I’ve visited Zion National Park twice and with each visit, I only had one day to explore as much of it as possible. Thankfully, the short amount of time I had with each visit, I still managed to see and experience a ton within this park. And you can do this too, so:
- If you’re visiting Zion National Park for the first time.
- And you only have one day to do it.
- And you want to have a fulfilling day here.
You’ve come to the right article. I’m going to share the things you can do in one day at this park and avoid the mistakes I made, especially the first time I went here.
How much of Zion National Park can you actually explore in one day?
A lot actually. And it’s also the same with parks like:
- Canyonlands National Park.
- Arches National Park.
- Coyote Gulch.
- Bryce Canyon National Park.
- Catskills (New York).
And other places I’ve visited. Anyway:
Zion National Park is actually pretty small compared to other National Parks in the states (but one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen), and because there are only 2 main roads that go through the park, and most of the hikes are off those 2 roads, you can actually access a ton of places by just driving through them.
Now how much time it takes you to explore each place is a different story and this is where you can really mix it up. Here’s how:
Here is a list of activities, itineraries and hikes you can do in Zion (in one day):
Each takes it’s own amount of time depending on your physical level or driving speed, but you can probably do ANY 2 to 3 hikes plus 2 drives listed below.
This ends up being a total of 4 to 5 activities in one day:
- Doing a scenic drive through road 9 that goes through the park (23 mile drive).
- Doing a scenic drive from road 9 to the the Narrows parking lot (6 mile drive).
- Hiking the Narrows (14 miles round trip).
- Hiking Observation Point (6-8 miles round trip).
- Hiking Angel’s Landing (6 miles round trip).
- Exploring Wheeping Rock trail (0.6 miles).
- Canyon Overlook (1 mile).
- Emerald Pools (3 miles).
- Riverside Walk (2 miles).
- The Subway (10 miles) and you need a permit.
With this list, you have a lot of possibilities.
These are the 4 most popular hikes and spots in Zion National Park:
In case you want to know which of the many hikes in the park are most popular and worth doing, here they are:
- Angel’s Landing.
- The Narrows.
- The Subway.
- Observation Point.
So far, I’ve visited all of these except the Subway hike. Realistically, you can do 2 of these hikes in one day, as they are long and take many hours (each one) to complete.
Here is what I recommend doing in one day at Zion National Park:
These ideas are based off exactly what I did the first time I went there:
- Start by driving through scenic road 9 that goes through most of the park (it’s an amazing drive).
- Hike Angel’s Landing (Takes about 4 hours).
- Drive through the scenic route to the Narrows hike.
- Hike through the Narrows (Can take up to 10 hours or more, but you can turn back earlier).
The second time I went to Zion, this is what I did (in one day):
- Hiked Observation Point (It took me about 3 hours).
- Drove through the scenic road 9.
- Drove to the scenic road to the Narrows hike.
- Hiked much of the Narrows ((I did about 2 hours of hiking there, before turning back).
Now this is subjective, because I love to do active things in parks like this and if you’re like me, then these options will give you a very fulfilling day at Zion. They are extremely scenic and you are going to have an adventure.
But if you’re more mellow and want to sight see, sit around and enjoy the views, you can totally do that too with the many other options I listed above. Basically omit Observation Point, the Subway, Angel’s Landing and The Narrows, as well as the other hikes are pretty easy, mellow and good for sight seeing. But definitely drive through the scenic road. It is it’s own experience.
First time visiting Zion National Park? Read these 11 tips before you go:
If you’re looking for one day trip ideas here, chances are you’re probably also visiting this place for the first time and if you’re not careful, you may waste a lot of time and make mistakes.
That’s what happened the first time I ever went here, and while I truly enjoyed the trip, there were a number of mistakes I had made which really wasted hours of the only day I had there. So here are my 10 tips:
1) The earlier you come to Zion, the better.
Basically, if you can get here early in the morning, and I’m talking 7 a.m if not earlier, the more time you’ll have to explore the places listed above.
2) Don’t like the dessert heat? Go here during the fall and winter seasons.
It is VERY pleasant in Zion National Park during these times. You’ll have weather in the 50’s to 70’s most of the day so you can walk around in a t shirt. The only thing you’d need to be careful with is ice on some of the hikes (slippery).
3) Take the time to do the scenic drive (see the videos below for proof).
Below, I’m going to show you 3 videos of my personal drive through Zion that I encourage you to watch, because this is one of the most beautiful scenic roads in all of America (in my opinion). Plus it’s a good break to take in between hiking trails if you plan on doing multiple ones.
4) Hate crowds and lines? If so, come here during the fall and especially winter season.
During winter there are no shuttles or long lines and crowds in the park so you have the freedom (and parking space) to explore more of the park and spend less time waiting in lines. Usually (mandatory) shuttle services start around March.
5) Want to hike the Narrows? Read this:
The Narrows is it’s own beautiful hike but the first time I went there, I screwed up by not being prepared properly. Read this guide to hiking the Narrows if you plan to go, to ensure you go at the right time, with the right gear and stay safe!
6) Scared of heights but want to see the incredible overlooks? Check out Observation Point.
Observation Point is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done and the overlook it takes you to is truly something. It is probably the highest point in all of Zion, but hiking to it is mellow and simple.
7) Angels Landing isn’t for everyone.
The Angel’s Landing hike is probably one of the two most popular hikes in all of Zion (and even the world), but hiking the last half mile there is frightening, especially for those who are already scared of heights. It is downright dangerous, but you can decide for yourself by reading this comparison of Angel’s Landing and Observation Point to make your own decision.
I’d rather you go on a hike you know you’ll complete than one you will be surprised by, unable to finish and waste time back tracking. That’s basically what I ended up doing my first time. I didn’t know it would be that scary.
8) Take the time to stop in between hikes and enjoy the scenery.
For example: If you plan on doing the Narrows, you’ll park your car and walk the short trail to the start of the Narrows hike, but on that trail, you’ll see some beautiful small beaches, rivers and places which are truly breathtaking and I recommend taking the time to stop, sit and enjoy the silence and beauty because these small areas will really be etched in your mind afterwards.
9) Take the time to stop on the scenic drive through Zion too.
Zion’s scenic drive has many stops along the way and I recommend you take advantage of them, especially if you see something you like. There are so many possibilities that there’s a reason I said driving through the scenic road is one of the things you should do during your one day trip there.
10) Don’t rush even though you only have one day.
As long as you plan ahead by choosing the places above tactically, you should be able to do at least 2-3 hikes in Zion (even the major ones) a scenic drive or two and finish before the sun starts to set.
11) Go during the spring and summer seasons if you want more daylight for your one day trip.
During the fall and winter seasons, you’re probably looking at 11 or so hours of daylight available for your trip, while during the Spring and Summer seasons, 12-14 hours which can make a huge difference.
Of course, judge it based on your level of health. I personally don’t enjoy hot weather and I travel quickly, so going during the fall and winter season here is perfect for me.
Here is a 3 part scenic drive I did through Zion (all in one day in addition to hiking trails):
The first video is a short loopy drive I did on road 9 that showcases some of the beauty in Zion that you’ll see as well:
The second video is me driving to the Narrows trail off route 9:
And finally, the last part of my drive is going back into the park after hiking Observation Point (west to east):
Tip: There are many more parks to see in Utah, don’t just stick to Zion!
Zion National Park isn’t the only major national park in Utah. You should also check out the Mighty 5 National Parks. I had a chance to do that (With the exception of Capital Reef) and I was floored by their beauty. A road trip through these 5 parks is highly recommended and you can probably do them all in a few days.