Two Days in Zion
Zion National Park is a site to be seen in Utah; the scenery is marvelous and the hikes are even better. It is a must do if you’re going to be in the Southwest and we will tell you how to fit the best hikes into two days in Zion National Park.
Campsite Information in Zion
If you’re planning on camping, the most sought after campground is the Watchman Campground. Reservations for Watchman Campground can be made 6 months in advance, and spots fill up very quickly. If you want the security of locking down a campsite in advance, I highly recommend booking as soon as possible once you’re in that six month window.
If you miss booking Watchman Campground then you will have to try to book a spot at South Campground. While you are going to want to book your transportation and equipment ahead of time, at South Campground you can only book exactly two weeks before the day you arrive. Set reminders on your phone or mark in red on your calendar to call between 9am and 12 noon Mountain Time (MT) to make your reservation.
If you don’t want to rough it there is a great town just on the outskirts of the National Park that has BnBs, hotels, restaurants, shops, and bars.
Entering the Zion National Park
Now that you know where you’re going to stay in Zion, let’s talk about how you’re getting into the park. To enter a National Park you can either pay for your car for the stay or you can buy a National Park pass, which if you’re planning to go to other national parks in the surrounding area (which you should, see Bryce National Park link here) it will be worth it to get the season pass.
Zion is huge and you can enter from many different directions but the most stunning is Zion-Mount Carmel Road as you enter from the east on Route 9. Carved into a mountain is an enormous tunnel that is 1.1 miles long. As you are driving through the dark tunnel, there will be beams of light that you pass that are actually windows offering stunning views.
The bus system in Zion is comprehensive, quick, and a great way to get to all the different trail heads. Leave your car so you don’t have to worry about parking and take the bus to the trail. However, if you want to use the bus make sure to get there early especially if you are staying at South Campground. The line can get very long!
Watchman's Trailhead is a great way to get familiar with the South Side of the park and get your bearings as you see the campgrounds and town right beside you from the top. Only about a 2 mile hike round trip, it isn’t too strenuous but it has fairly steep hills so strap those hiking boots tight. This would be a great hike to bring the family too as long as they are ready for a journey.
Watchman’s Trail has great views from the beginning of the hike all the way to the peak. Located steps away from South Campground, this hike is a great way to start your day in Zion.
Angel's Landing Hike
Angel’s Landing is one of the most challenging and exhilarating hikes I’ve ever done and is a must do as long as you’re not afraid of heights. The first 2.4 miles to get to Angel’s Landing, called West Trim Rail, is a fairly moderate climb that increases in steepness as you get closer to the tall rock formation. Towards the end of the West Rim Trail there are 22 switchbacks affectionately called Walter’s Wiggles; keep driving up those hills because you’re almost there!
Once you arrive at Angel’s Landing rock formation you will notice the trek has narrow trails, rock scrambling, and steep cliffs. We suggest that you go early to avoid crowds since many parts of the hike you are in a single file hanging onto a metal chain attached to the cliff face. Hang on tight to the chain, some parts of the hike are not for the faint of heart as you must overcome many obstacles. While the view at the top is amazing, I truly think the climb is the best part of this experience.
The Narrows in Zion
The Narrows is a very unique and popular hike where you walk through Zion Canyon via the Virgin River. Learn from our mistakes, we thought that we didn’t need to rent equipment and figured we could walk through the river without any water protection but we were wrong! We started out by hiking our pants up high and raising our chins to the sky but the water was way too cold. We got a fair amount of the way into the Canyon but had to turn back because of the depth of the water and our unprepared garb.
For rent, you can protect yourself with dry pants or a drysuit, canyon shoes, hiking pole, and neoprene socks for anywhere between $25 and $55 a person. If you are traveling between September through June it is recommended to have this hiking equipment. Once you do, you can hike the Narrows for an hour, or for two days, depending how long you want to take this trail. This hike is kid friendly as well, just be prepared to get wet.
If you are interested in the Narrows but don’t want to rent equipment or dive in without equipment, take the Riverside Walk and watch as people brave the cold water. Riverside walk is a two mile loop that takes you through a flat terrain as you walk through lush trees, passed the weeping wall, and is wheelchair accessible.
Outside of Zion National Park
Right outside of the south exit of Zion there is a really quaint town where you can find restaurants, markets, bars, shops etc. Cross the footbridge outside of the park and steps away from South Campground you can find a brewpub to relax after a day of hiking and market to get wood, food, or last minute supplies. If you travel further away from the park you can find restaurants, bars, hotels, and inns.
On our last morning in Zion we stopped at Parkhouse Cafe for breakfast and it was an amazing place to get a home cooked meal in a cozy atmosphere.
Enjoy Your Two Days in Zion
Zion is an incredible place and is also massive, but you can hit the best hikes in just two days. Be ready to get dirty and to walk a lot, and if you are going to brave Angel’s Landing make sure you can handle heights!
If you are interested in visiting Bryce Canyon, check out this article on how to spend one action packed day in another incredibly beautiful place.