Zion has more than four million visitors a year for a reason. It is an incredible park, with a ton of things to do, but it can also be sort of overwhelming trying to figure out what things can’t be missed and what things maybe shouldn’t be on your list if you’re pressed for time.
Here are two perfect itineraries for a one day or a weekend trip.
One Day Trip:
Get to the park early! You only have one day so you definitely have to take advantage of all the available daylight hours.
The first this you should do is stop at the Visitor’s Center. Checking in with the rangers is always the best way to figure out how to spend your day.
After that, walk along the Pa’rus Trail. It starts at the visitor’s center, and it takes you through the lower part of the canyon, letting you see some beautiful things, as you wind your way toward the Human History Museum. The museum is small, but it’s the easiest way to learn about Zion.
As you continue alone the Pa’rus Trail, it will eventually end at the third shuttle stop. Here you can hop on the shuttle and take it to Zion Lodge.
At Zion Lodge you can get on the trail to the Lower Emerald Pool. As of right now, the rest of the trail the Middle and Upper Emerald Pools is closed, otherwise I’d recommend continuing on.
After that hike, take the shuttle to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava. This is a great place to break out a packed lunch, as you stroll along the Riverside Walk. There are plenty of informational signs to help further your education about the evolution of the canyon, plus taking the shuttle to the end of the line is a great way to see the rest of the park.
For your final adventure of the day, take the shuttle back to the Visitor’s Center so you can hike the Watchman Trail. This is a short enough trail that you can easily do it during an action packed day at Zion, and the trail leads to the most stunning view I saw at the park.
If you have any time left in your day, the trail brings you back to the Visitor’s Center, where you can experience all the exhibits there. Including my favorite bit of information I learned in Zion, how they built the Visitor’s Center to have the lowest environmental impact while also staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
A Weekend Trip:
Assuming you’ll be arriving Friday afternoon, that would be a perfect time to hike the Canyon Overlook Trail. This is a short hike, that leads to an amazing bird’s eye view of the canyon.
Saturday morning head into the park early and pick one of the more difficult hikes. The Narrows is a great choice, although dry suits are required in the winter. If you start at Temple of Sinawava, great, go ahead and enjoy your hike. In the event that you’d like to hike downstream, you will need a permit.
If The Narrows doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then maybe Angel’s Landing would be a better match. This peak was originally named such because it was believed that “the peak is so high that only Angel’s can land on it.”
This is a great hike that zigzags its way up the side of the canyon, eventually making its to Walter’s Wiggles, a series of switchbacks helping those without wings up the mountain, ending at Scout’s Lookout.
If you’ve had enough, Scout’s Lookout is a decent place to end your hike. Or to hang out at if you aren’t too comfortable with heights. Especially if anyone else in your party wants to continue onward.
The remainder of the hike is a steep climb, aided by chains that you can use to drag yourself to the summit.
After tackling one of the more strenuous hikes you’ll have to evaluate how much time you have left. If you have a decent amount of time left before sunset, then it’s time to hike the Emerald Pools trail, if daylight is a little more scarce then head to the Visitor’s Center so you can educate yourself on the wildlife, history, and future of Zion National Park.
On Sunday, if you have an afternoon or evening departure, you definitely have to tackle the Watchman Trail from the Visitor’s Center. After that there are multiple smaller hikes to choose from, including the Pa’rus Trail, or the Weeping Rock Trail.
If you are able to take advantage of the whole day on Sunday, I still stand by the Watchman Trail in the morning, followed by a drive to Kolob Canyons, Zion’s auxiliary park, for the afternoon.
Once there, take the road all the way to the end, and enjoy the incredible sights along the way. Once the road ends, there is a short hike called the Timber Creek Overlook Trail.
Kolob Canyons is much less frequented than the rest of Zion, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an absolute gem. It takes some time to get to, but if you have the time, it is absolutely worth it.
No matter how much time you have in Zion, whether it’s a few hours or a few days, there are so many wonderful things to do there.