Love hiking? Dope Airbnbs? Tasty treats? Endless adventure? You’re in the right place, because i’m here to show you how to best explore Zion and Bryce National park, plus the surrounding areas. Along with some exhilarating experiences found off the beaten path. Below l’ll share everything you need to know for a magical trip, at the end I will break it down to a day by day itinerary.
Coming from Kansas City, we chose to fly into Las Vegas airport. It’s a 4 hour drive to Bryce Canyon, and just under 3 hours to Zion. Salt Lake City could be another option, being just under 4 hours to Bryce and just over 4 hours to Zion. Heads up the Vegas airport rental car situation consists of a few long lines, and buses- depending on who you rent with. We went with Foxx car rentals, through Priceline, and it was $375 for 6 days. *Now we skip to the good part*
Bryce Canyon National Park:
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I loved Bryce more than Zion. Here’s some of the trails and look out points we hit:
- Fairyland loop Trail – 7.8 mile loop- Started late, so only did half. Gorgeous views.
- Navajo Loop and Queens Garden – 2.9 mile loop- Started at Sunrise point, at sunrise and went counter clockwise. -10 degrees in Feb.
- Sunrise to Sunset point – You can hike the trail or just walk up to the view points.
- Bryce Point Overlook – Short easy access to jaw dropping views.
- Inspiration Point- located in-between Sunset point and Bryce point. Can be accessed by the Rim Trail (if its open) or used as a lookout.
Going to Bryce Canyon during off season has its pros and cons. Pros- No crowds, easy parking, and cheaper accommodations. Cons- some trails are closed, and it’s COLD. I personally would rather bundle up to face the cold, than deal with crowds. In all honesty, with the right gear -10 degrees didn’t feel THAT bad. As a result of a big snowstorm a few days before, there was a few road and trail closures. Check out my gear list here, so you can show up prepared.
Not to toot my own horn, but I have a knack for finding the best Airbnbs, I highly recommend booking theses stays if they are available for your trip. Just 15 minutes outside the entrance of Bryce Canyon National Park, in Tropic, sits this sweet Airbnb. Coming in at $165 a night, it had everything you needed for a home cooked meal, freshly laundered clothes, and a good nights rest.
The Airbnb in Zion was a little bit more a splurge coming in at $775 for three nights, but staying .6 miles from the park entrance is worth the pretty penny. Being rated one of Zion’s top Airbnbs, they had it all, including massage chairs that were too die for after a long day of hiking. Liz and Larry have a selection of 5 luxurious rooms for you to choose from. Make sure to take them up on the breakfast burritos and coffee to go in the morning!
Zion National Park:
Zion National Park is one of the most visited parks in the US, for good reason- it’s stunning.
Some hikes we hit:
- The Watchman Trail– 3.1 mile out and back- Make sure to walk the loop at the top! Trail head is in the visitors lot.
- Emerald Pools Trail– 3 mile loop. Nice easy hike with a few waterfalls, family friendly. Shuttle stop 5 or at the Zion Lodge.
- The Zion Narrows River walk– 1.9 mile out and back. Stroller and wheel chair accessible. Shuttle stop 9, The Temple of Sinawava.
- Angels landing– An adrenaline junkies dream hike. Rated hard for a reason, Quick elevation gain, sketchy chains, beautiful views. You will need a permit as of April 1st. Shuttle stop 6.
If you’re here for nature, heading to Zion in off season is the best advice I could give. Considering we visited during the first weekend shuttles were running, it was far busier than I expected. The shuttle system is very well organized, but being able to drive yourself on the scenic route also has its benefits. Starting early is always a smart call, because parking fills up fast, both at the trails heads and the visitors center. While we were visiting, we were able to drive the scenic route during the week. We got to Angels Landing trailhead at 630am, and it was full 10 minutes later. Check here to learn more about the shuttle stops and times.
- Ruby’s Inn– Steak, home cooking, Salad bar.
- Thunder Bird’s– Great stop on the way from Bryce to Zion. Burgers, wraps, pies.
- WhipTail -Mexican and more.
- Cafe Soleil– Pizza, Sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and snacks.
- FeelLove Coffee– The BEST- ask for the Fararri or lavender latte.
- Zion Brewery– Wings and beer, yes plz.
- Spotted Dog– Nice dinner, great apps.
- Pizza and Noodle co– Try the Thai chicken pizza, if you want something different. Great patio and beer.
So yeah.. Bryce Canyon and Zion were pretty incredible, but sometimes its not the main attraction that makes the trip. In addition to hiking, we did a helicopter ride, a private slot canyon tour, sled sand dunes, and wandered through some dope rocks on the way to the airport. While I have a knack for finding Airbnbs, I also tend to find some off the beaten path gems.
Zion Helicopter: We gave our feet a rest for a hot minute, and took a snazzy little ride to see Zion National Park from a different perspective. I had never been in a helicopter before, so it was a really cool experience. We were lucky enough to be put in the front with the pilot, and let me tell ya.. views for days!
East Zion Adventures: This was probably my favorite activity of the trip. I found them on Airbnb experience, then looked them up and booked it the night before. We were lucky enough to have a private tour, and the slot canyon to ourselves. Lonny was our guide, he made something that seemed a bit intimidating..easy. Shimmying up and down canyon walls, using just my body was an experience like no other. We met up at a gas station about 45 minutes from Zion, loaded up into an ATV and hit the muddy trails. Be prepared to get a little dirty on this one and bring your camera to capture the magic.
State parks along the way:
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: On the way to the slot canyon tour we saw this little detour, and had to take it. You can rent a sled or snow board and play like a kid again. Just be prepared to wipe out a time or two. $10 fee to enter the state park and $25 to rent the sled. We practically had the whole park to ourselves.
Valley of Fire State Park: The party don’t stop! .. but really.. Another detour on the way back to Vegas, I should just call this blog the big detour because it seems to be my MO. About an hour from the airport and only $15 dollars to enter, sits this beauty. We had about 3 hours to wander, and I wish we made time for more. There were all different trails and endless amounts of panoramic rocks to be admired. We did the Fire wave and Pink Canyon via Seven wonders Trail and Rainbow Vista Trail. Be on the lookout for wildlife, we saw tons of big horned sheep feeding and sun bathing. As we were leaving around 11am there were tons of cars checking in, so it pays to get there early!
If rocks could talk.. Id have a million questions to ask them. How long have you been here? How did you become this majestic? Tell me the funniest thing you’ve seen. Show me the most magical sunset you’ve witnessed, sunrise too.
5 Day itinerary:
We flew in late on a Thursday night after work, and just slept a few hours at a hotel booked with HotelsTonight. (use code BMASSEY29 for $25 dollars off your first booking)
Day 1: Drive from Vegas to Bryce Canyon, Park at Sunrise point and hike Fairyland Loop Trail. Dinner at Ruby’s Inn. Check into Airbnb and rest!
Day 2: Sunrise at Sunrise Point. Hike Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail. Head over to Inspiration point and Bryce Point. Hit the road to Zion around 12, stop at Thunder bird’s for lunch on the way. Check into Airbnb at 3. Hike The Watchman Trail. Dinner at Whiptail grill.
Day 3: FreeLove Coffee, make sure to get a scone. 10am helicopter ride. Dropped the car off at the Airbnb and walked to the visitors center. Shuttle to stop 5, Hike Emerald Pools trail. Back on the shuttle to stop 9, The Zion Narrows Riverwalk. Hop on the shuttle to head back to the visitors lot. Lunch at Zion Brewery, Dinner at The Spotted dog.
Day 4: Airbnb burritos and coffee to go for breakfast. Hike Angels Landing. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Thunder Bird’s for lunch. ATV and slot canyon tour with East Zion Adventure. Pizza and Noodles co for dinner.
Day 5: Wake up early and head to Valley of Fire State Park. Hike Fire Wave and Pink Canyon Trail. Hike Rainbow Vista Trail. Head to the airport.
And there you have it my friend, your guide on “Exploring Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks”, plus the surrounding areas! Book your flight, Airbnb, rental car, and get out there. This is trip one you won’t forget. Let me know in the comments below if this blog post was helpful! Thanks so much for reading.