These national parks really surprised us with activity, beauty and glorious nights under twinkling stars! Here is our Zion and Bryce Canyon itinerary.
We came for here for a long holiday weekend and enjoyed it so much we bought the National Park Annual Pass to continue the explorations. We did a mixture of hikes, canyoneering and star-gazing - and would recommend it all!
Go late. Bear with us on this one. By going a bit later than everyone recommends we've learned you avoid all the lines and hassle of parking (we heard horror stories from folks that got there before the buses started and had to wait for hours - we had none of that!)
The altitude was more than we expected at Bryce - don't plan anything too strenuous if you don't time to acclimate
The parks aren't that close. Dependent on your itinerary, you may want to stay between them
It is very hot in the summer - we enjoyed staying somewhere with a pool and being near water whenever possible
No need to rent equipment for the Narrows (other sites may say to do so) - there are loads of walking sticks at the beginning of the hike
Bryce has really bad bugs when you are hiking - get bug spray before you get there
Itinerary - This was an action-packed weekend, with even more to see than we could get to. The way we decided to do it to maximize fun and minimize budget:
Day 1: Fly into Vegas as early as you can. Grab breakfast. Head to Zion and do Angel's Landing
Day 2: Time for an activity. Canyoneering in a (near) Zion Slot Canyon
Day 3: A hike and stargazing at Bryce
Day 4: Head back to Zion (do the Narrows!) on the way back to the airport
Now for the real details!
An absolute gem of a place, with scenic views as good as anywhere. Southern Utah has so much to offer and we are really glad we made the trip out.
Where to stay?
Our love affair with yurts started here. We did an Airbnb Yurt for the first night and were pleasantly surprised that it was actually situated in the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort... which meant we got full access to breakfast, facilities and a pool.
Many people say to stay in Springdale - which was good for food and such - though we booked a bit late and ended up enjoying getting somewhere a bit out of the way (in Orderville)
Our second (and third) night we made our way closer to Bryce and stayed in Alton at another of our favorite type of homes - an Airbnb Tiny Home! A little trick to get to, but paid dividends in privacy.
What to do
Day 1: We made it to Zion by mid-day and went straight to the park to do the Angel's Landing hike. This was intense (5.2 miles, 1,500 ft elevation gain) - with a multitude of switchbacks. The final push is certainly not for the faint-hearted, with a narrow one-way passage and a chain to guide you along - things can get pretty hairy. But it is all worthwhile, the views were absolutely incredible!
Day 2: As a surprise birthday present for John - we spent this day stemming, scooching and shimmying (technical terms for the latter two of course) down canyons and through slots. We had an awesome guide for Red Desert Adventure, a really awesome guy with a wealth of knowledge and some really interesting stories! We really cannot recommend this activity highly enough!
Day 3: See Bryce section below
Day 4: We returned to Zion and waded through The Narrows. Unsurprisingly, the Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. With the water up to your waist, the Canyon probably a 1000 ft tall and the river sometimes just 20-30 feet wide, it is very difficult to describe - so a must see and do for yourself! We made it to Orderville Canyon, which took us about an hour, but you can turn back at any stage. Don't forget you water proof boots or sandals for this one
Where to eat / drink?
Ah...this section is a bit of a struggle. Zion was designed for scenic beauty, less so for grub. We did however enjoy a crisp beer at the end of our Angel's Landing hike at Zion Canyon Brewpub. For food.....nothing to write about...literally
Bryce and its hoodoos. Chaotic natural destruction has left this area with rocks of all unique shapes and sizes!
Where to stay?
We stayed in Alton (at the aforementioned tiny home) for the 2nd and 3rd nights. While still a bit of a drive to the park, it wasn't too far and got us closer to Zion for the day before and day after - shortening overall travel time
What to do?
There area bunch of options for hikes! A bit tired from the previous days (and the altitude ended up getting to us as well) we did a Queens Garden / Wall Street Loop trail (at the time we went Navajo Loop was closed). We thought we might add on more to make it a longer hike, but decided to take it easy instead
We then stayed until dark (went to dinner and a ranger talk about the park to kill some time) to watch the stars at Sunset Point. The. Stars. Are. Absolutely. Stunning. We downloaded an app that showed us the names of the stars and we even got to see some planets - really glad we stayed!
Where to eat / drink?
Near our Airbnb, we went to The Outlaw Saloon with a load of space, beers and a chill vibe. The fun kicker - you cook your own steak to your liking on a communal stove
In Bryce, We had a nice birthday dinner for John at Stone hearth Grille - pleasant place, good views and solid food :)
Would you recommend to your friend / family? Yes, really enjoyed the weekend - how so much to offer and a must do in the national park circuit!
Would you return? Not for a while, this whet our appetite for checking out many other National Parks
Favorites to speak of:
Lodging: The tiny home! While we are normally partial to Yurts, the tiny home was in a wonderfully secluded area, making the stargazing amazing - and had everything we needed
Activity: Most definitely the Canyoneering - upped the adrenaline and let us explore a part of the Zion area away from the crowds
Eating: Not really the highlight of this trip - but would say the Outlaw Saloon stood out the most
Drinking: Again, not crazy amounts - but was nice to get a beer right when we finished Angel's Landing at the Zion Canyon Brewpub