Zion Utah National Park Shaka Guide

Zion Utah National Park Shaka Guide

Shaka Guide's Zion National Park Itinerary


Zion National Park is the third most visited park in the United States—and for good reason!

Mesas and mountains, cliffs and canyons, Zion’s beauty draws in visitors from all over the world.

We’ll take you on an epic adventure from La Verkin up through the famous Zion Canyon, and exit out of East Zion—a little over 50 miles on an unforgettable journey.

Along the way, we’ll stop at inspiring overlooks, abandoned ghost towns, slot canyons, ancient pictographs, and more!

zion national park tour map

Shaka Guide gives you the freedom to choose where and how we explore Zion.

Because we have so much to see and do, we recommend you set out as early as possible—ideally before 7 a.m.

Have a few days to spend in Zion? Check out our itineraries for day-trip add-ons, already included as options in your audio tour!

Scroll down to Kolob Canyons and Kolob Terrace if you’d like to read about these options.

Please be aware that for this itinerary, we will assume that your tour will be traveling in a west-to-east direction.

The audio tour, itself, however, allows visitors to start in either direction: either west from La Varkin or east from Mt. Carmel Junction. 

Important Information

Because Zion National Park is so popular, things can get a little crowded in the main Zion Canyon.

Since 2000, Zion has implemented a shuttle service to ease congestion and make for a more peaceful park experience.

Shuttle season is from February to November, and while the shuttles are in operation, personal vehicles are not permitted in Zion Canyon.

Be sure to read our Know Before You Go section for more information.

As of 2021, the Weeping Rock and Observation Point stops in Zion Canyon are closed indefinitely due to a rockslide that occurred in 2019.

As of this date, no plans for re-opening these trails have been released to the public.

And, as of 2022, you must enter a lottery if you’d like to hike Angels Landing, you can learn more about the lottery here. 

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Zion National Park Itinerary

Only have a day in Zion and want to be sure you’re seeing the best it has to offer.

This one-day itinerary takes you from La Verkin to Zion Canyon and out East Zion—capturing all of the highlights you won’t want to miss.

1. La Verkin Overlook

range of mountains on a cloudy skyBy Anita Sagastegui from Getty Images

Approximate time: 20 minutes

At La Verkin Overlook, drive along the ridge to take in a panoramic view of the:

  • Virgin River Gorge
  • the Pine Valley Mountains, and
  • the towns of La Verkin and Hurricane

This short stopover is a great way to begin our trip and only takes a few minutes.

The gravel road can be a bit bumpy, so take your time and enjoy the ride!

2. Town of Virgin

Approximate time: 5 minutes

If it’s before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m., most shops in the tiny town of Virgin will be closed.

If you’re here midday, Virgin does feature a few unique places to stop and grab some sweet treats or a hot meal.

3. Grafton Ghost Town

ghost town in zion national parkBy Anita Sagastegui from Getty Images

Approximate time: 40 minutes

Explore the most photographed ghost town in the West! This abandoned Mormon settlement still has several cabins, houses, and a town hall to explore.

This well-preserved window to the past was the filming location for the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s famous bike scene.

Be sure to take lots of selfies and share them with us on social media!

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4. Town of Springdale

town in zion sun settingImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 20 minutes

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Springdale, but what you’ll want to do first is grab your gear!

If you want hiking sticks or waterproof clothing, swing by one of the adventure shops to rent some equipment.

Need a bite before hitting the trails? Springdale has several scrumptious breakfast cafes to choose from. 

If you’re hoping to park at the Zion Visitor Center, keep driving through and check in at the toll booth.

Otherwise, you’ll pay for parking here in town and catch the shuttle or drive (December through February only) into Zion.

If you already have your park pass, great! If not, either purchase it at the check-in (personal vehicle only) or go to the fee-collection station on the right.

It’s right across the footbridge, between Zion Outfitters and Zion Brewing. 

5. Zion Visitor Center

mountains with visitor center belowDon Graham from Redlands, CA, USA - God bless it!, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate time: 20 minutes

We made it to Zion Canyon! Here at our first park stop, take a moment to:

  • talk to the rangers
  • grab a map
  • use the restroom, and
  • fill up your water bottles

If you need a wilderness permit, this is where you’ll pick one up.

Be sure to check the schedule for any ranger talks or walks you might be interested in.

There is also a bookstore and gift shop, but it’s probably best to save all that for after your hikes.

When you’re ready, get in line for the shuttle (if it's shuttle season) and get ready for adventure!

6. Zion Human History Museum

Approximate time: 10 minutes

If you pull into the Zion Human History Museum, you can make your way over to the back patio of the Human History Museum to enjoy a highly recommended ranger talk.

Even if you stop by when no talk is being held, the view of the Towers of The Virgin Formation is truly amazing and well worth the visit.

And in the orange morning glow? Ahh, perfection!

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7. The Sentinel

Approximate time: 1 minute

You won’t stop, but as we enter Zion Canyon, look to your left to spot the tall flat-topped mountain known as the Sentinel.

The Sentinel might look big, but it lost quite a bit of its mass during the Sentinel Landslide.

The landslide occurred 4,800 years ago and is what filled up the canyon floor below.

8. Court of the Patriarchs

three mountainsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Your next viewpoint is the Court of the Patriarchs formation.

From left to right, visitors can find Abraham Isaac, and Jacob— the patriarchs of Judaism.

Take a moment to hop out and get a better view.

9. Zion Lodge & Emerald Pools

emerald color riverBy Darren NG from Getty Images

Approximate time: 2 hours

Your first must-see trail is the Lower Emerald Pools. This 2-mile hike features:

  • water drizzling from sandstone cliffs
  • glittering hanging gardens, and
  • bright emerald pools

This trail is family-friendly and can be accessed across the street from the Zion Lodge. 

10. Scout’s Lookout and Angel’s Landing

Approximate time: 2-6 hours

Exit at The Grotto to begin your epic ascent up to Angel’s Landing—a thrilling chain-assisted climb up a narrow precipice!

When you reach the top, you’ll earn both bragging rights and an incredible view.

If you aren’t feeling up to the climb, simply stop at Scout’s Lookout for an equally stunning vista.

If you go all the way up to Angel’s Landing it’s about 5-miles round-trip.

Though Angel’s Landing itself is only an extra half-mile each way, crowding and difficulty can add a great deal of time.

PLEASE NOTE: Permits are now required to visit Angel’s Landing. You must enter the lottery for the chance to get a permit. You can do that here. 

11. Great White Throne

great white throneby BethWolf43 from Getty Images 

Approximate time: 1 minute

As you leave The Grotto, look up and to the right for the Great White Throne.

It’s the large white sandstone mesa looming over the canyon, named after the Great White Throne of Revelations.

12. Big Bend

rocky mountainsImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Alright, at the next big bend, you’ll be at, well, The Big Bend.

This is your last viewpoint along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Hop out for a stunning final view of Angel’s Landing, the Great White Throne, and Touchstone Wall. 

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13. Temple of Sinawava and The Narrows

trail in temple of sinawavaImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 2-6 hours

The Temple of Sinawava is the final stop along the canyon, and it’s here that you’ll disembark and undertake The Narrows.

Make your way through narrow shaded canyons, hiking your way up the scenic riverbed as far as you like.

If fighting a chilly river upstream isn’t your idea of fun, stop after you finish Riverside Walk—a paved 2-mile trail that follows beside the river.

Want in on a secret? The hanging garden walls along this walk are home to a species found only here—the Zion Snail!

See if you can spot them as you walk along!

14. Return From Zion Canyon

Approximate time:30 minutes

Lay back, relax, and enjoy the sights you make your way back down Zion Canyon towards East Zion. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs on your way out!

15. Great Arch 

mountain rangeLarry N Young from Getty Images 

Approximate time: 10 minutes 

As you wind up the thrilling Mt.Carmel switchbacks, take a moment to pull over and appreciate the Great Arch—or rather, the Great Blind Arch.

This Arch is still attached to the cliff face, which technically makes it a “blind” arch.

Were it separated, it would be the largest in the world!

16. Mt Carmel Tunnel

road tunnelImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 5 minutes

In 1929, Zion had one tiny problem standing in the way of connecting it to the Grand Canyon and the rest of the world.

Namely, Mt.Carmel. But to let a little thing like a mountain stand in the way?

Pshht...never! Today, visitors can appreciate the wondrous feat of engineering that is the Mt. Carmel Tunnel.

Drive through this narrow depression-era tunnel and emerge into East Zion!

17. Canyon Overlook Trail

Approximate time: 1 hour

Canyon Overlook Trail is a short, 1-mile hike overlooking East Zion’s rugged landscape.

It’s a great option for those who want to enjoy a high-elevation viewpoint, but would rather not undertake a high-elevation climb. And the views? Amazing!

18. Checkerboard Mesa

white mountain with lines that looks liek checkerboardby Rooster7114 By Getty Images

Approximate time: 10 minutes

The Checkerboard Mesa bears stunning criss-cross markings across its face—the result of years of expansion and weathering.

At farther viewpoints, the checkerboard pattern becomes more obvious.

Pull over on your left before passing the Ranger Station for the best view of this awesome feature.

19. East Ranger Station

Approximate time: 5 minutes

As you exit the park, you’ll pass by the East Ranger Station.

The famous East Rim Trail starts here and connects to several other trails, including Cable Mountain and Observation Point—the highest lookout in the park.

Right after we pass the station, we’ll see the Zion Park sign. Be sure to snap a picture as you head out!

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20. Mt. Carmel Junction

Approximate time: 5 minutes

Alas, this is the part where Shaka Guides must bid you adieu. Are you headed for Kanab? Grand Canyon? Bryce?

This is the fill-up point before you head out on your next adventure.

Maybe you’ll want to grab a homemade Thunderbird pie as you head out.

Any way you go, be safe out there, adventurers!

Now that you’ve explored the Zion Canyon and East Zion sections of the park, check out these optional side trips to Kolob Canyons and Kolob Terrace.

You can combine both of these sections into one day. 

Optional Side Trips

Got some time on your hands for a multi-day adventure?

How about we head away from the crowds and do some real exploring— off the beaten path?

While taking your tour, I’ll point out several optional side trips.

When we get close, I’ll remind you how to get there, what’s available, and how long they’ll take.

If you decide you want the full Zion experience, Shaka Guides will be right there to guide you through all of the sections of the park.

This includes the little-known Kolob Canyons and Kolob Terrace.

Check out all the details below.

Kolob Canyons

canyons in zionby Paul - Briden from Getty Images  

The entrance to Kolob Canyons is located off of  I-15, about 20 minutes north of La Verkin or 15 minutes south of Cedar City.

This less-crowded area of Zion National Park offers about a 15-minute scenic drive with several unique hikes to enjoy.

If visitors are driving South from Cedar City and have not yet picked up their park passes, there is a visitor center where you can purchase your pass.

Be aware that Kolob Canyons may close during snow events.

1. Taylor Creek Trail

hiker standing on the trail with mountain at the backImage from Flickr by 

Approximate time: 3 hours

The first trail you’ll pass will be Taylor Creek Trail, a 5-mile round-trip hike with several unique sights.

The Fife and Larson cabins—the first homes built in Kolob Canyons—can be found here, as well as a double arch.

For those of you who love history, follow the trail to the end to find the waterfall used by Mountain Meadows Massacre perpetrator John D. Lee during his hideout from the law.

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2. Horse Ranch Mountain

Approximate time: 5 minutes

As you pass the Taylor Creek Trailhead, cast your eyes ahead and slightly to the left.

You’ll see a summit towering over three small finger canyons.

That towering summit is Horse Ranch Mountain—the highest peak within the park’s boundaries.

The three finger canyons—Tucupit, Paria, and Beatty points, from left to right—are stunning.

Feel free to use one of the pull-offs to stop and appreciate them further. 

3. Timber Creek Trail

orange mountainby GeorgePeters from Getty Images Signature

Approximate time: 1 hour

This short, easy trail leads to a panoramic overlook of Kolob Canyons, the Pine Valley Mountains, and Red Butte.

If you only have time for one short hike while in Kolob Canyons, be sure to do this one!

Kolob Terrace

range of mountainsby Jim Cook from Getty Images

To reach Kolob Terrace from La Verkin, travel on UT 9-E until you reach the town of Virgin.

After passing Virgin, the sign for Kolob Terrace Road will be on your left.

Even if you choose not to do any hikes, the scenic drive will take about 45 minutes each way.

This can be a great way to take in the sights, even if you never leave the car.

Be aware that Kolob Terrace may close during snow events.

1. Tabernacle Dome

small mountainsby Jim Cook From Getty Images

Approximate Time: 1 minute

As you pass the Subway entrance at Left Fork Creek, look ahead to spot the Tabernacle Dome.

This large, rounded white mesa may remind you of the Tabernacle Dome in Salt Lake City, for which it was named.

2. Cave Valley Trails

Approximate time: 2 hours

There are two mysterious archeological sites located in Cave Valley, both branching off of one short trail—only about a mile each way.

The first trail ends at a cave of ancient pictographs, and the second at an altar of animal bones.

These areas are still under study and very little is known about who created them, when, or why.

These ancient sites must be respected and not defaced in any way. When visiting, be sure that you do not touch anything.

Even the oils from our hands can damage the delicate pictographs.

These two trails are not as well-trafficked as some others and can be quite difficult to find.

For more information and details on how to get there, check out our hiking guide.

3. Firepit Knoll Volcano

Approximate time: 5 minutes

As you pass the Hop Valley Trailhead, take a look to your left and try to pick out the large, cone-shaped mountain.

What you see there is a volcanic cinder cone, leftover from an eruption occurring sometime around 300,000 years ago.

There are several cinder cones along Kolob Terrace—see if you can spot them as you continue winding your way to the summit.

4. Northgate Peaks Trail

below northgate peaks trailBy Efenzi from Getty Images Signature

Approximate time: 3 hours

This four-mile roundtrip hike beginning at Wildcat Canyon takes us to the Northgate Peaks.

Emerge from the ponderosa forest between the two Slickrock peaks, looking out at the valley far below and the North Guardian Angel to the South.

5. Lava Point Overlook

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Take a stop at Lava Overlook perched high over the valleys below—no hike required!

The final stop along your ascent up Kolob Terrace, this stunning vista is about 7,900 feet up or about 2,400 meters.

From here, you can even see to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. What a view!

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Check out our Know Before You Go article with all the travel tips you need to plan your trip!


The Ultimate Zion National Park Travel Guide 

When is the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

Zion to Grand Canyon North Rim - What You Need To Know

Zion National Park Shuttle - What You Need To Know

37 Hikes in Zion National Park- Zion Hiking Guide


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