2 Days in Zion National Park, Utah
Zion is a wonderland of canyons and trails. Whether you’re taking on the infamous Narrows hike through a river canyon, climbing high above the basin on Angel’s Flight, or simply taking a nature walk to the Emerald Pools. In this post I’ll give you some general information and some great ideas for an action-packed 2 days in Zion.
My adventure buddy, Jenna, and I planned a trip to Utah to see Bryce Canyon and Zion, two bucket list National Parks. They are only a few hours apart, making it an easy trip to tackle in 5-7 days to see both these parks.
If you’re not driving, the easiest airport to fly into is Las Vegas. From there you can rent a car and drive 2 hours 40min to Zion. We chose this option coming from Los Angeles to save time. Discover Cars is a great tool to compare car rental prices and get the best pricing.
Transportation within the park
Zion has a great shuttle system that starts at several large parking lots outside the park. This makes it easy to access all parts of the park by hopping on and off this bus. We did this trip on Labor Day weekend, so while the shuttle systems were still running it was a little painful waiting around because the lines were so long.
The free shuttles only run April - November.
Tip: Don’t visit on holiday weekends, it’s too busy!
Where to Stay
The south entrance of Zion in Springdale is by far the most popular entrance with a bustling city that has a lot of parking and restaurants. There aren’t too many hotels to choose from so book far in advance.
La Quinta by Wyndham at Zion Park/Springdale is simple, clean, no frills. I usually choose something like this for a National Park because you spend most of your time away from the hotel exploring.
Cable Mountain Lodge has a few more perks like a seasonal heated pool and a hot tub with canyon views. You can also rent a suite with a small kitchen if you prefer to cook rather than dine out.
Montclair Inn & Suites at Zion National Park is a well priced hotel with a pool and mountain views really close to the park.
When To Go
The best weather for Zion are in the month’s of April, May, Oct and Nov. Avoid June - August it' gets too hot to hike. From December to March the park’s free shuttles aren’t running.
Hike The narrows
The Narrows is one of Zion's most famous adventures. It’s a hike through a slot canyon, where you wade through the canyon water up to 10 miles out and back. Since it's out and back you can make it as short or as long as you feel comfortable with. You'll need a walking stick for balance and water shoes if you want to be comfortable. You can bring these with you or rent them at the visitor’s center.
Flash floods can happen in the canyon, and if you have nowhere to retreat then it can be deadly. Flash floods are more common in the afternoon, so the best thing to do is leave early morning for this hike, and talk to a ranger at the visitors center before you head out. There was a crazy line for the shuttle when we left, and the storm cloud's were brewing. By the time we got into the park the rangers advised against heading to the trail. We changed courses at the this point, a bit defeated.
I have done this hike before back in 2006, and here’s what I learned.
Advise for The Narrows
Leave early in the morning
Check for any storm warnings before starting the trail (VERY important!, flash floods are deadly)
Wear or rent appropriate gear (water shoes and a walking stick for balance)
Bring plenty of water, I'd recommend a 3L Hydration Pack
Bring snacks for energy
A dry bag would be a good addition in case you fall into the water or have to float your pack
More info about the details of what to bring in this blog post.
Hike Angels's Landing
Angel's Landing is a steep hike, 5.5 miles roundtrip with 1,488 feet elevation gain. As we climbed up, 2 miles felt more like 5 miles. When you reach the top of the switchbacks, there is a nice wide open area with great views where you can stop and have a snack or lunch. If you are afraid of heights you can end your hike here. After this comes the hard part of the hike, a half mile of cable lines with 1000 foot drop-offs.
We started the cable lines, stepping carefully along the path while holding onto the single cable line. My heart was beating pretty quickly at this point, mostly because there were a LOT of people attempting this hike. It was Labor Day weekend, and no permits are necessary. Jenna and I went along the lines for about 20min, and kept having to move or let go of the cable to let the people coming down pass us. The chains were really hot with the summer sun beating down on them. We decided it wasn't worth the risk. It was too busy. Below you can see the start of the cable lines.
A note for all of you reading this: don't go on a holiday weekend, and start all hikes early morning to avoid the masses. Bring plenty of water! We saw people heading up to the top with a 16 ounce water bottle. I went through my all of my 70 ounces by the end of this trek.
This hike is also still absolutely worth it even if you don’t attempt the last half mile cables to the very top. There are plenty of amazing views from the top of the switchbacks where you can sit and enjoy a packed lunch or a snack.
Advise for Angel's Landing
Leave early in the morning
Check for any storm warnings before starting the trail (lightening strikes summits first)
Wear appropriate gear (hiking shoes with good grip, vibram soled shoes are highly recommended)
Bring plenty of water, I'd recommend 70 ounces or more
Wear gloves to avoid burning your hands on the hot chains
More info about the details of what to bring in this blog post.
Dinner at Stage coach grille
We were starving after Angel's Landing, and went to the hot spot restaurant of LaVerkin, Utah, called Stage Coach Grille. Stagecoach is a meat eater's paradise. The waitress comes around with a variety of cuts, and you can choose your cut right on the platter. I ended up getting some delicious ribs, and we really enjoyed the small town ambiance in the quaint little restaurant at sunset.
On the last day of our Utah road trip, my friend and I booked a trip with Red Desert Adventure to go canyoneering. Canyoneering is traveling down river canyons using a variety of techniques like scrambling, climbing, jumping, rappelling, and swimming. You can also book a 4-hour trip with Get your Guide.
We left at 7am to Yankee Doodle canyon, a "wet" canyon that has some pools of water to cross. We started with a few longer repels into the beautiful swirling rock formations, then continued scrambling through a dry canyon.
When we arrived at our first pool of water, we were pretty surprised at how murky the water was (even though our guide had warned us). This was opaque brown, stagnant water, with tadpoles and a few dead bugs floating around. Yuck! We avoided getting into the water as long as we could by chimneying through the canyons.
When we finally had to wade through I screamed and shrieked until I got to the other side. I am usually a prideful, "tough" women, but that all went out the window. We continued down the trail, a beautiful walled in path of Sienna colored stone. At a few points we had to swim through the pools! When we arrived at the final pool of water, there was a baby snake right next it. This snake wasn't poisonous, but still... deciding to wade into opaque water that there might be snakes in is scary!!! But there was no other option so we basically ran through that last pool as quickly as possible!
After exiting the canyon, we then hiked back up to the top. As crazy as it sounds, this was my favorite day. It was full of action and adventure, and the canyon was truly beautiful. I'd highly recommend Red Desert Adventure, our guide and owner Eric was a great guy, and so knowledgable about the area. We enjoyed his company!
I hope this helps you plan your trip! If you have additional tips please leave in the comments below. If you’re wondering what should bring or wear to Zion, please see my post What to Wear to Zion National Park.
Just For Fun Park Tees
These tees are unnecessary for hiking, but it’s always fun to get a tank or tee with the Park Name on it for photos. I found these tees on Etsy.
Need a few more options for Adventure? Get your guide has some great experiences.
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