Zion National Park Mountain

One Day in Zion National Park

Planning a  road trip through Utah, and wondering what you can do with one day in Zion National Park? If you have only one day for your Zion vacation, you will need to be strategic about hikes, viewpoints and places to visit.

Zion National Park is definitely worth a trip, and while only one day won’t be enough time to see everything, it will be enough time to experience the beauty of this famous park in the USA. You may just be inspired to extend your trip by a day or two.

We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Zion, to help you make the most of your time.  Plus read on for tips on 

  • Where to stay in Zion National Park
  • How to spend the day in Zion National Park
  • What not to miss, with sample itineraries; and
  • All the park details you will need to know before you go. 

If you are travelling to Zion with kids, you’ll also want to check out our What to do in Zion with kids section.

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you! See full disclosure and disclaimer policy here 

Best Time To Visit Zion National Park

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For moderate temperatures, Spring and Fall are the best times to visit Zion National Park. April May, September and October are still warm and sunny with daytime highs between 60F to 90F. The Fall is best to avoid spring run-off which can make hiking difficult at times.

The vast majority of the four million plus annual visitors come between April and September, so if you are looking to avoid the crowds during peak season, and you have flexibility when you travel, October to March is the best time to go to Zion.

How to get to Zion National Park?

Zion National Park is a 229 mile red rock wonderland, sitting in the southwest of Utah, close to Springdale and St. George.

The closest airport to Zion National Park is in Las Vegas, which is about 170 miles and a 2.5 to 3 hour drive. There are also day tours from Vegas, if you don’t want to drive yourself, and aren’t planning on overnighting near the park.

Salt Lake City is the next closest airport, which is a 311 mile, 4.5 hour drive to Zion. You can also catch a connecting flight into Saint George or Cedar City, Utah, which are both about an hour drive from the park. 

If you are taking a road trip in Zion, be sure to plan out your road trip food list for snacks. While it’s not a long drive, you don’t want hangry travel companions.

Can you do Zion and Bryce in One Day?

Zion and Bryce National Parks are popular destinations to visit in one trip, and for good reason. While you could visit both Zion and Bryce on one day, as  the distance between them is only a 2.5 hour drive, it is recommended you spend at least one day in each National Park. Both Zion and Bryce have so many wonderful view points, scenic drives, hikes and activities, you’ll need at least one day  to really experience them.

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What can you do in one day in Zion National Park?

Zion Park Entrance sign, mountains in background
Zion National Park Entrance
Photo by: “bluejayphoto / istock.com”

I like to get a feel for how a park is laid out before I make decisions about where to go.

There are three popular areas in the park; Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Kolob Canyons.

The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive runs as Hwy 9 from Springdale into the park and Zion Canyon. During the busy tourist months, you’ll need to book and ride a Shuttle Bus into that section of  the park. Along the route you’ll find access to many of the popular hiking trails such as the Emerald Pools Trails, the Grotto Trail, Angels Landing and the Narrows, and the Zion Lodge.

The Zion-Mt. Carmel & Tunnel Highway turns off from Highway 9, at the Canyon Junction, and  loops into Hwy 89 to Kanab, Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Here you will find the 1.1mi Zion Tunnel built back in the 1920’s, the Canyon Overlook Trail, and Checkerboard Mesa.

Kolob Canyons, sits in the northwest corner of the park, and the 5 mile scenic drive  takes you past gorgeous canyons, red rocks, ending at the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint. Here you can access the Overlook Trail, and the Kolob Arch, via the La Verkin Creek Trail. It is also a great spot for watching the sunrise and stargazing.

The Eight best things to do with one day in Zion National Park:

  1. Sunrise & Canyon Overlook Trail 
  2. Drive to Checkerboard Mesa & Viewpoint 
  3. Visitor’s Center and Zion Human History Museum 
  4. Shuttle Bus into Zion Canyon or Drive the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (Dec – Feb only)
  5. Lunch or Picnic at Zion Lodge
  6. Hiking in Zion National Park 
  7. Kolob Canyon & Sunset
  8. Stargazing 

Read on for a detailed guide to all the best things to do, plus planning tips, sample itineraries, and Zion with kids section.

Planning Your Trip to Zion National Park

How much does it cost to enter Zion? 

As Zion is part of the US National Park system, you will need to pay a fee or use your National Parks Pass to enter. The Zion National Park Entrance Fees are:

  • Private Vehicle, up to 15 passengers – good for 7 days: $35. If you plan on parking at the Visitors Center, this is the option you’ll need to choose.
  • Motorcycle – good for 7 days: $30
  • Per Person (no car) – good for 7 days: $20 Youth 15 and under free.
  • Zion Annual Pass: $70
  • Military Annual Pass: Free
  • Seniors Annual Pass: $20

PRO TIP: Buy an annual America the Beautiful Park Pass to save money on National Park and Federal Rec Sites entrance fees.

Covers entrance fees for driver and passengers, which is especially useful if you are planning on a long road trip or visiting more than one park in a year.


PRO TIP:
 Buy an annual America the Beautiful Park Pass to save money on National Park and Federal Rec Sites entrance fees.

Covers entrance fees for driver and passengers, which is especially useful if you are planning on a long road trip or visiting more than one park in a year.

Driving and Parking in Zion

Due to the millions of visitors each year, private vehicles are not allowed into the Zion Canyon, along the Scenic Drive (from Canyon Junction to Temple of Sinawava), March to October.

Instead, you’ll need  to take the Zion Shuttle into the Canyon.  There are two Shuttle Bus routes. One  runs  through Springdale, Utah to the Park entrance and Visitors Center. The other runs up and down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the Park. All passengers must wear a mask at this time.

Springdale Shuttle

The Visitor Center in the park has limited parking that fills up quickly in the morning. You’ll need to either head out to the park early (before 8am), or park in nearby Springdale and take the Free Shuttle that runs to the Visitor Center inside Zion National Park.

There are nine stops on this route. 

Zion Shuttle

The Zion Canyon Shuttle starts at the Visitors Center and drops passengers off along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive including at Zion Lodge, Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail, the Riverside Walk, and the Narrows.

Tickets cost $1 USD per person per day, from 8 am to 1pm and must be bought online in advance. They aren’t sold at the Park. 

Afternoon Walk ups are free from 2 to 4 at the Visitor Center and are available first come, first serve, so availability is not guaranteed. We recommend booking your shuttle in advance if you can.

The ticket system is a bit complicated, so be sure to check the National Park Service website to get all the latest details.

What to do if Shuttle Tickets Sold Out

If shuttle tickets are sold out, your options are either to explore other areas of the park besides Zion Canyon, like the Kolob Canyons, or Checkerboard Mesa area. Or you can rent a bike or take a private shuttle / tour with an authorized business into the Canyon..

Where to stay in Zion National Park?

If you are looking to stay in the National Park itself, the beautiful Zion Lodge sits in the middle of outdoor enthusiasts paradise, and is usually open year round. 

Accommodations include cozy historic cabins with gas fireplaces, microwaves, mini fridges and access to the park right on your doorstep. They also have hotel rooms and suites in the Lodge itself. 

Zion Lodge is also the only place that offers food in Zion, at either their main restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch or dinner (reservations highly recommended), or at their seasonal cafeteria style cafe. 

Camping is your other option if you want to stay in the park itself. There are two campgrounds in Zion Canyon close to the Visitors Center:

  • Watchman Campground – open year round. Reservations available March to November
  • South Campground – open seasonally. 

Where to stay near Zion National Park?

Nearby accommodations run from hotels and mountain lodges, to bed and breakfasts. The closest town to Zion Canyon is Springdale, and then St. George, which is about an hour away. 

If you are looking for a fabulous place to stay, with canyon views, the Cable Mountain Lodge is a gem, and just minutes walk from the Zion Canyon entrance. The pool, and hot tub, suites with kitchens, free wifi, and gorgeous views, make this an ideal place to lay your head after a long day hiking. There is also a restaurant and small grocery store on site, and free parking onsite.

For a more budget friendly, mid-range option, you can’t go wrong with the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham at Zion/Springdale. This family friendly hotel also has a pool, free breakfast & Wifi, plus pets are allowed. 

Planning on heading to Bryce Canyon as well? Check out all the best things to do in Bryce on one day, and our 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon

How long is Zion Scenic Drive?

The 54-mile Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only available by private vehicle  December to February. It starts at the intersection of State Route 9 and 15 (near St. George) and then heads east on Route 9 toward Mount Carmel Junction, a 90 min drive.

Along the way you’ll drive following the Virgin River, head through the main part of the park, past the Visitor’s Centre and Museum, and many well known landmarks.

One Day In Zion National Park

Checkerboard Mesa Mountain view in Zion National Park, Utah
Checkerboard Mesa, Zion National Park, Utah, USA
Photo by: “aoldman / istock.com”

Drive the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway to Checkerboard Mesa

If you are exploring Zion National Park  in one day, you’ll want to drive out to the eastern edge of the park, along the Zion – Mount Carmel Drive to the Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint.

Highlights include driving a 1,000 foot ascent, up numerous switchbacks  to the iconic 1.1 mile long Zion Tunnel built in the 1920’s, the Canyon Overlook Trail & hike, and finally to the mesa itself. 

Stop at one or two of the pullouts along the way for prime photo-ops , and take a right into the parking lot for the Canyon Overlook Trailhead, just past the tunnel. 

Finally, the unique geological feature of Checkerboard Mesa is a highlight itself. Formerly known as Rock Candy Mountain, the unusual patterns in the sandstone hill, makes this stone look like a checkerboard. 

Several pull outs near the mesa offer great viewing opportunities, and the official Checkerboard Mesa Viewpoint is where the trailhead starts for the 2 mile return hike to the summit.  The summit hike requires  navigation skills, and with an elevation gain of 900 feet, is not for inexperienced hikers.

Given you have only one day in Zion, I would recommend choosing either the summit trail (if you are an experienced hiker), or the Canyon Overlook Trail, so you have an opportunity to see and hike other areas of the park.

That leads us to all the details for the Sunrise and Canyon Overlook Trail hike we recommend taking, as it is a more moderate, and accessible hike. 

Sunrise & Canyon Overlook Trail

  • Distance: 1 mi / 1.6km roundtrip
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Elevation Change: 163ft / 50m 
  • Trailhead: Near east entrance of Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway Tunnel. No Shuttle
  • Amenities: Parking Lot, limited parking. 

Perfect for: Sunrise and Impressive vistas. 

The Canyon Overlook Trail is a rocky, uneven trail that ends at a wonderful viewpoint for Pine Creek and Lower Zion Canyon. This place also has a great view of the sunrise. The parking lot is small, so we recommend going early, even if you aren’t catching the sunrise. 

Once you’ve seen the length of the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway, head back to the Visitor’s Center, as you will need to drop off your car and hop on the shuttle into the Zion Canyon.

Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center & Human History Museum

The Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center is located at the south entrance of Zion, along State Route 9, and is the first shuttle stop in the park. Spring hours are 8am to 5pm. Here you can chat with friendly and knowledgeable rangers, grab park info, take a pit stop at the restrooms and fill up your water bottle, before heading into the canyon.

The Human History Museum is just up the road a little ways.

Human History Museum

Location:Located 0.5mile north of the park’s south entrance & Visitor’s Center 

Hours: Closed due to pandemic

The small Human History Museum is a delight, and their permanent and temporary exhibits showcase the rich human history of the park from American Indian Culture, to pioneer settlement and the effects of water in Zion. There is also a free 20-ish minute video that provides a park overview, so is a good place to start if this is your first time to Zion. 

From the museum, you can see some of the famous canyon rock formations and mountains; Towers of the Virgin & the Watchman.

Unfortunately the museum is closed at this time due to safety issues and the global pandemic. 

Check the website to see opening hours in the future.

Shuttle into Zion Canyon

As noted in the above parking section, using the shuttle inside Zion Canyon is mandatory during the busy tourist season. The shuttle stops at  Zion Lodge and trailheads, including Emerald Pools, West Rim Trail, and Temple of Sinawava.

Initial boarding can happen at the Visitors Center or the Zion Lodge for overnight guests, but you must purchase tickets in advance.

Be aware that the following shuttle stops are closed at the moment, so the Shuttle will not stop there; Human History Museum, Canyon Junction, Court of the Patriarchs, and Weeping Rock. 

If you are hoping to hit these areas, check back on the National Park Services website to see if they’ve opened up, as some change seasonally.

Hiking Zion National Park

Hiking is the top thing  to do in Zion National Park. There are 16 gorgeous hikes in Zion Canyon itself, not to mention the trails scattered throughout Kolob Canyon, Kolob Terrace, the East Rim and the Southwest Desert Wilderness areas. Alluring mountain vistas, grand rock formations, waterfalls, rivers and unique geologic features await.

Whether you are looking for a casual stroll, an all day strenuous adventure, or something in between, we’ve highlighted the best hikes to do, if you only have one day in Zion. 

With the easier, shorter hikes, you may be able to fit in one, two or even three in a day.

For the more strenuous long hikes like Angels Landing, or the Narrows, it may take up most of the day, so you would be able to spend less time in other areas of the park. It is a good idea to keep in mind what your goals are for the day when planning your trip to Zion.

For a full list  of options, check out Hiking in Zion.

Emerald Pools Trail

Zion, Utah, Waterfall off cliff.
Emerald Falls, Zion, Utah
Photo: “Bartfett / istock.com”

The Emerald Pool Trail is actually a set of three trails that vary in length and difficulty. The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is an easy paved trail to a pool and waterfall, perfect for families, or those wanting an easier hike. The Middle and Upper Pool Trails are moderate and require proper hiking footwear.  

Swimming is not allowed in any of the Pools.

All three trails connect into the Kyenta Trail, an out and back hike, that begins and ends around the Grotto.  If you are like me and  prefer a one way trip, rather than an out and back route, the Kyenta Trail would add about 45 minutes to your hike for the Lower or Middle Emerald Pool Trails. 

Lower Emerald Pool – Easy

  • Distance: 1.2mi / 1.9km roundtrip 
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Change: 69ft / 21m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop 5 – Zion Lodge
  • Amenities: Restrooms, food, and water filling station at Zion Lodge

Perfect for: Zion with kids,  walking behind a waterfall, escaping the heat (shady forest walk) 

The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is a fun hike for kids, as you can walk behind the misty waterfall. Find a refreshing spot behind the waterfall to view the beautiful hanging gardens. Plus the hike takes you through a shady forest, so a  perfect choice for a hot Utah day. 

Middle Emerald Pool

  • Distance: 2.2mi / 3.5km roundtrip 
  • Time: 1.5 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Change: 150ft / 46m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop 5 – Zion Lodge – across the street & footbridge
  • Amenities: Restrooms, food, and water filling station at Zion Lodge

Perfect for: Viewing Emerald Pool and Waterfall

The Middle Emerald Pool Trail parallels the Lower trail, at a higher elevation along a sandstone ridge. 

Upper Emerald Pool

  • Distance: 1.0mi / 1.6km return (plus Kyenta Trail)
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Change: 200ft / 61m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #6 – The Grotto. 
  • Amenities: Restrooms & Water filling station at the Grotto

Perfect for: Views of the Upper Emerald Pool, waterfalls.

The Upper Emerald Pool Trail starts at the end of the Kyenta Trail. You can either take the Kyenta Trail  to the trailhead, or hike one of the other Emerald Pool Trails which connect to the Upper trailhead as well.

This trail is an unpaved, moderate climb to the picturesque Upper Emerald Pool, sitting at the base of a cliff. 

Pa’rus Trail

  • Distance: 3.5mi / 5.6km
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Change: 50ft / 15m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #1 Visitors Center – across the bridge adjacent to the South Campground
  • Amenities: Restrooms & water filling station at Visitors Center

Perfect for: Zion with kids, Multi-use trail (Biking, hiking, dogs allowed) 

Running north/south along the center of the Canyon, following the Virgin River, is the Pa’rus Trail. Pa’rus offers some of the best Canyon views, alongside trailside exhibits and heads towards the Canyon Junction. 

The morning sunrise showcases the Towers of the Virgin, creating a vibrant orange and pink glow on the cliffs.  

This multi-use Trail  is also the only trail in the park which allows dogs and bikes on the same trail.

The Grotto Trail

  • Distance: 1mi / 1.6km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Change: 35ft / 11m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #5 Zion Lodge or # 6 Grotto
  • Amenities: Restrooms at the Zion Lodge & the Grotto

Perfect for: Zion with kids, wildlife viewing, 

The Grotto Trail meanders through an open forest, following the Virgin River between the Zion Lodge and the Grotto. Start at the Grotto, and make your way back to the Lodge for a lunch break or picnic on the large grass lawn.

Weeping Rock Trail

  • Distance: 0.4mi / 0.6km
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Change: 98ft / 30m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop 7 Weeping Rock 
  • Amenities: Pit Toilets in parking lot

Perfect for: Zion with kids and viewing the iconic Weeping Rock 

The Weeping Rock is a sloped and curving rock, most well known for its “weeping” groundwater that seeps out of its pores. It’s a fairly short, but steep hike up the side of the canyon.

This is another beauty of a spot for a hot day. Walk through the refreshing weeping water, then turn around at the alcove to enjoy the amazing canyon views, after your hard work.

Look out for the many plants clinging to the canyon walls, creating the famous Zion hanging gardens. 

This popular trail is closed at the moment due to rockfall in the area, but once it does open back up, it is well worth a visit. 

Riverside Walk to the Narrows

The Riverside Walk is an easy paved trail, that has one of the few wheelchair accessible trails in the park. The first 0.4 miles is accessible, although at times there may be a lot of sand on the trail. 

The Riverside Walk ends at the beginning of the Narrows route, so is a very popular and often crowded walk. It is best to go early to avoid the worst of the crowds.

The Narrows is an exciting, and wet hike in the Virgin River, through you guessed it, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The Narrows runs through a gorge, with at times walls a thousand feet on either side of you.  You will be wading from that point on through the river at least 60% of the time, as there is no trail. 

You can hike for 15minutes, up to a full day to the Big Spring which is a strenuous 10 mile return trip. 

Riverside Walk

  • Distance: 2.2mi / 3.5km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Change: 57ft / 17m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop 9 – Temple of Sinawava, adjacent to restrooms
  • Amenities: Restrooms & water filling station

Perfect for: Zion with kids, walking beside the Virgin River & accessing the Narrows hike

Group of people walking through the river in The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT
Hikers wading through the Narrows, Zion National Park, USA
Photo: “PaulMaguire / istock.com

The Narrows

  • Distance: up to 9.4mi / 15.1km
  • Time: up to 8 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Change: 334ft / 102m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop 9 – Temple of Sinawava, adjacent to restrooms. Take Riverside Walk to the end of the trail.
  • Amenities: Restrooms & water filling station
  • Best Time: late spring / early summer – River is lowest and warmest

Perfect for: All day adventure, dipping your toes in the Virgin River, hot Utah day

Narrows Tips:

What to bring / wear – closed toe waterproof shoes with good grips for hiking on the slippery rocks, a hiking stick, waterproof bag for valuables and appropriate seasonal synthetic layers. Weather – Always check the weather, and heed warnings. Flash Floods can be dangerous.

Watchman Trail

  • Distance: 3.3mi / 5.3km return 
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Change: 368ft / 112m
  • Trailhead: Visitors Center
  • Amenities: Restrooms & Water filling station at the Grotto

Perfect for: Zion with Kids, Avoiding Zion Shuttle Ride, Outstanding Canyon Views

If you are looking to avoid  the Zion Shuttle, the Watchman Trail is perfect. This trail starts near the Visitors Center and follows the meandering Virgin River, before heading up the canyon to a plateau, with amazing views.  

At the viewpoint you will be able to see it all; the Temples & Towers, lower Zion Canyon, Watchman Peak and Springdale. 

Best for people in decent shape, and families who are used to a little bit of hiking.

Angels Landing via the West Rim Trail 

  • Distance: 5.4 mi / 8.7km
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous 
  • Elevation Change: 1000 ft / 457m
  • Trailhead: Shuttle Stop #6 – The Grotto
  • Amenities: Restrooms & Water filling station at the Grotto

Perfect for: Instagram Pic at the edge of the cliff, half day, full on hike

Angel Landing is famous for the iconic instagram shot of you on the edge of the red-rock world. This is a long strenuous hike, not suitable for young kids, or people who are afraid of heights, as there are long drop offs, and the last bit is a steep narrow trail to the summit. 

You may also like Four Day Itinerary in Acadia National Park

Sunsets and Stargazing in Zion

Watchman Campground mountains with starry sky
Watchman Campground, Starry Sky
Photo: “ChengyiChu / istock.com”

A trip to Zion National Park would not be complete without a glimpse of the neon orange cliffs, capturing the last of the sun’s rays and a bit of stargazing. 

The best spots  are not in the Canyon itself, in part because the shuttle does not operate that late, so it would be a looong hike out. However if you are already staying in the South or Watchman Campgrounds inside the park, that is a different story.  There are gorgeous views of both the sunset and night skies from the campgrounds.

A few other recommended spots for sunsets and stargazing are at the Checkerboard Mesa, the Kolob Canyons View Point and around the Human History Museum and the Pa’rus Trail near the Visitors Centre at the entrance to the park.

Hike the Timber Creek Overlook & Sunset at Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

At the entrance to the Kolob Canyons Wilderness area sits the Kolob Canyon Visitor Center off exit 40 on Highway 15. Stop here to show your pass. Then head up the Canyon Road for a 5 mile scenic drive of panoramic views of box canyons, majestic peaks of Navajo sandstone and access points to wilderness trails.

The Timber Creek Overlook is a short hike to an amazing viewpoint of the surrounding area. You can even see Mount Trumbull at the north rim of the Grand Canyon on a clear day. One caution, it can be quite a muddy trail on a wet day.

Hike the Overlook towards the end of the day, and you can catch the sunset from the Kolob Canyon Viewpoint, and even do some stargazing if you stick around long enough.

Timber Creek Overlook

  • Distance: 1.0 mi / 1.6km roundtrip
  • Time: 30 minutes round trip
  •  Elevation Change: 100 ft / 30m
  • Trailhead: Kolob Canyon Viewpoint
  • Amenities: Restrooms & Water filling station at the Grotto

Perfect for: Wildflowers in spring & early summer & spectacular views of Kolob Canyon & Terrace and the  Pine Valley Mountains.

Zion National Park Itinerary

I’ve put together a few fun Zion National Park Itineraries that will suit various fitness and activity levels, plus travelling with kids. Keep in mind that hiking at higher altitudes can be more tiring, and activities may need to be adjusted based on shuttle schedules and your travelling companions needs. 

Family walking a Pathway in Zion Canyon, Utah
Pathway in Zion, UT
Photo: “MargaretW / istock.com”

Family Friendly  One Day Zion National Park Itinerary – Easy Hikes

This is a family friendly, one day Zion itinerary, with easy hikes, for those that love views, but want  or need a less strenuous way to experience the park:

  • Morning – sunrise and hike or bike along the Pa’rus Trail
  • Visitors Center & Museum (when open)
  • Shuttle Bus to Zion Lodge for lunch
  • Riverside Walk 
  • Dinner in Springdale
  • Sunset & Star Gazing at the Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

Family Friendly Zion National Park Itinerary – Easy to Moderate hikes

This is a jam packed family friendly, Zion itinerary, with easy to moderate hikes

  • Morning – Watchman Trail 
  • Visitors Center & Museum (when open)
  • Shuttle Bus to Zion Lodge for lunch
  • Lower Emerald Pool Trail (plus optional Upper Emerald Pool hike)
  • Dinner in Springdale
  • Sunset & Star Gazing at the Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

Zion National Park Itinerary – Hiking, Hiking, Hiking!

This Zion itinerary focuses on hiking more, with some moderate to strenuous hikes:

  • Sunrise & hike at Canyon Overlook Trail
  • Visitor’s Center and Zion Human History Museum (when open)
  • Shuttle Bus into Zion Canyon 
  • Riverside Walk & part of the Narrows OR Angels Landing
  • Picnic Lunch
  • Dinner in Springdale
  • Kolob Canyon –  Hike Timber Creek Overlook
  • Sunset & Stargazing at Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

One Day in Zion Itinerary

A full, one day in Zion Itinerary that will take you to the three main areas of the park:

  • Sunrise & hike at Canyon Overlook Trail
  • Drive to Checkerboard Mesa & Viewpoint 
  • Visitor’s Center and Zion Human History Museum 
  • Shuttle Bus into Zion Canyon 
  • Lunch or picnic at Zion Lodge
  • Riverside Walk & part of the Narrows 
  • Dinner in Springdale
  • Kolob Canyon Hike Timber Creek Overlook
  • Sunset & Stargazing at Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

Zion National Park Itinerary – No Shuttle Bus Required

If you made a last minute decision to head to Zion, or didn’t book the shuttle bus in time, I’ve got you covered. All these hikes you can do without taking the Zion Canyon shuttle, as long as you can find a parking spot at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center (Tip: go well before 8am). 

  • Visitors Center – Park here
  • Sunrise along Pa’rus Trail (easy – don’t have to go far if hiking the Watchman too)
  • Watchman Trail (moderate) 
  • Picnic Lunch
  • Hike at Canyon Overlook Trail
  • Drive to Checkerboard Mesa & Viewpoint 
  • Dinner in Springdale
  • Optional: Kolob Canyon Hike Timber Creek Overlook
  • Sunset & Stargazing at Kolob Canyon Viewpoint

Zion With Kids

What a wonderful way to help your kids gain an appreciation for the beauty of the earth around us, then to take them to National Parks. 

In addition to the fun possibilities of hiking, biking, camping, Zion also has a Junior Ranger Program,  and kid-friendly Ranger led activities including Family Walks, Nature Center youth programs, games, music and storytelling on the lawn at Zion Lodge. Check at the Visitors Center what is available, as some programs may not be running at this time.

Print off the Zion colouring pages to keep your kids entertained on the road. 

Zion Junior Ranger Program

The USA National Parks Junior Ranger Programs are a fun way for your kids to learn more about the parks, and participate in age appropriate activities. 

Much like the Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger Program we talked about in our other post, the Zion Junior Ranger Program offers fun and educational activities for kids to do while they are out exploring. 

You can pick up the Junior Ranger Handbook at the Visitors Center, or download from the NPS website.

The best part is a Park Ranger checks their work, leads them in an oath around taking care of the parks, and respecting nature, and then they are given a special badge. A perfect souvenir for their adventures.

Kid-Friendly Hikes in Zion

While all the details of the hikes can be found above, we will list our recommendations for the best kid-friendly hikes to do for one day in Zion National Park.

  • Easy – Lower Emerald Pool, Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock, Pa’rus Trail, Grotto Trail
  • Moderate – Watchman Trail

Hiking The Narrows With Kids

As the Narrows is one of the most popular and famous Zion hikes, we wanted to mention it here as well.  Many families walk a short distance to get a feel for the Narrows, and dip their feet in the Virgin River. It is a strenuous, wet hike through swift moving water at points that requires proper gear and planning,  if you continue on to Big Spring. The Narrows is not a suitable hike for very young children.

Helpful tips for hiking the Narrows with kids

The first part of the trail is the easy, one mile paved Riverside Walk, which is good for everyone. Next, as you enter the Narrows you’ll be wading in the VIrgin River as you make your way 0.5mi to Mystery Falls (1.5 mi from the trailhead), and water flowing down the canyon walls. Here is a good place to turn back with younger kids.

The next milestone, another 1mi from Mystery Falls is Wall Street (2.5mi from trailhead), where the canyon really narrows and the views are just “wow.” Nearby, the Ordeville Slot Canyon meets up, then it’s 2.5 more miles to Big Head. The full way is 5 miles from the trailhead. Remember you will have to hike back the way you came, and river walking can be tiring. Plan your length of trip accordingly, and turn back before you and your kids are tired.

Things you need to know before you go:

  • Hiking against the current is tiring, and the water is cold. Make sure to wear proper shoes, and clothing, and stop and warm feet up as needed.
  • Consider renting proper gear from an outfitter in Springdale; neoprene socks, walking stick & canyoning boots
  • Check the weather. You do not want to be caught in a flash flood, as once you are in, the only way out, is back the way you came.
  • In summer, the best time to hike the trail is early morning, to avoid afternoon thunderstorms which are common, and the worst of the crowds
  • Research the flow rate of the river for around the time of your Zion family vacation. Ideal with children is below 50cfs (50 cubic feet per section).
  • Bring a dry bag, snacks, water and moleskin, as wet shoes rubbing can cause blisters.

The Narrows is worth a visit with kids, even if it is only 15 minutes up the river. This trail will be an experience they won’t forget.

Grab Your Free Road Trip Planner HERE:

Free Road Trip Planner fanned over paved road through barren hills and sunset

Zion National Park in One Day Conclusion

Gazing up at the awe inspiring sandstone cliffs of pink, and red soaring in the sky, hiking through the wilderness that is Zion, Utah’s first national park, will create memories to last a lifetime.

What are you most looking forward to in Zion? If you’ve been, did we miss any favourite spots or tips? Let us know in the comments below or connect with us on social media. We’d love to hear from you!

Related family friendly destinations and travel tips:


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7 thoughts on “One Day in Zion National Park”

  1. So many great tips here! We definitely want to hit Zion and Bryce; just not sure if we can make this year of if it will be next year. I love the idea of staying in a cozy cabin inside of the park!

  2. It’s on my bucket list to visit all of the National Parks at least once in my life. Your images of Zion are beautiful, and it looks like so much fun (especially wading through the Narrows)!

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