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(Last Updated On: April 22, 2023)
Best Things to do in One Day in Zion National Park. Even if you only have half a day: Here are the sights to prioritize.

Zion National Park is one of the most popular hikes in the USA – and for good reason. The first time I went to Zion, I was new to the outdoors and new to National Parks. The scale alone of this place is absolutely wild and it feels so Jurassic. Even if you only have time to drive through part of this park, it will give you a sense of the scale and beauty of this place. I’m going to break down the best things to do if you only have one day in Zion National Park or even Half a Day in Zion National Park. Because I promise, it’s worth it.

Land Acknowledgement: Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) and Pueblos Land. Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting! Consider visiting nearby cultural centers and seeking out other ways to financially support Indigenous People.

Photos in Collaboration with Emilie Hofferber, Marylee Burman and Logan Reavis.

Best Way to Get to Zion National Park

This of course will depend on what your travel situation is, but if you are looking for the fastest way to get to Zion National Park: Las Vegas Airport is the answer.

I love flying into Las Vegas for all of my desert trips. The city is built for tourism and guests, plane tickets are usually cheaper than other airports and hotels are also very reasonable when I’m needed to stay before or after a road trip.

  • Distance from Las Vegas to Zion National Park (driving): 3 hours
  • Distance from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park: 5 hours
  • Distance from Phoenix Arizona: 6 hours

Entrances to the National Park

There are actually 4 different ways to enter Zion National Park. But for this itinerary we will be focusing on the Main Entrance in Springdale, Utah. This will set you up for the most efficient one day in Zion National Park itinerary.

One Day in Zion National Park Itinerary

One Day Itinerary in Zion National Park! The Best Hikes and Sights
Canyon Overlook Trail Summit

1. Canyon Overlook Trail

1 hour and 20 minutes from St. George Utah. 3 hour drive from Las Vegas

As someone who HAS hiked Angel’s Landing trail, I truly feel like my view from Canyon Overlook Trail was better. But I understand that’s not necessarily why people hike Angel’s Landing trail (Permits now required).

  • 1 mile hike round-trip, 187 ft elevation gain
  • Bridge sections that are scenic
  • Incredible views from the top
  • Possible viewing of Big Horned Sheep

If you are looking for where to watch sunrise in Zion National Park – this is a fantastic option.

NOTE: during the shuttle season (March-November) The Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to vehicles and can be accessed by shuttle, bicycle, or walking. This particular hike is on the Zion – Mt Carmel Highway, so you will need to drive to the trailhead. The shuttle does NOT run to this trail. Parking is VERY limited. Arriving early is your best option. We did this hike in the afternoon and there was no parking, so we drove to a further viewpoint for 30 minutes and drove back and there were spots that had opened up.

TIP: The trailhead is JUST after coming out of the tunnel on the left hand side. There are some spots further down on the right side of the road as well. If you are looping back to check for parking, make sure to pull off before the tunnel, as there is no place to turn around once you’re back in the tunnel!

2. Drive the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway

This is the highway you are already on to get to Canyon Overlook Trail. I think the section winding up to the tunnel is the most scenic part. Especially on your way back down when you come out of the tunnel to the spectacular view.

If you see a pull off that is free, I’d say snag it and take a few photos.

Adobe Stock – Checkerboard Mesa

3. Checkerboard Mesa

10 minute drive from Canyon Overlook Trailhead.

Checkerboard Mesa is worth a quick stop because of it’s unique rock texture and color gradient. This is also a fantastic place to turn around to head back down the Mount Carmel Highway towards the Visitor Center. This area and stretch of road is known for having common sightings of Big Horn Sheep!

You can see the cracked pattern of the rock from the parking lot, and even more so if you brought binoculars or a long lens! We did not get out to hike, as we were making sure to budget our time wisely for our one day here!

4. Drive/Shuttle the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

The time of year you visit will determine whether you’ll be driving or taking a shuttle (typically March through November) on this road! But regardless, it’s worth seeing. And just so happens to be taking you the next stop on this list!

The Narrows Hike in Zion National Park

5. The Narrows

30 minute drive/shuttle from Zion Visitors Center

The narrows is a CLASSIC Zion attraction that in my opinion, is a must-see. Be sure to check with the visitor center or online for conditions. If water levels are too high, there is risk for Flash floods and they will shut down the trail.

Check the current conditions HERE.

But gosh, there’s just nothing else like wading through water with towering canyon walls on each side of you. It’s also a great place to go mid-day to escape some of the heat.

Tip: Bring waterproof sandals (if it’s warm) or rain boots/waterproof tall shoes. When I hiked the Narrows, I rented the neoprene socks, waterproof boots and hiking stick for around $30 for the day. There are some parts you can manage without, but if you want to actually go into the canyon, it will be covered in water.

6. OPTIONAL Court of the Patriarchs

At this point, you’ve already had a pretty full day. So, depending on how much time you have, here is one option. A very easy 0.2 mile hike right from a shuttle stop, with incredible views of the peaks.

This stop would be on your way back from the Narrows/Zion Canyon Scenic Drive! If you can spare 30 or so minutes, this is an easy stop with great views.

One Day Zion National Park Itineray

7. OPTIONAL Hike Scout Lookout Trail via West Rim Trail

If you’re really wanting to polish of the day with a sunset hike and feel like getting getting a good workout in, this it.

  • 3.6 miles round trip
  • 1,115 ft elevation gain
  • Considered difficult

The West Rim Trail is actually the trail that takes you to the beginning of the Angel’s Landing Section (permit needed for that section). There are some pretty wild switchbacks, but it leads you to a pretty incredible vista of the valley. It also gives you a peek at Angel’s Landing if you tried to get permits, but didn’t luck out.

If taking the shuttle, this would be stop 6 – The Grotto

Things to Know Before You Go:

  • $25 Entry fee to the park is required or America the Beautiful Pass (Gets you into ALL National Parks for a year)
  • The only trail that allows pets is the Pa’rus Trail, otherwise pets are not allowed.
  • The shuttles can get BUSY if you’re coming during peak season and on a weekend. Allow for extra time if doing so.
  • Stay hydrated!! Summers regularly get over 100 degrees F. I recommend a Camelbak Water Resevoir.
  • Sun Protection. So many of these areas have little to no shade! Bring your hats, sunscreen, etc.
  • Consider going off-season. You’ll have no crowds, freedom to drive to all the spots, etc. December or early March can be great if you don’t want snow.
Best Things to do in One Day in Zion National Park. Even if you only have half a day: Here are the sights to prioritize.
Canyon Overlook Trail Bridge Section

More Utah Destinations:

Check out some of my other Southwest Destinations and road trips!

Conclusion: One Day in Zion National Park

There are clearly a LOT of options for one day in Zion National Park. And I’d say its absolutely worth the time and energy to get there.

A recap of the Recommendations for a one day trip:

  • Canyon Overlook Trail
  • Zion – Mount Carmel Highway
  • Checkerboard Mesa
  • Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
  • The Narrows
  • Optional Scout Lookout or Court of the Patriarchs

Let me know in the comments below which sights you are prioritizing!

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  1. […] If you’re looking for more destinations to check out during your time here, Zion National Park is an easy day trip! Check out my Guide for One Day in Zion National Park. […]

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