Visiting southern Utah was my last adventure of 2018. The main attractions are the famous Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Springdale is home to Zion, and the small town of Bryce houses Bryce Canyon National Park. Both Springdale and Bryce are beautiful areas that offer a wide variety of activities, most popular being hiking. The unique red rock formations found in both parks are picturesque and unlike anything I have seen before.
Below, I’ve listed some tips and tricks for traveling to this area and a sample itinerary to follow.
How to get there:
Fly & Drive — We flew in to Las Vegas Airport, rented a car, and drove to Springdale, which is only about 2.5 hours away. This is probably the quickest way.
Another idea is to combine it with a few other cities. Zion is also less than three hours of a drive from Page, AZ. This is where the beautiful Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyons are, which is just a day trip. Bryce is just over three hours. So, if you wanted to combine Sedona, Page, Zion, and Bryce, then you easily could turn this whole area into a 4 to 5 day road trip.
Best time to travel:
Zion — Summer is the busy season, so to avoid the crowd, I suggest going in the winter. We traveled here in December, when the weather was chilly and icy in the mornings, but the ice melted by early afternoon, so it made for great hiking weather. For the days it snowed, the views of the red rock formations were stunning. If you go during the summer, then I suggest using the park shuttle services to get around due to a lack of parking spaces.
Bryce — This place looked like it came straight out of a fairy-tale in a winter wonderland. Powdered with the softest snow, it offered a nice cushion when I inevitable fell on my butt. Being from Texas, I was not used to this environment, which also meant I did not pack the proper shoes. Pro tip: When expecting a hike in snow, buy snow shoes.
Best place to stay:
Another advantage of traveling to Zion in the winter is that lodging costs will be much less than when traveling in the summer months.
Springhill Suites in Springdale — Highly recommended. It feels like a new property at a great location. They leave sweet treats downstairs every evening, which is a nice surprise. The lobby area is warm and cozy, which makes it a great place to just relax after a long day of being out and about. Also, the view outside the hotel is amazing.
If there are no options to stay in Springdale, luckily, there are several towns about 20 minutes away that usually have accommodations.
Best places to eat:
Cafe Soleil — I liked this place a lot. It’s a super cute cafe that serves sandwiches and chips. They have paintings of local artists and some souvenirs. Enjoyable place for lunch or dinner.
MeMe’s Cafe — This was another delicious find. The cafe is a great place for either breakfast or lunch, offering a wide variety of dishes. I had the vegetable grilled cheese sandwich, which was tasty! Highly recommend this restaurant.
Zion National Park — For a 7-day pass, the fee is $35 at the park entrance. The weekend I visited some trails were closed because of rain, including the popular Observation Point Trail; However, the flatter and easier trails were available. I can‘t complain, because they offer some incredible views. My suggestion would be to check at the park’s visitor center to see which trails are open.
Some impressions of trails I hiked:
- Weeping Rock — 0.5 miles round trip. This was actually a very short hike but on steep pavement, so some caution going up is necessary. However, once at the top, there is a waterfall that falls down the side of the rock. It creates a beautiful and tranquil ambiance, so make sure you have your camera ready.
- The Narrows — 1-2 miles round trip. Because of the weather, we weren’t able to complete the trail and go through the actual narrows. But the trail leading up to it is easy because it‘s mostly on pavement. It is also scenic, since it runs parallel with a nice creek. The complete trail includes the water hike, which a seven-mile hike through water in between the canyon.
- Angel’s Landing — This is the most popular trail in Zion, probably because it has the best view from the top. However, it is probably the most dangerous. The trail upwards is narrow and steep at points. If you’re afraid of heights, then I would advise against this one. Clearly, I was too chicken to do this hike!
- Canyon Overlook Trail — 8 miles round trip. This wasn’t a challenging hike, but it got confusing towards the end. My friend and I couldn’t find our way back to the trail. Regardless, the trail was scenic and full of beautiful views. Before we knew it, we were up close and personal to some bighorn sheep, too!
- Kayenta Trail — 2 miles round trip. This is also an easy and flat trail on pavement. This trail leads up to the Upper Emerald Pools, but unfortunately, that hike was closed. During the hike, you will see many colorful trees and the canyon peaks around you. Overall, it was very enjoyable.
Bryce Canyon National Park — Bryce is only about an hour away from Springdale, so you can visit the park in a day. The drive to Bryce from Springdale starts off pleasant and very scenic as you travel through Zion National Park. The city of Bryce is small and offers little activity other than the park. At the park entrance, there’s a visitor’s center with information about hikes and events going on in the park. The park entrance fee is $35. Since it was snowing the day we went, most of the hikes were closed, or we just couldn’t do them because we didn’t have the proper shoes/gear. So instead, we drove to all the viewpoints and took pictures. No complaints there! The views are breathtaking.
There’s one main street through Springdale, which has several cute local shops.
Bumbleberry Gifts — We came across this fun little shop as we were walking around town. I bought my niece a cute and funny onesie from here. Great variety of creative gift ideas.
Visiting Zion and Bryce National Park should be on everyone’s list of places to go. You can easily make the trip affordable by travelling during the off-season winter months and combine both parks in one trip. Even if some hikes are closed to the public, the magnificent red rocks are accessible and well-worth your time. Get your camera ready! If you have questions, then please comment below!
- Day 1: Fly in to Las Vegas and drive to Springdale, UT. Maybe fit in one hike if it’s early enough.
- Day 2: Explore Zion and more hikes (weather permitting).
- Day 3: Day trip to Bryce, UT. Start early, so you can be back before dark.
- Day 4 (optional): More hiking and explore the town’s local shops.
- Day 5: Drive back to Las Vegas and depart home.
You can always shorten or lengthen the trip, depending on how much time you have.