Driving from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park

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Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are not far from each other. So if you visit one it’s definitely worth the trip to visit the other! We went on the drive from Bryce to Zion during our 2 week road trip exploring the western parks after visiting Capitol Reef.

There are 2 ways to get to Zion from Bryce, and the way you choose depends on any road closures or which part of Zion you want to visit, OR if you have a large RV. You have to pay a fee and have an escort if you choose to go through the tunnel with an oversized vehicle, so if you have an RV the alternate route would be better for you!

For getting into the main part of Zion however, after Route 12 the quickest route is south on Interstate 89 at the T intersection, then west on Route 9 at Mount Carmel Junction.

This is the way we went, so all of the photos below are along that route. *I have outlined the alternate route at the bottom of this article for you as well however!

The driving distance from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park is only about 80 miles(128km) and takes about 1:40 straight through. We did the drive in a small rental car and didn’t have any problems!

Driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon instead?

Simply reverse these directions and take the Zion Mount Carmel highway east out of the park, then route 89 north until you get to route 12. Follow route 12 until you get to Bryce. It’s that easy!

Stops along the Scenic Drive from Bryce to Zion

Leaving Bryce Canyon National park and heading towards Zion will take you west on route 12. Utah’s Scenic Route 12 that is! It’s one of the most beautiful drives in the country that starts(or ends) at Capitol Reef National Park, so hopefully you get a chance to drive all of that road too!

Formations around Red Canyon

Red Canyon

You’ll first pass by Red Canyon. Red Canyon is the last(or first depending on the direction you’re going) point of interest on the western portion of route 12. There’s a visitor’s center and trails there to check out. More fun hiking and cool rock formations to see!

Shortly after you’ll come to the end of route 12 and there will be a T intersection with Route 89. You’ll make a left and head south.

Gorgeous Utah scenery and homestead on the drive from Bryce to Zion.
A little homestead with some interesting dome shaped buildings.

Looking for where to stay between Bryce and Zion? Stop at any of these Towns along Route 89!

These towns mentioned below are all great places to find somewhere affordable and less crowded than the main areas of the parks!

Hatch Settled in 1872, and named after early pioneer Meltair Hatch. It’s a good cheap stopover place with motels and B&B’s. This is close to Bryce, only about a half hour away so you could definitely stay here during your visit if you wanted.

Bryce Zion Campground – located right in the middle of the drive between Bryce and Zion. It’s a great base for exploring both parks if you don’t mind driving a bit each day to get to them and want to go camping.

Glendale, Orderville, and Mount Carmel Junction are the next 3 small towns that make up the Long Valley. Many Mormon families settled here way back in the 1870’s.

There are also several places to stay at in these three towns if you’re looking for something closer to the east side of Zion, which isn’t as jam packed with crowds as the western entrance.

driving to Zion from Bryce Canyon.
The different colored mountains framed by the trees at the bottom were so beautiful!
mount carmel junction mural
Not an amazing picture, but I just had to give props to this artist and whoever thought of disguising the ugly back face of a gas station and painting over those gray electrical boxes with this beautiful mural! Look for it at Mount Carmel Junction as you make the turn towards Zion.

Side Trip:

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – Only 20 minutes south of Mount Carmel Junction. If you fancy hiking up and down sand dunes, you might want to check this park out. There is an entrance fee however, and there can be ATV’s around, but if you’re in the area for a few days it’s worth a visit!

road towards zion national park
bison in the fields
There were herds of bison in the fields when we were heading towards Zion.
And this crazy looking bull too!

Zion Mount Carmel Highway

The last part of the trip entering into Zion National Park is where the beauty on this drive really takes place. The highway linking the main area of Zion with the east wasn’t completed until 1930. There are hairpin turns on the windy road along the cliffside, and parts of the rock were blasted away to create tunnels. It’s truly impressive and I highly recommend driving it once in your life!

Zion National Park east entrance
Zion entrance from the eastern end.

Not going to lie. I was lucky my husband drove…that way I got to take all these nice pictures out the window! 🙂

traffic on the zion mount carmel highway.

The traffic did slow down quite a bit once we got into the park. The road did get more narrow and being on the side of the cliff with sharp turns, you really do have to slow down and take it easy.

Scenery entering Zion National Park.

Zion National Park truly is a jewel in the desert. Lush vegetation surrounds the Virgin river all throughout the canyon with red rock cliffs towering over you.

Zion mount carmel tunnel
Picture perfect at the end of the tunnel!
Zion National Park

Alternate Route to Zion from Bryce

The alternate way to go to Zion will take you longer (2:45 without any stops), but also has some other neat places to stop and see if you’ve got more time! Plus if you want to visit the Kolob Canyons section of Zion in the eastern end, this is a good route to take to get there as well.

Instead of heading south on route 89 at the T intersection at the end of route 12, go north towards Panguitch. Route 143 which starts here and ends in Parowan is called the “Brian Head-Panguitch Lake Scenic Byway” or also known as the “Patchwork Parkway”.

You can drive all of the Patchwork Parkway, passing through the town of Brian Head and ending in Parowan, OR head south through Cedar Breaks National Monument, then travel route 14 west to Cedar City.

Whichever route you go, you’ll find yourself passing through Cedar City-which is the largest populated area on this drive. Need a Walmart or other groceries to stock up on? This is a good place to get it!

Once at Cedar City, you’ll head south on route 15 until you get to Kolob Canyons, in Zion National Park.

Side Trips:

Brian Head – the town located on route 143 is famous for a ski resort, and also being the home of the highest mountain in Southern Utah. At 11,300ft(3,446m) that’s pretty high! And the cool thing is, you can drive to the top of it in the summer for some amazing views! There’s also tons of lodging options here for an overnight stay.

Cedar Breaks National Monument – Located just off route 143 in Dixie National Forest. There are several overlooks to stop at if you’re just driving through, or spend some time and hike the trails!

Cascade Falls – A fun easy trail to go on that’s only 1.2 miles long. You can see views into Zion and the waterfalls too as long as it’s not the dry season.

I hope you have a fun trip and amazing time exploring Zion and the areas surrounding. There’s so many things to do all over Utah!

You can read more here about how to Plan your trip to Zion!

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Driving from Bryce to Zion National Parks in Utah. Take a road trip!

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10 thoughts on “Driving from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park”

  1. Thanks for this useful information. We are going next august to Zion from Bryce and planning to take quickest route (Route 12, 89 and Route 9 at Mount Carmel Junction). You are saying that when you are getting closer to Zion you have to drive on the side of the cliff with sharp turns. My little daughter does not feel good on those kind of roads. ¿Are they really impressive? ¿It is a long drive? Many thanks in advance for your help.

    • Hi, glad it could be of help to you! Yes approximately the last 10 miles at the end of Route 9 as you enter Zion, the road will start getting windy. The last 5 miles are the ones that are the sharp turns, through tunnels and on the side of the cliff. The road is paved however, and the speed limit is slow. Depending on the time of year you go too there can be a lot of traffic, making it even slower. The road is really impressive and the views just incredible, so I do recommend doing it if you can! Perhaps if your daughter is prone to road-sickness she can take some ginger or other medicine for it? Also I heard sitting up front is easier. I have more photos of the entire drive here, if it can help you in deciding: https://cameraandacanvas.smugmug.com/Road-Trips/Bryce-Canyon-to-Zion-National-Park-Utah/

      • Hello is it good weather for 3rd to 4th week in September or 1st week in October or will I hit bad weather in Bryce Orr Zion in a large motorhome don’t want to be in snow or really cold weather. Planning on being out week and half to 2 weeks.

        Thanks Marlo

        • Hi, you should be fine any of those weeks! Bryce can get a bit chilly in October, I wouldn’t worry about Zion. When we went it was in the beginning of October and we had t-shirts on during the day when it was nice and sunny, and brought our cool weather jackets as the temperature dipped in the evening. The weather was great, not too cold that we didn’t enjoy every minute of it 🙂 For more info on temperatures, you can check out a site like this that gives you the average depending on place: https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/@5535943/climate

  2. Hi,
    I am thinking about going to both parks on the last week of March (I am teacher and it is spring break). Any ideas as if it is too cold or if parts of the parks are closed during that time of the year?
    Thank you!


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