How to Spend One Day in Zion National Park

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Almost all national parks deserve several days to explore and visit, Zion included. But thankfully if you’re limited on time there’s still a lot you can see and experience with only one day in Zion National Park. Don’t miss out on visiting if you only have a day!

With just one day at Zion you can:

  • Get a good overview of the main part of the park
  • Go on a few small hikes
  • OR if you’re more into the adventure side of things and in good shape, go on a longer big hike.

This article will be focused on the itinerary we followed while there, which was an overview of the park and a few small hikes!

We visited Zion as one of the stops on our 2 week western park road trip in October. We had just driven to Zion from Bryce the day before, which took us through the East entrance and along the beautiful scenic highway! So we did see a little bit of the park the day before, but it was just driving through in the car, with a stop at the visitor’s center.

Visitor’s Center and Pa’Rus Trail

Pa'Rus Trail in Zion National Park

On our day at the park, we unfortunately got a late start and arrived around 10am. As I mentioned in my more detailed guide to visiting Zion, you need to get there early! Thankfully we got to see the visitor’s center the day before, otherwise that would have been our first stop in the morning.

The Pa’Rus is a beautiful scenic trail that’s flat, paved, and only 3.5 miles round trip. It starts right near the visitor’s center and crosses over the Virgin river a few times, giving you a nice walk through the valley. It ends at the Canyon Junction shuttle stop.

You do not have to walk all of it either if you don’t want to. There are a couple of shuttle stops on it that can take you to other points in the park.

We walked the Pa’Rus trail from the campground to the history museum, and then took the shuttle to the Zion Park Lodge where we had our lunch. There’s a Grill and Cafe at the Zion Lodge stop where you can purchase food, and a beautiful green lawn with shade to eat on if you want. It’s very picturesque!

Zion Park Lodge grass and shade trees

Emerald Pools & Kayenta Trails

Next we decided to go for a hike on the Lower & Upper Emerald Pools trails. It was a bit crowded at first, but as the hike went further up there weren’t as many people–although there were still quite a bit.

It was only 1 mile to the upper pool, but I would say these are moderate hikes, as it does take quite a bit of cardio exercise to get up the trail.

Emerand Pools trail in Zion
At the Upper Emerald Pool. You can’t see the pool very well in this picture, but it is there in the background.

The Emerald Pools were a little disappointing. They were small pools of water, green from algae, but not much to see or look at. It was more impressive being surrounded by the tall, red canyon walls.

Connected to the Emerald Pools trail is the Kayenta Trail. So we decided to continue on down that trail for another mile instead of doubling back to Zion Lodge. I’m glad we did, the views were incredible!

You follow a trail along the the base of the cliff, and will get views of the valley stretching out and the other red cliffs on the other side.

Kayenta Trail in Zion National Park
One of the incredible views on the Kayenta Trail!

We ended our hike at the Grotto, and got the shuttle there to our next stop.

Weeping Rock

Another short but steep hike, 0.4 miles round trip, we took was up to Weeping Rock. The cliff face in this section has an alcove in which you walk into at the end of the trail. As you’re standing there you watch water dripping down the wall from above, it looks like it’s raining! It’s pretty, and there is a lot of plant life growing along the wall, even on the underside of the alcove here, because of all the water.

Weeping Rock, cliffs and vegetation
It looks like it’s raining! But it’s just the water, weeping from the rock.

Riverside Walk

At the last shuttle stop, Temple of Sinawava, is a nice and easy trail alongside the Virgin River. It’s 1 mile each way, and at the end of it is the start of what’s called “The Narrows”, another big, longer hike in which you walk through the river, with tall cliffs on either side of you. Needless to say, we weren’t prepared for nor had time for the Narrows, but Riverside walk was doable!

Riverside walk at zion national park, red cliffs and the virgin river
The Virgin River running between the tall red cliffs of Zion.

We had a fun time on this trail. There were parts along the river that widened out, with more trees and shrubs, and there were dirt paths throughout, so you could walk down closer to the river and maybe even see some wildlife. We did see a few mule deer, munching on some of the grasses there.

mule deer buck eating grass in zion
A mule deer buck. He didn’t look too happy, maybe the grass tasted lousy? :p

Final Shuttle Stops

To end our day, we did stop at the shuttle stops we missed seeing, Big Bend and Court of the Patriarchs, just to see the views and rock formations. They’re beautiful no matter where you’re at in the park!

shuttle stop at court of the patriarchs
The court of the Patriarchs.

That concluded our one day in Zion National Park! It was a great overview, and next time I’ll be ready to take on one of the longer challenging hikes I have listed below…for another great day in the park 🙂

If you’d like suggestions on where to stay or other hikes to do, you can read about them in my guide to zion here.

Big Iconic Hikes

If you’re into bigger, adventurous hikes, for just one day in Zion I would suggest one of these hikes below, then relax the remainder of the day. If you’re in great shape perhaps you can do one in half a day, and spend the rest of the time visiting the other shuttle stops.

Angels Landing

5.4 miles round trip. Accessible from The Grotto shuttle stop. This is one of the most popular and talked about hikes, and one you’ll find pictures for all over the internet. It’s a huge climb up and up tons of switchbacks, and along a ridge with a cliff face on either side. It’s not for the feint of heart or those afraid of heights!

Observation Point

8 miles round trip. Accessible from Weeping Rock shuttle stop. As I said I haven’t been on either of these trails yet myself, but people have said that even though this trail is longer, it is easier and not as scary! So if you want to see those incredible views from above but are afraid of Angels Landing, I’d suggest doing this hike!

The Narrows

9.4 miles round trip. Located at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. If you don’t mind walking through the river– you’ll be knee, or even waist deep at times, with sheer cliffs on either side of you, then you might want to go on this adventurous hike. Just be careful and check the park website for weather reports before going.


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5 thoughts on “How to Spend One Day in Zion National Park”

  1. I can’t imagine seeing all these amazing places in just one day, I would definitely need to plan a bit longer. But good that you can see some of the highlights in one day, perfect if you’ve got a much larger trip. And of course there are so many other amazing national parks around too. The hikes are what I would be interested in and finding some quieter parts of the park

    Reply
    • Yes spending more time in the parks is always more ideal! The main part of Zion does get very crowded with people, but the Kolob Canyon section is a lot more quieter, which could be an option for you to check out if you get to go!

      Reply
  2. Zion is gorgeous! I was just there but it was before shuttle service was running. And it was cold!! But absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful.

    Reply

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