Make the Most of One Day in Zion National Park: Maximize Your Time With These Tips!

The Southwest has some of the most magnificent National Parks out there. Zion was Utah's first National Park and is often on the top of people's favorite US parks. The massive sandstone cliffs will dwarf you and the narrow slot canyons will draw you in. There is plenty to explore at Zion National Park, but if one day is all you have, you can most definitely get a generous taste of this beautiful park. I'll give you all the best tips so that you can maximize your time at Zion National Park.

zion national park visit one day itinerary

Maximize Your Time if You Only Have One Day at Zion National Park


Zion was one of the first stops we made as part of a multi-leg National Park trip. We flew into Las Vegas from Seattle and rented a car and then drove to Zion. 

Want to know one thing I would have done differently? 

We spent the night in Las Vegas walking the strip and eating the food and honestly, Vegas doesn't do much for me. I would have skipped this whole portion of the trip and driven to Valley of Fire State Park. Or heck, driven straight to Zion National Park. It's only about two and a half hours drive from Las Vegas. Make a stop in St. George for some food and snacks! Road trip snacks are the best!

You can read the whole itinerary here: The Best 7-day Grand Circle Road Trip

5 Ways to Maximize Your Time at Zion National Park


1. Stay Close to the Park

Where to Stay in Zion National Park

There are a lot of options when it comes to staying in or near the park. Staying close to the park will help you maximize your time while visiting Zion. 

Camping in Zion National Park

The most easily accessible location if you only have one day in the park, would be to actually camp in the park at either the South or Watchman Campground. Reservations are highly recommended. There are also several private campgrounds nearby as well. 

If you have a plan to continue on to other National Parks, renting a camper van might be a great option for this type of trip.

There is also a Zion National Park Lodge that will allow you to be in the heart of the park without camping. I haven't stayed there, but I have heard reports that it's overpriced and overrated, but I'd love to hear what you think.


Nearby Accommodations

Springdale is the gateway town to Zion National Park. This is the most easily accessible option if you are looking for a hotel or VRBO.

We actually stayed at The Best Western in Springdale and I was pretty impressed. It had been a minute since I have stayed in a Best Western, and I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful rooms, the outdoor spaces, and the views! Plus, it was one of the closest hotels to the park entrance. It also had free breakfast and a pool and a hot tub and was an easy walk to shops and restaurants nearby.

Parking is VERY limited and VERY expensive. Staying nearby will allow you to get in and out of the park easily and quickly.

10 National Parks to Visit During Wildflower Season

renting ebike in zion national park

2.. Rent e-Bikes

One of the highlights of our trip at Zion National Park wasn't one that was planned. After losing out on several lotteries for Angel's Landing hike and the weather not cooperating for our Narrows Hike, we switched to plan c, renting e-Bikes, and honestly, it was probably better that way because this ended up being such a great way to see the park.

You do have to be 14 to rent and ride an e-Bike, or you can share a bike with a younger child, however, those middle tween years, can be tough because no 12-year-old is going to want to ride with mom or dad on the back, so you might be out of luck on this visit. However, if you've got older kids, renting e-Bikes is so much fun!

Since early 2020, the park has shut down access to the main roads for thru traffic and now only allows a shuttle bus system to drive through the park. This can be a HUGE inconvenience since it's such a heavily visited park. Renting an e-bike allows you to skip these lines, and renting an e-Bike in Springdale allows you to skip the TWO shuttles you have to take, the one from Springdale to the park and the transfer to the shuttle into the park. 

Consider the eBike like your fast pass at Disney. It's worth it. The bikes act as a shuttle replacement, but are more fun as you zip around and through the canyons! You are provided with locks, so you can park your bike at the various trailheads and hike around whenever you want. You will avoid the shuttles and the crowds and get a fun ride in too!

You can read more about our experience {and some tips on how to save money on the rental} in this post.

3. Take a Hike {or two}

We had applied for {and lost} multiple lotteries for Angel's Landing. It's a new permit system that started the week before we got there, so I don't think they had all the kinks ironed out. Which was fine. I hate sheer drop-off cliffs, and since the lottery is in place because of safety concerns {just google how many people have died on this trail...I have nightmares!}, I'm ok that we didn't "win". 


West Rim Trail to Scout's Landing

We parked our bikes at The Grotto. There are restrooms and a water-bottle refilling station here as well as a few picnic tables for a rest stop, so it makes a good place to keep as a home base.

This is about a 5-mile hike that takes you up to Scout's Landing, which splits off to Angel's Landing portion of the trail. While you can't hike that last portion without a permit, you can continue to hike up past Scout's Landing to get away from the crowds to Lava Point. 

Narrows Trail

The famous Narrows Trail is at the end of the out-and-back main road at the park. The Riverside Walk is located at the end of this road and is an out-and-back walk on a paved trail that runs close to the River. This trail leads to the start of the popular hike called The Narrows.

This trail is popular as it is literally a trail that you walk through the water. Because of cold weather conditions, flash flooding, and generally mother nature trying to kill you, it's best to be flexible since this trail is often closed. When we were there, the water level was too high and too cold and there was a threat of flash flooding. If you plan this trail, also plan a backup for the day just in case.

Emerald Pools Trails

We added in this hike after the West Rim Trail and I kind of wish we hadn't. It's a fairly short hike making it incredibly busy. 

**Trail conditions change often, so make sure you check the NPS website for up-to-date conditions.


4. Plan Ahead

The best way to maximize your time at Zion is to plan ahead for other activities. Our trip was part of a longer 7-day road trip to other National Parks and Zion was a stop before a drive to Kanab Canyons and Bryce. Planning ahead allowed us to include a drive on the Zion-Mt. Carmel highway. This is one of the most beautiful roads you'll ever drive through in the US, trust me! Since we arrived from Las Vegas, we came in through St. George to Springdale.

As you head through, make sure you take advantage of a few of the pullout stops to explore. Keep an eye out for the Checkerboard Mesa, it's worth stopping for!

5. Go Stargazing

Zion National Park is one of the most popular of the National Parks for stargazing. If you only have one day, plan on taking advantage of the WHOLE day, even if that means you need to take a little hot tub break or nap before you continue your day. 

If you really want to maximize your time, you'll wake up early to take advantage of sunrise too! Watching the sun come up over the red rocks is just magical.

Zion National Park is one of the most visited National Parks for a reason. I am fully confident that you can make the most of it in one day by using these tips to maximize your time. 

Don't miss this post: A Local's Guide to Visiting Paradise Mt. Rainier

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