While it’s really best explored over a week or so, you can see plenty in one day in Zion National Park. We’d recommend starting by getting to the park early enough to watch the sunrise. You can always skip this if you’re looking for a more relaxed day at the park, but watching the sun come up from the Canyon Overlook trail is a great way to start your visit, and the sight of the cliffs turning bright red as the sunlight hits them is one you won’t forget. You can also watch the sunrise light up the Towers of the Virgin from the visitor center if you’d rather not hike out so early.
Once you’ve watched the sunrise, we recommend leaving your car at the visitor center and taking the free shuttle bus into the canyon. The bus makes frequent stops at the most iconic places along the way, so you’ll get a good sense of the park without having to wander around or rush yourself. If any spots or trailheads strike your fancy, you can spend some time there and catch the next bus when you get back to the road. If you get an early start, you should be able to fully enjoy the entirety of the shuttle route before it takes you back to the visitor center. At this point, we’d recommend heading to nearby Springdale for a late lunch.
In the afternoon, you can get back in the car and head to Kolob Canyons on the other side of the park. This area features plenty of the slot canyons Utah is famous for and is generally much less crowded than the main canyon. Finally, if you’re not too worn out, we recommend returning to the park after dinner for some of the best stargazing in the US.
For more of Zion’s can’t-miss spots, check out our Zion National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour.