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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 drove from Bryce to Zion during our 2 week road trip exploring the western parks, but you could easily do this trip in reverse as well!
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!
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.
At the end of route 12 you’ll come to a T intersection. There are 2 ways to get to Zion National Park, and the roads you choose depend on any road closures or which part of Zion you want to visit.
For getting into the main part of Zion however, the quickest route is south on Interstate 89 at the T intersection, then west on Route 9 at Mount Carmel Junction. It really is that easy of a route and only takes about 1:45.
This is the way we went, so all of the photos below are along that route.
Places to Stay in Towns along the way
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 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 towns.
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!
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!
Not going to lie. I was lucky my husband drove…that way I got to take all these nice pictures out the window! 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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!
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