In this article, we’ll lay out our top 10 best hikes in Bryce Canyon and help you decide which hike is right for you!
From deep orange canyon walls to otherworldly hoodoos, Zion and Bryce Canyon are home to some of Utah’s most iconic desert landscapes. Tucked away in the southwestern corner of the state, it only takes two hours to drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon, making it easy to visit both parks in one epic weekend. But with so much to see in each park, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out what to do in a mere 3 days!
Having explored almost every corner of these parks, we’ve crafted the perfect 3-day itinerary, taking you from Zion to Bryce Canyon and covering the best hikes that these two parks have to offer. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to plan your trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon and detail the ideal itinerary for 3 days, along with some possible modifications to suit your schedule and preferences.
- Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary overview
- 3-day Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary details
- Planning your trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon
- Closest airport to Zion National Park
- How far is Bryce Canyon from Zion?
- Alternative route from Zion to Bryce Canyon
- Getting around Zion via park shuttle
- Other useful resources
Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!
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Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary overview
This 3 day itinerary starts in Zion National Park before heading to Bryce Canyon, covering all the best hikes and must-see spots in both parks.
Day One | Zion
- Hike Angel’s Landing
- Continue along the West Rim Trail
Day Two | Zion + Bryce Canyon
- Hike the Narrows
- Drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon
Day Three | Bryce Canyon
- Hike the Figure 8 Loop
- Catch a sunset at Sunset Point
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park is known for its towering canyon walls and majestic red rock formations. Zion’s location at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin, makes it one of the most unique and geologically-diverse places in the southwest. The park is most well-known for Zion Canyon, a 15-mile canyon formed by the North Fork of the Virgin River, with sandstone walls that reach up to 2,640 feet high.
Receiving over 3.5 million visitors in 2020, Zion is the most popular of Utah’s five national parks and ranks as the fourth most visited park in the United States. As such, expect heavy crowds at the most popular sights and trails in the park.
About Bryce Canyon National Park
At a mere 35,000 acres, Bryce Canyon National Park is relatively small compared to other national parks but it more than makes up for its small size with its indescribable beauty and iconic rock formations. Not actually a canyon (it’s technically an amphitheater), Bryce Canyon sees less than half as many visitors as Zion and we don’t understand why! It is definitely one of our favorite parks!
Bryce Canyon is best known for its hoodoos, towers of pink and orange rock formed by thousands of years of erosion. Resembling something out of a Dr. Seuss book or sandcastles made by an energetic child at the beach, the hoodoos that dominate Bryce Canyon will leave you wondering if you are on another planet.
Read more about our favorite hikes in Bryce here:
3-day Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary details
We’ve spent a ton of time exploring Zion and Bryce Canyon and are excited to help plan your 3-day itinerary! In the sections below, we’ll detail the best way to spend 3 days starting in Zion before moving on to Bryce Canyon.
Zion to Bryce Canyon map
The map below displays the campgrounds, visitor centers for both parks, and trailheads for the hikes recommended in this article:
Day One | Zion National Park
On day one, we recommend hiking Zion’s famous Angel’s Landing, with the option to ditch the crowds by continuing along the West Rim Trail.
Hike Angel’s Landing
Hiking distance | 4.4 miles
Elevation gain | 1600 feet
Total time | 2 – 3 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | hard
Trailhead | the Grotto
- Find this hike on AllTrails: Angel’s Landing Trail
Start your morning off early by tackling the hike to Angel’s Landing, a narrow ridge offering spectacular views down Zion Canyon. With about 1600 feet of elevation gain over just 4.4 miles, this hike is steep! The hike starts innocently enough as you walk along the banks of the Virgin River, but soon the elevation will hit you with seemingly never-ending switchbacks, known as Walter’s Wiggles.
The final climb up Angel’s Landing is steep, very narrow, and can be tough if you are afraid of heights. Stick close to the chain-link fence, take your time, be patient with other hikers, and you’ll be fine!
How to get to the Angel’s Landing trailhead
During shuttle season, you will need to take a park shuttle from the Zion Visitor Center to the trailhead for Angel’s Landing. We’d recommend taking the first shuttle from the visitor center in the morning, which departs at 7:00am. Angel’s Landing is very popular and almost always packed with people.
Because the trail leading onto the final ridge is narrow, the trail gets backed up as hikers going up and coming down take turns passing. The earlier you start, the better the experience will be as you’ll have to spend less time waiting in hiker traffic jams on the narrow ridge.
Permits for Angel’s Landing
Starting on April 1st, 2022, a permit will now be required for hiking to Angel’s Landing in order to limit crowd sizes. You can apply for a permit during a seasonal lottery window that opens 2 – 5 months in advance of your hike, depending on when you are visiting. If you miss the seasonal lottery, you also have the option to enter a day before the lottery.
Be sure to check out the Zion NPS website for more details on Angel’s Landing permits well in advance of your trip to ensure that you don’t miss the lottery windows.
Continue on the West Rim Trail
Nearly everybody who visits Zion hikes to Angel’s Landing, but significantly fewer continue on to experience one of our absolute favorite sections of the park: the West Rim! And while Angel’s Landing is popular for good reason, if you end your hike here you are missing out. After reaching Angel’s Landing, you can continue along the West Rim Trail and the crowds will almost immediately disappear.
Even if your legs are tired from the steep climb up to Angel’s Landing, it’s worth continuing even just for a mile or two. Just past Angel’s Landing, you will come upon Refrigerator Canyon, which has some crazy views and none of the crowds!
If you are up for more of a challenge, we highly recommend completing the full West Rim – Telephone Canyon loop, which adds 11 miles round trip, or at least hiking to the West Rim Overlook (the green section of the map below). This section of the trail sits atop a high plateau with sweeping views over the expansive canyon below.
West Rim Trail as a backpacking trip
If you want to see the entire loop or this seems like too much to do in one day, the West Rim Trail also makes for an amazing one-night backpacking trip.
After a busy day of hiking, spend your afternoon relaxing. There are a two campgrounds in Zion located right by the Virgin River, making for a wonderful spot to spend the afternoon and evening (see campgrounds in Zion below for more information).
If you aren’t camping, grab a beer and a bite to eat in Springdale.
Day Two | Zion National Park
On day two, we recommend hiking the Narrows, the iconic Zion slot canyon through which the cold waters of the Virgin River flow. After spending your morning wading through the Narrows, you can head on over to Bryce Canyon!
Hike the Narrows
Hiking distance | 9 miles
Elevation gain | 700 feet
Total time | 4 – 6 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | hard
Trailhead | Riverside Walk
- find this hike on AllTrails: Zion Narrows Bottom Up to Big Spring
Hiking the Narrows is one of the most unique hikes you can find in Utah! You will hike upriver through the teal waters of the Virgin River, as it winds it way through the rippling slot canyon walls.
The classic Narrows day hike goes out to Big Spring, and then back to the Riverside Walk Trailhead, which is about 9 miles roundtrip. You can also turn back once you reach the section of the canyon known as “Wall Street”, the tallest and most stunning part of the Narrows, a roughly 7 mile roundtrip hike. Remember that even though there isn’t much elevation gain on this hike, you will be walking through a river the entire time and the going can be slow, especially if water levels are higher.
Where to rent gear for the Narrows
Hiking the Narrows requires some advanced planning as you will need to rent some waterproof gear. We recommend renting waterproof shoes and a hiking stick no matter when you visit. If you plan to visit during early spring or late fall, cold water temperatures and higher water levels will require the use of chest-high waders to stay dry and warm as you meander through the chilly river.
There are a handful of outfitters in Springdale that rent out all the gear you need. We rented waterproof shoes, waders, hiking sticks, and a waterproof pack from Zion Outfitters, just outside the park entrance.
Drive to from Zion to Bryce Canyon
After you’ve finished hiking the Narrows, you’ll need to return your gear to Zion Outfitters. Then hit the road and drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Day Three | Bryce Canyon National Park
As far as national parks go, Bryce Canyon is relatively small. You can see a good portion of the park with one day of hiking.
Hike the Figure 8 Loop
Hiking distance | 6.3 miles
Elevation gain | 1600 feet
Total time | 3 – 4 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | moderate
- find this hike on AllTrails: Wall Street and Queen’s Garden Loop to Peekaboo Loop (Figure 8 Trail)
Hiking the Figure 8 Loop in Bryce Canyon is a perfect way to explore many of the best sights in the park. One step into Bryce Canyon and you will feel like you’re on another planet or maybe a fairytale world with life-size sand castles.
The Figure 8 Loop hike combines four shorter trails, the Navajo Loop, Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop and the Rim Trail, taking you on a full tour of the best views in Bryce Canyon! The entire loop hike is 6.3 miles covering 1600 feet of elevation gain. You can start the hike either from Sunrise or Sunset Point.
Make sure your camera battery is fully charged because you will be snapping pictures left and right!
For more details on the Figure 8 Loop hike in Bryce Canyon, check out our detailed guide:
Evening | Catch a sunset at Sunset Point
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that the best place to see the sunset in Bryce Canyon is, naturally, Sunset Point. The sunsets from this spot are epic! Similarly, you can catch an awesome sunrise from the nearby Sunrise Point.
Catching either a sunset at Sunset Point or a sunrise at Sunrise Point is an absolute must when visiting Bryce.
Is one day enough in Bryce Canyon?
Bryce Canyon National Park is relatively small, so one day is enough time to see a good amount of the park. The Figure 8 Loop hike includes many of the most scenic viewpoints in the park. If you have extra time, we’d recommend adding an extra day in Bryce Canyon and hiking the Fairyland Loop Trail.
Zion to Bryce Canyon Itinerary modifications
Below are a few possible tweaks you could make to this Zion to Bryce Canyon itinerary to match your preferences and timeline:
- If you like to backpack | skip the Narrows and spend day one and two backpacking the West Rim Trail.
- with 2 days | squeeze Angel’s Landing and the Narrows into one day and spend the second day in Bryce Canyon.
- with 4 days | add an extra day in Bryce Canyon and hike the Fairyland Loop, or fly into Phoenix and spend day one in the Grand Canyon before continuing to Zion and Bryce for day two through four.
- reversing the direction | instead of going from Zion to Bryce Canyon, you could reverse the direction and start in Bryce.
Planning your Zion to Bryce Canyon Itinerary
In the section below, we’ll help you plan when to visit, where to stay and what to pack for your Zion to Bryce Canyon road trip!
Zion and Bryce Canyon Packing List
Below are a few essentials we’d recommend packing for hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon.
- National Parks Pass
- Hiking poles (Hers: Black Diamond Distance Z poles, His: Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles )
- Backpack with bladder (Hers: CamelBak Helena 20L, His: Camelback Rim Runner 22L)
- Hiking boots (Hers: Danner Mountain 600s, His: Salomon Ultra 4 Mid GTX)
- Hiking pants (Hers: Athleta Headlands pants, His: PrAna Stretch Zion Pants)
- Hiking socks (Darn Tough)
- GPS Device (Garmin InReach Mini)
- Sunscreen and chapstick
- Headlamp (Black Diamond Storm 400)
- First Aid Kit
- Food (Clif Bars, Cheese-its, PB&J)
- Sunglasses (Goodr)
- Camera (Nikon Z6) with Peak Design Camera Clip and Matador Camera Bag
If visiting during the spring or fall, don’t forget microspikes and warmer layers, especially for chilly mornings in Bryce Canyon:
- Pullovers (Hers: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip, His: Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip)
- Long sleeve base layers (Hers: Smartwool All Season Baselayer)
- Down Jacket (Hers: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody Women’s Down Hoodie, His: Cotopaxi Fuego)
- Long sleeve base layers (Hers: Smartwool All Season Baselayer)
- Gloves and hats
Zion and Bryce Canyon travel logistics
Below we’ll cover all things travel logistics – how to get to, between, and around in Zion and Bryce Canyon.
How to get to Zion National Park
The closest airport to Zion National Park is in Las Vegas, Nevada. From the Las Vegas airport, its about a 2 hour 45 minute drive to Zion National Park. Another option is to fly into Salt Lake City, Utah which is located about 4 and a half hours from Zion.
How far is Zion to Bryce Canyon?
The quickest way to drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon takes 1 hour and 50 minutes via the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. Luckily, this scenic drive will fly by because the Zion Mount Carmel highway through the eastern section of Zion is absolutely amazing, with many viewpoints to keep you occupied along the way.
When you approach Bryce Canyon, you will enter through the Dixie National Forest and catch your first sight of the famous hoodoos (though much smaller and less impressive than those found in Bryce).
Alternative route from Zion to Bryce Canyon
If you have a large vehicle (taller than 11 feet 4 inches), you may need to take an alternative route to get from Zion to Bryce Canyon, as there is a height restriction on the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway due to 2 low clearance tunnels. The alternative route is to go west from Zion and take I-15 north through Cedar City. This route from Zion to Bryce Canyon will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
You can read more about vehicle restrictions on the Zion – Mt Carmel highway on the NPS website.
Getting around Zion via park shuttle
The majority of Zion National Park is closed to personal vehicles during peak season (March – November) and high traffic periods in the winter, so you will need to a take a shuttle to get around. The shuttle is free and at this time, advance tickets are not required.
You can pick the shuttle up from the visitor center, but parking is limited so arrive early to secure a spot. You can find more details on the Zion shuttle here.
When is the best time to visit Zion and Bryce Canyon?
The best time to road trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon is in the late spring or early fall (April-May and September-October), when temperatures in southern Utah are typically mild and crowds are smaller.
In the early spring and late fall, snow storms are still possible (especially in Bryce Canyon) which may cause trail closures. During the summer, temperatures can often reach 100°F and most trails do not provide much shade. Expect the trails to be covered in snow for much of the winter.
Inside Bryce Canyon is typically several degrees warmer than at the rim, so prepare accordingly. Please be aware that during the summer, thunderstorms are frequent and very dangerous inside the canyon. In Zion, flash flooding can happen in the Narrows so be sure to check current conditions before attempting the hike.
Tip: Note that Bryce Canyon is located at a higher elevation than Zion National Park, so prepare for significantly colder temperatures in Bryce.
Zion and Bryce Canyon entrance fees
7-Day Pass (per car) | $35
Annual Pass | $80
As with most national parks, Zion and Bryce Canyon charge a $35 per vehicle entrance fee which is valid for 7 days. You also have the option to purchase an annual U.S. National Parks pass for $80, giving you unlimited access to all parks across the country.
Should I get a national parks pass?
If you plan to visit at least three national parks within a one year period, it makes sense to purchase a U.S. National Parks pass, as the cost of individual entrance fees exceeds the cost of the pass. If you plan to extend your road trip beyond Zion and Bryce Canyon, to nearby Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches or Canyonlands, it definitely makes sense to purchase the annual pass!
Where to stay in Zion National Park
Campgrounds in Zion National Park
Zion National Park has 3 campgrounds:
- The Watchman Campground: open year round; reservable 6 months in advance
- South Campground: closed during winter, open March 15 through October 31; reservable 14 days in advance
- Lava Point Campground: located about an hour from the main entrance to the park. Open roughly May through September (exact dates vary by year due to weather), not reservable in advance.
The campsites typically fill up, especially during the summer so be sure to make your reservations as soon as they are released. You can read more about the campgrounds in Zion here.
Free camping near Zion National Park
One of our favorite free dispersed camping spots near Zion is located just minutes past Springdale on BLM land in the Hurricane Cliffs Recreation Area. Camping spots in this area are limited, so you should arrive early to guarantee a spot. If you aren’t able to secure a campsite in Hurricane Cliffs, the nearby Leeds Canyon dispersed camping is also a solid option.
Hotels/lodging near Zion National Park
There is one hotel inside the park, the Zion Lodge. The main entrance to Zion is located in Springdale, Utah, a cute but a touristy town with plenty of food and lodging options. Alternatively, hotels and Airbnb’s are available in the nearby towns of Rockville, Virgin, Hurricane and St. George.
Where to stay in Bryce Canyon National Park
Campgrounds in Bryce Canyon National Park
There are two campgrounds inside Bryce Canyon National Park, both located conveniently close to the main trailheads in the park:
- North Campground: open year round; first-come-first-serve October 2 – May 26, reservable 6 months in advance May 27 – October 1
- Sunset Campground: open April 15 – October 31; all spots first-come-first-serve
Tent sites are $20 per night and RV sites are $30 per night. Once again, the campgrounds typically fill up, so be sure to make a reservation in advance or arrive early to secure a spot. You can learn more about the campgrounds in Bryce here.
Free camping near Bryce Canyon
If you are traveling on a budget or looking for more solitude than a campground affords, you are in luck! Dispersed camping is permitted in Dixie National Forest, located just outside of Bryce Canyon.
You can learn more about free dispersed camping near Bryce Canyon on the Dixie National Forest website.
Hotels/lodging near Bryce Canyon
If camping isn’t your thing, there is one hotel inside the park called the Lodge at Bryce Canyon. Alternatively, there is a decent selection of hotels located in the area around the park, although there isn’t a town similar to Springdale. Ruby’s Inn is a solid option located just minutes from the park entrance.
Other useful resources
Planning a trip to the southwest? We think you may enjoy the following articles to help you plan your trip:
- Bryce Canyon | How to Hike the Figure Eight Loop in Bryce Canyon
- Bryce Canyon | Complete Guide to Hiking the Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon
- Zion | Zion West Rim Trail: Backpacking Guide
- Grand Canyon | How to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
- Arizona road trip | Adventurous One Week Road Trip in Arizona & Southern Utah
- Arizona | How to Spend One Amazing Day in Page, Arizona
For all things Utah: Utah Travel Guide
Have you visited Zion and Bryce Canyon? Let us know your favorite hikes and sights in the parks below!