top of page
Noah & Hailey-29_websize.jpg

LET US HELP YOU PLAN

YOUR ZION + SOUTHERN UTAH ADVENTURE

ArikaLogo_Brown2.png
ArikaLogo_Brown2.png
ArikaLogo_Brown2.png

10 Ways To Spend One Day In Zion National Park ; Zion Itinerary

Do you want to experience Zion National Park, but you're short on time? Being a local, I have spent my whole life taking day trips to Zion. So whether you are visiting in the summer, winter, with girlfriends, or your family, I will show you what things to check out and how to make the most of your one day in Zion.

I have put together ten different ways you can spend one day in Zion National Park.

IS IT WORTH IT TO SPEND ONE DAY IN ZION?

Let's just get this out of the way right now; spending one day in Zion isn't enough. I get it, though. Sometimes that's all you've got, and that's ok.


One day in Zion will be just enough to whet your appetite and get you to make plans to come back later for more. One day in Zion will allow you to see the magnificent towering red cliffs that Zion is known for and get a taste of that Zion magic.

GETTING TO ZION

The most popular way to get to Zion is by flying into the Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas and renting a car. Las Vegas is a 2.5-hour drive from Zion.

Driving from Las Vegas means you can stop at Valley of Fire State Park & Snow Canyon State park to break up the drive and see some stunning sights on your drive. These two state parks are absolutely stunning and 100 percent worth the stop.

HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER IN ZION + SOUTHERN UTAH - CLICK TO LEARN MORE


The next closest major airport is Salt Lake City. Salt Lake is a 4.5-hour drive from Zion. Flying into Salt Lake will allow you to turn your vacation into a week-long road trip! First, go through Moab and hit up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Then head south and stop at Goblin Valley State Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park.

You can also fly into the Saint George Regional airport. This airport is much smaller with minimal flight options, but if you can find one that works for you, the time savings and convenience will be a huge bonus. It is a 50-minute drive from Saint George to Zion.

THE DIFFERENT AREAS OF ZION

Zion National Park is made up of 229 square miles of land and is comprised of four main sections. If you only have one day in Zion, I suggest focusing on just one or two sections.

When visiting Zion, the closest town with restaurants and lodging is Springdale, UT. Springdale is located right next to the visitor center and campgrounds. The visitor center is where you will park to get on the shuttle to go into Zion Canyon.


THE FOUR MAIN SECTIONS OF ZION


ZION (MAIN) CANYON

Girls e-biking Zion Canyon

***E-biking the Zion Canyon


This is the busiest section of Zion and is only accessible via shuttle for the majority of the year (see below for details on navigating the shuttle). Zion Canyon is where you go for iconic hikes like Angels Landing and the Narrows.

EAST ZION

Family in East Zion National Park

***Views from East Zion


East Zion is located on the east side of the Mt. Carmel Tunnel. It is at a higher elevation, just above Zion Canyon, and temps run 5-10 degrees cooler. Great hikes include Canyon Overlook, Many Pools, and off-the-beaten-path exploring along Clear Creek.


KOLOB CANYON

*Views from Kolob Canyon in the winter


One of Zion's best-kept secrets, Kolob Canyon is tucked into the northwest corner of Zion National Park. Soaring cliffs of red Navajo Sandstone and breathtaking views are the highlight along a stunning 5-mile scenic drive. The canyons are easily accessed from Interstate 15.

Our favorite family-friendly hikes in Kolob Canyons are Taylor Creek and Timber Creek Overlook.


KOLOB TERRACE

***Views along Kolob Terrace


Kolob Terrace is a section of Zion that begins with a 15 minute drive west of Springdale and leads you to great Zion hikes like The Subway, Northgate Peaks trail and Lambs Knoll. It is a stunning scenic drive and perfect for rainy days.

GETTING AROUND ZION AND NAVIGATING THE SHUTTLE

Family getting on the shuttle in Zion

Let's start with the one thing that confuses people the most. The Zion shuttle ONLY runs to Zion Canyon. Everywhere outside Zion Canyon is accessible via car.

The shuttle runs from early March through November. Outside of those times,(it does run again over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays) you can drive your car into the Main Canyon. CHECK OUT THE SHUTTLE SCHEDULE HERE.

The shuttle is free, and no reservation is needed. In the summer when the park is the busiest, mornings are crowded with long lines. Afternoons are less busy and usually have no line.

If you don't want the hassle of parking at the visitor center, the free shuttle running in Springdale can take you from your hotel to the walk-in entrance station, where you can board the Zion shuttle. This is a good option when the park is super busy and parking at the visitor center is full.

PRO TIP

The park never closes. If you get to the entrance station before or after the rangers, you get into the park for free.

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ZION

Family hiking Riverside Walk

***Family hiking Riverside Walk in the Summer


Any time is a great time to visit Zion, but each season has positives and negatives. Here is a rundown of what to expect in each season.

SUMMER (MAY-SEPTEMBER)

Visiting Zion in Summer is when you have to work around the most crowds and when the heat will be the most intense. But Summer is when Zion is at her most beautiful. Everything is so green and lush in the canyon, and if you like water, well, this is the best time to play in the Virgin River and do water hikes like The Narrows.

SPRING/FALL (MARCH-APRIL & OCTOBER-NOVEMBER)

Visiting Zion in the spring or fall is great because you won't have to deal with the intense heat or cold, and the crowds won't be quite as bad. I still suggest getting out first thing in the morning, but it will be harder to stay in the park later in the day since the days are shorter than in the summer.

WINTER (DECEMBER-FEBRUARY)

Winter is the least busy time to visit the park, except during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. There is no shuttle service, so you can drive into Zion Canyon. Trails can be closed, and icy conditions are often present. Services in Springdale are more limited in the winter.


***Cable Mountain Lodge in Springdale, Ut


Where to stay when visiting Zion

If you only have one day in the park, you will want to stay somewhere close to the park. I recommend staying in Springdale or, for something less expensive, the Hurricane Valley.

Springdale is a touristy town with touristy prices, but it also has charm and a ton of great restaurants and lodging options.

The Hurricane Valley includes Hurricane, La Verkin, and Virgin. These small towns are 15-30 minutes from the west entrance of Zion & Springdale. These towns feature hotels, Airbnb, places to eat, and grocery stores like Walmart.


Where to Stay in Springdale

  • Cable Mountain Lodge

  • Cliffrose Lodge

  • Flanigans Inn

Where to stay in the Hurricane Valley

  • The Dwellings

  • Open Sky

  • The Ardella Cottage

10 DIFFERENT ONE DAY ITINERARIES FOR VISITING ZION

1 - A Chill day in Zion (March - October)

2 - Girls trip Spa Day (Any time of year)

3 - High Adventure Day (May-October)

4 - Zion Canyon Family Day (June-September)

5 - Family adventure day (May - September)

6 - Pack in as much as possible (March - November)

7 - Zion off the beaten path - Kolob terrace & Kolob Canyon (Year round)

8 - East Zion Family day (March - November)

9 - A Snowy Winter Day in Zion (December - March)

10 - Casual Summer Day in Zion (May - September)



1 - A Chill day in Zion (March - October)

Family hiking at Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park

MORNING

  • Canyon Overlook

  • East Zion Drive

AFTERNOON

  • Shuttle ride through the park

  • Hike Riverside Walk

  • Zion Human History Museum

  • Walk the Pa'Rus trail for sunset

This one-day itinerary gives you the best of the park without feeling rushed. Have a slow morning eating breakfast before heading into the park. Oscar's Cafe is a great breakfast option.


After breakfast, drive up to East Zion and hike Canyon Overlook. It is a quick hike at 1.25 miles round trip but packs a punch with stunning views. After the hike, drive through east Zion for a scenic tour, turn around, and head back to Springdale for lunch. I recommend Zion Pizza Noodle or Wiptale Grill for lunch.

Head to the visitor center after lunch to park and get on the shuttle. Take the shuttle through the park for a scenic tour. Get out at the last stop, Temple of Sinewave.

Girl hiking Riverside Walk in Zion National Park

***The Riverside Walk trail


Hike Riverside Walk and then take the shuttle back out the canyon and go to the Zion Human History Museum to learn the history of Zion, see artifacts from the native people, and watch a short film about the history of Zion.

After the museum, walk along the Pa'Rus trail and take one of the paths down to the river. Enjoy solitude along the river, and then head back to Springdale for dinner.


2 - Girls trip Spa Day (Any time of year)

MORNING

  • The Spa at Cable MTN

AFTERNOON

  • Rent an e-bike and bike the Zion Canyon


This one-day itinerary is excellent for a girl's trip or couples. You will have the morning to relax and pamper yourself and then e-bike the Zion Canyon.


Start the morning with breakfast at Mimi's Cafe and then head over to The Spa at Cable Mountain Lodge for some relaxation and pampering.

The Spa at Cable Mountain in Zion National Park

If you are with your girlfriends, the 30-minute targeted treatment in the social sweet is the way to go. You can also get a massage, body treatments, or a facial.


One of my favorite things about The Spa is the beautiful women's locker room with a lemongrass eucalyptus-infused steam room and whirlpool. I also love the relaxation lounge. It's such a peaceful space with a lighted salt wall, moving art, fresh fruit, and fruit-infused water.

After your relaxing morning, arrange for Greater Zion E-bike Rentals to meet outside The Spa and drop off your e-bikes. They will give you a quick tutorial, and you'll be off. Ride your bike to Whiptail grill for lunch and head up the canyon via the Pa'Rus trail. CHECK OUT THIS POST FOR MORE INFO IN RENTING AN E-BIKE IN ZION

Girls riding e-bikes in Zion National Park

There is nothing like exploring all along the canyon at your own pace. Zooming through the canyon with the wind in your hair and the smells of the lush desert vegetation around you is the best way to experience the canyon.

Make a stop at the Zion Lodge and get ice cream to eat under the big cottonwood tree on the lawn.....heaven!!!!


PRO TIP

If the Castle Dome Cafe is closed (only open in the summer & they close at 4) you can get ice cream to go from The Red Rock Grill located in The Zion Lodge.

Head back into Springdale, drop off your bikes, and then head to Oscars Cafe or Zion Pizza Noodle for dinner.

3 - High Adventure Day (May-October)

Couple hiking Angels Landing in Zion

MORNING

  • The Narrows

AFTERNOON

  • Rent e-bike

  • Angels Landing


This itinerary is for adventurous couples and families with older kids that are in good shape and skilled in the outdoors. This itinerary also requires you to get a permit to hike Angels Landing. GET MORE INFO FOR GETTING A PERMIT AND HIKING ANGELS LANDING HERE.

Your day will start early. Have everything ready to go the night before. Pack a sack lunch, plenty of snacks, and water. READ THIS BLOG POST FOR TIPS AND INFO FOR HIKING THE NARROWS.

Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

Eat a quick breakfast at your hotel/Airbnb and get on the first shuttle heading up the canyon. Take the shuttle to the last stop, Temple of Sinewave. The Narrows starts once you step off the paved trail of Riverside Walk. Bring walking sticks for added support. ALWAYS check the weather before you head into a narrow canyon. Flash floods are always possible.

Time the hike so you are on the shuttle back to your hotel by mid-day. Rest, and then pick up your e-bike. Renting an e-bike will allow you to hike Angels Landing a little later in the day than most. You will skip the crowds and heat as well as not have to worry about missing the last shuttle out of the canyon.

Views at Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Bike up the canyon to The Grotto shuttle stop. With an e-bike, it will take about 20 minutes to get to the Angels Landing trailhead. Time your 5-mile round trip hike to watch sunset at the top of Angels Landing. As soon as the sun sets, head back down the chains while the light is still out. Once you hit the end of the chains, it will be dark, and you will pull out your headlamps for the remainder of the hike.

Enjoy riding your e-bike out of the canyon in the dark. It is a magical experience.

4 - Zion Canyon Family Day (June-September)

Kids playing in the Virgin River in Zion National Park

MORNING

  • Junior ranger handbook

  • Hike Riverside Walk

AFTERNOON

  • Picnic lunch at The Lodge

  • Hike Emerald Pools

  • Nature center


Start your day by visiting the Zion National Park Visitor Center to get a Junior Ranger Handbook for the kids to work on throughout the day.

Jump on the shuttle and ride it to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, where you will hike the Riverside Walk trail.

The the 2.5-mile round trip Riverside Walk trail is mostly level and paved, making it doable for all skill levels. Shear red rock mountains and hanging gardens line the path as you walk along the Virgin River. The end of this trail is the beginning of one of Zion's most popular hikes in the summer, The Narrows.

Girls eating lunch at The Lodge in Zion National Park

After your first hike of the day head over to The Lodge and eat a picnic lunch on the lawn. The large field is so fun for kids to run and play. After lunch, walk across the road to the start of the Emerald Pools trail.

This classic Zion hike is great for kids and features one of the few waterfalls on display in the park. Hike 1 mile round trip for the lower pool, 1.25 miles for the middle pool, and 2.5 miles round trip for the upper pool.

After hiking Emerald Pools, jump on the shuttle back to the visitor center and walk or drive to The Nature Center. Time it so you hit the 4:30 program. The Nature Center features daily youth-specific programs where kids will learn about powerful geological forces and much more. All programs are carefully developed by staff to create a fun and enjoyable learning experience for visiting youth and their families. The Nature Center is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Kids getting Junior Rangers badges in Zion National Park

Finish up the last of the Junior Ranger Handbook and then head back to the visitor center, where your child will present their completed handbook to a park ranger and take an oath to protect and care for the National Parks.

5 - Family adventure day (May - September)

Family hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

MORNING

  • The Narrows

AFTERNOON

  • Canyon Overlook/Pa'Rus Trail


For this day you will start early. Have everything ready to go the night before. Pack a sack lunch, plenty of snacks, and water. READ THIS BLOG POST FOR TIPS ON HIKING THE NARROWS WITH KIDS.

Eat a quick breakfast at your hotel/Airbnb and get on the first shuttle heading up the canyon. Located at the last shuttle stop in the main canyon, The Narrows starts once you step off the paved trail of Riverside Walk.


Bring walking sticks for added support. Plan plenty of time for the kids to play in the water. ALWAYS check the weather before you head into a narrow canyon. Flash floods are always possible.

When you finish hiking The Narrows, jump back on the shuttle and head back to your hotel. Take some time to rest and eat dinner. After dinner, head to the Pa'Rus trail for a casual stroll along the Virgin River. For something a little more adventurous, you could drive to Canyon Overlook on the east side of the park. This 1.25-mile hike is fun for kids and has stunning views of the park.

6 - Pack in as much as possible (March - November)

Family at Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park

MORNING

  • Riverside Walk/The Narrows

  • Weeping Rock

  • Scouts Lookout/Angels Landing

  • Emerald Pools

AFTERNOON

  • Clear Creek

  • Canyon Overlook

  • Watchman Trail or Pa'Rus


This full day in the park will allow you to see all the main points of attraction that Zion is known for. This day will also leave you exhausted.......in a good way.

For this day you will start early. Have everything ready to go the night before. Pack a sack lunch, so you don't have to waste time going in and out of the park for food. Pack plenty of snacks and water.

Eat a quick breakfast at your hotel/Airbnb and get on the first shuttle heading up the canyon. You will take the shuttle all the way through the park (45 mins) and get a wonderful scenic view of Zion Canyon. Riverside Walk starts at the last shuttle stop. This 2.5 mile round trip hike takes you right along the Virgin River. The end of this hike is the start of The Narrows. Walk up the river for a little bit to check The Narrows off your list.

Family hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park

With your first two hikes out of the way jump in the shuttle and get off at Weeping Rock. Weeping Rock is a super short hike but also a Zion classic. Get back on the shuttle and get off at the Grotto. Hike an hour or so of Angels Landing. No need for a permit. You won't be hiking the chain section.

The elevation is steep right off the bat, so an hour of hiking will get you to some stunning views. If you have time (try to be done by mid-afternoon), try to make it to Scouts Lookout.

Head back down and take the shuttle to The Lodge. Cross the street over to the Emerald Pools hike. If you are running short on time only hike to the first pool. This concludes your morning hiking through Zion Canyon.

Take the shuttle back to the visitor center and drive up to East Zion. Stop at the Many Pools trailhead. From here, you will hike and explore along Clear Creek. Clear Creek is the main dry streambed that follows Route 9 throughout the east side of Zion. Although it may not be an actual named hike in Zion, it is excellent for some off-the-beaten-path hiking and fun. CLICK HER TO READ MORE ABOUT HIKING CLEAR CREEK


After exploring Clear Creek, head back the way you came. Stop just before the tunnel to hike Canyon Overlook. Canyon Overlook is a 1.25-mile family-friendly trail on the east side of Zion that features big horn sheep sightings, caves (kind of), and one of the most breathtaking views in the park.

If you have any energy left after a day of hiking, head back down the canyon and park at the Zion Nature Center. From here, you will walk along the Pa'Rus trail. This paved path along the Virgin River has stunning views of the iconic Watchman Mountain and is perfect for an evening stroll.

7 - Zion off the beaten path - Kolob Terrace & Kolob Canyon (Year round)

Girls standing at views at Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park

***Views at Timber Creek Trail



MORNING

  • Kolob Terrace Road

  • Lambs Knoll

AFTERNOON

  • Kolob Canyon

  • Taylor Creek

  • Timber Creek Overlook


This Zion itinerary is not the one for you if you want to see and do all the iconc things in Zion. This itinerary will get you away from the crowds and let you see a beautiful side of Zion National Park that most people don't get to see.


Start your morning by driving up the Kolob Terrace Road. This road starts in Virgin and winds you along meadows, red rock walls, beautiful wide open views, and much more.

Family hiking Lambs Knoll in Zion National Park

Stop at Lambs Knoll for a short .8-mile round trip hike. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT VISITING LAMBS KNOLL. Lambs Knoll is a cluster of breathtaking rock formations and big views popular for climbing and canyoneering. This short hike is excellent for families and leads you to a tight slot canyon.

After Lambs Knoll, get in the car and continue your drive to see more sights along Kolob Terrace Road. Make sure to stop along the way and enjoy the stunning drive.

When you are finished exploring along Kolob Terrace for the morning, head to River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin for lunch. River Rock has great coffee, sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, and views of the Virgin River. After lunch, head to Kolob Canyon.


One of Zion's best-kept secrets, Kolob Canyon is tucked into the northwest corner of Zion National Park. Soaring cliffs of red Navajo Sandstone and breathtaking views are the highlight along a stunning 5-mile scenic drive.

Double arch alcove @ Taylor Creek in Zion

***Double arch alcove at Taylor Creek

Stop at Taylor Creek and hike the 5-mile round-trip trail that meanders along a small stream. That lot Creek is two historic cabins along the trail and a stunning alive and double arch at the end. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT HIKING TAYLOR CREEK


After Taylor Creek, drive to the end of the scenic Kolob Canyon Road and hike Timber Creek Overlook Trail. Timber Creek is an easy one-mile round-trip trail with minimal elevation gain and stunning views all along the way.


8 - East Zion Family day (March - November)

Family at Clear Creek slot canyon in Zion National Park

***Clear Creek Slot Canyon



MORNING

  • Hike Canyon Overlook

  • Explore Clear Creek

AFTERNOON

  • Hike Many Pools

  • Drive to the end of the park

  • Visit the Natural History Museum

Start your day hiking one of Zion's most breathtaking family-friendly hikes, Canyon Overlook. The trail is 1.25 miles round trip and mostly level.


It is important to note that even though this is a very kid-friendly hike, there are plenty of spots along the trail and especially at the overlook, that can be dangerous. CLICK HER TO READ MORE ABOUT HIKING CANYON OVERLOOK


After Canyon Overlook, head up the road 5 miles to the Many Pools parking area for some exploring along the dry stream bed below.

Clear Creek is the main dry streambed that follows Route 9 throughout the east side of Zion. Although it may not be an actual named hike in Zion, it is excellent for some off-the-beaten-path hiking and fun. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT HIKING CLEAR CREEK.

After hiking along Clear Creek, take the scenic tour, drive the remainder of the East Zion road, and then head back down the canyon.


Stop at the Zion Human History Museum to learn the history of Zion, see artifacts from the native people and watch a short film about the history of Zion. There are lots of great opportunities for learning.


9 - A Snowy Winter Day in Zion (December - March)

Couple walking with Court of the Patriarch mountains in the background Zion National Park

MORNING

  • Riverside walk

  • Menu Falls

AFTERNOON

  • Court Of the Patriarchs

  • Pa'Rus Trail

This winter itinerary is perfect for a snowy winter day in Zion. The hiking is totally doable in the snow and will allow you to have a safe and fun day in Zion after a snowstorm. Make sure to bring some Trex with you just in case you have icy trails.

Start your day at Riverside Walk trail at the end of Zion Canyon. This trail is a 2.5-mile round-trip hike with very little elevation gain, so there is no need to worry about slipping on steep inclines.

Hiking Riverside Walk trail Zion National park

After hiking Riverside Walk, drive 1/2 mile down the canyon to Menu Falls. Menu Falls is a beautiful waterfall alcove slightly hidden just off the scenic drive.


Hiking Menu Falls Zion National Park

It's not easily accessible in the summer so winter is the perfect time to visit. Walk a short wooden pathway and a few stairs to enjoy this magical little spot in the canyon.

Continue driving down the canyon, stopping at Court of the Patriarchs. Walk across the street and explore along the Virgin River. Make your way to the scenic bridge sitting just below the iconic Court of the Patriarch mountains. It is so stunning any time of year but especially with a fresh dusting of snow.

End your day with dinner at Whip Tail Grill or Oscars Cafe in Springdale.

10 - Casual Summer Day in Zion (May - September)

Girl tubing the Virgin River in Zion National Park

MORNING

  • Tubing and playing in the Virgin River

AFTERNOON

  • Lower Pine Creek


This day is all about enjoying Zion in the summer. The Virgin River is perfect for cooling off in the summer, and there are so many great spots to enjoy a morning playing in the river.


Bring tubes or rent tubes at Zion Outfitters for extra fun. The river is pretty shallow in the summer, but you will still be able to find small stretches to float.

After lunch, head over to Lower Pine Creek falls. The park doesn't advertise this hike, so the chances of having some solitude are good. This 1.25-mile round-trip trail will take you along a stream for the whole hike and ends at a waterfall and pool of water, perfect for playing, catching baby frogs, and even sliding down the waterfall.


There are hours of summer fun to be had along this trail. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT HIKING LOWER PINE CREEK FALLS


One day in Zion is never enough but with these 10 different one day itineraries I think you well be able to have a great time exploring Zion for the day. I have no doubt that you will be making plans for when you will come back and spend much more than a day.


Happy Adventuring,

Arika


CHECK OUT THESE RELATED POSTS

Comments


We are a team of local photogs dedicated to finding the best that Zion National Park + Southern Utah has to offer and sharing that with you!

LET'S GO!

  RECENT POSTS  

  ABOUT THE TEAM  

ZionTeam.jpg
The Pentecost Family-25_websize.jpg

PHOTOGRAPHING 

authentic moments
& adventure

Let us capture your memories while visiting Zion + Southern Utah.

 

Our process is simple, straight-forward, and all about authenticity — ensuring you actually get to experience your memories as they happen, rather than stressing about the finer details.