary.

The Narrows Bottom Up Day Hike

Hiking The Narrows bottom up does not require a permit and it is the way almost all visitors to Zion hike this epic river slot canyon.

The bottom up day hike version of The Narrows is up to a maximum of 9.4 miles roundtrip, which included 2 miles on Riverside Walk from and back to Temple of Sinawava.

Once inside The Narrows, you can only go as far as Big Springs, which is a series of 3 small waterfalls in a line. Not many make it that far on a day hike but if you do it will be a total of 7.4 miles hiking in water.

Only those hiking top down are allowed to see any of the canyon beyond Big Springs, but they will of course be coming from the other way.

Tips For Hiking The Narrows

  • Visiting outside of the warmer Summer months? You will need to hire Zion Outfitters Dry Pants Package if you want to make it as far as Big Springs.
  • When we visited in October, the water was freezing but we didn’t feel a thing with the hire gear on.
  • If you want to take a camera or phone, store them in a sealed waterproof dry bag. Hire a dry sack at the same time as dry pants package if you don’t own one.
  • Don’t take a chance on picking up a stick where Riverside Walk meets the beginning of the Narrows. You will not get far without a solid pole, so pick one up at Zion Outfitters.

Would you like to learn more about the Narrows?

Our in depth day hiking the Narrows bottom up guide covers all you need to plan one of the most amazing hikes in the US.

Angels Landing Hike Zion

Mark where are those Morgans at summit of angels landing hiking trail Zion national park Utah amazing views and relief!

Notorious Zion trail Angels Landing is exhilarating, terrifying and quite literally breathtaking. The half mile climb from Scout Lookout to Angels Landing has chains to hold on to as you navigate a razor thin rock trail with sheer vertical drops to either side.

Panoramic views from Angels Landing are nothing short of phenomenal, but the major prize is overcoming any fears you feel on the way up or down.

That may sound dramatic but once you’re on the shark fin-like precipice and someone in front of you has broken down sobbing on their hands and knees with fear, you will know what we mean.

Did that happen to us? Oh yes!

If you are even remotely afraid of heights, do not attempt to climb Angels Landing. Stay at Scout Lookout instead and watch as others return with wobbly legs and sweat pouring off of them.

Important: As of April 2022, you will need to obtain a hiking permit to access Angels Landing. You can hike to Scout Lookout without a permit, but you need a permit to begin the chain section.

Here’s our comprehensive guide to hiking Angels Landing in Zion, featuring photos from a midday ascent in October and a sunrise climb in December.

Can You Hike Angels Landing And The Narrows In One Day?

You can hike both Angels Landing in one day at Zion National Park. When applying to your Angels Landing permit, only select the first and last time slot so you can hike to Angels Landing first thing in the morning or late afternoon so you have time to hike The Narrows.

If you hike Angels Landing in the middle time slot around lunch time, you won’t be able to spend a good amount of time in The Narrows.

Another thing to consider is that by hiking Angels Landing, you probably won’t be able to reach Big Spring at the ‘end’ of the Narrows.

It took us 7 hours 30 minutes roundtrip to hike from Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs and back.

Hiking In Other Areas Of Zion

The Subway emerald pools and tunnel illuminated orange spectacular landscape

Many visitors to Zion only consider visiting the main canyon, but don’t forget about the other two areas called Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons.

Are you looking to escape the overcrowded main canyon to hike in a relaxing environment?

Look into either the peaceful hikes in Kolob Canyon or apply to win a permit for the amazing bottom up day hike to The Subway in Kolob Terrace (pictured above).

If you choose to visit some of the lesser known or wilderness areas within Zion National Park, you might want to consider downloading one of the best hiking apps and creating offline maps so you can track your position at all times.

Infographic showing the perfect 3 day zion to bryce canyon road trip itinerary

Epic Zion To Bryce Canyon 3 Day Road Trip Itinerary

We’re going to begin with a 3 day Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary because this is the optimal timeframe for visiting these two fantastic national parks.

With 3 days, you can travel efficiently and ticking off many of the best aspects of each park. There could be one or two compromises and you certainly won’t be able to see each region of Zion.

So far we’ve discussed Zion heavily and barely mentioned Bryce Canyon. That’s because Bryce Canyon doesn’t have any permits or alternative regions.

It is much easier to plan the Bryce Canyon portion of your road trip itinerary.

Day 1: Zion – Hike The Narrows And Watchman

Kristen where are those morgans with full waterproof gear on hiking up a river in Utah

Arrive early from Las Vegas or get an early start if you stayed in Springdale. Ideally you would pick up waterproofs from Zion Outfitter the night before so you don’t have to wait for it to open this morning.

Park up at the main visitor center if you’re just arriving into Zion, walk from your Springdale hotel or campground, or take the village shuttle bus to the visitor center.

If you weren’t able to pick up your waterproof gear last night, get it first thing this morning. Note you won’t need the waterproofs in the warmer months of Summer.

No which season you visit, don’t forget to hire a walking pole. You won’t get far without it.

The Narrows

Shallow section of virgin river through the narrows slot canyon

Jump on the earliest Zion Canyon Shuttle you can make (first shuttle leaves at 6am in Summer / 7am in Spring and Fall). Don’t get off until the very last stop, #9 or Temple of Sinawava.

Quickly hustle the one mile long Riverside Walk until you reach the very obvious entrance to the Virgin River. If you weren’t able to get on the first bus, it will be busy as you begin hiking up the river.

It can be tempting to go hell for leather to escape other groups of people but use caution.

Underfoot this hike can be a real challenge, you need to be surefooted every step because it only takes one lapse in concentration to break an ankle.

Many people just want to sample the Narrows, so eventually crowds will begin thinning out. Remember, only go as far as you feel comfortable and bear in mind you have to go back as far as you hiked in.

There are obstacles to contend with throughout the bottom up day hike to Big Springs. One such obstacle is a huge boulder with deep pools left and right, but it can be climbed.

Big Springs

Mark and Kristen Morgan at Big Spring on the Narrows hiking trail Zion National park to Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

To reach the end of The Narrows, keep going until you reach 3 small waterfalls and a passage leading away from the river.

There will be times along the way at which you think ‘surely, this has to be the end’?

It isn’t! Keep going until you reach those waterfalls.

Big Springs is a great place to recharge, take on some water and eat tons of snacks or sandwiches. You will need the energy for the 4.7 mile return leg.

By the end you will be tired but it’s important to guard against complacency to avoid injury.

Hiking to Big Springs and back took us just over 7 hours 30 minutes including food breaks and photographs, so plan for that time and give or take an hour for your own hiking pace.

Watchman

Hiking The Watchman trail for sunrise orange canyon walls lighting up at dawn

Take the shuttle back to Zion visitor center and drop all your gear back off at Zion outfitter. By now you’ll be more than ready to get changed into comfortable clothes!

It should be late afternoon by now, which means you have plenty of time to hike The Watchman.

Watchman starts right at the visitor center, which is where you just dropped off your gear. It might be a good idea to grab some food in Springdale before hiking up to Watchman Overlook.

The sun should be getting low in the sky by the time you reach Watchman Overlook. Stay up here to watch sunset before heading back down to your hotel or campground in Springdale.

Day 1 Alternative

What if you don’t want to hike The Narrows or only go in for a few hours?

Well, we suggest you drive over to Kolob Canyons once you get back from The Narrows around lunch time.

Grab a quick meal in Springdale before heading over to a shorter hike called Timber Creek Overlook Trail at the end of Kolob Canyon Rd. This is one of the easiest hikes with one of the best views in Zion.

Day 2: Zion – Hike Angels Landing, Emerald Pools and Canyon Overlook Then Drive to Bryce Canyon

Down canyon photo from the Angels Landing hike at sunrise

Apply in advance for a permit to hike Angels Landing or get a next day walk in permit. We recommend you select the first time slot so you can hike to Angels Landing for sunrise.

Get an early start, pack your tent up or check out of your hotel and ensure you make one of the first shuttles into the Canyon. This is one trail you don’t want to be sharing with dozens of other hikers.

Get off the shuttle at stop #6 called The Grotto. Follow the trail for Scout Lookout and Angels Landing starting on the opposite side of the road.

West Rim Trail

The hike to Scout Lookout begins on West Rim Trail with a nice flat walk alongside the Virgin River before passing by refrigerator canyon.

Suddenly, you’re on the incline and before long you’ll be climbing switchbacks.

Views down canyon begin to open up more and more as you gain elevation and it becomes clear what your ultimate view will be once you reach the summit of Angels Landing.

These first switchbacks are fairly steep so take your time and conserve energy for when you’ll really need it later.

Next, a welcome flat path turns left and transports you through a narrow V shaped gorge. At the end you are greeted by another series of shorter switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles that will carry you up to Scout Lookout.

Scout Lookout

Scout Lookout is a flat and sandy plateau with awesome views over Zion Canyon. But the views here aren’t a patch on Angels Landing summit.

However, in order to summit Angels Landing, you will need to climb the chain section on a very narrow trail with sheer drops. This is not for the feint of heart.

The first part of the climb isn’t too rough, but it’s only a taste of what is to come. Once you reach the first false summit, you really see the climb to Angels Landing for the first time.

Our first reaction to seeing the shark-fin ascent was nervous laughter borne out of absurdity, like a ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ laugh.

You know the one!

Angels Landing Summit

Mark and Kristen Morgan where are those morgans at the summit of angels landing hiking trail in Zion national park Utah with incredible view behind

Remember to be cautious and careful of others on the climb.

You don’t know how other people will react when scared so be acutely aware at all times of what is going on around you.

Hold onto the chains where possible (you don’t need us to tell you that!) and leave enough space for the person in front not to feel harassed.

Half a mile might not sound much but it is on Angels Landing.

We saw plenty of tough looking hikers freezing and aborting at various stages on the ascent. You have to be reasonable with yourself.

If you don’t think you can make it, there’s no shame and everyone will be safer for it!

Once you reach the top you will feel an overwhelming sense of achievement and relief. Those views you’re now looking at were worth the effort.

Spend as much time as you need at the summit and we promise the descent is much easier because the fear of the unknown is eliminated.

Emerald Pools Trail

Emerald Pools Trail waterfall on a blue sky sunny day in utah

By the time you reach Scout Landing, you’ll feel relieved, trust us!

Once you’re back down, continue ahead to walk Kayenta trail and hike the Emerald Pools trail. Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools are one of the best family friendly hikes in Zion.

Jump on the shuttle at stop #5 for Zion Lodge and head back into Springdale.

Grab lunch in Springdale but be sure to go right into town (around 2 miles away from car park) for the better restaurants.

After lunch, drive up Zion – Mount Carmel highway’s scenic twisting switchbacks.

You will reach the impressively engineered Zion – Mount Carmel Tunnel. Pass through the tunnel and park up on the right the second you break out into sunlight on the other side.

Seriously, be on the lookout for a space immediately and if you see one, take it. This area was insanely packed when we visited in October.

Zion Canyon Overlook

Canyon overlook Bryce Canyon to Zion 3 day road trip itinerary Utah

The trailhead for Canyon Overlook begins a few meters away from the entrance to the tunnel. This hike will be much easier on the nerves and is far more suitable for kids.

Make your own improvised route up to the viewpoint at Zion Canyon Overlook. There are a number of fun elements to this hike inclining wooden footbridges and a crescent moon shaped cave.

Once you reach the top, find a spot to either side of the information board for solitude and soak up some of the best views in Zion, this time over Pine Creek Canyon.

Head back to your car, follow UT-9 past east entrance and turn onto US-89 North. The drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon should take around 2 hours.

Note: If you have enough time, take a quick side trip at Many Pools and Checkerboard Mesa on the way out of Zion.

Sunset Over Bryce Amphitheater

Bryce Canyon amphitheater at sunset with purple sky

Drive straight through Bryce City and pay entrance to get inside Bryce Canyon National Park.

If you’re staying in a hotel nearby, check in later. But if you’re staying in either North or Sunset campground at Bryce Canyon, you should set up before it gets dark.

Drive to Sunset Point in time to catch the final rays of sun coloring thousands of oddly shaped orange hoodoos.

Sunset isn’t as impressive as sunrise but it’s still a lovely spectacle. There’s a peacefulness to sunset at Bryce Canyon that you will feel grateful for after a crazy day at Zion.

Make dinner at your campground or head back out of the park to find a restaurant, before grabbing your camera and tripod again. Drive back to Sunset Point and walk a few minutes into the canyon towards Wall Street.

There are a few nice spots to set up for astrophotography, just don’t expect to be alone!

Day 3: Incredible Sunrise Over Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, Hike Queens Garden Trail and Perspective at Bryce Point

Twilight over Utah national park amphitheater before sunrise

It’s another early start today but this time you won’t be fighting any crowds, at least not at first.

Check sunrise times for Bryce Canyon and wake up at least 30 minutes before civil twilight, which is earlier than sunrise.

Drive to Sunrise Point, get your camera and tripod set up in prime position and then tuck into coffee and breakfast while you wait for the sun to begin its journey over the Eastern horizon.

When we visited Sunrise Point, around 15 other serious photographers arrived before the sun appeared. We were second on site but space gets tight and there were some frustrated photographers arriving late to the party.

stunning deep red colors illuminating inside Bryce Canyon national park amphitheater Utah

Bryce Canyon amphitheater glowing a flame red color under first light is an awe-inspiring sight.

We were blown away by how powerful and intense the red and orange hues shimmered as the morning sunlight radiated throughout the landscape.

Another amazing sunrise in Utah is Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, but they are incredible sunrises for different reasons.

Once you’re happy with your photographs at sunrise, it’s time for your main hike at Bryce Canyon. If you feel up to a strenuous 8 mile loop, take on popular trail Fairyland Loop but it will take up most of your day.

Instead, we’d recommend you descend into the amphitheater right from Sunrise Point following Queens Garden and Navajo LoopTrail.

Wall Street

Wall Street sign post surrounded by hoodoo's in national park Utah

Queens Garden is a steep trip down but it’s worth the effort. Plus, the entire trail loop is less than 3 miles, which makes it the perfect distance and length of time.

You will pass by stunning rock formations unique to Bryce. At times the hoodoo’s can feel a little eerie, especially when the low sun casts huge shadows and you get the chills in shaded areas.

When you reach a T junction at Navajo Loop, take the left and loop round to Wall Street. This is a heavily trafficked area in Bryce Canyon (and it closes in Winter) but it’s surprisingly short.

Wall Street is an extremely narrow gorge with huge towering wall faces to each side, similar to the Narrows at Zion but even closer together and without the water.

Arched doorway built into orange rock on hiking trail in Utah

After Wall Street you have no choice but to hit the steep switchbacks up to Sunset Point.

But instead of walking straight back along Rim Trail to Sunrise Point, drop back down into the canyon on the other side of Sunset Point.

Don’t worry you’re not going down another set of switchbacks!

Just before you get to the steep twisting trail, look left and you’ll see a single needle like rock jutting up with what looks like Thor’s hammer on top.

Grab a quick photo if you’re worthy and head back along Rim Trail to your car.

Bryce Canyon to Zion awesome switchbacks on queens garden hiking trail orange rocks

Finish up at Bryce Canyon by driving (or better yet taking the park shuttle) to Inspiration Point and Bryce Point for different perspectives of the impressive amphitheater.

It should be mid afternoon by now, which leaves you plenty of time to reach your next destination in daylight.

Bryce Canyon is smaller than you might think, so even though this may seem like a short amount time to spend here, you have seen and done the most important things by following this itinerary.

Note: If you still have plenty of time in Bryce Canyon, we would suggest hiking Fairyland Loop before or after Queen’s Garden / Navajo Loop Trail.

Map For Zion To Bryce Canyon 3 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Here’s interactive google map for this 3 day Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip itinerary, so you can get to know the geography around both Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks.

Each icon represents the best things to do, hikes, shuttle bus locations, hotels, campgrounds, directions and all other important landmarks in this itinerary.

Click or touch to activate the map, zoom in / out and move around the area.

Zion To Bryce Canyon 2 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Sunset over Pa'rus trail part of an epic road trip itinerary from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

2 days allows enough time to see the best highlights of both Zion and Bryce Canyon, and it gives you some flexibility over how you split your time. However, you will be limited by the amount of time consuming hikes you can fit in at Zion.

You could choose to spend 1 day in Zion and 1 day in Bryce Canyon. Or you could do one and a half days in Zion with just a few hours in Bryce Canyon.

If you’re visiting southern Utah to hike, spend most of your time in Zion. But if you’re here for photography, you should spend a full day including sunrise at Bryce Canyon.

Here’s how you could spend 2 days at Zion and Bryce Canyon:

Day 1 – Zion

Either:

  • Hike The Narrows all day.
  • Spend half a day hiking Angels Landing and then half a day in The Narrows.
  • Hike Angels Landing, followed by Emerald Pools, Pa’rus Trail, Watchman and Canyon Overlook.
  • Day hike to The Subway
  • Spend the day in Kolob Canyons

Whichever option you choose, drive to Bryce Canyon later in the day and stay in a hotel or campground.

Day 2 – Bryce Canyon

  • Wake up to watch sunrise over the amphitheater
  • Hike Queens Garden Navajo Loop
  • Drive Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and stop at each viewpoint

Zion To Bryce Canyon 4 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Zion Canyon Overlook at sunset hiker posing for photo stunning landscape

4 days gives you more freedom over when you travel to Bryce Canyon from Zion National Park. You can take things slowly and really enjoy every aspect of both parks without being rushed.

You could split down the middle and do 2 days in each of Zion and Bryce Canyon, or you could spend 3 full days hiking in Zion and save your last day for Bryce Canyon.

Personally, we would do the latter and do 3 days of hiking in Zion, before driving over to Bryce Canyon on the third evening for sunset.

There’s really not a huge amount of ‘things to do’ inside Bryce Canyon, so you don’t need to allocate 2 full days there.

Here’s how you could spend 4 days at Zion and Bryce Canyon:

Day 1 – Zion

  • Hike Angels Landing
  • See all 3 Emerald Pools
  • Explore Checkerboard Mesa
  • Walk among the Many Pools
  • Hike Zion Canyon Overlook

Sleep in Springdale.

Day 2 – Zion

  • Spend your day hiking The Narrows

Or:

  • Hike Watchman for sunrise
  • Then hike East Rim Trail to Observation Point (wilderness)

Sleep in Springdale.

Day 3 – Zion

  • Hike to The Subway
  • Or spend the day hiking in Kolob Canyons

Drive to Bryce Canyon and sleep in Bryce City.

Day 4 – Bryce Canyon

  • Wake up to watch sunrise over the amphitheater
  • Hike Queens Garden Navajo Loop
  • Drive Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive and stop at each viewpoint

Where To Stay On Your Zion To Bryce Canyon Road Trip Itinerary

Hotel in Springdale Utah at sunrise with yellow light glowing at dawn and light kissing the mountain tops

Zion has a better selection of nearby towns and cities for booking hotels when compared to Bryce Canyon, where you will be limited.

Springdale, La Verkin, Hurricane, Virgin, Cedar City and even St George could be used for day tripping into Zion.

At Bryce Canyon, you have Bryce and Tropic as your main areas but far fewer hotels.

Springdale is the most popular place to stay for Zion, so we will summarize the two top rated hotels in Springdale for each price category below.

If you’d like to read more about hotels near Zion, read our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Zion National Park, which covers all available options in nearby areas.

Best Hotels Near Zion

Zion is one of the only US National Parks we’ve visited with a town like Springdale on the doorstep. Springdale has a wide range of hotel options from budget to luxury and is within a stones throw of the park boundaries.

Before you search for hotels, read our expert money saving tips on how to find the best value hotels.

When planning a trip to Zion, it is important to book as far in advance as possible because these hotels fill very early and they inflate prices significantly in peak season.

We know because we had to spend one night in La Verkin and one night in Hurricane the first time we visited Zion when booking last minute. Both are 20 miles from Springdale.

The second time we visited Zion in December, hotels in Springdale had plenty of rooms available at affordable price points. This is one of the major benefits to visiting Zion in Winter.

Each Springdale hotel recommended below is based on price, positive guest reviews and how close it is to Zion visitor center (where you take the Zion shuttle):

Budget
Mid-Range
Luxury

Bryce Canyon Hotels

Bryce Canyon is more challenging to organize accommodation. There are far fewer options near the park and there is no handy town right on its doorstep like Zion has Springdale.

There are a small number of hotels within a 10 minute drive of Bryce Canyon entrance, but you might have to drive further to a town like Tropic or even find a hotel along UT-12 / US-89.

Again, we’d recommend booking accommodation as soon as you know dates. That way you stand a much higher chance of staying closer to the park.

Here are the best hotel options we can find near Bryce Canyon based on price, highest guest ratings and distance from the park.

Budget
Mid-Range
Luxury

Camping At Zion and Bryce Canyon

If you can’t find any hotel availability or you’re being priced out in peak season, consider camping instead.

The downside of camping at both Zion and Bryce Canyon is that both parks sell out of their advanced reservations within minutes of sites going on sale.

You need to be online ready to click ‘book’ at the exact time the sites open.

Let’s take a quick look at the information you need to know about camping in both Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Zion Campgrounds

Camping Watchman campground at Zion national park on the way to Bryce canyon 3 day Utah road trip itinerary

Watchman and South campground are your two main camping choices if you want to be near the main Zion canyon.

Campground sites are notoriously difficult to get a spot at Zion, you will need to be organized!

Check prices and availability for:

Watchman Campground

Watchman Campground is open all year for advanced reservations only.

Campgrounds sites are released on a 6 monthly rolling basis, which means you have to get in quickly with your dates.

Tents US$ 20 and RV’s US$ 30.

Note: The image above shows our tent at Watchman campground.

Notice how the edges seem to be bulging?

Well, that’s because we couldn’t peg into hard ground. So we had to use our cool box, backpacks, table and everything else with any weight to stop it from collapsing.

Something to consider for your visit.

South Campground

South Campground is open from the beginning of March to the end of October.

Tent camping costs US$ 20 per night and sites are opened on a rolling 14 day basis. Check dates carefully and as soon as a new 14 day window opens, be ready to book immediately.

Bryce Canyon Campgrounds

Bryce Canyon Campground site Sunset campground big open space

Booking a camping site at Bryce Canyon is less stressful than at Zion but still requires some organization.

You can camp at either Sunset or North campground inside the park boundary.

Check prices and availability for:

Sunset Campground

Sunset campground is open mid May to the end of October at a cost of US$ 20 tents and US$ 30 RV’s (non-electric).

Camping sites are released on a 6 month rolling basis, which again means it is hugely beneficial if you know your dates well in advance.

North Campground

North campground is open beginning of April to end of December at a cost of US$ 20 tents and US$ 30 RV’s (non-electric).

All sites are first come first served, but be aware that most sites are taken by mid morning so book ahead into Sunset if you plan to arrive later in the day.

Where To Eat On Your Road Trip

Where to eat in springdale utah restaurants camp outpost chicken potatoes salad

At Zion you have Springdale which is filled with convenient places to eat and most stay open even through Winter.

However, you’ll have to jump in the car and drive out of Bryce Canyon to eat at quality restaurants in the area. In addition, certain eateries close for the season near Bryce Canyon.

This is another reason we always keep our itineraries very Zion heavy.

Let’s start with Zion.

Here are some of the top rated places you can check out for coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner in Springdale:

Now let’s move onto Bryce Canyon.

What Else Is Nearby?

You’re in the American southwest, one of the best parts of the country to explore unique landscapes, discover national monuments and hike adventurous trails.

There are so many places you can include on your road trip, so let’s take a look at some of the best:

Planning a trip to Utah? Our 9 Utah Road Trip Itineraries cover variations of how you can explore the Mighty 5 National Parks, plus Monument Valley and Northern Arizona.

Read More About Zion
Read More About Bryce Canyon

We hope this helped you plan your Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park road trip itinerary!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this itinerary or any of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks, we’ll be happy to help with your planning.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Bev Famulak

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

With only a day to do both, it sounds like Zion is a pretty intense hiking area. Would we be better if doing a couple of hikes in Bryce and just grabbing the scenic view points in Zion? For the record we are not hardcore hikers.

Where would u recommend staying in Bryce?

Thx!

Bev Famulak

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

@Mark and Kristen Morgan, thanks for the insight! Looking forward to this trip! We are heading there on our way to Vegas, driving from Alberta. Any pointers on things to see on the way? Coming via Montana

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Wednesday 24th of August 2022

Hi Bev, yes if you only have one day it's a better idea to drive through Zion. Take the shuttle bus into the main Zion canyon just to look around, maybe even hike one of the smaller quicker trails like Emerald Pools. Drive up to the tunnel but park as soon as you get through the other side and hike Zion Canyon Overlook, it's really short and easy but leads to a fantastic viewpoint. Then you can continue on to Bryce, hike Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop, then watch sunset on the rim and stay at Best Western Plus which has the best hotel rating in Bryce. Hope that helps and have a great trip!

Jen

Friday 19th of August 2022

Would it make sense to drive from Vegas to Bryce Canyon just to get the further driving done. So Day 1- Fly to Vegas and drive to Bryce, Day 2- Bryce Canyon and drive to Zion, Day 3- Zion, Day 4- Zion, Day 5- Drive back to Vegas

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Sunday 21st of August 2022

Hi Jen - Yes that definitely works, ideally you would arrive into Bryce for sunset, then do sunrise in the amphitheater and spend the day hiking before driving over to Zion. If you can hike Zion Canyon overlook around sunset that would work perfectly. Then you have 2 full days for the main Zion canyon with The Narrows, Angels Landing etc. And if you have time on your way back over to Vegas - drive through Valley of Fire state park and hike Fire Wave. Have a great trip!

Dick Thomson

Thursday 16th of December 2021

Great post. Don't overlook the Kolob Canyon area in Zion on your next visit.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Sunday 19th of December 2021

Thanks, Dick - Great recommendation and coincidentally just a week before you left this comment we revisited Zion and spent a full day hiking in Kolob Canyon (and we also got permits for The Subway nearby!). The areas outside of the main Zion canyon are fantastic for getting away from the crowds.

Dong H. Yim

Sunday 21st of February 2021

You are fantastic ? You give me many inputs. Thanks.

Mark and Kristen Morgan

Sunday 21st of February 2021

Thank you - Glad we could help and let us know if you need any help planning your visit to Zion and Bryce Canyon!