Bryce and Zion Trip Report: Exploring Utah’s National Parks
Our Visit to Bryce and Zion National Parks
I’ve had the desert on my mind folks! Hubby and I recently returned from a trip out west to visit Bryce and Zion National Parks (and Vegas, of course). (Did you see my mood board blog post? Check it out to see how my Utah trip inspired me in terms of home decor!) It was my first time visiting Utah and I am so glad we finally did it. I had been craving a hiking adventure and we needed an excuse to break in our hiking shoes for our upcoming trip to Peru! Bryce and Zion’s canyons are amazing, vast and rich in color. You have to experience it on your own if you ever get the opportunity. Today I’m sharing my Bryce and Zion trip report. We did the 2 parks in 4 days and it took a little planning to fit in everything I wanted to see and the hikes I wanted to do, so I figured I’d share how we did it and some tips I learned from experience.
Bryce and Zion Trip Report
Bryce National Park
Our Bryce and Zion trip report starts in Vegas. We arrived in Vegas late on day 1 so we stayed the night there. I had debated driving an hour outside of Vegas to Mesquite and staying there to save us a little drive time the next day, but after a long day, we wanted to stay put…because, Vegas. So we headed to the strip had a little fun. The next morning, after spoiling ourselves with room service, we hit the road and headed to Bryce National Park. It was a long drive, about 4 hours. This was the longest leg of our trip so I was prepared. The scenery and winding roads through the mountains made it tolerable. We arrived in Bryce and stayed in The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. I definitely recommend staying here because you can’t beat the convenience. It’s the only hotel within the park and is a super short walk to the rim of the canyon. We did a couple of hikes within the canyon after checking in and had dinner at the lodge before heading back down to the rim for sunset.
The hoodoo rock formations were incredible. The coloring of the canyon is different depending on the light, but it’s always stunning. My favorite was sunrise, even though waking up at 5:45 am on vacation isn’t the most fun, I definitely recommend watching the sunrise from behind the canyon.
After sunrise, we took a little nap, grabbed some breakfast on the way out and hit the road and headed to Zion National Park, a little less than a 2-hour drive away.
Zion National Park
Driving to Zion from Bryce allows you to enter Zion National Park from the iconic south entrance and see Checkerboard Mesa on the way in. There are several areas to pull off the side of the road and hikes you can do as well. Springdale is the town where Zion is located and offers much more in terms of restaurants and hotels than Bryce. We used hotel points and stayed at the Hampton but there are many options. After checking in and lunch, we headed into the park to hike. Quick note here: in the summer you cannot drive all the way into the park. You must take the shuttle. There are two shuttle routes – a Springdale in-town route and the Zion Park route. You must transfer to the Zion route at the visitors center to enter the park.
The first day we hiked Weeping Rock and the Emerald Pools, two short and easy hikes to get our feet wet and get a feel for the park.
Day two was Angels Landing day. A Bryce and Zion trip report is not complete without at least mentioning Angels Landing. Angels Landing is a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike that gains 1500 feet in elevation with 21 switchbacks up the mountain to the start of the summit which is a narrow spine along the mountain with 1000 ft drop offs on either side and chains drilled into the mountain that you hold onto. Sounds fun huh? I was a bit intimidated but I was determined to at least attempt Angels Landing and I told myself that I could always turn back if it didn’t feel right or safe. Well, I’m happy to report I survived and made it to the top…alone! Hubby didn’t care to attempt it and after convincing him I’d be fine on my own, I set out.
It took me 3 hours and 10 minutes and that’s with rest every few switchbacks, waiting on lines of people to come up/down the chain sections, and a quick break for a snack at the top. And of course, the view at the top was incredible. So, thank you Angels Landing. Now I can say “been there, done that, got the tee-shirt.” 😉 After Angels Landing and a huge lunch, we relaxed by the pool of our hotel.
The next morning before departing Springdale for Vegas, we hiked the Zion Narrows. This was a super unique hiking experience, unlike anything I’ve ever done before. You hike in the riverbed of the slot canyon with the water flowing around you. Some places are deeper than others but you’re going to get wet.
You can hike in as far as you want and turn around. We went for a couple of hours and then headed back because we had to get on the road. Sometimes this hike is closed due to the river flow and potential for flash flooding, but if you’re in Zion, you have to do this hike if possible.
Bryce and Zion Trip Report: Tips!
-Stay at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon, conveniently located at the rim of the canyon. Avoid waiting in line for park entry and driving in/out of the park every day. You could search for lodging via All the Rooms, an accommodations search engine, combining sites like Booking.com, Airbnb, and many other sites you may not have even heard of yet. They have vacation rentals available in Bryce.
-Keep your park entry ticket on you at all times. We forgot our ticket in the car after taking the shuttle down to the park and didn’t want to waste time going back for it so we paid twice. :/ Save yourself from this. You have to show your entry ticket every time you enter the park.
-When hiking the Zion Narrows, rent the canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks, and hiking stick! You can get them from Zion Outfitters right at the entrance to the park. The rocks are slippery and sneakers will not do the trick. You will want the shoes and walking stick!!
-Get an early start! If you visit the parks in the summer, I can’t stress this enough. We were there over 4th of July (not recommended) and the number of people there was insane! Even when I was in line for the shuttle by 7 am for Angels Landing, I had to wait an hour. Then when I was coming down Angels Landing, there was a line of people waiting to start the chain portion of the hike.
-If the line for the shuttle is too long at the visitors center, there’s a short, easy hike you can do along Pa’rus trail to stop 2 where you can get the shuttle there and save yourself some waiting time.
-Don’t go for a holiday weekend in the summer. Hah. If you do, be prepared for people overload.
I hope this Bryce and Zion trip report is inspiring and useful if you plan to visit. The parks were a fantastic experience and I definitely recommend it. I can’t wait to go back to Utah and visit the rest of the National Parks located there.