How to make the most of One Day in Zion National Park with Limited Time
Wanting to visit Zion but short on time? This guide has everything you need to know about visiting Zion National Park in one day. This jam packed one day Zion itinerary will take you to all of the highlights of the park.
Zion is a huge park with a lot of ground to cover. That’s why I put together the top things to do there and how to make the most of your time in the park.
National Park Entrance Fees
To enter the National Parks, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee or have a National Parks Pass also known as American the Beautiful Pass.
I purchased my first one in 2016 and it’s such a money-saver! Plus 10% of sale proceeds go to the National Park Foundation.
Tips for Visiting Grand Teton National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. There is something for everyone on this list and for different fitness levels. Also, note that it is dry and hot (in the summer), and make sure you know what you are getting into before you start. Here are a few tips for visiting the Grand Canyon:
- Bring a reusable water bottle and lots of water! Remember you are in the sun and you will need to drink lots of water. I love my LifeStraw Filtered Water Bottle. I can refill this bottle anywhere and it comes with a carabiner to connect it to my daypack.
- Check the Weather – days over 100 degrees are very common. Make sure to check.
- Hiking boots or sandals that will protect your feet! I love good shoes. I need all the support and help I can get. I actually love these sandals for hiking and also love these hiking boots.
- Bring hiking poles for balance and to protect your knees. I know many experienced hikers (and even amateur ones) think that hiking poles are for old people who lose their balance. Actually, hiking poles can help when going down steep inclines or when scrambling over rocks. They are great to hike with even for the most experienced hiker.
- Wear a sunhat. I feel like this whole post is about how high you are in the mountains and how much closer you are to the sun but it is so true. At elevation, you are closer to the sun and more likely to burn. Wear sun protection such as a sun hat and sunscreen.
- Be aware of the wildlife. This is the Southwest and you will need to watch out for snakes and other wildlife such as moose or a bear. Please stay away from wildlife and do not feed them. I recommend carrying bear spray as well.
- Start Early – If you want to avoid the traffic and the heat you will need to start your hike early. That way it will be nice and cool and the smog will not affect you either.
- Leave no trace. If you are new to the concept of Leave No Trace it is all about preserving the environment to ensure it is in the same or better condition when you leave it. This means that you should stick to the trails and carry out everything that you carried in. This is a great explanation of the Leave No Trace principles!
- Water shoes are great for water hikes– If you don’t have a pair, I highly suggest it as they are affordable. I have an article on the pros and cons of several pairs of water shoes.
- Bring Bug Spray and a snack: Be sure to bring everything you need including a snack like a protein bar plus BUG SPRAY.
Where to stay near Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon makes for a great weekend escape. Fresh air, beautiful scenery and being in nature does a world of good for the soul. I recommend staying as close to the park as possible and even treating yourself with a cabin with a spa pool to relax at night.
- There are lots of fantastic Airbnbs near the Grand Canyon. I have made a list of the best airbnbs around the park wherever you decide to stay. You can also check out my post on Where to Stay near the Grand Canyon to find the perfect hotel for any budget.
If you are taking a road trip remember to reserve a car in advance using Discover Cars .
Nearby Hotels to Zion National Park
The only other significant item to consider while planning your trip is where you will stay. Here are some of my recommendations:
The park’s only hotel is the Zion Lodge. Zion Lodge is a lodge located within The Park. The Kayenta Trail and Canyon Overlook Trail are worth checking out if you’re searching for something to do, while visitors visiting Zion National Park South Entrance and Zion National Park East Entrance may take in the region’s natural splendor. Take advantage of the opportunity to explore the region before the shuttles depart for hiking and biking paths. Here’s where you may reserve a room at Zion Lodge.
Cable Mountain Lodge – This Springdale lodge located adjacent to Zion National Park Visitor Center offers guests with a hot tub with amazing canyon views and an outdoor heated pool.
The Holiday Inn Express Springdale hotel is located just 2.5 km away from Zion National Park in the middle of the red rock cliffs.
As you can see, the closer you get to the park, the more expensive your lodging becomes. There are plenty of options for all budgets!
Tips for Renting a car for your road trip
It’s awfully hard to get to Zion National Park without a car. The closest airport is Las Vegas and you can use Discover Cars to rent a car for your travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
How to Spend One Day in Zion National Park
Stop at the Visitors Centre and take the free shuttle
The Visitor Center near the park entrance is the perfect place to start your one-day visit to Zion National Park. You can get park maps and ask the rangers about the current weather and conditions. Fans of National Parks can get their passports stamped and purchase a souvenir coin at the gift shop. This is also where the Zion Canyon Shuttle departs from.
The Visitor Center includes a useful information leaflet with a full hiking guide detailing each walk and indicating the level of difficulty. It will be easy to pick what to do at Zion National Park if you have all of the necessary information.
While driving around Zion National Park is scenic, first-time visitors will get the most out of their vacation by riding the complimentary shuttle bus. Not to mention the fact that major areas of the park are closed to private vehicles during the tourist season.
The shuttle will take you on a magnificent trip through Zion National Park up the main canyon, with an audio guide pointing out the sights to see. The shuttle stops at trailheads and scenic vistas on several occasions. Bring the Visitor Center’s Zion National Park Information Sheet with you, and get off the bus frequently to take in the sights.
Check out the Zion Human History Museum
One of the first destinations on the shuttle route through Zion National Park is the Zion Human History Museum. It is largely a cultural museum, with displays concentrating on the history of American Indians, early immigrants and pioneers, and early conservation efforts that culminated in the creation of Zion National Park in 1919. Prior to the 1990s, what is now the Zion Human History Museum served as the previous visitor center. Apart from exploring the museum, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Bridge Mountain Arch and the Altar of Sacrifice.
The rich human history of Zion National Park is displayed in permanent exhibits. The Human History Museum depicts the influence of water in Zion by showcasing Southern Paiute culture, historic pioneer settlement, and Zion’s expansion as a national park. Water is why humans have journeyed through and settled in Zion since it is both a creator and a destroyer. The splendor and sanctuary that make Zion famous are created by water.
Replicas of old Union Pacific Railroad housing, Civilian Conservation Corps diaries, park employee photographs, and more have all been shown in temporary exhibits.
The museum is located on the main park road just outside of Zion National Park’s south entrance. The park’s shuttle system makes it simple to go to the museums.
Every half-hour, a free 22-minute video delivers a great overview of the area. Rangers are on hand to answer any inquiries you may have. The Zion Forever Project bookstore sells books, maps, posters, and other gifts.
Stop at Patriarch’s Viewpoint
The Patriarchs’ Court is a collection of three neighboring, comparable cliffs named after biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Although the vista is spectacular, you won’t waste too much time here because the journey to the Court of the Patriarchs perspective is extremely short.
There is also a trail across the road that connects to the Sand Bench Trail, but you should skip it for now because the Sand Bench Trail is ideal for a unique Zion horseback riding experience.
The hike takes only a minute to climb 40 feet from the bottom of Zion Canyon, leading to a short climb. The elevation is just right for taking in the scenery, which includes mountains, trees, and canyon walls.
The Court of the Patriarchs can be a short diversion before beginning your climb, allowing you to take photos and capture the best of the moments, especially at sunrise and sunset. This picture-perfect landscape will hold your attention for a long time. This is an excellent section for the whole family to enjoy. Before you begin the rest of your journey, take a moment to admire this route.
The Court of the Patriarchs is considered the shortest trail in Zion National Park. To reach the trail, take a shuttle in the main canyon and get off at the 4th stop.
Hike Canyon Overlook Trail to get your first views of the park at sunrise
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a short hike with a spectacular view of Zion Valley. It’s one of the upper East Canyon’s few. The trailhead is located on Route 9 just before the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, in a small parking lot.
The first section is the steepest and most difficult; it consists of a series of stone steps that lead up the side of the road. While the canyon towering above, the trail continues over mostly shady passes and rather a flat terrain. Although most drop-offs have railings and guardrails for safety, this trail should still be treated with caution. The Mount Carmel switchbacks, West Temple, the Streaked Wall, the Virgins’ Towers, and the Beehives are all visible from this 5,000-foot vantage point above the canyon bottom.
As the name implies, this trail is located on the east side of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and looks down on Zion Canyon. Since this walk is only one-mile round trip, it is ideal for viewing the sunrise early in the morning. Short and sweet, the trail gains 100 feet of elevation from the parking area to the overlook. From the vantage point of the viewpoint, you have a panoramic view of Zion Canyon.
It’s a great vantage point for seeing the canyon come to life as the sun gently rises above the towers below.
Hike to the Lower Emerald Pools
Emerald Pools is a must-see in Zion National Park: a desert oasis. The trip consists of a series of smaller pathways that wind their way past a small, lushly-vegetated creek that flows down from the cliffs, forming numerous intriguing “pools.” Since this hike is not particularly tough and is located directly across from the Zion Lodge, expect to experience the views with a large number of other people throughout the summer months. The walk is suitable for families, but keep an eye on your kids and don’t allow them to play or run along the rock cliffs.
The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is part of a trail system in Zion National Park that leads to three gorgeous pools and two amazing waterfalls at certain times of the year. This trek starts near the Zion Lodge and takes you across the Virgin River on one of Zion’s many walking bridges. The trail follows the river for a while before turning west and ascending Heaps Canyon. This hike features many clear views up the main canyon toward Angels Landing and sheer Navajo Sandstone cliffs that reach toward the sky.
The Lower Emerald Pool trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible, and it’s a great adventure for people of all ages. The trail leads to a waterfall that cascades into a pair of pristine pools through an alcove. The pools are not suitable for bathing, but they are interesting to look at, and hikers can cool off in the midst of the waterfalls before returning!
The wide, paved trail to the Lower Emerald Pools falls is an easy day trip. The pools got their name from the algae that bloom in the warmer months and turns the water a vivid emerald green color. The ponds are extremely delicate, and species such as deer, turkeys, songbirds, and even canyon tree frogs rely on them for water. When hiking beneath the falls, be cautious. The trail can be wet and slippery.
Head to Springdale for lunch or picnic at the Grotto Picnic Area
The Grotto Trail leads to the popular Grotto Picnic Area and is a short, shaded hike. This route is popular with visitors as a stand-alone hike, as part of the Emerald Pools Trail, or as part of a longer hike within the park. Kids programs, organized by park rangers, frequently use the area to get kids active in the outdoors and learn about the park in a pleasant environment.
The Grotto Picnic Area is one of the most iconic and scenic spots to visit in Zion National Park, with its grilling amenities and breathtaking vistas. It’s located on the Grotto Trail, a shady path that runs between Great White Throne and Lady Mountain’s peaks. After a morning of hiking, relax in this peaceful rest stop.
The picnicking spot’s facilities and amenities are quite conventional, and tight rules are in place to protect the park from fire and other damaging elements. Picnic tables, restrooms, and fire pits are all available. All firewood must be brought in from outside the park or bought from the lodge. Within the park’s boundaries, gathering wood is strictly prohibited.
Bring snacks, beverages, and food to cook on the barbeque grills at this wooded picnic spot. To help maintain the fragile forest ecosystem, make sure to clean up after yourself. There are also restrooms and water faucets near the picnic area, so you can fill up your bottles before heading off on another hike.
The Grotto Picnic Area is on the Grotto Trail next to the Virgin River, in the southwestern corner of Utah. It is accessible via the smaller Kayenta Trail that branches off from the main path.
Continue along the Kayenta Trail, which is a bit more strenuous and has some narrow elevated sections. View the stunning sights of the Emerald Pools region, which include a waterfall that flows across the trail and water basins that have turned green due to algae growth.
Drive to the Kolob Canyon section of Zion
Located 40 miles north of the main area of Zion National Park, Zion Canyon, is a beautiful and remote section of the park many visitors overlook. It has fantastic day hikes and backpacking options, as well as a five-mile scenic drive with numerous picturesque pullouts and a visitor center.
The Kolob Canyons are a remote 30,000-acre section of the park northwest of Zion Canyon. It is situated at a higher elevation than the main park, and it is home to the park’s tallest peak, Horse Ranch Mountain (8726 feet), as well as some of Zion’s youngest strata.
The Kolob Finger Canyons and Kolob Arch, one of the world’s longest natural arches, are also located here. Throughout the area, there are desert streams and beautiful waterfalls. Narrow box canyons carve gorgeous Navajo sandstone peaks and rock walls, making it a lovely site for a day trip or the start of a multi-day journey.
To reach Kolob Canyons from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, head approximately one hour (42 miles) west on Hwy-9 to La Verkin, then north on Hwy-17, to I-15, exit 40. The Kolob Canyons Visitor Center is located just east of Exit 40. A valid park pass is required to enter this section of the park and can be purchased at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. This area of the park requires a valid park pass, which may be obtained at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center.
All visitors must either present an Interagency Park Pass or pay the Zion National Park admission charge at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center. The drive from the Visitor Center to the Kolob Canyon Viewpoint climbs 1,000 feet in five miles. This is one of the least visited sections of the park accessible by car.
This five-mile scenic drive along Kolob Canyons Road allows visitors to view the crimson canyons and gain access to various trails and scenic viewpoints. Here in the northwest portion of the park, tiny parallel box canyons are cut into the western border of the Colorado Plateau, generating dramatic peaks and 2,000 foot cliff walls.
This relatively untraveled road starts outside of park boundaries here Kolob Terrace Road and climbs to 8,000 feet at Lava Point within the park’s narrow neck. Continue north to Kolob Reservoir for a longer adventure.
In winter, the upper ends of the road are unplowed and often covered with snow. Below 6,000 feet, the surface is typically snow free. The park service plows the road up to the base of Maloney Hill, just past the Hop Valley Trailhead, leaving large snow berms that prevent vehicles from continuing. Although snowmobiles can travel further, the walking isn’t ideal, with vast bare areas and filthy boots.
Hike the Taylor Creek Trail for an easy hike
Taylor Creek Park runs alongside a significant tributary of the Don River’s Forks. The Lower Don River is formed by the confluence of three rivers: the East Don, the West Don, and this tributary. The two most widely used names — Taylor and Massey Creek — are derived from two families with significant historical ties to the area. During the early 1800s, a third name, Silver Creek, was used.
The Taylor Creek Trailhead is clearly designated and easy to find; it’s a large parking area on the left (north) side of the road, about 2 miles from the Kolob Canyons entrance. This hike is quite easy and family-friendly, taking 3 to 5 hours to complete. The “Middle Fork of Taylor Creek” trail is also known as the “Middle Fork of Taylor Creek.”
The trail begins at the parking lot and travels down to Taylor Creek before heading upstream. The well-kept trail travels near to the water’s edge and frequently crosses the streambed. While the trip is mostly flat and easy, there are a few sections where you’ll be hiking up and down the creek’s banks, as well as over and around enormous stones.
The location, spectacular vistas, entertaining challenges, and ability to hike throughout the year set Taylor Creek Trail apart from many of the other routes in Zion National Park.
Hikers should keep their eyes open for a variety of items while hiking the Taylor Creek Trail. Along the course, there are breathtaking views, exciting challenges, and quiet, natural tranquility. Taylor Creek Trail offers hikers an amazing experience without being too difficult or long.
Taylor Creek Trail, like many other routes in Zion National Park, is beautiful all year. Hikers can expect to face a variety of challenges and experience a variety of vistas depending on the time of year they visit Taylor Creek Trail.
Timber Creek Overlook Trail for an easy stroll
The Timber Creek Overlook Trail leads to an outcrop with panoramic views of the Kolob Canyons, Pine Valley Mountain range, Timber Creek drainage, and Red Butte after a.6-mile hike. The trail heads south, climbing an exposed slope to a tiny mountain. Views extend from the Kaibab Plateau (south) to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim on clear days.
Visitors may see Mount Trumbull on the Grand Canyon’s north rim from 100 miles away if they look south on the horizon. The Timber Creek Overlook Trail is covered in a spectacular display of desert wildflowers during the spring and early summer months. The dirt trail is often muddy when wet. A small picnic area is located a short distance from the trailhead. Large groups (of 12 or more people) can hike on the Timber Creek Overlook Trail and no other trails in the Kolob Canyons area.
This trail is located in Zion National Park’s Kolob Canyons section, which is accessible through I-15 exit 40. This location is approximately 20 miles south of Cedar City, Utah. If you’re coming from the park’s main entrance, take Highway 9 west for 17 miles to La Verkin, then take UT-17 north for 5 miles to I-15. Take I-15 north for 12 miles until you reach exit 40.
Go Stargazing in Zion
Many visitors to Zion want to wait until sunset to get some final shots of the cliffs flaming bright orange in the late afternoon sun. Then, as the sun sets and the last rays of light disappear from the sky, a constant stream of cars exits the park, heading home or to their next destination.
However, the dark night sky, loaded with hundreds of stars, above the jagged outline of cliffs, awaits those few who stay later or spend the night in one of Zion’s campgrounds, providing a totally distinct and unique Zion experience.
Zion is an excellent site to reconnect with the night sky, or even to see the Milky Way for the first time. By not lighting up the night, Zion preserves this dark sky resource for future generations. However, this means that the park is rather dark after sunset.
If you’re camping in the park, the South and Watchman Campgrounds offer spectacular sunset and night sky views. The Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, located on the park’s west side, offers a unique perspective. The beautiful red cliffs of Kolob sparkle even brighter at sunset at the conclusion of the Kolob Canyons Scenic Drive. Looking eastward toward the cliffs for the darkest skies is also an excellent area to star gaze.
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