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A Guide to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

zion national park stream red rocks peak cliff
Zion National Park

From towering red rock peaks to otherworldly hoodoos, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks offer some of the most unique attractions in the world. Whether you’re seeking to climb Zion’s 2000-ft sandstone walls or enjoy a more leisurely visit, the neighboring parks are abundant in activities and sights for every type of traveler. This guide will detail everything you need to know to plan a visit to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

Quick Facts

Zion National Park

Established: November 19, 1919

Size: 146,597 acres

Annual visitors: 4 million

Bryce Canyon National Park

Established: February 25, 1928

Size: 35,835 acres

Annual visitors: 2.5 million

Fees at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

Park passes are required to enter Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and are valid for seven consecutive days. Note that you’ll need to purchase a separate pass for each park. You can purchase a pass at any park entrance station. The fees are as follows:

$35 per private vehicle

$30 per motorcycle

$20 per person aged 16 or older (bicycle, walk-in)

Tip: If you’re planning on visiting multiple national parks within a single year, I recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This pass covers entrance fees at all U.S. national parks and is good for one year from the month of purchase. Click here for more details.

Where to Stay in Zion and Bryce Canyon

Staying in the park: Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks offer numerous lodging options for guests. Here are some top-rated spots to check out:

Zion National Park

Desert Pearl Inn

Cliffrose Springdale

La Quinta Inn & Suites at Zion Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon

Stone Canyon Inn

Staying near the park: Airbnb rentals are optimal if you’re on a budget and don’t mind a further drive to the park. Here are nearby locations that offer inexpensive stays, and the corresponding distance from each park:

Zion National Park

Hurricane, Utah: 25 miles

Washington, Utah: 40 miles

St. George, Utah: 45 miles

Bryce Canyon National Park

Tropic, Utah: 10 miles

Panguitch, Utah: 25 miles

Antimony, Utah: 40 miles

Sign up here to get $40 credit towards your first Airbnb stay.

Camping in the park: Both parks have limited campgrounds- be sure to make your reservations in advance.

Zion National Park: Click here for detailed camping information.

Bryce Canyon National Park: Click here for detailed camping information.

canyon overlook trail zion national park valley red rock peak cliff
Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park

Getting Around in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

In terms of transportation within each park, you have two options: shuttle or car. Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks have no shortage of scenic roads- driving a car allows you to travel at your own pace and enjoy the views at leisure. However, due to road congestion in the parks during peak season, both have established a shuttle system that runs from April to October. This hop-on, hop-off service includes stops at popular attractions in both parks (and it’s free). Note that during peak season at Zion, the shuttle service is necessary as private vehicles are prohibited on the park road.

Click here for Zion shuttle service information, and here for Bryce shuttle service information.

When to Visit Zion and Bryce Canyon

Zion National Park

Spring: During March and April, water levels in the canyons may rise as a result of snowmelt from winter. Consequently, hiking trails may become flooded and inaccessible to visitors. Nonetheless, springtime brings upon the park seasonal waterfalls and blooming wildflowers. In terms of weather, daytime temperatures begin to warm, but you can still expect cold nights.

Summer: Temperatures can easily rise above 100°F, and crowds are at their peak during summer. The park also experiences monsoons from July to September, which results in an increased risk of flash floods. I visited Zion in July when monsoon season began, and recommend against it- I’d love to visit during fall next time.

Fall: Zion experiences a brief shoulder season between October and November. If you plan on hiking, fall is the most optimal time to visit as the weather begins to cool and water levels are at their lowest. The park also offers fall foliage viewing during October.

Winter: From December to February, conditions in the park are generally cold and wet. While several trails and roads may be closed, wintertime offers visitors a chance to escape summer crowds and enjoy views of snow-blanketed canyons.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Spring: Temperatures during spring typically range from cool to mildly warm. With snow still lingering on the park’s hoodoos and wildflowers beginning to bloom, spring is a great time to witness impressive scenery (not to mention smaller crowds before peak season, accessible hiking trails, and pleasant weather).

Summer: The park’s high elevation offers relatively cooler temperatures as compared to its neighbor Zion. With temperatures averaging 80°F, summertime activities are more manageable than in the latter. However, the park experiences monsoon season between July and August, and crowds will be at their peak.

Fall and Winter: Similar to Zion (refer above)

zion national park green trees red rock peak cliff views
Zion National Park

Things to Do in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks

Zion National Park

Angels Landing: Angels Landing is one of Zion’s most iconic trails- it’s a 5-mile round-trip hike that consists of chain-assisted climbing, and steep switchbacks and drop-offs. While Angels Landing offers incredible canyon views, the final section of the trail is what draws visitors to this attraction. With 1000-ft drop-offs as you ascend along a narrow ridge, this trail will undoubtedly help you overcome your fear of heights.

Canyon Overlook Trail: Canyon Overlook Trail is a short hike with a big payoff- it’s the best alternative to Angels Landing if you’re seeking a less strenuous hike. This 1-mile loop trail ends with an overlook that gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of Zion Canyon.

canyon overlook trail zion national park red rock peak cliff valley views
Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park

The Narrows: The Narrows is world-renowned for its unique hiking experience- picture trekking waist-deep in a river between steep canyon walls. The actual trail measures 10 miles round-trip, but most visitors hike for 1-2 miles before turning back around. Remember to check the weather as you should not hike the Narrows if there’s any chance of rain- flash floods in the canyon can be deadly.

the narrows zion national park hike trail stream cliffs walls
The Narrows in Zion National Park

Emerald Pools Trail: Emerald Pools Trail is a family-friendly trail that runs alongside a stream with abundant vegetation, and is divided into three sections: Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools. This 3-mile loop trail offers waterfall sightings and canyon views from the valley floor.

Weeping Rock Trail: This short, steep hike leads visitors to a moss-covered alcove where water falls from the cliff above, creating an illusion of “weeping.” The valley and canyon views from inside Weeping Rock make the hike even more worthwhile.

weeping rock trail overlook zion national park
Weeping Rock Trail in Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunset Point and Sunrise Point: Hoodoos- what are they? Nicknamed “fairy chimneys,” these unearthly spires of rocks draw over 2 million visitors a year. For the best views of Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, visit Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. These overlooks are easily accessible from their parking lots. Despite their names, both viewpoints are worth visiting any time of the day.

sunset point sunrise point bryce canyon national park hoodoos amphitheatre
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park

Navajo Loop: The Navajo Loop is the most popular trail in Bryce Canyon, and with good reason- it features the only slot canyon in the park and close-up views of hoodoos. This 1.3-mile loop trail offers plenty of photo ops, and will make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet.

Natural Bridge: Stop by Bryce Canyon’s Natural Bridge on your scenic drive, and witness its 85-ft arch formation. Reaching the overlook is easy- it's a few steps away from the parking lot.

natural bridge arch bryce canyon national park red rock
Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon National Park

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