The Five Best Day Hikes at Bryce & Zion National Parks

by Lisa Hubner

The Five Best Day Hikes at Bryce & Zion National Parks

by Lisa Hubner

It’s hard not to be amazed by Bryce Canyon’s wonderfully weird hoodoo rock formations and Zion National Park’s massive red rock canyon walls. But to truly experience the beauty of these two stunning Utah gems, make full use of your park pass and get up close with nature on one of the following hikes – all of which can be done without a guide. Here, the top five best day hikes in the area.

It’s hard not to be amazed by Bryce Canyon’s wonderfully weird hoodoo rock formations and Zion National Park’s massive red rock canyon walls. But to truly experience the beauty of these two stunning Utah gems, make full use of your park pass and get up close with nature on one of the following hikes – all of which can be done without a guide. Here, the top five best day hikes in the area.

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The Narrows, Zion National Park / iStock / kanonsky
The Narrows, Zion National Park
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The Narrows at Zion National Park

The quintessential Zion experience, the trail on The Narrows hike is the Virgin River itself. Follow it deeper and deeper into the slot canyon picking your way through water that, depending on the season, will be mostly ankle-to-hip deep – check current water levels and temperature at the visitor center. On this out-and-back hike, try to make it to at least mile 2.5, where the towering canyon walls close in around you in a section known as Wall Street (day hikers have to turn around at mile 5). 

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The quintessential Zion experience, the trail on The Narrows hike is the Virgin River itself. Follow it deeper and deeper into the slot canyon picking your way through water that, depending on the season, will be mostly ankle-to-hip deep – check current water levels and temperature at the visitor center. On this out-and-back hike, try to make it to at least mile 2.5, where the towering canyon walls close in around you in a section known as Wall Street (day hikers have to turn around at mile 5). 

Observation Point, Zion National Park
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Observation Point at Zion National Park

Those looking to escape crowds (and steep drop-offs) of Zion’s famed Angel’s Landing hike should make the strenuous eight-mile round-trip trek up to Observation Point, which at 2,150 feet above the canyon floor offers sweeping views over the stunning landscape below. Before hopping back on the park shuttle bus, be sure to walk the quarter-mile each way to Weeping Rock, a cool alcove featuring the park’s largest hanging gardens that are watered by a steady curtain of “weeping” water that has been in the rocks for around 1,200 years. Start early to beat the midday heat and crowds.

Read more: How to Make the Most Out of Your National Park Trip

Those looking to escape crowds (and steep drop-offs) of Zion’s famed Angel’s Landing hike should make the strenuous eight-mile round-trip trek up to Observation Point, which at 2,150 feet above the canyon floor offers sweeping views over the stunning landscape below. Before hopping back on the park shuttle bus, be sure to walk the quarter-mile each way to Weeping Rock, a cool alcove featuring the park’s largest hanging gardens that are watered by a steady curtain of “weeping” water that has been in the rocks for around 1,200 years. Start early to beat the midday heat and crowds.

 

Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
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Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park

If you only have time for one hike in otherworldly Bryce National Park, make it this one. The spectacularly, moderate to strenuous 1.3-mile Navajo Loop Trail takes you down on switchbacks to the canyon bottom and up again through Wall Street, where the 100-foot-tall canyon walls and 750-year-old Douglas fir trees create a stunning setting. If you feel like exploring more, add the Peek-a-boo loop trail, which forks off about halfway through the hike.

Read more: Utah's "Mighty 5" National Parks: Which Should You Visit?
 

If you only have time for one hike in otherworldly Bryce National Park, make it this one. The spectacularly, moderate to strenuous 1.3-mile Navajo Loop Trail takes you down on switchbacks to the canyon bottom and up again through Wall Street, where the 100-foot-tall canyon walls and 750-year-old Douglas fir trees create a stunning setting. If you feel like exploring more, add the Peek-a-boo loop trail, which forks off about halfway through the hike.

Watchman Trail, Zion National Park
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Watchman Trail at Zion National Park

A great, moderate introduction to Zion National Park is the 2.7-mile round-trip Watchman Trail, which starts right at the visitor center. Leading past the ranger quarters, the trail ascends moderately to a plateau, where a (somewhat confusing) loop trail offers scenic views of both the park and the town of Springdale. If you’re lucky you may see wildlife, including deer mule, along the way.

Read more: How to Take Stunning National Park Photos
 

A great, moderate introduction to Zion National Park is the 2.7-mile round-trip Watchman Trail, which starts right at the visitor center. Leading past the ranger quarters, the trail ascends moderately to a plateau, where a (somewhat confusing) loop trail offers scenic views of both the park and the town of Springdale. If you’re lucky you may see wildlife, including deer mule, along the way.

Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
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Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park

One of the most fun and less-visited trails in Bryce Canyon National Park, the moderate to strenuous Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail, is aptly named with surprising hikes and stunning views of spectacular red rock formations near and far around every corner. On an ascending and descending trail of three miles, you’ll pass through varied terrain, catching some of the best views, including Silent City and Wall of Windows. A short connecting trail links it to the Navajo Loop Trail, making it about 4.5 miles total.

Read more: Which National Park Is for You?

One of the most fun and less-visited trails in Bryce Canyon National Park, the moderate to strenuous Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail, is aptly named with surprising hikes and stunning views of spectacular red rock formations near and far around every corner. On an ascending and descending trail of three miles, you’ll pass through varied terrain, catching some of the best views, including Silent City and Wall of Windows. A short connecting trail links it to the Navajo Loop Trail, making it about 4.5 miles total.

 

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