Recipe for a perfect long weekend getaway: start with 2 days in Zion National Park, stir in a day in Bryce Canyon National Park, and top it off with a healthy dose of small towns nearby.
2 Days in Zion National Park: Weekend Itinerary
Let’s assess the main ingredients first, though. Various landscapes, towering cliffs, murky blue-green waters of the Virgin River, and a plethora of scenic trails and gorgeous hidden gems… 2 days in Zion National Park will be surely well spent and packed to the brim. Now it’s time to start this weekend adventure.
Truth be told, Zion National Park has far more epic landmarks and picturesque trails than you can explore in 2 days. Offering plenty of outdoor activities for millions of visitors yearly, the park is known as one of the favorite places in the USA.
Hordes of avid hikers flock to the area during every season. Weekends or a couple of days during school breaks are mostly reserved by families, wishing to immerse their kids into the breathtaking realm of Zion National Park.
All in all, the region hardly enjoys the complete solitude. Yet with proper planning, you can easily savor some of the most popular and off-the-beaten-path trails without sharing them with the maddening crowds. If the presence of other nature lovers does’t disturb you, then you’re already ready for the perfect 2 days in Zion National Park with all its flaws and all.
The place of such magnificence astounds at once. Spend extra few days here, and you’ll call Zion National Park your favorite place on earth.
I hope this rather ardent introduction has inspired you to give the region a try. If so, let’s get to work and plan a perfect itinerary for 2 days or a long weekend getaway in Zion National Park.
The Best Time to Spend 2 Days in Zion National Park
Unlike some seasonal parks (I’m looking at you, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park), Zion National Park is open all year round. Yet due to four distinct seasons, it doesn’t stay equally busy throughout the year.
As many nature enthusiasts agree, the shoulder seasons – spring and fall – are the best times to spend a couple of days in Zion National Park. The weather is still temperamental, though, throwing snowy or rainy tantrums whenever it pleases. As a result, burning your face in the sun while traversing the scenic trails of Zion National Park on the first day and freezing your bottom on the second day is not uncommon. And that’s the beauty of it.
Yet despite all their imperfections, the shoulder seasons in Zion National Park normally promise the glorious semi-warm days and fewer travelers. Brilliant spring colors and dramatic fall hues further transform the park, seducing you to visit it before the crowds of tourists arrive.
TIP: As they say, nature has no bad weather. Similarly, Zion amazes at any time of the year. Yet be sure to check the local weather forecast regularly, if you plan to spend 2 days in Zion National Park during the shoulder seasons.
The national park is beautiful in spring. Released from their snowy prison, trees and shrubs refresh themself with green hues. Wildflowers start to bloom, festooning the area with all shades of the spring brilliance.
Indeed, it’s a perfect time to spend 2 days in Zion National Park and enjoy its relative serenity. The peak season hasn’t arrived yet. Therefore, the park is not going to see the maddening crowds for a few months yet.
TIP: On the other hand, nourished by melted snow, the Virgin River increases its water level. Crossing it becomes harder. Thus, if hiking toward the Narrows is one of the must-do things during these 2 days in Zion National Park, be sure to get waders and special waterproof clothes. The equipment can be rented at various outfitters in Springdale.
Come fall, and following the dry summer season, the water in the Virgin River recedes significantly. Wading through the knee-high water is much easier. Consequently, more hikers spend their weekends, traversing the freezing cold river to the narrowing section of Zion Canyon.
Whether it’s due to the end of the vacation season or change of weather, but during these days, Zion National Park feel quieter and relaxed. The nature enthusiasts are still here, but their numbers seem to continue dropping daily.
Summer is the busiest and less enjoyable time to spend 2 days or a long weekend (we’ll surely have this in summer) in Zion National Park. First, the heat is unbearable. The blazing hot temperatures linger at approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Second, more people use the summer weekends to reconnect with nature and shed their fall-winter sluggishness on Zion’s popular trails.
TIP: If spending a few days in Zion National Park at this time is inevitable, look for solitude in the hidden slot canyons. There are plenty of unofficial trails and secret spots in the Upper East Canyon region near the East Entrance. Sticking to morning or late afternoon explorations also helps beat the crowds and the scorching heat.
Winter is cold and snowy. Even fewer people attempt to spend a weekend or a few days in Zion National Park at this time. Hiking certainly becomes tedious due to the snow on the trails at higher elevations. Yet once you conquer these hurdles, beautiful views of Zion’s winter wonderland at the bottom of the canyon open up.
TIP: In winter, Zion National Park loosens up, giving you more freedom on how to plan and spend your days. While it’s impossible during the other seasons, you can drive anywhere in the park, including along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, now.
Are 2 Days Enough for Zion National Park?
Here comes the most frequently asked question. Are 2 days enough for seeing everything Zion National Park has to offer. The simple answer is no. Yet you can still do quite a lot during such a limited time. All in all, spending 2 days in Zion National Park allows you to fit some of the most popular trails and scenic drives in your itinerary.
TIP: Depending on your activity level, you can explore the main section of the park and do a couple of long hikes such as Angels Landing or Observation Point. If you don’t feel exhausted as your weekend slowly comes to an end, seek some hidden gems in Upper East Canyon or the Kolob Canyons.
In these guide to spending 2 days in Zion National Park, we’ve packed quite a lot of activities, especially if you look at day 1. Fear not, adjust the itinerary according to your preferences. Stick to only one or two long hike per day. Similarly, you can squeeze a few shorter hikes into your ideal itinerary while taking the rest of the weekend to feast your eyes on the splendidness around you.
How many Days do You Need for Zion National Park in Ideal World?
Ideally, though, you need at least 3 to 4 days for Zion National Park. The place is simply too gorgeous to gallop through it. Take it easy and enjoy one section at a time. Furthermore, with more time on your side, you can add more longer hikes and even backpacking trips to your long weekend itinerary.
As you’ll see in a bit, we’ve included 2 alternative days to this weekend guide to Zion National Park. Normally, this itinerary would works best for the returning visitors that long for exploring different landscapes and untrodden areas.
If you, however, decide to add a few extra days to your visit, feel free to use this alternative itinerary to see the lesser-known sections of Zion National Park. Hiking is trickier here. The views never cease to daze, though.
How to Spend 2 Days in Zion National Park: Getting Around
Getting around Zion National Park is pretty simple except for Zion Canyon, the main section of the area. As you would expect, this part of the park boasts some of the most prominent features and the biggest crowds. The area consists of 9 distinct segments, marked by shuttle stops.
While each of the Zion Canyon’s sections has their own parking lots, the spaces are limited and unable to include all park’s visitors. This certainly presents some serious challenges for the travelers, especially those who have just a couple of days to spend in Zion National Park.
To eliminate the ever-growing issues with the parking and protect its unique environment, the park has implemented a shuttle system. From mid-March though November, the free shuttles run from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, taking its passengers to 9 stops along the Scenic Drive in Zion Canyon. The buses operate on a fist-come, first-served basis.
TIP: If you have just 2 days to admire the natural wonders of Zion National Park, try to catch the shuttle early in the morning and get to the main canyon before the crowds arrive.
Private vehicles are allowed to drive along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the winter months. Yet it’s still recommended to start your day adventures in Zion National Park early in the morning to avoid any parking issues.
TIP: For more information on how to get around Zion National Park when spending 2 days or a weekend in the area, refer to How to Get around Zion National Park: Explore Zion’s Sections by Car, Shuttle, and Bicycle.
HOW TO SPEND 2 DAYS IN ZION NATIONAL PARK: ITINERARY AND THE BEST THINGS TO DO DURING A MEMORABLE WEEKEND GETAWAY:
Day 1: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, Angels Landing, and the Narrows
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive or simply the main canyon is the most popular area to spend 2 days in the park. Featuring some of the iconic landmarks, it ensures the most popular hikes, scenic overlooks, and unforgettable adventures.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is the first place you want to visit whether you are here for a few hours or a couple of days. The route takes you to the favorite natural attractions, such as the Emerald Pools, Angels Landing, and Weeping Rock. Consequently, each of these stops ensures access to some of the popular trailheads.
The road spreads out for about 8 miles. The final stop is the Temple of Sinawava, a gateway to the popular Narrows. As we mentioned before, you can access the road by a private car in winter. To explore Zion Canyon over the course of a few days in spring, summer, or fall, you must rely on a free shuttle to take you here.
TIP: Bikers and hikers are welcome to enjoy the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive on their own at any time.
Court of the Patriarchs
Fill your 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary with as many scenic views as possible. After the Scenic Drive, the Court of the Patriarchs is the next place to feast your eyes on the astounding vistas of the giant cliff walls.
History: The place is well popular and stands out with its three remarkable sandstone monoliths. According to Zion’s rangers, the main peaks were named by Frederick Fisher in 1915 for the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A couple of other formations, such as Mount Moroni and the Sentinel, add a majestic feel to the famous group of the sandstone cliffs.
Getting a better look at the Court of the Patriarchs takes just a few minutes, but impacts your 2 days in Zion National Park tremendously. The group of rocky giants sits near the shuttle stop #4. Get out of the bus and hit a 0.2-mile out and back trail to the scenic spot.
The whole adventure along the shortest hiking path in Zion National Park takes about 5 minutes. The views certainly don’t disappoint. They say the place looks absolutely stunning at sunrise and sunset.
Note: During our 2 days in Zion National Park last April, the shuttle didn’t stop at the Court of the Patriarchs. The area was closed until further notice due to a massive rockslide.
Emerald Pools – One of the Most Beautiful Areas to Add to Your 2 Days in Zion Itinerary
If diversifying your 2-day adventures in Zion National Park with green hues intermixed with sounds of roaring waterfalls and emerald colors of Zion’s lakes seems like a good idea, be sure to add the hike to the Emerald Pools to your itinerary.
The area consists of three spectacular pools that require different fitness levels. The Lower Pool ensures the easiest and shortest, 1.2-mile, round-trip, hike. You should plan to walk for 1 mile to get to the Middle Pool. The Upper Pool is the hardest to reach. This 3-mile, round-trip trail, however, offers the best views of the surrounding waterfalls and majestic Zion Canyon.
TIP: The trailhead can be found near the Zion Lodge, shuttle stop #5.
Angels Landing – a Must-Do Hike during Your First 2 Days in Zion National Park
The 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary can’t be complete without hiking along the Angels Landing Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the world. The nearly 5-mile, round-trip trail runs from the Grotto trailhead, follows the West Rim Trail, and eventually takes the hikers along the narrow spine to the final viewpoint of Zion Canyon. It takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours to complete the hike.
TIP: The Angels Landing Trail, however, is not for everybody. You should definitely skip it if a fear of heights paralyzes you every time you get above sea level.
Weeping Rock Trail
The Weeping Rock Trail was one of the top places we wanted see in Zion National Park during our recent 2-day visit. The 0.4-mile, round-trip path starts at the road and takes you to the fern-covered eave of an overhanging cliff. The hike is easy and suits most fitness levels.
Note: Yet despite all the pros of this Zion National Park’s popular trail, we weren’t able to fit it into neither of our 2 days here. Similar to the Courts of the Patriarchs, the Weeping Rock Trail was temporarily closed due to the rockfall.
Riverside Walk Trail
Spending 2 days in Zion National Park with small children? Take them for a hike along the 2-mile out and back Riverside Walk Trail. Running along the Virgin River, the path entertains the visitors with the panoramic views of the towering red cliff walls, curious Zion’s wildlife, and blue-green waters of the river. A small waterfall near the trailhead adds extra charm and grace to the farthest corner of Zion Canyon.
The Riverside Walk hike suits both advanced hikers and beginners. The paved, wide path is mostly flat. A small, dirt trail forks to the left almost at beginning of the hike, getting closer to the river bank. Eventually, both trails merge. A single path runs to a small patio at the end of the trail from now on.
TIP: The advanced hikers rarely skip this trail, especially if they intend to pack their days in Zion National Park with more intense hikes. One of the easiest paths in the park, the Riverside Walk Trail is a prelude hike to the world-famous Narrows Trail.
READ MORE: Zion Riverside Walk Trail: Gateway Hike to Zion Narrows (+Tips for Hiking with Kids)
The Narrows from the Bottom Up – One of the Classic Hikes to Do during 2 Days in Zion National Park
The Narrows from the Bottom Up asks for at least half a day. Yet since you have only 2 days to explore Zion National Park, be sure to somehow squeeze the hike to the narrows section of Zion Canyon into your itinerary. Giving the limited time on hand, you might want to walk for a few hours before returning back or adjust your 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary to have more time for the entire hike.
The Narrows from the Bottom Up – the trail that starts at the end of the Riverside Walk Trail – is a 9.4-mile, round-trip hike. The path traverses the Virgin River until Big Spring. It’s not an easy walk along the river bank any longer. You hike slower in the freezing cold water, constantly checking the conditions of the “trail” before making the next step.
TIP: If the Narrows is one of the main things you want to do in Zion when spending 2 days in the area, start you day with this hike. If time remains, explore the other trails outlined above. Normally, it takes from half a day to the full day to complete the Narrows from the Bottom Up.
Day 2: Observation Point, Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, and Canyon Overlook
Zion-Mount Carmel Highway
While spending 2 days in Zion National Park, you can’t not drive along the epic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Built in the late 1920s, the scenic route stretches out for 25 miles, impressing the visitors with its signature switchbacks and panoramic views.
Note: Unlike the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway is open for the private vehicles all year round.
The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
Driving along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway from the town of Springdale to Upper East Canyon, you inevitable pass through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. Constructed at the same time as the scenic drive, the narrow landmark cut through the massive sandstone cliffs is considered an engineering marvel.
The two-lane tunnel spreads for 1.1 miles and is pitch dark inside. Several “windows” allow the day light enter the unusual structure, creating the even more surreal environment.
TIP: The small cars can drive through the tunnel any time of the day. Oversized vehicles must obtain a tunnel permit to travel through the structure. Pedestrians and bicyclists can’t enter the tunnel. While spending a few days in Zion National Park, they’re advised to hitchhike through this section with the larger cars.
Canyon Overlook Trail – One of the Best Hikes to Do during 2 Days in Zion
The 1-mile Canyon Overlook Trail enhances your two-day Zion adventures with the panoramic views over the canyon. No tedious walking is required. Furthermore, taking on average one hour to reach the overlook and come back to the trailhead, it saves you enough time for a few more hikes.
The Canyon Overlook trailhead sits right next the eastern end of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. The area is out of reach of the park’s shuttles, so driving here is required. For the convenience of the visitors, a small parking lot nestles across the road from the trail.
Getting Here: You can reach the place by bike if you head here from the East Entrance. Otherwise, stick to the personal vehicle as no bicycles are allowed inside the tunnel.
TIP: Upper East Canyon, including the Canyon Overlook Trail, should be on top of your 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary if you don’t want to be bothered with taking the park’s shuttle.
READ MORE: Hike Zion Canyon Overlook Trail – Canyon Overlook vs. Observation Point
Shelf Canyon Trail
Less than a mile away from the Canyon Overlook trailhead sits the Shelf Canyon Trail. Unmarked on the official Zion map, this hidden slot canyon is yet to impress with its peculiar hiking-scrambling path and shelf-ledges. The trail is rather short, running for approximately 0.5 mile one way.
The intensity of the hike, however, reserves it for the fitter hikers. Thus, if you long for a stunning hike that challenges you physically, add the Shelf Canyon Trail to your 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary right now. Devoting 1-2 hours of your time to an unofficial trail never felt better.
TIP: Don’t hike this trail alone as you might need a helping hand when scrambling over the steep slickrocks.
READ MORE: Zion Secret Trails: Shelf Canyon Hike Near Canyon Overlook
Similar to the Canyon Overlook, Observation Point offers some of the most gorgeous views over the canyon one can dream of when spending a few days in Zion National Park. A few routes lead to this iconic vantage point. The most popular of them starts at the Weeping Rock Trail. The shortest trail in Upper East Canyon runs along the 6.6-mile, round-trip East Mesa Trail and takes about 4 hours to complete.
Famous for its vertical and horizontal lines that resemble a grid much like you’d see on a checkerboard, Checkerboard Mesa is another stunning place to visit when spending a couple of days in Zion National Park.
The natural landmark nestles in the east side of the park. A number of pull-offs along the highway ensures a closer look of the sandstone hill. For those who prefer to explore the place through and through, there’re several trailheads at the bottom of the formation.
Alternative 2 Days in Zion National Park Itinerary
Chances are the frequent visitors already explored most of the natural landmarks and favorite trails mentioned above. For these nature enthusiasts, we’ve prepared an alternative 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary.
Each of these days is filled with fewer, but more tedious hikes and some of the most overlooked sections of the park. Before we jump into this 2-day adventures, let me warn you that the following Zion National Park’s activities are not for the beginners. You might want to improve your hiking game before attempting these hikes.
Day 1: The Zion Narrows
- The Narrows Bottom Up. The Narrows Bottom Up is an approximately 10-mile, round-trip trail. The path traverses the Virgin River and requires walking, wading, and even swimming in the river.
- The Narrows Top Down. Stretching out for 17 miles, the Narrows Top-Down route starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead and ends at the Temple of Sinawava. It takes 12-13 hour to hike the entire trail. Hiking permit is also required.
Day 2: Kanarraville Falls and Double Arch Alcove in the Zion Kolob Canyons
- Kanarraville Falls. Kanarraville Falls, also known as Kanarra Creek Trail, is a 3.5-mile, round-trip trail located just outside the Kolob Canyons. The route is short, but tedious, and is not recommended for small children. Furthermore, a hiking permit is required and should be obtained way in advance.
- Taylor Creek Trail. The 5-mile, round-trip Taylor Creek Trail starts on the Kolob Canyons Road and leads toward the Double Arch Alcove.
- Double Arch Alcove. Double Arch Alcove, a stunning grotto with curved walls, is nestled at the end of the Taylor Creek Trail in the Kolob Canyons.
2 Days in Zion National Park: Where to Stay
With the abundance of things to do and see in Zion National Park, 2 days are simply not enough time. To maximize your time, try to stay as close to the park as possible. For those who prefer to stay inside the park, three campgrounds and the Zion Lodge ensure the quickest access to the popular and lesser-known trails of the area.
The next best option is to base for 2 days in Springdale, located right outside of the South Entrance to Zion National Park. The town boasts some of the most convenient accommodations such as the Cable Mountain Lodge and Flanigan’s Inn along with several restaurants, stores, and markets.
READ MORE: 2 Days in Zion National Park. Where to Stay in and near Zion National Park: Camping and Lodging
Helpful Tips for 2 Days in Zion National Park Itinerary
Hiking with dogs is limited
When spending 2 or more days in Zion National Park, you can enjoy the company of your pets only on the main roads and the Pa’rus Trail. Moreover, the dogs are not allowed on the park’s shuttles.
Don’t wait until the last shuttle to get back to the Visitor Center
The shuttles allow only the maximum amount of people and don’t go beyond this number. If you rely on the last bus to get back to the Visitor Center, look around. Chances are many other hikers hope for the best and wait until the last minute. The shuttle might be full by the time it reaches your stop. Now you’re out of luck and must walk in the dark for about 8 miles to get back to the Visitor Center.
Try to get a paid ride at the Zion Lodge
If you, however, missed the last shuttle, try to get a paid ride at the Zion Lodge. Ask the front dest for a list of companies that provide after-hours shuttle van rides. The prices for their services vary. Furthermore, the paid rides are not always available.
Admission and fees
The admission fee to Zion National Park is $35 per vehicle. The ticket is good for 7 consecutive days, which works perfectly for those to spend a long weekend exploring Zion.
If you’re planning to make a short detour and venture to Bryce Canyon National Park and other Utah’s parks, America the Beautiful Pass is the best option for you. The annual pass costs $80 and allows access to all national parks and the majority of national monuments.
Stay updated about park’s conditions
Even 2 days is enough for Zion to change your plans drastically. Some roads may close unexpectedly due to major rockfalls. Thus, don’t underestimate the area and check the road and weather conditions on the park’s website prior to your arrival.
For more tips on how to make the most of your 2 days in Zion National Park, please refer to our article 10 Things to Know before Visiting Zion National Park: Helpful Tips and Interesting Facts
What to Pack for a Weekend or 2 Days in Zion National Park
- Water and Snacks. Even if you pack your 2 days in Zion National Park itinerary with mostly the short hikes, be sure to bring along water and snacks. It’s wilderness after all. You can’t run to the next corner to get some snacks or refreshments.
- Layers of clothing and waterproof shoes. The canyons in Zion National Park can stay cool even during the hot summer days. Prepare to either endure the coldness or wear a light jacket. Furthermore, if you’re hiking to the Narrows, be sure to have extra clothes to change later or wear the waterproof shoes.
- Waders. Similarly, you can rent waders and spend your entire 2 days comfortably hiking the Zion Narrows. The equipment can be found in Springdale.
- Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses. These are probably the most recommended items to bring along to the national park. Honestly, it’s not surprising. While 2 days may be not enough time to see everything Zion has to offer, it’s certainly enough to get sunburned. So use the sunscreen, wear the hat, and keep your eyes protected behind those dark shades.
- Map. Have a map, use it. It can’t be simpler than that. Often it’s the only tool you can rely on for the directions in Zion National Park.
- Camera. I might be criticized for this, but the camera should be one of the first items to put into your backpack. Zion National Park is too beautiful to not want to photograph its landmarks and scenic views. Phones with cameras will work as well.
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