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Zion Vs Bryce Canyon: Which National Park is Better to See?

I want to give you my personal take on the Zion vs Bryce Canyon topic, something I have a lot of experience in because I’ve visited both national parks multiple times. Here’s my history on that:

  1. I’ve been to Zion National Park 6 times.
  2. I’ve been to Bryce Canyon National Park 2 times.

The reason I’ve visited Zion more than Bryce is because I actually like it there more and while my opinion on this topic is a bit biased, there’s good reasons for it. At the end of the day, I’m going to suggest you see both of these amazing parks and even go further to see the other 3 in Utah, but I want to give you a “deep dive” into this topic so you fully understand why I’ve developed this opinion:

Zion vs Bryce Canyon and where one national parks beats the other:

  • Which park has better and more hikes? Zion.
  • Which park is bigger? Zion.
  • Which park is more scenic? Zion in my opinion.
  • Which park has more variety of stuff to explore? Zion.
  • Which park is less crowded and busy year yound? Bryce Canyon.
  • Which park has more places to stay at? Zion.
  • Which park can you explore in a day? Both.
  • Which park is better to visit during winter time? Zion (less snow there), thus less chances of it closing.
  • Which park has more to see and do outside of it? Both.

These choices are based of basic facts and my opinions after visiting these parks and while Zion is my pick, Bryce Canyon is also awesome in many ways and worth visiting, but let me explain everything else you should know between these 2 parks so you can decide which one to prioritize visiting first:

Similarities between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park:

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  1. Both parks are located in Utah.
  2. Both are part of the Mighty 5 National Parks list.
  3. Both are well worth visiting (hikes, beautiful scenery and more).
  4. Both parks have lots to see inside and nearby.
  5. Both are very close to Grand Staircase Escalante, another amazing region to explore on top of these places.
  6. Both are very close to Kanab Utah, which is a great town to stay at if you want to see one or both parks.
  7. Both have amazing scenic drives, but I think Zion’s is better.
  8. You can camp in both parks.
  9. Both have shuttle systems in the middle of the year which I am personally not a fan of.
  10. Both national parks have airports nearby, although there more airports close to Zion National Park than Bryce (no major ones though for either park).

Differences between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park:

  1. Zion is substantially larger than Bryce Canyon (Over 100x).
  2. Bryce Canyon is at a much higher elevation than Zion (it’s usually colder there too).
  3. In Zion you can hike and explore way more than in Bryce. Bryce is mostly a hike into the Canyon and overlooks.
  4. There’s more nature variety in Zion (water, canyons, mountains). Bryce is mostly canyon hiking.
  5. Zion is way more crowded than Bryce, so the latter might be a better choice if you don’t want to deal with that.

5 reasons why Zion National Park is better to visit than Bryce Canyon:

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1) The fact that there’s more variety of nature spots there:

This is big, at least to someone like me. In Zion, you are have many more types of terrain to explore, including:

  1. Driving and hiking at the bottom of a canyon and over the top of it.
  2. There’s better hiking experiences (Angels Landing, then there’s the Narrows and Observation Point for example).
  3. There’s a giant tunnel you drive through which I think is great.
  4. The scenic drive offers more exploration opportunities.
  5. It’s just way bigger, so naturally there is more to see and do.
  6. I also think you get way more and better overlooks in Zion National Park than in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce is great in many of these respects too, but when compared to Zion, it just doesn’t have as much to see and do. I’d also say that if your first visit to these national parks was in Bryce, you’d likely be amazed by the nature, but even more so amazed by what Zion has to offer.

2) There’s more lodging and restaurants available in Zion:

This is another important factor to me. I like to have choices and options to stay and eat at. With Bryce Canyon, the only real nearby town is Bryce Canyon City which has 1 major hotel option (The Best Western) and 2-3 restaurants that are OK.

Zion National Park has way more options in this regard and that also makes it great to explore after you finish checking it out. There is the option to see and stay in Kanab which is a great middle spot to stay at to see both parks and that too has options, but we’re talking about the nearest town and things to do there, and in that regard Zion is the clear winner for me.

3) Zion is less likely to close in the winter than Bryce Canyon:

I happen to think that winter time is the best period to visit either park because the prices for hotels are way lower, there are significantly less crowds and the weather at that time makes it better to hike, but because Bryce Canyon National Park is at a much higher elevation, you’re more likely to see consistent snow and ice there during winter time, whereas in Zion, winter time there is certainly cold, but periods when it snows are rarer and thus you have more to see and do even during winter time in Zion (the Zion National Park weather is usually more tolerate even during winter time).

4) Getting to Zion is easier than Bryce (most of the time):

While there is only a 1-2 hour drive distance between these parks, Bryce is still in a more remote area of Utah whereas Zion is closer to major cities. A lot of people visiting Zion do so from exploring hikes near Las Vegas for example, and the drive to it is 3 hours, whereas if the same people wanted to visit Bryce, they’d be looking at a 5 hour drive.

5) Zion National Park is more photogenic:

While Bryce is also extremely photogenic, when I compare the Bryce Canyon National Park photos I’ve taken to the Zion National Park photos, I really think there is more variety of beauty in Zion vs Bryce and the pictures really show that.

Why you should visit both Bryce and Zion National Park:

1) The distance from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is only 1-2 hours apart:

It doesn’t really matter if you stay in Kanab, or somewhere in Zion or near Bryce. You can easily see both parks regardless and that’s what I recommend you do if you go! The distance from Zion to Bryce is a little over 70 miles:

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2) You shouldn’t limit yourself to just 1 park:

There’s a reason there are 5 national parks in Utah and they are called the Mighty 5, it’s because they are all awesome and worth seeing. My first visit to Zion was also the first time I had ever been to Utah, so naturally I was blown away by it’s beauty and didn’t think anything could top it, but after I explored Bryce and the other Mighty 5 Parks, in this case:

I was very happy that I did it because every single one of these parks, including Zion all have their own beauty to offer and you should absolutely see all of them to get the best experiences.

3) You can explore many more places near these parks to add more variety to your trip:

With Bryce Canyon, you have places like:

  • Eastern Grand Staircase Escalante.
  • Red Canyon.
  • Willis Creek Slot Canyon.
  • Mossy Cave.
  • And more.

With Zion National Park, you have places like:

  • Kanab Utah (many more hikes there).
  • Hillsdale Utah, which is about 30 minutes from it, and it too has amazing hikes.
  • Springdale and St. George are nearby, and they all have amazing sights to see too!

And again, you can literally explore all of these places, plus the same 2 national parks as they’re already close to one another. There’s another good post comparing Bryce and Zion here you may want to check out too. In many ways the arguments on that blog post say the same things I do (about the weather in both parks, reasons to see Zion over Bryce or vice versa and more).

Other questions about Zion vs Bryce Canyon:

Should I spend more time in Zion or Bryce?

I would recommend spending more time in Zion instead of Bryce because it’s much bigger there and there’s much more to see.

Should I go to Zion or Bryce first?

Usually most people visit Zion first, then Bryce, but if you’re coming from places like Salt Lake city or Moab (north), then it’s better to see Bryce first.

Is Bryce as busy as Zion?

No Bryce Canyon is typically not as busy as Zion but they do both get crowded during the spring and summer.

Can you stay in between Zion and Bryce?

Yes, the best place to stay in between Zion and Bryce would be in Kanab.

Can I do Zion and Bryce in one day?

It’s possible but it’s better to explore Zion and Bryce over 2 days instead of one day as you would also be limited on how much you can see in each one.

Last notes on the topic of Bryce vs Zion:

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If for whatever reason you are in a situation where you can only see 1 park, then I’m going to recommend you prioritize Zion National Park instead of Bryce Canyon for the reasons above. I do hope I was able to explain why both parks are worth visiting and the advantages one has over the other, but if you have any questions or want to share your opinion on this topic, I’d love to know which national park you think is better below!

Best place to stay when visiting Zion and Bryce Canyon (there’s more than one option):

  • The top town to stay in is Kanab (30 minutes from Zion, 1 hour from Bryce).
  • If you prefer Bryce, then stay in the town of Carson City (Best Western is the top choice there).
  • If you prefer Zion, then either Kanab or just stay in the town of Springdale (outside the park).

More related posts:

  1. I recently wrote up on Zion vs Arches National Park and that might be another interesting comparison for you to check out!
  2. Additionally if you are planning to visit Zion from Vegas, then I recommend also checking out my post on the best day trips from Las Vegas (which doesn’t include Arches, but at least 20 other destinations aside from Zion to explore too).

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