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How to Spend 2 Epic Days in Zion National Park

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Zion National Park is one of those places Tim and I could visit again and again and never get tired of it! If you only have 2 days in Zion National Park, you can still experience the best hikes and scenic drives the park has to offer!

We have visited Zion National Park four times, and after all of our explorations, I’ve come up with the best way to spend 2 days in the park. This itinerary will make the most of your time and includes options for you to customize your days based on which hikes you want to do.

From what to do each day, where to stay, and what to pack, this guide to 2 days in Zion National Park has everything you need for a flawless itinerary!

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

2 Days in Zion At-A-Glance

Day 1: Zion National Park

  • Sunrise Hike on The Watchman Trail
  • Pa’rus Trail
  • Zion Human History Museum
  • Emerald Pools Trail
  • Weeping Rock Trail
  • Sunset at Canyon Overlook Trail

Day 2: Zion National Park

  • Option 1: Hiking Angel’s Landing
  • Option 2: Hiking the Narrows

How to Get to Zion National Park

The closest major airports are McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in Salt Lake City, Utah. From there, you can rent a car and drive to Zion.

Driving to Zion From Salt Lake City: If you’re coming from Salt Lake City, take I-15 south to exit 27 (Toquerville/Hurricane) and then follow Utah Highway 9 to the park’s east entrance.

Driving to Zion From Las Vegas: If you’re traveling from Las Vegas, take I-15 north to exit 16 and then follow Utah Highway 9 to the park’s south entrance.

Zion National Park Entrance Information

The park entrance fee is $35, but we recommend buying an America the Beautiful National Park Pass, which will save you money if you go to every park on this roadtrip through all five Utah National Parks.

 >>> Buy your National Parks Pass from REI here

Save Money at National Parks

Get a National Parks Pass

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America The Beautiful National Parks Pass at REI

Getting Around Zion National Park

While visitors can drive their own vehicles along the Zion Scenic Byway and in the Kolob Canyons regions of Zion National Park, private vehicles are prohibited in Zion Canyon itself during the shuttle season. This season typically spans from March through November and includes the holiday season, as outlined by the National Park Service. Therefore, when visiting Zion National Park during most times of the year, visitors must choose between two transportation options for navigating Zion Canyon: utilizing the shuttle service or renting an e-bike (electric bike).

Zion Canyon Shuttle Option

The shuttle system within Zion National Park is a convenient mode of transportation, making multiple stops throughout the canyon and running every few minutes. There are two primary routes:

  • Zion Canyon Shuttle: This route follows the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, stopping at key trailheads, viewpoints, and attractions. It spans from the park’s south entrance through the main canyon to the Temple of Sinawava, the starting point for The Narrows hike.
  • Springdale Shuttle: This route connects various lodging properties and campgrounds in Springdale to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, offering easy access to the park’s entrance and shuttle system.

Shuttles operate frequently throughout the day, allowing visitors to hop on and off at different stops. The service runs from early morning until evening, catering to both early risers and those who prefer cooler temperatures for exploration.

To ensure accessibility, the shuttle system provides accessible buses equipped with ramps or lifts for visitors with disabilities. This ensures that everyone can enjoy the park’s attractions without limitations.

For those planning to use the shuttle system, parking is available in designated areas in Springdale or at the Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center, though parking spaces fill up quickly.

You can find more information about the Zion National Park shuttle here.

Zion Shuttle System infographic
Image Credit: nps.gov

E-Bike Option

Our favorite way to explore Zion Canyon is by renting e-bikes in Springdale and cycling into Zion National Park. With private vehicles prohibited in the canyon, the only vehicles you’ll encounter are the shuttles. Each trailhead provides bike racks for securing your e-bike, allowing you to fully explore every stop along the shuttle route and any other places you’re eager to visit during your ride!

>>> Click here to read more about exploring Zion Canyon by e-bike.

e-bike Zion National Park
E-biking is the best way to get around Zion Canyon

Day 1 in Zion National Park

Sunrise Hike on The Watchman Trail

Begin your morning with a sunrise hike at The Watchman. Unlike many trails in Zion Canyon, this one doesn’t require taking the park shuttle or biking. Simply head to the Zion National Park Visitor Center parking lot, where the trail starts.

While the trail ascends via gradual switchbacks, offering slightly steep sections, the reward at the top is breathtaking views of Zion Canyon, with the prominent Watchman rock formation stealing the show.

The Watchman Trail

Pa’rus Trail

After your sunrise hike at the Watchman, grab a quick breakfast at Soleil Cafe or one of the other shops within walking distance of the Visitor’s Center. Then, either walk or bike the paved Pa’rus Trail. This trail provides a great overview of Zion’s unique landscapes. 

It’s an incredibly pleasant trail, very flat, and provides awesome views of the red cliffs and Virgin River! 

Pa’rus Trail

Emerald Pools Trail

The Emerald Pools trail takes you to various waterfalls, including those at Upper Emerald Pool and Lower Emerald Pool. It’s a highly popular hike, so it can get crowded. Arrive early to beat the crowds and be mindful of others on the trail. Despite the crowds, witnessing people of all ages enjoying the hike, like a spirited 90-year-old woman we encountered, adds to the experience. So, embrace the crowds, share smiles, and soak in the breathtaking scenery!

The best time to see waterfalls flowing at Zion National Park is in the spring when snow melt increases water flow. We were lucky to see three flowing during our visit.

Emerald Pools Trail

After your hike to Emerald Pools, make your way to Weeping Rock trailhead. On the shuttle system, this is Stop 7: Weeping Rock.

Weeping Rock Trail

The short path to Weeping Rock is one of our favorite spots in the park because you get to go behind the waterfall! Like the waterfalls at Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock has the most water in the springtime. The paved trail leading up to the waterfall is steep but short.

Weeping Rock Trail

Sarah admiring Weeping Rock waterfall at Zion National Park
Weeping Rock Trail Zion National Park

After hiking the Weeping Rock Trail, either bike back to Springdale or take the shuttle back.

Sunset on the Canyon Overlook Trail

Reunite with your car in Springdale, and then head to the Canyon Overlook Trail for sunset. This is one of our favorites because it’s short with a huge view at the end.

Note that this trailhead is NOT in Zion Canyon, so the shuttle system does not run here. Instead, you should plan to self-drive your own vehicle. 

Sarah and Tim watching the Sunrise at the Canyon Overlook Trail

Canyon Overlook Trail

Day 2 in Zion National Park

Today, you have options! How your second day in Zion National Park unfolds will depend on whether or not you are hiking Angels Landing.

Option 1: Hiking Angel’s Landing

Obtaining an Angel’s Landing Hiking Permit

To hike Angel’s Landing, you need a permit, which you can obtain through an online lottery system. The lottery opens either the day before your desired hike or in advance, ranging from one to five months prior. This system helps manage the trail’s popularity and ensures a safer and more enjoyable experience for all hikers.

You can find more information about obtaining a permit to hike Angels Landing here.

Sunrise Hike at Angel’s Landing

Assuming you have a permit for Angel’s Landing, start your hike as early as possible. The earliest shuttle departs from the Visitor’s Center at 6 am until September, and 7 am after that and before May. You’ll want to get off at Stop 6: The Grotto.

If you want an earlier start, plan to take a bike and lock it to the bike rack at the trailhead for Angel’s Landing.

The Angel’s Landing trail is often dubbed the “scariest hike” by outdoor enthusiasts due to its steep drop-offs flanking the path as you ascend the chains section. It’s not recommended for those with a severe fear of heights, but with careful pacing, it’s manageable. Fortunately, the implementation of a permit system has reduced overcrowding, alleviating some of the nerve-wracking encounters when passing hikers on the chains.

Hiking the Chains on Angels Landing in Zion National Park

The views at the top are spectacular and worth the effort of tackling the over 20 switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles and conquering your fear of heights.

Angel’s Landing Trail

Temple of Sinawava

After hiking Angel’s Landing, take the shuttle or a bike to Stop 9: The Temple of Sinawava.

The Temple of Sinawava is where the popular Narrows hike starts, as well as the short and pleasant Riverside Walk trail. In spring, look for the ribbon waterfall on the cliffs! 

Riverside Walk

If you have some energy left over from hiking Angel’s Landing, take a short stroll on the Riverside Walk. We especially recommend hiking the Riverside Walk if you don’t plan on hiking the Narrows, since you can still get a sense of what the canyon is like as it narrows around the Virgin River.

Riverside Walk Trail

Option 2: Hiking the Narrows

If you’re not inclined to tackle Angel’s Landing or lack the necessary permit, we suggest opting for the Narrows hike. This renowned trail in Zion National Park offers a distinctive experience, with hikers traversing through the Virgin River, often wading through water that ranges from knee to chest height, all while flanked by towering cliff walls that progressively narrow along the route.

Sarah hiking the narrows in Zion National Park

Preparing for Hiking the Narrows

Gear up! It’s time to tackle a bucket list hike through the iconic slot canyon Narrows of the Virgin River. Hiking the Narrows requires walking in the water pretty much the entire time, so it’s important to rent gear from a local outfitter in Springdale if you don’t have your own dry suits/bibs/boots. You also need a walking stick to help you keep your balance in the water! 

Here are some local shops we’ve used to rent gear in Zion National Park: 

During spring and the rainy season, the Narrows often shuts down due to elevated water levels, posing safety concerns for hikers. In some instances, the Narrows may remain accessible, albeit with a heightened risk of perilous flash floods. It’s crucial to avoid hiking the Narrows during such conditions or when rain is anticipated. When in doubt about safety, seek guidance from a park ranger before embarking on your journey. You can also check for closures on the park’s official website here.

Don’t let this information scare you, though! The Narrows is a fun and safe hike in good weather conditions and with the right gear. 

Hiking the Narrows Bottom-Up

The trailhead for the Narrows starts at the Temple of Sinawava for those hiking “bottom-up”. The “top-down” route through the Narrows is a canyoneering route, so be sure you know what you’re getting into if you choose that option! We hiked the Narrows Bottom Up, so that is what this blog post will focus on.

You will first hike the Riverside Walk all the way to the end. There, you run out of trail and there’s nothing else to do but start walking in the Virgin River.

Hike the Narrows as long as you wish. Depending on how high the water is, making it all the way to the end may not be feasible or fun. The good news is, you don’t have to hike all the way to experience the towering canyon walls surrounding you.

Once you are ready, turn back the way you came. Don’t forget to drop off your rental gear back in Springdale when you return!

The Narrows Bottom Up

Where to Sleep in Springdale

Where to Eat in Springdale

  • Oscar’s Cafe: big portions and local favorite
  • Camp Outpost: rotisserie and veggies served fast with a charming outdoor space
  • Cafe Soleil: great sandwich choice and located right next to the park entrance

What to Pack for Zion National Park

Essential Gear:

  1. Hiking Backpack: A comfortable, appropriately sized backpack to carry your gear.
  2. Water Bottles or Hydration System: Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated throughout your hike.
  3. Map and Compass/GPS: Ensure you have a reliable navigation system to stay on course.
  4. Sun Protection: Sunglassessunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), and a wide-brimmed hat to shield from the sun.
  5. First Aid Kit: Include essentials like bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and blister treatment.


  1. Moisture-Wicking Clothing: Lightweight, breathable clothing to keep you cool and dry.
  2. Sturdy Hiking Boots or Shoes: Comfortable footwear with good traction for navigating varied terrain.
  3. Socks: Moisture-wicking socks to prevent blisters.
  4. Layered Clothing: Bring layers to adjust to changing weather conditions, including a lightweight jacket or fleece.
  5. Rain Gear: Pack a waterproof jacket or poncho in case of rain showers.
  6. Hat and Gloves: Extra warmth for cooler temperatures at higher elevations.

Food and Snacks:

  1. Trail Snacks: High-energy snacks like trail mix, energy bars, nuts, and dried fruit.
  2. Electrolyte Drinks: Consider bringing electrolyte-replenishing drinks or tablets for longer hikes.

Miscellaneous Items:

  1. Camera: Capture memories of your hike and the stunning scenery. We shoot with the Sony a7iii and absolutely love it! Check out all of our camera gear here.
  2. Trash Bag: Pack out all trash to help preserve the beauty of the park.
  3. Ziplock Bags: Useful for storing snacks, trash, or protecting electronics from moisture.
  4. Headlamp or Flashlight: Essential for early morning or late afternoon hikes, or in case of emergencies. Don’t forget batteries!

Optional Extras:

  1. Trekking Poles: Provide stability and reduce strain on knees during steep ascents or descents.
  2. Insect Repellent: Protect against mosquitoes and other biting insects, especially in warmer months.

When to Visit Zion National Park

Spring (March to May):

  • Spring offers mild temperatures, blooming wildflowers, and flowing waterfalls.
  • It’s a great time for hiking, especially in the lower elevations where trails like Angel’s Landing and The Narrows are accessible.
  • Keep in mind that spring can be busy, especially during weekends and holidays.
  • Water-based hikes like the Narrows and The Subway may be closed or off-limits due to heavy snow-melt in the spring, so always check with the park service before your visit for current status!

Summer (June to August):

  • Summer brings hot temperatures, especially in the lower canyon areas.
  • Despite the heat, summer is popular for outdoor activities like hiking, canyoneering, and rock climbing.
  • Expect crowds, especially in the main canyon, and be prepared for limited parking and shuttle congestion.

Fall (September to November):

  • Fall is one of the best times to visit Zion National Park due to cooler temperatures and vibrant fall foliage.
  • Hiking conditions are ideal, and crowds tend to taper off after Labor Day.
  • Considered by many to be the park’s “shoulder season,” fall offers a balance of comfortable weather and fewer visitors.

Winter (December to February):

  • Winter in Zion National Park is quieter with fewer crowds, but it can also be cold and snowy, especially at higher elevations.
  • Many trails remain open, but some may be icy or impassable due to snow, so check trail conditions before heading out. We recommend wearing microspikes on the hikes!
  • Winter is a great time for photography, especially with the contrast of snow against the red rock formations.

    Tips for Visiting Zion National Park

    1. Plan Ahead: Research the park’s attractions, trails, and facilities before your visit. Consider making reservations for camping, lodging, and activities well in advance, especially during peak seasons.
    2. Arrive Early or Late: To avoid crowds and secure parking, arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Consider visiting popular attractions during off-peak hours for a more enjoyable experience.
    3. Stay Hydrated: Carry plenty of water, especially during hot summer months. The desert climate can lead to dehydration, so drink water regularly, even if you’re not feeling thirsty.
    4. Respect Wildlife: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and never approach or feed animals. Keep food and trash securely stored to prevent wildlife encounters and maintain the park’s natural ecosystem.
    5. Leave No Trace: Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, staying on designated trails, and avoiding unnecessary disturbances to plants and wildlife. Respect park rules and regulations to help preserve Zion’s beauty for future generations.
    6. Be Prepared: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, especially in higher elevations. Check the weather forecast before your trip and dress in layers to stay comfortable throughout the day.
    7. Take Precautions: Some trails in Zion involve steep drop-offs, narrow passages, or challenging terrain. Assess your physical abilities and choose hikes that match your skill level. Use caution and follow safety guidelines to prevent accidents.

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