Everyday we are connected on to our mobile devices or computer, and once in a while we all need that digital detox break to feel connected with the real world again. I took my break this spring in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. These have been on my list of go-to places ever since I went to Antelope Canyon and it was the perfect relaxing vacation I wanted. Below, I have compiled my experience at these two parks and I hope this guide will help you plan your next trip there. (This is not sponsored of course.)
Travel and Lodge
Coming from San Francisco, I flew to Las Vegas and rented a car (you definitely need one). We drove for roughly two and a half hours to get to Zion National Park, where we stayed in Quality Inn right outside the park. Campgrounds are available for pre-bookings, but when we called they were all full. At the park, there are available slots, but people start lining up at 6AM to get them. Also, it was around 30-50 F when I was there (end of March) and the tents were freezing. If you go in the spring, I do recommend a hotel. Airbnbs were pricey and far away.
Valley of Fire
No this is not Zion or Bryce, but I was recommended to come to this place by a stranger in Las Vegas. It is an hour out of Vegas and on the way to Zion. It's a majestic place right off the highway that has rolling orange sand (I'm not kidding). There are small one mile hikes around the park that is great for a quick stroll. The sand is probably some of the softest sand I've ever touched. There are also hieroglyphs on the rocks. Do stop here if you are driving to Zion or if you are in Vegas and have the time to drive an hour out!
Zion National Park
Cost: $30 for one car to be let in. DO take a car in even though there is a bus that takes you to Zion! An individual walking in cost ~$20 so it is only worth it if you are traveling alone. The drive around the park where the shuttle does not access is absolutely stunning and I felt like I was in an amusement park ride. We were able to see the mountain goats, deers, and many more animals.
Travel within the park: There is a shuttle that takes you up and down to all the main trails.
1) The Narrows:
This is the last stop on the shuttle. Check the water levels before coming! We were excited for the Narrows hike, only to find that the water levels were too high and we could not do it (pictured above). But we were still able to walk along the beginning of the river on the River Walk trail and it was still beautiful. There were many (vicious) squirrels.
2) Angel's Landing (pictured above)
This hike is no joke. DO bring hiking shoes! I went out to buy some because you do not want to fall off this mountain. There is a very steep paved ascent for the first 3/4 of the hike up to Scott's Landing. However, after Scott's Landing there is a chained section all the way up to Angel's Landing. If you are afraid of heights, I do not recommend this part. The path is very VERY narrow and you have to hold on to a chain to prevent following off the side of the mountain. I would also AVOID this hike if it is raining or if there are high winds. The view is stunning, but not worth your life. The hike was roughly five miles and took us about 4 hours when leaving at 7:30 AM. I recommend taking the first shuttle out at 7:00 AM to avoid the crowd of people. The chain section is already scary with no people and it will be much worse when there is a crowd.
3) Emerald's Pool
Another great hike alongside of Angel's Landing. I did not make it there because there the path was entirely mud due to the rain. However, other people have made the trek and said it's worth the hike.
4) Observation Point
This hike will take you to the opposite viewpoint of Angel's Landing where you will see the other side of the valley. It is similar to Angel's Landing and also very stunning. The hike is around 8 miles with an estimated time of 4-6 hours.
Food: There is a Zion lodge on one of the bus stops with typical camping food served (burgers, fries etc.) We ate outside of Zion in Springdale (town adjacent to the park) at the brewery and Cafe Soleil. This cafe had the cheapest sandwiches we could find in town (~$10) and the brewery was one of the only places open until 10pm on the weekend. The beer is not very good and I do not recommend it.
Nightlife: there is none. But there are campfires around the park and at night the star gazing is stunning. Watch out for the mountain lions.
This national park is located another one and a half hours away from Zion and it is at a higher elevation so it was much colder. I believe spending one day at Bryce was already enough and I would recommend spending more time in Zion. I do not know of a bus that goes there, so you would probably need a car to get there.
Observation Points: all of them are very close to each other, so I recommend stopping at all of them. They are pinned on the map that is handed to you when you enter. The entrance fee was $30 for a car.
Hike: I recommend going on the Sunset to Sunrise Trail. It allows you to walk within the canyon and you can see the Hoodoos and the various rock formations up close. Again, I recommend wearing hiking boots because some parts were very slippery due to the mud. Note: the sunrise is much better at this park than the sunset and if you can make it out to this trail during sunrise it will be spectacular.
I hope this guide was helpful for you and has inspired you to plan a trip to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. I've compiled a short vlog-styled footage of my trip below. Please let me know if you have any questions down in the comments below. Enjoy!
Photo Credits: Jordan Jozwiak