Road Trip Guide: Zion to Bryce Canyon National Parks

Utah’s national parks are a symbol of wild beauty in the American Southwest, and one of the greatest appeals of these wonders is their proximity to one another. It’s only natural for adventure seekers to plan a trip not just to one park but to explore multiple. Even though it’s a short drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon–less than two hours–the journey offers a treasure trove of roadside marvels and picturesque landscapes worth a stop. With this guide, you can explore the vibrant transition from Zion to Bryce Canyon, highlighting scenic views, adventures, and where to stay.

Zion National Park

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

Under Canvas Zion provides a breathtaking escape and was awarded one of the ‘Best Resort Hotels in Utah’ by Travel + Leisure. Located on 196 acres of remote desert, just 20 miles from Zion National Park and the charming town of Springdale, guests are surrounded by soaring sandstone cliffs, majestic red rock, and wide-open desert skies. Guests enjoy upscale, safari-inspired tents with king-size beds with plush linens, ensuite bathrooms with hot showers, in-tent wood-burning stoves, and sensational desert views.

When to Visit Zion National Park

March through May: Spring is a beautiful time to visit Zion as the weather is mild, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60 to 80°F. Wildflowers begin to bloom, an ideal time for hiking and enjoying the fresh air. The park isn’t as crowded, making it a peaceful time to explore.

June through August: The summer brings hot weather, often exceeding 100°F. While it may be too warm for some, this is a great time for water-related activities such as tubing in the Virgin River or hiking The Narrows, where the water will cool you down.

September through November: The fall sees a temperature drop to a comfortable 70 to 90°F range. The changing foliage colors against the red rock create a breathtaking contrast, making it a photographer’s dream. It’s also an excellent time for canyoneering and stargazing.

What to Do in Zion National Park

Hike Angels Landing or the Narrows

Both of these trails offer unique experiences in the heart of Zion. Angels Landing provides an adventurous hike with thrilling heights and breathtaking panoramic views. The Narrows leads you through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, where you can wade through the Virgin River and marvel at the towering cliffs above.

Go Canyoneering with Under Canvas Adventures

Explore the hidden beauty of Zion’s canyons with an exciting canyoneering adventure. Rappel down cliffs, navigate through narrow slots, and embrace the unique desert landscape. Add an adventure to your stay for the experience of a lifetime!

Stargaze at Under Canvas Zion

The clear desert skies provide an unparalleled opportunity for stargazing. Under Canvas Zion offers an awe-inspiring experience, allowing guests to connect with the universe in a serene, natural setting beneath the stars.

Getting from Zion to Bryce Canyon

Connecting two of the Southwest’s most iconic national parks, the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon, spanning about 84 miles, typically takes around 1:50 hours. But the journey isn’t just about reaching the destination— it’s an experience filled with unique natural wonders and historical landmarks.

Starting in Zion, you’ll travel on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, renowned for its scenic beauty. Winding through tight curves, you’ll pass through the impressive Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel carved straight through the sandstone cliffs. Emerging from the tunnel, you’re treated to sprawling views of colorful rock formations, a preview of the landscapes awaiting you.

As you continue on US-89 North, you’ll skirt the edges of Dixie National Forest, a vast expanse of lush forested land with alpine meadows. The contrasting colors between the green pines and the red sandstone cliffs create a captivating backdrop.

Approaching Bryce Canyon, the terrain starts to shift. The vibrant reds of Zion give way to the varied hues of Bryce. The highway meanders through patches of dense pine forests and open areas that reveal the distinctive hoodoos and unique rock formations Bryce Canyon is famous for.

Additionally, several small towns dot the route, like the historic town of Panguitch, which offers an inviting stop. Its vintage storefronts and charming main street hark back to the days of early settlers.

The entire journey is a blend of serene vistas, evolving landscapes, and opportunities for exploration. While the drive can be completed within two hours, the numerous enticing detours and viewpoints might tempt you to take your time and extend your adventure.

Best Places to Stop Between Zion and Bryce Canyon

Red Canyon: Located along Scenic Byway 12, Red Canyon offers striking red rock formations similar to those found in Bryce Canyon but on a smaller scale. There are several beautiful hiking trails, and the scenic drive is breathtaking.

Kanab: Often referred to as “Little Hollywood,” Kanab is a charming town with a rich history in Western film-making. Stroll through the town, visit the movie museum, or explore the nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

Cedar Breaks National Monument: A natural amphitheater stretching across 3 miles, with a depth of over 2,000 feet. The viewpoints here offer sweeping views of colorful rock formations and ancient bristlecone pines.

Dixie National Forest: This vast forest is home to diverse landscapes, including forests, mountains, and red rock canyons. It offers numerous recreational activities like hiking, horseback riding, and camping.

Scenic Byway 12: Considered one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S., this road takes you through some of the most striking landscapes in Utah, including parts of Dixie National Forest, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and several state parks. It’s a winding, thrilling route with plenty of places to stop and admire the view.

Panguitch: This small and historic town is a gateway to Bryce Canyon. Famed for its charming historic buildings and outdoor activities, Panguitch is a great stopping point to stretch your legs and immerse yourself in local history.

Hoodoos at Losee Canyon: Before reaching Bryce Canyon, you can get a taste of the famous hoodoos at Losee Canyon. The red rock pillars stand tall and create a stunning visual spectacle, especially during sunrise and sunset.

Mossy Cave Trail: A lesser-known spot near Bryce Canyon, this short hike leads to a mossy overhang and a small waterfall. It’s a pleasant detour that showcases the region’s geological diversity.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: Spanning nearly a million acres, this monument is a geological wonderland, offering a glimpse into the Earth’s history through its vast landscapes, cliffs, canyons, and plateaus. This destination is just past Bryce Canyon, but it is well worth the trip!

By taking the time to explore these sights between Zion and Bryce Canyon, you’ll enrich your road trip with unforgettable experiences and views. Each location offers something unique, whether it’s a chance to delve into the region’s cultural history, explore geological wonders, or simply stand in awe of the magnificent natural beauty of the American Southwest.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon National Park

Named in Travel + Leisure’s 2023 It List “100 Best New Hotels in the World,” Under Canvas Bryce Canyon is the perfect place to cool off and unwind after a day of Utah adventures. Just 15 minutes from Bryce Canyon National Park, the location offers upscale accommodations, expansive red rock views, and easy access to the area’s famed crimson-colored hoodoos. Guests enjoy upscale amenities, including ensuite bathrooms in every tent, king-size beds with luxe linens, outdoor dining, complimentary camp programming, and more.

When to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

May through June: Springtime in Bryce Canyon is mild and refreshing, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60 to 70°F. This is a perfect time for hiking and taking scenic drives, as the park’s unique geological features bathe in the soft light of spring. E-bike tours are especially enjoyable during this season.

July through August: Summer at Bryce Canyon is warm but not overly hot, with average temperatures in the 70s and 80s. This makes it the perfect weather for exploring the trails, especially the Bristlecone Loop Trail. The summer also brings opportunities for night sky programs, with clear skies offering extraordinary stargazing.

September: September offers a pleasant transition into fall, with daytime temperatures hovering around the 70s. The park is less crowded, and the cooler weather is ideal for hiking and exploring. The season’s changing colors begin to emerge, offering a beautiful backdrop to the crimson-colored hoodoos.

What to Do in Bryce Canyon National Park

Take a Scenic Drive Around the Park

The viewpoints and scenic vistas of Bryce Canyon are must-sees. An 18-mile scenic drive around the park offers breathtaking perspectives of the natural amphitheaters and the iconic hoodoos.

Take an E-Bike Tour with Under Canvas Adventures

Explore Bryce Canyon on an electric bike. This exhilarating ride offers an eco-friendly and fun way to discover hidden corners of the park, capturing the magnificence of the landscape.

Hike the Bristlecone Loop Trail

A less-visited but equally stunning trail in Bryce Canyon, the Bristlecone Loop Trail offers striking views and the chance to explore ancient forests, home to some of the oldest trees on Earth.

Embark on an unforgettable road trip from Zion to Bryce Canyon, and embrace the wild beauty of a couple of Utah’s Mighty 5. From luxurious stays at Under Canvas locations to unique adventures, scenic drives, and breathtaking hikes, this journey is more than a road trip—it’s an experience that will create lifelong memories.

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