Which Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Hike is Best For You?
Towering red rock spires. Curving hoodoos. Delicate chimneys.
The rock formations of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks have been carved by wind and water erosion over millions of years. When you lace up your shoes and hike among these towering cliffs with blazing hues, you’ll see these spectacular natural wonders up close.
There are many different hiking trails in Zion and Bryce Canyon – from easy strolls to challenging treks. Plus, all the trailheads are easily accessible via the shuttle bus into Zion Scenic View Drive.
Read on to find out which trail you should take through this otherworldly landscape.
Zion National Park
An easy, laid back walk through tranquil forests alongside the banks of the Virgin River. It ends where the Narrows begins and the trails are flat and paved – making it an ideal adventure for beginner hikers or young children.
Distance: 2.2 miles round trip
Duration: 1.5 hours
Elevation: 57 ft
Shuttle Stop: Temple of Sinawava Stop #9
This is a great trail for a hot day in Zion, as it is moderately easy and offers plenty of shade to keep you cool. You’ll stroll under the box elder and cottonwood trees, alongside the Virgin River. When you reach the Emerald Pools, you’ll be enchanted by these peaceful pools, overhangs of ferns and their lush, green surroundings.
Distance: 1.5-3 miles
Duration: 2-4 hours
Elevation: 69 ft (Lower)
Shuttle Stop: Zion Lodge Stop #5
This bucket-list-worthy trail is an unforgettable journey through a slot canyon, with towering red rocks leaning in over the path on every side. To travel the entire length of the Narrows (top down) will take two full days and will require a permit. However, it’s possible to hike it as a day trip as well (no permit required)- just start from the bottom up and go as far as you like, then turn around. (Note: trail is often closed in Spring due to spring snowmelt and higher river levels). Equipment such as boots, neoprene socks, hiking poles, drybags etc can be rented in Springdale.
Distance: 1- 16 miles
Duration: 1hr – 2 days
Elevation: varying – 334 ft
Shuttle Stop: Temple of Sinawava Stop #9
This adrenaline-pumping trail is one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park. It involves scaling a steep ridge high above the valley floor and scrambling up the mountainside while gripping a chain. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s not for you. But, if you dare – it’s an unforgettable climb. As at 2019 NPS are now managing crowds at the West Rim trailhead to provide safer conditions on busy dates.
Distance: 5.4 miles
Duration: 3-5 hours
Elevation: 1488 ft
Shuttle Stop: The Grotto Stop #6
This hike is challenging, but if you push yourself up the steep slopes you will be rewarded with a view that will make your jaw drop. Note, as of June 2019 the Observation Point Trail is temporarily closed due to rockfall blocking the route. Check the NPS site before you go to see the current status.
Distance: 8 miles
Duration: 4-6 hours
Elevation: 2148 ft
Shuttle Stop: Weeping Rock Stop #7
Bryce Canyon National Park
If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike that will still offer you breathtaking views, this is the trail for you. It follows along the edge of the canyon, so you can peer down into the amphitheater as you go. The best time to tackle the Rim Trail is at dawn, when the sun hits the hoodoos and the bus tourists haven’t arrived yet.
Distance: 10.7 miles
Duration: 5-7 hours
Shuttle Stop: Bryce Point Stop #3
Beginning near Sunrise Point, the Queens Garden hike is popular due to the short distance and easy access. It’s considered the easiest trail to enter the canyon from the rim. The trail will take you to Queens Garden, a semi-circular ridge of eroded rock formations made from many thin pink, orange, brown and yellow spires. In the middle, you’ll see an ornate, elevated formation thought to resemble Queen Victoria.
Distance: 1.8 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Shuttle Stop: Sunrise Point Stop #8
This popular route takes you all the way down from the rim at Sunset Point, to the floor of Bryce Canyon. You’ll travel through the Silent City, a mass of spires and hoodoos in stunning shades of brown, orange and pink. The trail will also take you through the stunning narrow canyon of Wall Street. Be careful when walking this trail – there are some loose rocks that can roll beneath your feet so its important to watch your step.
Hiking Safety Tips
Take some time to prepare yourself for hiking in Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks. Check in with the nearest Visitor Center before you begin your hike, so that you can check on current conditions, any closures and let them know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes with a solid grip – no flip flops!
- Know your personal limits and fitness ability, so you don’t push yourself too far.
- The natural rock formations in these national parks can be hazardous, so watch your footing and beware of eroding cliffs, unseen crevices and shifting rocks.
- Keep an eye on the weather before you hike and plan your trip accordingly.
- Bring lots of water to avoid dehydration.
- Get an early start so you can avoid the crowds – and the hottest part of the day.
- Pack for changing weather conditions, headlamp, printed hiking trail maps and snacks.