This post details my 4 day Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks itinerary and is part of my Travel Itineraries series which details my trip summaries, reflections, and tips to help you plan your trip.
Some of the things you can expect to find in these posts include:
- Quick Overview of the Trip: Purpose, Transportation, Time of Year, etc.
- Daily Breakdown: Sightseeing, Food highlights, etc.
- Succinct Trip Reflections: What I would leave out, adjust, and keep
- Links to More Information: Blog Posts, Pinterest Planning Board, Useful Websites, etc.
- Daily Breakdown
- Closing Thoughts
Since moving to the USA, Christian and I wanted to take a road trip to see some of the famous western US National Parks. After our son, Teddy, was born, we wanted to prioritize hiking trips because we felt that was an activity we all would enjoy.
Time of Year
4 days (with two additional days for transit)
Getting There and Around
We flew round-trip from Baltimore to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, we picked up our rental car from the airport. We heavily used our rental car to navigate to the parks during our trip. We bought the America the Beautiful Pass during our trip to Shenandoah National Park, which was still valid for this trip. I highly recommend the pass because it is super cost-effective and gives you year-long access to US National Parks and more for $80 USD.
You Should Know That…
Originally, we planned a pretty epic road trip that incorporated more stops. However, Teddy started hating car travel as we were finalizing our trip. We then decided to visit fewer parks and make Zion National Park our home base. We cashed in our loyalty points to stay at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Springdale (a town right at the main entrance of Zion).
In terms of hiking, we opted for easy hikes and walks because
- Christian was carrying Teddy for all hikes
- Christian and I were fighting colds during this trip
- We did not have the time to train for more strenuous hikes.
Since this itinerary might be useful for those travelling with kids, I have included information on how accessible each hike was and how we carried Teddy (i.e., hiking backpack, front carrier, stroller).
Day 1: Zion National Park
After spending the day before transitting to Zion, we were ready to start our trip. On our first day, we opted to use the shuttle system to see some of the sites in Zion Canyon. The Springdale shuttle takes you to the entrance of Zion. Once inside the Park, the Zion Canyon Shuttle takes you to the main attractions within the canyon.
We decided to start by taking the Zion Canyon Shuttle to the last stop – Temple of Sinawava (Stop 9) – to 1) Get an overview of all the stops and sites and 2) hike the Riverside Walk.
We really enjoyed Riverside Walk. Even though it’s paved, thus accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, we opted to use our hiking backpack to carry Teddy since we wanted to fit in another hike that didn’t seem fully accessible.
Check out the post, Riverside Walk in Zion National Park.
After Riverside Walk, we stopped at Zion Lodge (Stop 5) to grab a quick lunch and let Teddy stretch his legs in a grassy area. We then hiked the Lower Emerald Pools, which was a bit of a letdown. In theory, most of this hike can be accessed using a stroller (or with assistance in a wheelchair), but some of the inclines could make it challenging. We opted to use our hiking backpack.
After hiking the Lower Emerald Pools, we took the shuttle into town to grab some food dinner before making our way back to our hotel.
Day 2: Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim)
The Grand Canyon is huge and there are two main visitor areas in the Grand Canyon National Park- the North Rim and South Rim. The South Rim has a lot more viewing points and is the place you probably see in movies. Before we revamped our trip, we were planning to go to the South Rim; however, the North Rim was closer (close to a 3-hour drive one-way) so we opted to visit it instead.
We had a late start only reached the North Rim around 1pm. We parked our car in the parking lot near the North Rim Visitor Center and had lunch. Given we were short on time, we opted to just hike the Bright Angel Point Trail (originally we had thought about hiking the Transept Trail as well or driving out to Point Imperial).
The Bright Angel Point Trail is short, steep at points, and has great views of the canyon. We opted to use both our stroller and front carrier for this hike. At one point, when the trail was getting steeper and we decided to park our stroller and use the front carrier.
Check out the post, Bright Angel Point in Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim).
After we finished the trail, we took in some of the views in the outdoor area of Grand Canyon Lodge. We then drove back and ordered take-out in Springdale.
Day 3: Zion National Park
We had an easy and relaxed morning. Christian ran the Watchman Trail, while Teddy and I slept in a little and hung out. Around 12pm, we all headed to Zion National Park via the shuttle system. Our first stop was Canyon Junction (Stop 3) where we started the Pa’rus Trail.
The Pa’rus Trail is fully paved and you can definitely access it with a stroller and wheelchair. We used our hiking backpack for Teddy because we wanted to fit in another hike later that wasn’t accessible.
Check out the post, Pa’rus Trail in Zion National Park.
The northern end of the Pa’rus Trail (where we started) was my favorite part and I can see why most people opt to end there. Halfway into the Pa’rus Trail, we made a detour to visit the Museum and watch the overview video of the park. While I found the geological overview helpful, I would have loved more content on the indigenous people and societies, one being the Paiute, who lived in Zion prior to Mormon settlement.
After the Museum, we finished up the Pa’rus Trail and quickly hiked the Archaeology Trail. This trail was slightly disappointing because there was only a small placard with limited context about the prehistoric buildings. Nonetheless, I was happy to see some sort of archaeological representation.
After the Archaeology Trail, we headed to Springdale for a quick late lunch and then set off to the Kolob Canyons. The Kolob Canyons are located in the northwest corner of Zion and is about 45-minute drive one-way from Springdale.
The Kolob Canyons are not as frequented as the attractions in Zion Canyon, but they are amazing to see. At the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, we hiked the Timber Creek Overlook Trail, which was short and offered spectacular views. We carried Teddy in our front carrier for this hike, but the hiking backpack would have worked too. After finishing up the hike, we made our way back to Springdale and grabbed a late dinner.
Day 4: Bryce Canyon National Park + Zion East Side
We opted to leave a little earlier in the morning compared to the rest of the trip to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, as well as the eastern side of Zion. Since we had limited time, we opted to drive the main road at Bryce Canyon and check out some of the viewpoints.
We first stopped at the Natural Bridge. While interesting, I probably would cut this stop out if my time was even more limited. We then headed to Rainbow Point to get a view from one of the southernmost viewpoints. After that, we wanted to head to Inspiration Point, but it was closed. Instead, we headed to the next viewpoint north and completed a round-trip trek from Sunset to Sunrise Point. At Rainbow, Sunset, and Sunrise Point, we kept Teddy in his stroller.
We then headed back to Zion and made a quick stop to see the east side of Zion, specifically the Checkerboard Mesa. While I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see the Checkerboard Mesa, the drive through the East Side of Zion offered stunning views of the geological formations there.
The next day we drove to Las Vegas and flew back to Baltimore.
Most of the time we ate in Springdale and we had to order take out because Teddy needed to sleep. Breakfast was included with our hotel so we ate out for lunch and dinner. Here are our food highlights:
King’s Landing Bistro: Delicious and creative food. Where you go for a nice night out (in your hiking pants). Our favorite place to eat out in Springdale.
Meme’s Cafe: A good lunch spot with satisfying sandwiches after a morning of trekking.
Bit & Spur Saloon: We ordered from here twice and it was a reliable option. My favorite dish was the Sweet Potato Tamales.
Rosita’s Santa Fe Kitchen: Solid option that we ordered take out from. I enjoyed my Frito Pie.
Bumbleberry Gifts: Yes, the Bumbleberry pie is a gimmick, but it’s tasty. We had it on three separate occasions.
Our short tour of these US National Parks was an excellent first long vacation for our new family of three. While we definitely had to change our travelling style, we all could enjoy the beautiful nature and landscape of all three parks. Here are a few quick reflections:
What I Would Leave Out
Nothing. We were all quite happy with our overall itinerary and how we set up the trip.
What I Would Adjust
Lower Emerald Pools
The hike to the Lower Emerald Pools was a bit of a letdown. If I were to do it again, I would opt for the more strenuous hike and see the Upper Emerald Pools or even the Watchman Trail.
Earlier Mornings to the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon
While we didn’t have the easiest nights with Teddy, I think we would have liked it if we headed out to the two other National Parks a bit earlier in the morning. This would have allowed us to see a bit more by going on an extra walk in each park. I would have especially like to walk down to the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon (North Rim)
I think if you have already seen the Grand Canyon, then you could leave this out. Especially if you are short on time. I’m glad we got to see it, but if we were going back to Zion or Bryce then we would leave the North Rim out.
What I Would Definitely Keep
Staying Right At Zion
Given our circumstances (infant who hates being in the car), I am so happy we stayed so close to Zion National Park and got more time to explore the park. While a road trip would have been great, this alternative helped us have a better trip for everyone. Zion offers a range of sites and treks that can accommodate many needs and situations.
Day Trip to Bryce Canyon
Given Teddy’s distaste for the car, we debated long and hard about going to Bryce Canyon National Park after our day trip to the Grand Canyon North Rim. I’m so glad we ended up going. As mentioned before, I wish we started our day a bit earlier, but I’m so happy we got to see it.
I hope our 4 day Zion, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks itinerary helps you as you plan your trip. If you want additional resources, check out my Pinterest Planning boards for Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Park.
Be sure to check out my other Travel Itineraries!
Are you planning a trip to Zion, Grand Canyon, or Bryce Canyon National Parks? What are your must-sees? Let me know in the comments below!