Here’s a question that pops up regularly, is it possible to visit both Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon National Parks in the same day?
To answer this question, YES! It is possible to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in one day. These two National Parks are only 1.5 hours of driving time always from each other so with travel between parks it is possible and can be done fairly easily. There are many things to think about when attempting to fit these to beautiful National Parks into just one day, but it is possible. One day would be a short and sweet road trip when considering the scope of these two big National Parks, but what you will see will be well worth the road trip through these parks. Your best option is to take a personal vehicle or rental car on a pre planned road trip. This will make it to where your stops and destinations through both parks are flexible for you and your group. Trying to fit both parks in on a large tour bus would be falling short of most people’s expectations, but is also an alternative if you would rather not drive yourself or in a small group.
Photo Credit: Les Haines on flickr
How to Visit Both Zion and Bryce is One Day
To accomplish visiting both parks in one day, plan on driving to as many lookouts and popular scenic views as you can to fit both parks into your schedule. If you have no choice and must see them both in a single day you will not be able to fit everything in, but you can defiantly take a couple scenic routes that will give you a great feel for the general park. You will be able to see some famous overlooks and typical sights for each park and must move on fast as there is so much to see. There is a Zion Summer Park Shuttle that operates and will get you from the visitor center (west entrance) through most of the park. This shuttle is seasonal and starts running at 5:45 am until 9:30 pm., so it’s not a bad option if you would like to park and ride the bus for part of the Zion area.
I would recommend starting out at the South entrance of Zion as early as you possibly can with the morning sunlight. It’s a good idea to check the sunrise time for that current time of year to increase sight seeing time to its maximum. Zion National Park does have a highway (Utah Highway 9) that is 6 miles long, and cuts right through the center of the park, and you can see so much of the park from the overlooks and scenic drive-through. This road is never closed but is guarded and monitored at all times. Keep in mind that you will have to pay the National Park fee to pass through the park. It is also travel restricted to oversized loads because of the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. There is an added escort fee for vehicles that are wider than 7’10”, or 11’4” or taller. Most RV’s, Trailers, 5th wheels and campers will fall into the category of needing an escort through the tunnel. Keep in mind that Zion is the seventh most visited National Park in the United States so you must keep your time very limited to get through the park and travel to Bryce and fit that park in as well.
Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek
Leaving Zion on your way to Bryce Canyon
This stretch of your road trip through Zion is considered by National Geographic to be “Americas 100 best adventures”. This is speaking loud and clear about what you can and will see even out of your vehicle window. Give yourself at least two or three hours to get through the park during the morning hours you should be able to get some amazing photo’s of the famous landscape. Once you are exiting the East gate of Zion on highway 9 you will travel until you hit highway 89. Turn Northbound on highway 89, where you will see the Paunsaguant cliffs (towering red, white and pink cliffs) in several spot along the East side of highway 89 near Mt Carmel and Hatch Utah. These cliffs makeup the Western slopes of Bryce Canyon just out of the main park. Keep traveling North until you reach highway 12 where you will turn East and head through the famous Red Canyon (a favorite spot for all tourists to the Bryce area). Continue on highway 12 until you reach the Bryce Canyon turn where you head South up to the Park gate. From Zion’s Park gate to Bryce canyons gate you should be able to make it within 2 hours, even if you stop for gas, snacks and a couple pictures along the way.
While travel along highway 9 in Zion National Park you will find several overlooks, trails, and scenic views these include; the Zion Canyon visitor center, Weeping Rocks, Temple of Simawava, Canyon Overlook trail, Mt Carmel Tunnel, Watchman’s, Hidden Arch trail, and checkerboard Arch Trail.
Here is a Zion map with general directions to Bryce:
Now that you have reach Bryce Canyon National Park you will want to go in the main entrance just past the Famous Rubys Inn. Rubys Inn can wait until you exit the Park, but then again it is a must stop before you leave the Bryce area regardless. You will find great park information, amazing food, snacks, tings to do, and accommodations there. Once you enter the park you will have no time to spare while trying to make it to all of the major points of interest and overlooks. Here is a list of the places to make sure and see along your drive through the park; Fairyland Point, Sunrise point, Sunset point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Swap Canyon, Piracy Point, Farview Point, Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon, and Rainbow Point
Here is the map to follow: Bryce Canyon Map