Zion National Park in 72 Hours

Zion, Utah, United States


Kevin Abernethy

Even if you have a limited amount of time, make your way to Zion and see the highlights of the park in 72 hours.

During your planning I would schedule to arrive in Zion as early as possible. If you are there before Thanksgiving you are going to be at the mercy of the shuttle system to get to the trailheads. I only visit Zion after Thanksgiving because I loathe waiting on buses, but that is just my personal preference. Even after Thanksgiving the park can fill up quick. Getting there early gets you in the park and you can set up your tent and get to your designated trailhead with minimal waiting. If you avoid this advice and procrastinate I'll be that little voice in the back of your head saying "I told you so" as you feel you are wasting valuable time waiting on something. 

Day 1

Once you set up camp and depending on how much time you have I would head towards the Emerald Pools trail. This trail is fairly easy and it's only 3 miles round trip. This will be a good warm-up for Angels Landing. If you arrive in Zion anytime after noon I would head straight to Angels Landing. Depending on the time of the year it's going to be a crowded trail and you don't want to feel rushed ascending the chains. Take your time at the top, and if you are comfortable hiking down the chains in the dark (with a headlamp of course), I recommend staying at the top for the sunset. Side note, if the shuttle is still running you will have to walk back to camp if you choose to watch the sunset - it's worth it in my opinion. If you are there after Thanksgiving you can just walk to your parked car. The sunsets in Zion are beautiful, but having the area to yourself is a perfect way to end the day. Take your time going down and head back to camp to rest up. Grab some beers from the grocery store in Springdale to enjoy at camp, it's an early day tomorrow so don't stay up too late. 

Day 2

Get the caffeine cranking early and wake up around 5 a.m. to get to the Observation Point trail-head before sunrise. The switchbacks never seem to end on this trail and while you will miss some beautiful areas on the way up, you will have plenty of time to see everything when you are headed down. Aim to hike the 4 miles to the summit with some time to spare before sunrise. The view of Zion Canyon and Angels Landing from this spot is the best view in the park in my opinion. Don't hit that snooze button too many times, we were running late and had to jog to the summit and we all felt a heart attack was imminent for all of us, not literally but we definitely were kicking ourselves for needing to rush. Take your time on the way down and enjoy the canyon walls about half way down. Once you hit the final set of switchbacks you will see the Hidden Canyon trail-head. Your legs may feel like rubber, but this trail isn't too difficult and there are some cool spots along the way. Hike about half a mile in and you'll see a small arch on your right. Hike as far back as you are comfortable with and then head back down to the parking lot. You will probably have some time to spare so I recommend going to the Sand Bench Trail for a leisure hike to end the day. Head back to camp and enjoy some grub and brews. 

Day 3

Last day in Zion, don't slack off now. This day is dedicated 100% to the Narrows, if you are renting gear I strongly recommend picking up your gear the evening before this hike, this will allow you to get to the trail-head early and avoid the crowds. If you can't get your gear the evening before your hike I suggest picking your rental equipment up as soon as the outfitter opens in the morning. Once you get to the Narrows take note on how long you have until it gets dark, give yourself a little extra time, but spend half your time hiking as deep as you can into the canyon and then give yourself equal time to hike back. The Narrows live up to all of the hype so take your time in this area, there are so many beautiful spots and things to see. This is one of the places where the pictures you have seen don't do any justice to how massive the canyon walls are. 

Zion is a treasure and there are numerous things to see outside of this list, but if you are short on time this will let you see the best spots in the park. Depending on the time of the year you might have to adjust your schedule based on the crowds in the park. I HIGHLY recommend visiting during the off-season, the park will still be busy but you are allowed to drive your own vehicle into the canyon, if you visit during peak season you are at the mercy of the Zion shuttle system and your chances of getting a campsite drastically decrease. 

Published: December 27, 2017

Kevin AbernethyExplorer

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