Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon: Itinerary, Best Stops & Map

As you’re planning your Utah National Parks vacation, don’t overlook all the things you can see, do and photograph along the way from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon!

There are must-see stops and short detours to explore as you drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon National Park. We recommend an extra day or two just to enjoy the points of interest between these two parks!

Zion to Bryce Canyon scenic drives, hikes, activities, photography

If you’ll be going the opposite way from Bryce Canyon to Zion, you just follow this itinerary in reverse order.

In this guide we share everything you need to know to create your Utah National Park Road Trip Itinerary as you travel from Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park.

Check out these resources to plan your time at both parks:

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What to Pack for Zion and Bryce Canyon

Outdoor Gear we recommend! Travel Gear & Hiking Gear

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A Photo Tour of Zion National Park

Take a visual tour through Zion National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Visiting Zion National Park: The Basics

Zion National Park is open to visitors twenty-four hours day, every day of the year. You will want to check the website because some services and facilities do close or reduce hours during parts of the year.

Parking at Zion National Park: visitors can park only in designated parking spaces and should avoid parking along roadways, on vegetation, and in a way that blocks traffic. If a parking lot is full, do not wait for a spot to open up. Instead, move on and look for parking elsewhere. Anyone who fails to park in designated spots will be subject to a fine and may have their vehicle towed.

You can also park in Springdale, just outside the park entrance. Use the free shuttle that takes you to Zion. Be aware though that you must pay for parking in Springdale and that a park entrance pass does not include town parking, and vice versa.

Zion National Park Shuttle system: operations begin during the weekends starting mid-February. Around the first part of March, the shuttle runs daily between Zion Canyon and the town of Springdale. While the shuttle is in operation, no vehicles are permitted on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The shuttle also runs during the Christmas holiday so check the website if you’ll be visiting Zion during that time.

Shuttle buses run from the early morning and into the late evening, with departures about every seven minutes. There are two separate shuttle routes that guests can take when visiting Zion National Park. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to nine different stops along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale and will take you to the pedestrian entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center.

When the shuttle service is not in use, Zion National Park can still experience overcrowding. When this happens, the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will close to the public once all parking lots are full. Therefore, be prepared and make alternative arrangements if you’re planning a Zion itinerary between December and February.

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Fall leaves at Zion National Park

When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

The best times to visit Zion National Park are spring and fall for moderate temperatures to enjoy outdoor activities.

The summer months are HOT and monsoon season at Zion begins in late summer through early fall which could limit activities. Be aware of potential flash floods at Zion!

Winter is the least busy season. We don’t mind the colder weather for enjoying outdoor activities, which makes the winter the best time for us to visit to escape the crowds! BUT the cold winter weather may not be for everyone.

Check out these resources we’ve written about each season that details: Zion National Park weather, services, and things to do that time of year.

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Pa’rus Hiking Trail at Zion National Park

Things to Do at Zion National Park

Zion has become one go-to spots for adventure-seekers who enjoy hiking, biking, canyoneering and more! Learn more about the exciting activities you can do at Zion National Park.

A Photo Tour of Bryce Canyon National Park

Take a visual tour through Bryce Canyon National Park to see the stunning landscapes you’ll see when you visit!

Visiting Bryce Canyon: The Basics

The park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, even on holidays! Be sure to check the Bryce Canyon website for the most updated information for the visitor center hours and closures.

Bryce Canyon national park camping: the North Campground is open year-round and it’s first-come, first-served. The Sunset Campground requires a reservation through mid-month, then it’s first-come, first-served through the end of October.

The Bryce Canyon shuttle bus takes visitors to the Bryce Amphitheater area of the park. it’s not mandatory to ride the shuttle to access the park. Private vehicles can also explore the Bryce Canyon scenic drive. Get an early start to beat the crowds and have the best light to take photos.

Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon
Thor’s Hammer at Bryce Canyon

When is the Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park?

The time of year to visit Bryce Canyon National Park will play a big part in what you can see or do at the park. 

Most of the year you’ll enjoy fun outdoor things to do at Bryce Canyon National Park like scenic drives, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. During the winter, the activities are a bit more limited due to the cold and snow!

Due to the higher elevation at Bryce Canyon compared to the other Utah National Parks, the weather and temperatures will be different so it’s important to be up-to-date with current weather and road conditions!

We’ve put together helpful resources so you know what the Bryce Canyon weather is like during all four seasons:

Late spring, summer, and fall are peak seasons to visit Bryce Canyon so you don’t need to worry about the cold weather and snow storms closing roads during the winter months.

Snow at Bryce Canyon in the Winter
Snow at Bryce Canyon in the Winter

Things to Do at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park has something for everyone: hiking, biking, horseback riding and more!

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How Far is Zion National Park From Bryce Canyon?

It’s a 75-mile drive from the East Entrance of Zion National Park to the entrance to Bryce Canyon. Plan about 1.5 hours drive time.

If you want to do any of the side trips or detours we list here, you will need to add hours, or even days, to your schedule.

How to Get From Zion to Bryce Canyon

From Springdale and the Zion Canyon area it’s about 10 miles and 30 minutes of drive time without stops to reach the East Entrance of Zion.

You’ll be driving along the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway from Springdale heading east toward Bryce Canyon. This road through Zion National Park never closes. You can drive your personal vehicle along this Zion National Park Scenic Drive

The Zion National Park Shuttle doesn’t run along this route, only the Zion Canyon road accessed near Springdale. Note that large campers, RVs and buses must have an escort and require a permit to drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel.

Once you reach the East Entrance to Zion, you’ll continue along Highway 9 until you reach Highway 89. At this point you’ll turn left and head north to Highway 12. At the junction with the Scenic Byway 12, you’ll turn right until you reach the Bryce Canyon turnoff to the right.

How Much Does It Cost to Enter Zion and Bryce Canyon?

A weekly pass to Zion is $35 per vehicle, and it’s the same for Bryce Canyon, which means you’re spending $70 to visit both parks.

We highly recommend buying an annual US National Park pass for $80. If you plan on visiting other US National Park during the year, this is the way to go!

Can You Visit Zion and Bryce Canyon in One Day?

Yes, it IS possible to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon in one day, but we don’t recommend it. You really need to plan at least 2 days at each park. 

If you’re short on time, we suggest you give each park at least a full day – you won’t regret it!

This guide will probably convince you to add more time for the incredible stops between Zion and Bryce Canyon.

Services Between Zion and Bryce Canyon

You will find these services at Carmel Junction, Orderville, Hatch, and Bryce Canyon City: gas, groceries, accommodation, and restaurants.

You’ll find all services in Kanab if you choose to add a day trip in that area. And the detour to Cedar Breaks takes you close to Brian Head and through Panguitch, both of which are small towns with all necessary amenities.

We’ve learned to always be prepared with water and road trip food when driving in the Southern Utah area.

Bryce Canyon to Zion Map

This Bryce Canyon to Zion Map lists all the points of interest along the route. Since you’ll be driving from Zion to Bryce Canyon, simply reverse the order of the stops.

Google map of stops between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon Itinerary

There are a lot of things to see, do and photograph between Zion andBryce Canyon National Park. 

We recommend at least 1-2 days to explore the attractions along the route as well as the surrounding areas!

When visiting Southern Utah any time of year, you’ll want to:

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway to the Zion East Entrance

From Springdale and the West Entrance of Zion, follow the road up a series of switchbacks.

We recommend you stop at the various parking areas and pullouts so you can take in and photograph the stunning landscape along this Zion National Park scenic drive!

Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel is one of the busiest areas in the park When approaching the tunnel, be aware of your surroundings and slow down. Watch for tunnel rangers, pedestrians and other traffic. 

DO NOT STOP in the tunnel. Obey all traffic directions from the tunnel rangers.

Large vehicles measuring 11’4″ (3.4m) tall or taller or 7’10” (2.4 m) wide or wider, including mirrors, awnings, and jacks, will need a tunnel permit.

Canyon Overlook at sunrise at Zion
Canyon Overlook at sunrise at Zion

Canyon Overlook Trail

If you’re looking for a Zion hike that doesn’t require the shuttle, then we recommend Zion Canyon Overlook. It’s the first stop along Highway 9 right as you exit the Carmel Tunnel. You’ll see a very small parking lot on the right.

This hike is popular and parking is extremely limited all times of day. If you can time it right, Canyon Overlook is one of the best photo spots for sunrise at Zion National Park. Going early for sunrise means you’ll have a better chance at finding a parking spot!

The hike is one mile round trip and takes 30 minutes to an hour. It’s considered a moderate Zion National Park Hike due to significant elevation gain at the beginning of the trail and there are a  few exposed spots with steep drop-offs where you’ll want to watch the kids.

It’s fun to stop at the pullouts along Highway 9 and just start exploring the various trails in the area.

Slot canyon along Highway 9 at Zion National Park.
Slot canyon along Highway 9 at Zion National Park.

Slot Canyons

This area of Zion has smaller slot canyons located along the Pine Creek wash, found on the right side of the road as you’re driving from Springdale to the East Entrance.

There are no named trails or markers, so we usually drive until we find an area that looks like there’s a crack in the wall near the creek wash. We find a pullout to park, hike down to the wash and start exploring!

Hoodoos along Highway 9 in Zion National Park
Hoodoos along Highway 9 in Zion National Park

Zion Hoodoos

As you continue along the road, there will be 2 small pullouts on the left, directly across from the Checkerboard Mesa. There’s a set of “hoodoos” on the rock slope to the left. It’s a short walk up to access and photograph the hoodoos.

It’s a lot easier to find them going FROM Checkerboard Mesa so you may need to drive to the parking lot for Checkboard Mesa then turn around and head back.

checkerboard mesa at Zion in the winter
Checkerboard mesa at Zion in the winter.

Checkerboard Mesa

The last point of interest once before you reach the East Entrance and exit the park is Checkerboard Mesa. There’s a nice size parking area on the left.

Mount Carmel Junction

From the East Entrance it’s about 19 miles (30 minutes) to reach Mount Carmel Junction. You’ll find a motel, gas stations and restaurants at this small junction. 

Turn right here to continue south on Highway 89 to explore the Kanab area, or turn left to head toward Bryce Canyon!

Detour Options: Kanab Area 

You can spend days in Kanab so it’s hard to exactly state the total distance and time for this detour.

Instead, we’ll list the attractions so you can determine what’s of interest to YOU and fit them in your schedule.

Moqui Cave Museum near Kanab
Moqui Cave Museum near Kanab.

Moqui Cave Natural History Museum

  • Drive Distance: 11 minutes, 11 miles from Mount Carmel Junction

Moqui Cave is a museum depicting life in southern Utah spanning the centuries. It houses Native American Artifacts, dinosaur tracks, fluorescent mineral, rocks and fossils. 

kanab sand cave
Kanab sand cave hiking trail.

Kanab Sand Caves

  • Drive Distance: 12 minutes, 11.5 miles from Mount Carmel Junction
  • Hike Distance: Very challenging 0.5 mile roundtrip (but can be seen from the road)

The Kanab Sand Caves were man-made when they began mining for the sand in the area – resulting in spectacular caves to explore.

This hike requires scrambling up a steep slick rock so wear proper footwear! 

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Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park at sunset.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

  • Drive Distance: 18 minutes, 14.7 miles from Mount Carmel Junction

Drive south on Highway 89 for 3.5 miles past Mount Carmel Junction. Turn right on County Road 43 (signed) and continue south for 11 miles to the entrance station.

If you are looking for fun outdoor activities like hiking, off-roading, and sand boarding then check out Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

The park is open year round during daylight hours. Outdoor activities like hiking, sand boarding and ATVing can be done any time of year. Keep in mind that summer temperatures are hot, near 100 degrees F! If you visit in the summer, we suggest visiting in the morning or late afternoon when the temperatures aren’t so hot.

The golden hour light at Coral Pink Sand Dunes is stunning! The sandy landscape glows with vibrant pink/orange tones. If you can time your visit to be there in the late afternoon to watch sunset, you’re in for a treat!

White-Pocket-reflection-by-Photo-Jeepers
White Pocket area of the Vermillion Cliffs

Kanab Photography and Tours

  • Drive Distance: 22 minutes, 19 miles from Mount Carmel Junction

Kanab is located in southeastern Utah near the Arizona border. The area is surrounded by towering Navajo sandstone cliffs and vistas of sagebrush. You’ll find so many things to see, do, and photograph in the Kanab area!

The Kanab area is a stunning place to visit in Utah if you enjoy landscape photography. Since we live so close to Kanab, we’ve been able to take pictures during every season and all types of weather and light conditions.

You’ll need to plan 1-2 days spending time in Kanab to photograph and explore the area. 

We’ve written a detailed Guide to Kanab Photography. In this guide we share our experience through the years with you: photo tips, a list of best photo spots, and the camera gear you’ll need to take pictures all around the Kanab area.

Here are the location we feature, in addition to Zion National Park and Coral Pink Sand Dunes:

  • Peekaboo slot canyon
  • Johnson Canyon Road
  • Old Pariah
  • The Toadstools
  • White Pocket

There are fun tours in the Kanab area: ATV tours, slot canyon tours, canyoneering tours, and more!

Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument

Detour Option: Cedar Breaks National Monument

  • Total Detour: 1h 15m, 50 miles
  • Full Detour is Closed in the Winter

From Highway 89 heading north toward Bryce Canyon, you’ll reach a turnoff to the left on Highway 14 toward Cedar Breaks.

We’ll be honest, Cedar Breaks is much smaller and not as impressive as Bryce Canyon. But the entire detour drive is beautiful! Brian Head and Panguitch Lake are nice stops to eat a snack while you enjoy the scenery!

Follow Highway 14 passing Duck Creek and Navajo Lake. At Highway 148 you’ll turn right toward Cedar Breaks National Monument.

To continue the detour, follow Highway 148 until you reach Highway 143. You’ll drive through Dixie National Forest, pass Panguitch Lake, and finally arrive in the small town of Panguitch.

At this point you’ll turn right onto Highway 89 and head south a few miles until you reach the junction with Highway 12, where you’ll turn left.

You are now on Utah Scenic Byway 12 headed toward Bryce Canyon!

Red Canyon tunnel in the winter
Red Canyon tunnel in the winter

Red Canyon

Most visitors only drive along the highway through Red Canyon. The rock tunnels are stunning and worth the stop to take a photo!

If you have time, stop by the Red Canyon visitor center to get a list of trails. There are a few short hikes that provide the best views: Photo Trail, Tunnel Trail, Golden Wall Trail, and Pink Ledges Trail.

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Unique rock features at Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah.

Utah Scenic Byway 12

For this guide from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon, you’ll only drive a short distance along Highway 12.

Be sure to note all the best stops along Scenic Byway 12 if you will be driving from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park. It’s another stretch of road in Utah that can take 1-2 days to explore:

BUY AT AMAZON: Zion National Park Guides and Maps

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