Hi there!

 

So, if you’re doing a Utah road trip or a short jam-packed Southwest US road trip, is it reasonable to spend only one day in Zion National Park?! (Or maybe more importantly, is it worth it?)

Of course, longer is always better, but plenty of people spend just one day in Zion and leave feeling good about it!

Zion National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in the state of Utah, and it’s among the top visited national parks in the United States.

So if one day is all you have, one day is better than no time at all!

 

Perfect one day in Zion: Best things to do in Zion National Park. Is one day Zion itinerary worth it. How much time. best drives. best hikes. Utah national parks travel blog

 

So yes…

You can totally make it a perfect one day in Zion!

One day will give you the chance to drive the roads of Zion National Park with the towering canyon all around you, and you will also have time to do some short hikes with more grand views of the canyon!

 

 

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Now…

7 of the best things to do in Zion National Park in one day

This is basically as I did it!

 

1. Drive the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: Drive the Zion - Mount Carmel Highway scenic road. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

2. See the Checkerboard Mesa

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: See checkerboard mesa. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

3. Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: hike the canyon overlook trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

4. Drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive aka Floor of the Valley Road

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: Drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive aka Floor of the Valley Road. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

5. Hike the Riverside Walk

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: Hike the riverside walk to the narrows start. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

6. Hike the trail to Scout Lookout

Or to Angels Landing if you dare

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: Scout Lookout trail to angels landing on West Rim Trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

7. Continue hiking part of the West Rim Trail

Best things to do in Zion National Park in one day: Hike the West Rim Trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Trails closed in Zion

Long-term trail closures due to “large rockfall” include:

  • Hidden Canyon
  • Observation Point (via the East Rim trail)
  • Weeping Rock Trail

Check this page for updates on current trail closures.

 

 

Perfect one day in Zion with a tour

While it’s very possible to do Zion on your own, if you’d prefer to leave the planning to someone else, you can make it a tour for your one day in Zion too.

You can make it a bike and hike kind of day in Zion National Park with a tour guide.

Or you can make it an epic hiking experience by hiking THE Zion Narrows hike with a tour guide. Among THE most famous parts about Zion is the Narrows hike where you hiking through a river with the large canyon towering all around you.

See more about Zion tours:

 

More below about planning out your Zion itinerary to do Zion without a tour!

 

 

 

 

 

There are 2 main roads that lead to Zion National Park

Which road you take to get to Zion will largely depend on where you’re coming from!

There’s the main park entrance which will be if you’re coming from the road to the south and passing through Springdale UT. This is the entrance that the visitor center is located, and it will be the entrance you’ll drive to if you’re coming from Las Vegas or Los Angeles/Southern California for example. This is generally considered the main entrance.

There’s also the east entrance which you’ll enter the park through if you’ll be driving from Page AZ, Grand Canyon National Park, or Bryce Canyon National Park for example.

 

 

Airport near Zion National Park

If you’ll be flying in to visit Zion National Park, the closest major airport is Las Vegas airport LAS. It’s about a 3 hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion.

To check rental car prices, this is the website I have used to compare prices, book, and rent with no issues. (partner website.)

 

 

Zion shuttle within the park

One day in Zion National Park itinerary: getting around by zion shuttle. Utah national parks travel blog

 

Typically, for some months out of the year, it’s not possible to drive your own vehicle through part of the national park. Instead, there’s the free Zion shuttle service provided by the National Park Service.

In general, the shuttle runs continuously in March, April, May, June, July, August, and September. Outside of these months, there may be a shuttle service during busy times, for example around Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s winter vacation.

In 2019, the shuttle dates were from March 9 to September 29 during busy season. In 2019, during the winter there was a shuttle from around November 24 to December 1 and December 22 to 31, so it wasn’t possible to drive your own car in the park at that time. 

Confirm with the official NPS website for timings and shuttle operational status if you’ll be going to Zion during peak months, during school holidays, or in the upcoming months during the “Opening Up America Again” phase.

 

 

So…

Here’s how one day in Zion National Park can look like!

aka PHOTOS!

I made a trip to Zion National Park in December 2019. As you see, there was very little snow even though it’s December! So even in winter, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll have snow with a winter visit to Zion. It’s been said that when it snows, the snow tends not to stick for long in Zion.

I also was in Zion when there were no shuttles running, so this below reflects a self-drive through the park.

I was driving from Page AZ in the morning (overnight stopping point on the drive from the Grand Canyon to Zion), and arrived to Zion at around 9am. I left Zion in the early evening at around 5pm. (Driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon.) So the things on this list were done in around 8 hours at a generally leisurely pace. 

Coming from the direction of the Grand Canyon, it also means that I entered Zion National Park through the east entrance. 

And so…

 

Arriving at Zion east entrance

One day in Zion National Park itinerary: East entrance to zion mt carmel highway. Utah national parks travel blog

One day in Zion National Park itinerary: East entrance to zion mt carmel highway. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Cost of Zion National Park

One day in Zion National Park itinerary: cost of zion entry fee. Utah national parks travel blog
Photo of Zion entry fees taken in 2019.

 

In 2021, entry to Zion National Park costs $35 per vehicle. You’ll be given a pass that will last for 7 days. Check current prices here.

If you know that you will be visiting several U.S. national parks in one year, then you may also consider getting the annual national park pass. Generally speaking, this will be worth it if you plan to visit 3 national parks in one year.

For larger vehicles (like an RV), you may also need a tunnel permit for Zion. More on this in a bit.

 

 

Then, start your drive through the park!

 

See the Checkerboard Mesa

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: See checkerboard mesa. Utah national parks travel blog

 

This is something you can see as you’re driving. You’ll see it clearly shortly after you enter the park from the east entrance.

 

 

Continue the drive through the park on the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway!

You’ll be driving on the Zion – Mt Carmel Highway as you enter the park. This highway is recognized nationally.

 

According to the National Park Service:

Because of the significant planning, skills, materials, and overall design and engineering, the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and Tunnel are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and, in May 2012, designated as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

 

You’ll drive through a tunnel before you get to the Canyon Overlook Trail (listed next) but this isn’t the main tunnel.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive through zion mt carmel highway tunnel near east entrance. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Hike the Canyon Overlook Trail

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the canyon overlook trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

If you’re looking for a hike with scenic views near the east entrance, this is it!

This will give you some of the best views in the park.

You’ll want to give yourself maybe an hour for this. It’s reasonable for this hike to take shorter than an hour.

There’s a small parking area along the side of the road, and there’s also a parking lot in front of the tunnel entrance. You access the trail just off the highway.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the canyon overlook trail parking on zion mt carmel highway. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the canyon overlook trail. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the canyon overlook trail. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the canyon overlook trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Drive through the Zion – Mount Carmel tunnel

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive through zion mt carmel tunnel. Utah national parks travel blog

 

This is the mile long tunnel that you’ll also see marked on google maps, and it’s located just past the Canyon Overlook trailhead.

 

The National Park Service says about the Zion – Mt Carmel Tunnel:

At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States.

 

Larger vehicles need a tunnel permit. If you’ll be driving an RV through Zion, you’ll want to see this page for more info including size limits.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive through zion mt carmel tunnel. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive through zion mt carmel tunnel. Utah national parks travel blog
The light at the end of the tunnel. 😉

 

 

Continue the drive on Zion – Mount Carmel Highway

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near visitor center. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near visitor center. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion mt carmel highway scenic road near visitor center. Utah national parks travel blog

 

And then you’ll approach what’s more of the “main” part of the national park. From the east entrance to the main road of Zion National Park is around a 10 mile drive that will take around 25 minutes if you don’t stop.

 

 

Continue the drive, now on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive aka Floor of the Valley Road

Zion-Mt Carmel Highway will intersect with Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the main road that runs through the park.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion canyon scenic drive aka drive floor of the valley road. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: drive zion canyon scenic drive aka drive floor of the valley road. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Riverside Walk (start of the Narrows)

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the riverside walk to the narrows. Utah national parks travel blog

 

The main road through Zion is an out-and-back road. The Riverside Walk is located at the very end of this road. 

For most people, the Riverside Walk will be an out-and-back leisurely walk that can be completed in around 1.5 hours. This is a paved trail, and you can also get close to the river to walk directly alongside it too.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the riverside walk to the narrows. Utah national parks travel blog

 

The end of the Riverside Walk can also be the real start of a popular hike, called the Narrows.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the riverside walk to the narrows. Utah national parks travel blog
Onwards through the river to hike the Narrows!

 

This is quite literally a hike that includes walking through the water.

Weather permitting, the Narrows hike can be done year-round. You’ll want to think carefully about what to wear, which will depend on air temperatures and water temperatures. You can rent gear near the park whether it’s winter, spring, summer, or fall. Many people do hike the Narrows on their own without a guide, or you can hike the Narrows with a guide. You can make your one day in Zion all about the Narrows.

 

 

Trail to Scout Lookout

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike scout lookout trail to angels landing. Utah national parks travel blog

 

…and the trail to Angels Landing

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: dangerous hike - angels landing trail. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: dangerous hike - angels landing trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

Scout Lookout is just before the real start of the Angels Landing hike.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike scout lookout trail. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike scout lookout trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

Hiking to Angels Landing is popular. You’ll take the same trail to get to both Scout Lookout and Angels Landing, part of the West Rim Trail. But Angels Landing isn’t for everyone (it’s not for me!) so be sure to look into it. It’s considered a dangerous hike.

If you are just going to Scout Lookout, there’s nothing really dangerous about the trail. There is a portion where there’s a steep drop-off that might seem scary to some people, but this is a wide area of the trail so it’s possible to pretty easily stay away from the edge of the cliff.

Other than that, this is a steep trail. You might consider taking hiking poles to save your knees on the way back down.

You’ll likely want to give yourself 2-3 hours for this hike.

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike scout lookout trail to angels landing. Utah national parks travel blog

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike scout lookout trail to angels landing. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

Continue on for more of the West Rim Trail

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the west rim trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

And, if you want to do some more hiking, you can follow the sign located near Scout Lookout to continue hiking on the West Rim Trail! 

Depending on the source (and probably your start and end point), the West Rim Trail is something like 13 to 17 miles. But in any case, the entirety of the trail is not meant as a day hike for the vast majority of people. (If you’re looking for a Zion backpacking trail, the West Rim Trail has campsites.)

There’s no real “destination” if you continue on the West Rim Trail from Scout Lookout, and you can really just turn around once you have had your fill of canyon views!

 

Things to do with one day in Zion National Park itinerary: hike the west rim trail. Utah national parks travel blog

 

And that’s the end of the day!

Drive out of the park!

 

Is one day in Zion National Park worth it? How much time in Zion National Park. Utah national parks travel blog

 

Stop by Canyon Junction Bridge for one last iconic view inside the park!

 

 

And there are some ideas on how to spend your time in Zion for a perfect day in one of Utah’s best national parks!

 

 

See more ideas for an Arizona and Utah road trip with the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon loop!

Explore more hiking trails in U.S. national parks!

 

HAPPY ONE DAY IN ZION NATIONAL PARK!

 

Best things to do in Zion National Park. Is one day Zion itinerary worth it. How much time. best drives. best hikes. Utah national parks travel blog

 

 

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