22 Jul 24 Hours in Zion National Park
With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, endless overlooks, and more, you could visit Zion National Park every day for months and not see everything. Unfortunately, not every traveler has the luxury of spending even a full week in the park. But whether you have a few days or just hours to enjoy Zion, you can still hit the highlights and get a feel for this beloved federal land. Keep reading for our recommended itinerary for 24 hours in the park.
Pick Up Your Slingshot
The first thing you’ll want to do upon arriving in Springdale is pick up your Slingshot. How long you book your rental for depends on how your next 24 hours will go. If you’re staying overnight in the area, book your rental for 24 hours to make the most of your visit and experience all that the park has to offer. A 24 hour rental also gets you our best deal! But if you’ll be headed out of town once you’re done in Zion, an 8 hour rental is a good alternative.
Head to the Visitors Center
Next on your Zion itinerary is a stop at the Zion National Park Visitor Center. If this is your first visit to Zion, take your time on this stop. Learn about the park and it’s history, talk to rangers, check out your trail options, and make sure that there aren’t any trail or road closures that may affect the rest of your day. Flash floods, rockfalls, and other issues can close trails, roadways, park buildings, and more from one day to the next, so it’s always a good idea to check in before continuing into the park.
During this stop, you’ll want to decide what your top must-sees are for the day. If hiking is your thing, choose a trail that’ll take less than 3 hours to complete. That way you’ll still have time to see everything else the park has to offer. Many hikers come to Zion with their heart set on an iconic hike like Angels Landing. Just keep in mind that this and similar popular hikes will take the better part of a day, leaving you with little time to see the rest of the park. These trails may be best saved for longer visits.
If you don’t love hiking, you can still opt for a short trail to see some of the landscape up close and personal. Then, plan to spend the rest of your time sightseeing.
Hop on the Shuttle
It may seem odd to take the shuttle when you’ve already rented an awesome Slingshot to cruise through the park in. But if you’re visiting from March to November, the Zion Shuttle is the only way to gain access to many of the most popular areas of the park.
You can park your Slingshot at the Visitor Center and hop on the shuttle for a ride through the park. Shuttles run every 7 to 10 minutes, so unless you’re visiting during a busy summer weekend, you’ll be on your way through the park soon. The shuttle makes 8 stops in the park. If you’ve chosen a hike, head to that first. If not, hop off at a few stops for photo ops and some sightseeing. A few good stops for those pressed for time include:
- Canyon Junction: This quick stop will get you 360 degree views of Zion, making it a great first stop for new visitors to the park. Hop off and take your time getting some pictures and taking it all in. Then, hop back on the shuttle to continue on.
- Zion Lodge: Besides seeing the Lodge, you can also browse the gift shop and grab lunch in one of the restaurants. You’ll also find plenty of trailheads here for long and short hikes.
- Big Bend: Since you likely won’t have time to hike to Angels Landing with just 24 hours in the park (unless of course you make that your only destination), this is a great spot to still take in views of the park’s most famous landmark. You can also spot the Great White Throne from here.
Head Back to Your Slingshot
Now that you’ve taken a quick tour of the part of the park closed to personal vehicles, it’s time to hit the road on your own. If you didn’t eat lunch at Zion Lodge, you might want to head into Springdale to fill up now. Otherwise, put on some sunscreen, buckle up, and get ready for an incredible drive.
Drive the Zion Park Scenic Byway
At 60-miles total in length, the Zion Park Scenic Byway begins in Kanab, Utah. But today, you’ll be driving it backwards. Take Utah Highway 9 through the park. If you can find parking, stop at any overlooks you might want to get photos at–though during the summer months, this might be a challenge.
Next up is perhaps the coolest part of your day; a drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. This 1.1-mile long tunnel was started in 1920 and completed in 1930. At the time of its completion, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the nation. Cruising through the tunnel in a Slingshot is a great way to appreciate the magnitude of the tunnel and marvel at how it was built using the construction technology available early in the 20th century.
While the tunnel may be the highlight of this drive, you can continue on towards Kanab to enjoy the breathtaking scenery before turning back to Springdale.
Finishing Out Your Day
If you’re headed out of Springdale that day, head back and turn in your Slingshot. If you’re lucky enough to be staying the night, grab dinner in one of the town’s many restaurants, then head back into the park for a night cruise.
Drive with caution and utilize pull-offs to stop and take in the sunset or go stargazing. Never try to do either while behind the wheel. Watch for wildlife that may be active at night, as well as for other stargazers on foot in the park.
When you get back to your hotel for the night, start planning your next visit to Zion, because after the day you’ve had, you’re going to be eager to see more!