We started off our road trip with a quick stop into Zion National Park. When I planned our camping/road trip, I didn’t allot for much time there because the focus of the trip and final destination was Yellowstone and exploring that region of the country (I’ll blog about that later). I wish I had given us more time in the area because there is so much to do and see, but we didn’t really have time to make adjustments as our trip was already planned out to a tee.
So in the spirit of getting the most out of what to do in a short time frame, here is my two day itinerary for ZION NATIONAL PARK. And for your reading pleasure, I have also included what I would had done IF we had another day.
9ish-Mid-Morning: Arrive and Set Up Camp. We stayed in a RV camp resort right outside of the park in Virgin, Utah called ZION RIVER RESORT. It was about 13 miles from the park entrance and was a cute, clean and a lovely place to stay. There were nightly kid activities with small prizes like popsicles and goodie bags. There was also a shuttle to the park, full hook up sites, the Virgin River to dip in, a pool, and small market. These amenities and cleanliness made it a very pleasant place to stay. And since we don’t really like being in anywhere that is super crowded, the Zion River Resort was perfect.
the only photo I took of the campground from my iphone 😟
11:00 am: Visit Springdale and have lunch: Springdale is the (small) town right before entering the National Park. The parking can be a little bit of a zoo, especially in the high tourist season like the summer. We parked at the school since it was a weekend and there were only signs that said you could not park there during the week, so we figured it was fine, which it was. You can also park right before you enter the town and take the Springdale trolley line.
There are lots of cute shops to buy souvenirs, trinkets, local hand made jewelry and cool native rocks but also there are a variety of restaurants (have lunch at one of them!) and ice cream/fudge shops. We got the Oreo cookie and rocky road fudge and they were DIVINE!
1:00 pm: Drive though the 1 mile Zion- Mount Carmel Tunnel: Take the scenic route (see map below) to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Along the way stop at a pull out and enjoy the view of Arch Cave.
When you arrive at the tunnel, be sure to open your windows and hoot and holler while driving through this 1.1 tunnel. It’s crazy to think you’re driving in the rock formations! Be sure to turn on your headlights though, its dark!
2:00 pm: Canyon Overlook Hike: A one mile round trip hike (with beautiful sites along the way to the top) that takes you to a magnificent overlook point. The trail specifically is constantly changing with bridges and caverns which makes it fun (especially for the kids) and not your average dirt trail. When you reach the end, the view from the top is breath taking! Bring your camera!
3:30 pm Head to Grafton Ghost Town: Just outside the park is a town called Rockville where Grafton Ghost Town is located. It is said to be the most photographed Ghost town in the West and has been featured in several films including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Admission is free but it maybe Spooooooooky! 👻
5:30 pm: Arrive back at camp/hotel: Settle in for the evening. Have some grub and a ice cold beer and relax and get ready for day ✌🏼.
8:00 am: wake up, eat breakfast, head out to Zion. Be sure to bring your bike, this is a necessity for today’s adventure. *also note, bring snacks or a lunch*
9:00 am: Park your car outside Zion. We parked in the Zion Brew lot. It was about $20 to park, but it is well worth it. There is a shuttle stop (#1) right in that area. The shuttle station #1 can get very crowded, so we took our bikes to shuttle station #2. It was WAYYYYYYY less crowded. Each trolley can only take up to 3 bikes so we split up. Take the shuttle all the way to stop #9. Your adventure will start there. (The circled ones indicate what you will stop and see.)
10:00 am: By the time you get to shuttle stop 9 (Temple of Sinawava) it will take about an hour. From here do the River Walk that leads to the Narrows.
The RIVER WALK is a little over a two mile walk roundtrip. Part of the path is paved(ish) but it can be long and crowded. I suggest taking the side paths and walk along the less beaten paths that parallel the river. I would also suggest bringing a towel and suit, it can get hot and there are MANY opportunities to dip into the refreshing water. We didn’t because we didn’t think we would be able to go in the water.
The river walk ends where the famous NARROWS start. We were unable to do it because the water levels were too high. The day after we left, however, it opened. Typical. Ha!
If you do a simple Google search, you would be able to see many images of the Narrows. It looks phenomenal. The water can be chilly so remember that your entire walk will be in rocks and in the water, so bring closed toed water shoes.
In synopsis for the hike/walk I would bring the following:
- bathing suit (unless you don’t want to dip in the water, and if so, you cray)
- water shoes (if you’re doing the Narrows)
- camera *optional but recommended*
12:30 pm: After returning from the river walk/narrows, head down the hill on your bike. There are NO cars allowed on this road, but be sure to watch out for the trolleys. They ask that when they come by that you stop on the side of the road. We just switched to the opposing side so we didn’t have to stop (advice that was given to us from a trolley driver).
You will stop at shuttle stop 7 and do WEEPING ROCK. It is a small hike up a hill to a stunning rock that seeps out water. It truly is a sight to see!
1:30 pm: Head down the hill to shuttle stop 5, the LODGE. Stop at the large grassy lawn and have lunch. There is a cafeteria and The Zion Lodge Grill that you can go to if you didn’t come prepared (us), but it was a perfect excuse to get a little afternoon drink. I will say that the food is less than average, but the drinks were delicious, the views were phenomenal and the service was great.
3:30 pm: Go to Lower Emerald Pools. A short half mile hike through a lush trail leads you to three beautiful pools and when there is enough water, two waterfalls. We were lucky that there has been significant snowfall that there were two waterfalls! This hike is easy and a perfect way to end the day.
4:30 pm: Head down to your car. On the ride down, be sure to see the Court of the Patriarchs. Right after your visit to the Emerald pools, you will pass this rock formation known as the Court of the Patriarchs. Just stop your bike and look at it. Ohhhh…. ahhhhh. But that’s about it.
Be sure to take the bike/pedestrian trail (pa’rus trail) right after shuttle stop 3 before you hit the street where cars can drive. It is a very pleasant bike trail that is MUCH safer than taking the main road.
4:30 pm: Zion Brew and/or an Ice Cream: Your adventure ends here, Zion Brew. Grab a local ice cold draft beer and some yummy bites. We shared the pretzel sticks and the Hummus (both appetizers to not ruin our planned dinner) and they were both fresh and DELICIOUS!
We didn’t see it, but they also offer live music! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, plus their views are not bad. 😜 But if you’re not a drinker or prefer to have a small treat check out the Happy Camper Market right next door to grab an ice cream or any other snack!
5:30 pm: Head back to camp/hotel: RELAX. Now that was a long day. I bet if you follow this itinerary you will be home closer to 6:30 than 5:30 and YOU. WILL. BE. EXHAUSTED. I know we were! So now, take a shower, have some food, and rest up.
Here are some of the things we WOULD had done if we had more time:
- Go to tubing down the Virgin River via Zion Outfitters. We saw a bunch of people doing this, but we did not have the time to. It looked fun though!
- Angles Landing. We heard mixed reviews about this (long and steep) hike. We were advised to NOT do it with 1. crowds (people pushing) and 2. small children, BUT if I had to do it over again, I think we would have at least tried to do it.
- Head North into Kanarraville Falls. This place resembles Antelope Canyon. It is a little bit of a drive up north, but it looked beautiful. The hike is 4.8 miles however, so it would take your entire day.
- Head West toward Hurricane and see the Red Cliffs Reserve. From what I have read, this is a dog friendly and kid friendly easy hike that is short and sweet with some rad views.
So there it is, my two day fun filled and packed itinerary for Zion Nation Park! Let me know if you try any of these suggestions! I would love to know!
Also if you have any other suggestions to add to make this itinerary better? Have any comments? Have any questions? Feel free to leave any and all below!
Happy Traveling, C.