Zion National Park is about 146,000 acres but it is possible to see the beauty of Zion National Park in One Day. When I traveled to Zion I was lucky enough to go with my Airbnb hosts, who are local. They shared with me their super-secret way to experience all that Zion has to offer and avoid the crowds.
Most people visiting Zion National Park for the day hop on and off the free buses to deliver them to the hiking trails and points of interest inside Zion. Or they drive through the park and try to find parking at trailheads. Neither of these options was of interest to me. Zion National Park sees about 5 Million Tourists each year which means it is BUSY!
I don’t mind being busy, and I don’t mind people but hiking with millions of your closest friends can make trail hikes take a bit longer since you will wait for people to pass and sometimes follow slower folks on the trail.
What is so special about Zion National Park?
Zion National Park in Southern Utah is literally one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen on my year-long cross-country road trip. What makes it so unique is the beautiful protected canyon. You can get beautiful canyon views driving all the way through the park. There are overlooks and viewpoints to pull off throughout your drive through Zion National Park.
Zion Hikes are separated into Easy, Moderate and Difficult by the National Park System so you can find your trail preference and take in a beautiful hike. Please note that dogs are only allowed on the Pa’rus Trail.
Springdale is the town located right outside the entrance to Zion. You will find lots of little shops, restaurants, and recreation rental equipment in Springdale. It is a wonderful place to begin your Zion adventure.
The Best Itinerary for One Day in Zion
Ok, so I was able to spend multiple days in Zion but when my fiance was in town, he only had 1 day. This was our perfect one day in Zion National Park.
Stop at Zion Guru and pick up an Ebike! This is the secret to the best day in Zion. When you rent a bike you can take the same trail the buses take so you have the road to yourself. They have a 5-minute video that explains how the bike works and where you can take the bike inside the park. The shop opens at 8 am. You can book the bike online and pick it up in the morning. I recommend getting there right at 8 am because the park gets crowded as it gets later in the day.
The first hike of the day (and totally underrated) is Watchman Trail. It is about 4 miles, fairly easy with lots of switchbacks and lovely views all the way to the top. When you get to the top, head out the loop trail, which is only about ¼ mile but the view is spectacular.
It happens to be the spot my fiance got down on one knee and proposed to me, so it holds a special place in my heart.
The Watchman trail hike should take about 1 ½ – 2 hours. From there, hop back on the bikes and head to Emerald Pools. There are 3 waterfalls along this hike and it’s really a lovely hike. It is a moderate hike, so you will get your heart rate up on this hike. When you arrive at the Upper Emerald Pool, take some time for pics and a little picnic on the rocks.
Across the street from the trailhead for Emerald Pools is the Zion Lodge. Great for a potty break or if you didn’t bring a picnic, they have food! After you take a break, jump back on the bike and head all the way to the end of the bike trail to the Virgin River and The Narrows. The Narrows were too cold for our taste. We opted to sit by the Virgin River along the path to the Narrows and put our feet in the water. Our time on the Virgin River was only about 30 minutes or so and then hopped back on the bike and made our way back through Zion National Park into Springdale.
Our entire day with 2 solid hikes and biking through the canyon took about 8 hours. When we got back to Springdale, we stopped for a light dinner and a drink to celebrate and headed back to Kanab.
What is the best month to visit Zion National Park?
The best time of year to visit Zion is in the Spring. I visited in April and the weather was just lovely. Zion is in the desert so be prepared with water and sunscreen whenever you go. Also, take snacks since you will likely want to do several hikes while you are visiting Zion and you need fuel!
April – October are the busiest months in Zion so if you can do the off-peak, you will have fewer crowds to contend with, but it will also likely be cold! If you can plan to arrive early in the day, you will find the trails much less crowded.
Other trails to hike in Zion National Park
- East Rim Trailhead is immediately on your right after you enter the park from the East Entrance. This hike is one that is less popular than the other trails as you venture into the park. The entire trail is 11 miles long.
I only hiked about 5 miles of this hike. I did not run into a lot of people on this trail so I took my time on this sandy trail, stopping along the way to take in the views. About 2 ½ miles into the hike you will reach a plateau with a view of the sandstone cliffs. I loved the East Rim trail hike in Zion and the views did not disappoint.
Angels Landing in Zion
This hike is the most popular hike in Zion and now requires a permit. You have to apply for the permit and apparently, it’s a bit hard to come by. However, I did notice a lot of people requesting permits on the AllTrails app. I was lucky enough to be invited to join a group hiking Angels Landing.
Angels Landing is the hardest hike I have ever done. I really had to talk myself into it because of the last half mile of the climb. The hike is 5.4 miles and begins at The Grotto. The first part of the hike is paved with multiple switchbacks to help you make the 1400 ft assent.
Scouts Landing is your first rest and gorgeous view. There are restrooms and lots of places to sit and grab a snack (and your nerves) for the last ½ climb. The last ½ mile requires chains to climb to the pinnacle. The view from the top is spectacular and worth the strenuous climb.
The return down the rock consisted of me sliding on my butt and hanging on the chain for dear life. If you have a chance to hike Angels Landing, take it. Not only it is an amazing view but once you complete it, you will know you can do anything!
Pa’rus Trail is a super easy, paved trail and it is dog friendly. It is also the trail you will take on the e-bikes to enter the rest of the park.
The Narrows is a hike through the narrowest part of Zion Canyon. Most of the hike is actually through the river. The water is frigid so you will want to get outfitted at Zion Gurus. It is an amazing hike and something to behold. It is also very popular so you will be hiking with a mass of humanity.
How much does it cost to drive through Zion National Park
There is a cost to travel through Zion National Park. I highly recommend acquiring a National Park Pass since it works through all national parks in the nation. The cost is $35 per car and you will need a pass to enter on foot as well.
Wrap up: If you have one day to spend in Zion National Park, arrive early. The first job is to grab an Ebike and head out into the park on the Pa’rus trail. Plan to spend your day hiking and basking in the amazing beauty that Zion has to offer. Looking for a place to stay near Zion? Check out my post on Kanab Utah.