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

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


So, you’ve got the family all together. Additionally, you’re planning a big, exciting road trip across the great American southwest. You've bought your Shaka Guide tours, perused our travel guides and itineraries, and now all you have to do is figure out how to connect your destinations.

While both Zion and the Grand Canyon North Rim are breathtaking, there's no reason to rush from one to the other. The land between them includes the Escalante Staircase, beautiful pine forests, rolling sand dunes, and other natural wonders. 

That means it’s time to plan your trip from Zion National Park to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here’s Shaka’s Guide for a fun, stress-free, 2-hour park-to-park drive. 

Let’s get started.

road in zion grand canyon with mountains on each sideImage by Anthony Fomin from Unsplash

How far apart are Zion and Grand Canyon?

In total, the distance is 110 miles. The travel will take around 1 hour and 45 minutes to arrive at the Grand Canyon North Rim entrance from Zion National Park.

From Zion’s eastern gate, it’s about a 20-minute drive to reach Mt. Carmel Junction. From there, it’s a 15-minute drive south to reach your first town, Kanab, and then 10 more minutes until you hit your second town in Fredonia. After that, it’s 30 minutes to your last-chance stop in Jacob’s Lake, and then another 30 minutes down to the Grand Canyon entrance gate. 

Adding it all together, Within 2 hours, you’ll be taking in those sweet rimside views. What’s the total distance from the east entrance of Zion to the North Rim? About 95 miles to the entrance, or 110 miles to the canyon's edge.

Of course, this estimate is without all the super-cool stops I have prepared for you to check out. If you decide to swing by any of these, expect your trip to take longer.

RELATED: Grand Canyon South Rim vs. North Rim

download shaka guide

Start out in Zion National Park

Well, I can go on and on about all of the things you can see and do in Zion. As one of America’s most popular national parks, you can’t beat its towering sandstone bluffs, its beguiling canyons, its sizzling desserts, and its dynamic pine forests. 

To find information on hotels, airports, and more, check out our Ultimate Travel Guide.

Also, be sure to check out our Zion itinerary, hiking guide, and highlights in the app for all of the things to see and do while in the park. And don’t forget the number one recommendation, taking Shaka Guide’s Zion National Park Tour! 

What is there to see between Zion and Grand Canyon?

Your Shaka Guide Zion Tour and itinerary carry you all the way to Mt. Carmel Junction, about 15 miles east of the east entrance. So let’s pick up from there.

1. Passing Through the Mt. Carmel Junction

Thunderbird Restaurant 

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Mt. Carmel Junction is a great place to fill up your stomach and your gas tanks. I suggest you pick up lunch at the Thunderbird Restaurant. It’s an American-style diner famous for its delicious pies. They even have a golf course, RV park, and gift shop!

Maynard Dixon Legacy Museum

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Artist Maynard Dixon painted colorful post-impressionist and cubist-realistic images of the west. He and his wife moved to the Mt. Carmel area in 1933. Visitors can now tour his former home and studio, as well as view many reproduction paintings.

Belly of the Dragon

Approximate Time: < 1 hour

Just past the Thunderbird Restaurant, you’ll find the Belly of the Dragon Trailhead. This is a short there-and-back 0.5 mile (0.8 km) hike to a man-made tunnel created by a water culvert. Not only is it a fun way to stretch your legs, but it also makes for some very cool photos.

2. Visit Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

coral pink sand dunes at night

Approximate Time: half to full-day

This is one of southern Utah's best kept secrets. This state park encompasses over 1,200 acres of shifting, shimmering sand that begs to be ridden on a sled, board, or OHV. There's also hiking and camping for those who prefer to take things a little slower. To get there, take Sand Dunes Road about 3.5 miles south of Mt. Carmel Junction.

3. Say Hello in Kanab 

city of kanab, utahP199, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just south of Mt. Carmel lies the tiny town of Kanab. It may be small in size, but it’s certainly got a big personality! 

The Wave

Approximate time: half-day to full-day

The Wave is a beautiful banding wave of red and white sandstone in the Coyote Buttes. For its protection, only 20 people per day are permitted on its 6.3-mile (10.1 km) there-and-back trail, but this geological masterpiece is more than worth the trouble. If you know this is on your trip wish list, try to apply in person at the Kanab GSENM Center the day before. More information can be found here.

Moqui Cave and Sand Cave

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours 

These caves are part of an old sand mine where miners gathered the material to make glass. To get there, you'll have to scramble up some slickrock. This means that Moqui and Sand Cave are inaccessible to people with mobility issues. But the climb should be manageable even for small children. The caves are located right by Highway 89, just over 5 miles north of Kanab.

Dinosaur Tracks Trail

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

Everybody walk the Dinosaur!... trail, that is. The Dinosaur Trail is just shy of a mile there and back and leads to a small mesa overlooking the area. Along the way, you’ll be following the footsteps of a 185-million-year-old Grallator, a three-toed dinosaur from the Triassic era. It’s easy to overlook this one, so type in Utah Port of Entry in your GPS. That’s where you’ll find the trailhead.

download shaka guide

Mansard Trail

Approximate Time: 3-4 hours

There’s nothing quite so awe-inspiring as petroglyphs. Seeing the stories of people who lived in Utah thousands of years ago can be a connecting, almost, spiritual experience. To see the 1,250-year-old Mansard petroglyphs, you’ll need to start at Vermillion Estates, just on the eastern side of Kanab. Then it’s just a five-mile round-trip hike to the alcove marked with petroglyphs. Check out the BLM website for more information.

Red/Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon

Approximate Time: half to full day

How about an ATV ride? If you’re up for renting one or tagging along on a group tour, you can see some unforgettable, out-of-the-way features such as Red/ Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon, the White Wave (also called The Nautilus), and Inchworm Arch. Just don’t try to go without the proper vehicle! The deep sand will certainly put a damper on your trip, and no one wants to be stuck in the desert!

Explore Kanab Town

If you’re looking for a quick stop out of the desert heat, check out these family-friendly activities in town. 

  • Best Friends Animal Sanctuary 

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

The Best Friends Animal Sanctuary lets visitors take a guided tour of the rescue facility. You can learn about what the staff does, hear stories about the patients, and, most importantly: see lots of cute animals! And yes, many of these critters are up for adoption!

  • Little Hollywood

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

Everyone loves a good western, right? Did you know that hundreds of western films were filmed in southern Utah, some right in the very heart of Kanab? Learn about the film industry's impact on Kanab's Kane County, visit the movie memorabilia museum, and even dine at their restaurant for a smokey roast beef dinner.

4. Take a Break in Fredonia

fredonia, arizona at dayP199, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: Up to 1 hour

If you’d like to learn about the native people who were first to settle on this land, be sure to stop by the Red Pueblo Museum and Heritage Park on your way into Fredonia

Before you head out, pick up any supplies you need and fuel up in Fredonia. The next gas station won’t be for another 30 miles.

Side Route: Pipe Spring National Monument

Approximate Time: 2 hours

If you’re coming from below Zion on AZ-389 instead of through the park, you might like to swing by the Pipe Spring National Monument in Kaibab. This historic Mormon town hosts a museum, a garden, and an interpretive trail. Heck, even if you’re not coming that way, it’s just a 15-minute drive from Fredonia. 

5. LeFevre Rest Area

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

Take in the views of the Ponderosa pine forests and the Grand Staircase Escalante. From Bryce to Zion, to the North Rim, take a moment to observe the changing geography around you. Don’t forget to hit the restrooms before heading out.

6. See the Town of Jacob Lake

facade of jacob lake innNational Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 1-2 hours

This small town serves as a last-minute pit stop before arriving at the Grand Canyon North Rim. Need gas? Food? A good night’s sleep? You can get it all in Jacob Lake. 

If you’re hungry, be sure to stop by the Jacob Lake Inn and get one of their famous homemade cookies or shakes. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. 

If you have time to kill, stop by the Kaibab Plateau Visitor Center to see exhibits and learn about the area, including the famous Kaibab Squirrel!

Spending more time in town? Just a mile south of Jacob Lake is the 1934 Civilian Conservation Corps fire tower, Grandview Lookout. If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even climb it!

Optional: Take a side trip to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument and watch the condors soar! It’s just 14 miles east of Jacob Lake on Highway 89-A.

download shaka guide

7. Explore the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

north rim grand canyonLankyrider, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You've finally arrived at the North Rim from Zion National Park! Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon reveals millions of years of Earth's history in vibrant bands of red, pink, gold, and white. There is simply no other place like it.

 And because you went to the North Rim, you can admire it all in peace—no crowds for you!

Like this article? Share it on Pinterest!

shakaguide pin with grand canyon and zion on the background

Shaka Guide's Know-Before-You-Go article can help you plan the perfect trip. Browse our Itinerary to learn about all of the area's must-do hikes and activities. And, of course, our Shaka Guide Grand Canyon North Rim tour will provide you with all of the best suggestions, directions, and stories.

Optional: Is the North Rim part of an even bigger adventure? Take a side trip to Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Page, and Antelope Canyon! And don’t forget to bring Shaka Guide!


Zion National Park Shuttle - What You Need To Know

The Ultimate Zion National Park Travel Guide

Shaka Guide's Zion National Park Itinerary

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's Zion National Park Tour

When's the Best Time to Visit Zion National Park?

37 Hikes in Zion National Park- Zion Hiking Guide

Utah Mighty 5 Maps


Flagstaff to Grand Canyon North Rim: 8 Stops Along the Way

Grand Canyon North Rim Itinerary

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide’s Grand Canyon North Rim Tour

Las Vegas to Grand Canyon: The Must-Stop Gems Along the Way

shaka guide app qr code

Download The Shaka Guide App

Get The
Shaka Guide App