It’s not uncommon to need a Zion National Park 2 Day Itinerary. Adding a couple days at Zion National Park as part of a larger southwestern road trip is a great idea as Zion is located just a few hours from icons such as Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and fabulous Las Vegas.
We were adventuring on a 31-day, 21-park road trip across the western United States and could only spend a couple days (max) at each park. We were fortunate to work in Zion to this agenda, as it is one of our favorite parks!
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If you only have two days in your schedule to spend at Zion, don’t worry! You can still put together an awesome agenda that allows you to see the highlights of the park.
About Zion National Park
Zion National Park was the first of Utah’s “Mighty 5” national parks. It features amazing sandstone cliffs enjoyed by epic vistas, hikes of all levels, and lots of wildlife.
Our family rates each park we’ve been to on our National Park Tour and assigns ratings based on our own made-up criteria. Here’s the Family Adventure Awaits Ratings for Zion National Park:
- Landscape: 10
- Campsites: 8
- Adventure: 10
- X-Factor: 10 (The Narrows)
- Recommended Stay: 4 days, 3 nights
- Best for: ages 5+
Where to Sleep in Zion National Park
Zion is located conveniently next to the fun town of Springdale, which hosts a wide arrange of hotels, vacation rentals, and private campgrounds. However, we recommend spending the night at Zion to get the most from your 2-day, 2-night itinerary.
Zion has three campgrounds, with two of them being conveniently located inside Zion Canyon: South and Watchman Campgrounds. Camping is tremendously popular at Zion National Park, and it can be very difficult to get a campsite during their busy season (March through November). Fortunately, you can make reservations in advance at both South Campground and Watchman Campground on line at www.recreation.gov. However, be aware that you’ll need to reserve your campsite well in advance as they fill up very quickly. I recommend booking it six months in advance as soon as reservations are available.
Campsites include picnic tables, a tent pad, and fire pit with attached grill. Restrooms are conveniently spread throughout the campground and have flush toilets, cold drinking water, and trash. Due to the limited water available, there are no showers in the Zion National Park campgrounds.
Each campsite is allowed a maximum of two vehicles (trailers included) and six people (two tent max). Space is somewhat limited, and you can expect to see and hear your camp neighbors throughout your stay.
That said, it’s still worth it to sleep inside the park because of how conveniently located you are to the park itself. You can wake up early and walk to catch the first shuttle into the park (important for both The Narrows and Angels Landing).
If you miss out on getting a campsite, there are several other area campgrounds outside of the park to consider.
When to Visit
Zion National Park is incredible all year round and can be visited anytime. If you’re going with kids who have school, we’d recommend early June when it is not quite as hot as later in the summer. If school is not an issue, we recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, to avoid the crowds. If you want to hike The Narrows (and you should!) then avoid spring when the river water levels can be a bit higher.
Peak summer crowds are real and can create lines and delays inside the park. If you do end up visiting during peak summer season, start your day early and end it late to avoid the heat and miss some of the crowds.
Zion National Park 2 Day Itinerary
It’s possible to spend just 2 days at Zion National Park and have an amazing time and see the majority of the sites. This 2-day, 3-night itinerary assumes you’ll be arriving late the night before Day 1 and leaving early in the late morning following Day 2.
2 Day Itinerary Summary
As you can see, this itinerary is centered around accomplishing Zion’s two most iconic hikes: The Narrows and Angels Landing.
- Night before Day 1: Check into campground
- Day 1
- Hike The Narrows
- Visitor Center
- Scenic Byway 9 and Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
- Canyon Overlook Trail
- Day 2
- Hike Angels Landing
- Emerald Pools
- Weeping Rock
- Morning after Day 2: Depart Zion, head to next adventure!
Why 3-Night, 2-days?
If you’re looking for a 2-day itinerary for Zion National Park, you are likely incorporating it into a longer itinerary covering other parks. If so, we recommend that 3 of your nights be spent at Zion so that you can get up bright and early on both of your days and be among the first to enter the park on the first shuttle. Doing so will help you avoid the crowds and improve your experience at The Narrows and Angels Landing.
If your schedule won’t allow 3 nights at Zion, your can still follow this itinerary in 2-days, 1-night by getting to the park very early on the first day (6:00 AM or so) and by quietly breaking down camp very early on the second day (5:30 AM or so). So doing will still allow you to catch the first (or maybe second) shuttle into the park and only requires one night in a Zion campground.
Zion National Park Itinerary: Day 1
For Day 1 of your Zion National Park 2 Day Itinerary, you’re going to be tackling a bucket-list worthy hike: The Narrows. You’ll also be exploring the Visitor Center and taking in some amazing views as you venture up scenic Highway 9.
The Narrows at Zion National Park is one of the most iconic hikes in America. It is packed with amazing scenery, ginormous canyon walls, and the thrill of getting to hike though a river. It is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, with walls reaching 1,000 feet or more above the river.
The Narrows is an “out and back” trail, meaning you will hike up the river, turn around at some point, and then retrace your steps back to where you started. As such, its is a flexible hike, and you can make it as long or as short as you’d like. For this itinerary, we’d recommend hiking about 3 miles up stream before turning around, in which case you would hike 6 miles total in about 4 – 6 hours.
You can read more details about hiking The Narrows at our article describing why it is the best family hike at Zion. You can also find out what type of shoes and gear you’ll need for tackling this hike at our article describing The Best Shoes for Hiking the Narrows.
If you’re following this itinerary, you’ll want to catch the first shuttle into Zion Canyon early in the morning of Day 1. If you hike around 6 miles total, you’ll finish up around lunch time.
Following your hike of The Narrows, you’ll be tired and hungry. Head back to your campsite and grab some lunch and a change of clothes. You’ll then be close to the Visitor Center, which will provide the opportunity for chatting with the Rangers, grabbing souveniers, learning about the park, and getting a taste of air conditioning if it’s hot out.
Alternatively, you could catch the shuttle up to the Zion Human History Museum. It offers exhibits showing how man has interacted with the park through the generations and showcases a free short film. Rangers are available, as well as a small bookstore.
Scenic Byway 9 and Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
For the late afternoon, you’ll want to drive the amazing Utah Scenic Byway 9. Also known as the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway, this road travels from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to the East Entrance of the park. Give yourself around an hour for the drive, so you can stop at plenty of sites.
As you start your drive, you’ll pass the Zion Canyon Road, which is the road the shuttle uses to access the park. Unless you’re visiting during the winter, private vehicles are not allowed on Zion Canyon Road.
Follow Scenic Byway 9 and soon you’ll find yourself zig-zagging up a series of six switchbacks as you climb out of the canyon. Next up is the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Constructed in 1923, this tunnel is just big enough to allow two cars to pass in opposite directions. However, it is not large enough for two taller vehicles (RV’s or trucks), so they have to pass through one at a time. If you find yourself in a bit of traffic at the tunnel entrance, it is likely because a large vehicle is being escorted through the tunnel.
Provided you’re not driving, look for the “windows” along the tunnel, which have tremendous views of the canyon.
Immediately after exiting the tunnel, look for the parking area for the Zion Overlook Trail. Don’t park there quite yet, as there is more to see further down the road. Just make a mental note of where to park for later.
Continue all the way to the East Entrance ranger station. Once you reach teh ranger station, turn around and head back into the park. Keep a look out for Checkerboard Mesa just west of the ranger station. There are plenty of other great pullouts along the way.
Canyon Overlook Trail
As you near the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, be ready to park either in the small parking area or along the road for the Canyon Overlook Trail.
The Canyon Overlook Trail is a popular, easy to moderate 1 mile round trip trail that ends with spectacular views of Zion Canyon. Time it so that you’re at the top of the hike (30 min) around sunset. We did it earlier in the afternoon and it was super hot, but still fun.
You’ll start the trail at the ranger booth on the east entrance of the tunnel. There you’ll see steps heading up the trail. The trail is well maintained and you’ll likely see other hikes along the way.
A little further up the trail you’ll come to a comfortable alcove, which provides welcome shade and a cool place to rest for a bit if needed.
You’ll then follow the trail up over and round slickrock features as you climb a bit more to the summit of the trail. At the summit, you’ll find a guardrail and amazing views of Zion Canyon. Many of Zion Canyon’s landmark features, such as the Beehives, West Temple, Towers of the Virgin, Streaked Wall, Sundial, Alter of Sacrifice, and the East Temple are visible.
After you’ve enjoyed the views, head back the way you came to the trailhead. Expect to spend about an hour or so on this short but spectacular hike.
Safety: The trail can be hot and most of it is in full sun. There are also a few sections with steep dropoffs where small children should be watched. If the sun will be down within 1 hour of when you start your hike, be sure to take a flashlight for the way back, just in case.
Zion National Park Itinerary: Day 2
Day 2 of your Zion National Park 2 Day Itinerary brings to to the literal edge of the canyon as you brave the Angels Landing trail. You’ll then spend the afternoon exploring more of the inner canyon’s inviting trails.
Angels Landing Hike
The morning of Day 2, you’ll once again get up bright and early to catch the shuttle into the park. On this day, instead of hiking at the bottom of the canyon along The Narrows, you’ll be hiking along the top of the canyon to Angels Landing.
The Angels Landing hike at Zion National Park is one of the parks most famous and most challenging hikes. While it offers spectacular views from the summit of Angels Landing, what makes this hike so sought after is the amazing route you take to get to that summit.
The trail follows a narrow ridge with steep, vertical drop-offs on both sides. Hikes hold on to a chain for most sections of the last leg of the hike. Additionally, crowding can make the already dangerous chain-assisted sections even more treacherous.
This hike covers about five and a half miles with over 1,500 ft of elevation gain. Expect it to take between three and five hours. Steep drop offs on both sides of the trail; must hold on to chain for last leg. HIKE WITH EXTREME CAUTION.
You can read more about our hike, as well as why we decided to take our kids with us all the way to the summit, at our article Should You Hike Angels Landing with Kids?.
Ride the Shuttle Loop
After hiking Angels Landing, you’ll be ready for a bit of a break. Head to the lodge, back to camp, or venture into Springdale to grab some lunch.
After lunch, explore the rest of Zion Canyon by riding the shuttle and getting off at some of the stops you haven’t explored yet. Depending on current trail conditions, try a couple of afternoon hikes once you’re ready. Here are a few suggestions:
This short, 1.2 mile hike will take you to the lower Emerald Pool. It’s a pretty mild walk to the lower pool (at the time of this writing, the trail to the Lower Emerald Pools is closed for repairs until Spring 2020).
If you’re up for a more moderate hike, continue on to the Middle Pool. Or, if you have more time and are OK with a strenuous hike, follow the trail all the way up to upper pool. Be respectful of signs indicating closed trails, as rockslides and floods can cause trail closures.
Note: The Weeping Rock trail is currently closed due to rockfalls. Hopefully it will reopen soon.
The Weeping Rock Trail is a short, 0.4 mile roundtrip hike to a large rock wall with water cascading over it. It is nice and cool and is a fun place to relax for a few minutes.
More Family Hikes
Zion offers some of the most amazing hikes in the country. We love hiking and have tackled some of the best family hikes in the country. Here’s a few more hikes we highly recommend:
- Half Dome at Yosemite National Park
- Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park
- Delicate Arch at Arches National Park
Zion National Park Logo
Are you visiting Zion National Park and looking for a logo? We have created our National Park logos for you to make custom family road trip T-shirts, hoodies and more. You can download our National Park Logos here.
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