A day, a weekend, or even a week in Zion National Park would never be enough time to discover all that this special park has to offer. Plus, when you find out just how many amazing side trips are located close-by, you’ll find yourself wishing for even more time.
Zion’s location in Southern Utah puts it within just a couple of hours drive from other national parks, state parks, cities, and more. Keep reading to learn 7 day trips less than 2 hours from Zion.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Just under an hour-and-a-half from Zion is a lesser-known national park that many visitors to the area never get the chance to discover. Known for its striking geological formations and natural beauty, Bryce Canyon National Park is a unique and beautiful day trip.
If you think that their close proximity to one another means that the two parks have similar scenery, think again. In Bryce Canyon, you’ll find one popular sight not found in Zion; hoodoos. Hoodoos are stone formations that resemble stacks of rocks. They’re formed by frost weathering and erosion, with thousands of them in massive clusters throughout the park. Wind and water also formed giant natural amphitheaters, arches, and other geological formations.
Bryce Canyon is quite a bit smaller than Zion, at around 35,000 acres. But it offers plenty of hiking trails and a higher elevation than the more popular park, making it a unique side trip. Hop on the scenic drive and you can easily access 13 viewpoints, perfect for taking in the sights and snapping some photographs.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell
If you’re visiting Zion National Park in the heat of summer, a day trip that offers a chance to cool off will sound more than ideal. Luckily, Lake Powell is less than 2 hours away.
Lake Powell, located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, straddles the border of Utah and Arizona. It is the second-largest man-made reservoir in the nation, behind only Lake Mead. With steep sandstone cliffs rising on nearly every edge of the lake and stunning geological formations visible from the water, it’s a one-of-a-kind adventure that is best explored by boat.
Besides boating and swimming, you can also enjoy world-class fishing for trout, stripers, and more. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is home to plenty of scenic drives, mountain biking trails, hiking, and more.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Looking for a side-trip that’s easily explored with just a half-day? Look no further than Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. But don’t let its closeness fool you; while you can plan a visit with less than a day, it would take weeks or more to explore every corner of this massive treasure.
A national monument that’s as large as the state of Delaware, Grand Staircase-Escalante offers a wealth of unspoiled wilderness and a peek into the history of the ancient animals and people that once called the region home.
The monument was created fairly recently, with President Bill Clinton establishing the property in 1996. What’s really interesting about Grand Staircase-Escalante is that the region was the last portion of the lower-48 states to be mapped. The monument remains largely remote and undeveloped, making it the perfect place to get back to nature.
Snow Canyon State Park
There are plenty of delicious restaurants and luxury shopping options in Springdale. But if you’re looking to mix it up during a day off from exploring Zion, a side trip to St. George is less than an hour away. And while you’re there, you can also pop into one of Utah’s treasured state parks, Snow Canyon.
Don’t let the name fool you; Snow Canyon State Park enjoys a mild climate and rarely sees snow. While it may be on the small side, it boasts 16-miles of gorgeous hiking trails, stunning red rock cliffs, rock climbing, horseback riding, biking, and more. Be sure to look out for the black lava rocks caps that top many of the ridges and cliffsides in the park.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
While Zion might see snow in the higher elevations, it isn’t exactly ideal for many winter sports. But there is a park just 30 minutes away where you can go sledding all year long. Sound crazy? Then it’s time for a day trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes covers more than 3,700 acres, much of which is covered in pink-hued sand dunes formed between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago when the Navajo sandstone cliffs were slowly eroded by wind and water. If sledding down the dunes isn’t your style, you can also enjoy hiking and off-roading with ATVs and UTVs.
Quail Creek State Park
Another popular Utah state park that’s under an hour from Zion is Quail Creek State Park. With a warm water reservoir and a mild winter climate, the park offers year-round boating, fishing, hiking, and more.
Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy the variety of species in the stocked reservoir, including rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, catfish, largemouth bass, and more.
North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Technically this day trip will take a bit longer than 2 hours to get to. But it’s worth a little extra driving. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers all of the awe-inspiring beauty of the more popular South Rim, but with just a fraction of the famous crowds.
With overlooks, a visitors center, and plenty of hiking, its a wonderful way to enjoy this special national park without taking too much time away from your visit to Zion!
Planning Your Southern Utah Adventure
While any of these day trips are a great addition to your next visit to Southern Utah, don’t forget to leave plenty of time to explore the region’s most popular gem; Zion National Park!
Thinking about a visit in the coming weeks? Make sure these Fall hikes are on your itinerary.