Iconic Classics Southwest
If you’ve only got two days on the open roads of Utah, spend it at two of our most iconic national parks, Bryce Canyon and Zion. We don't use “iconic” lightly. These are two of The Mighty 5® — the standard bearers of Utah, the giants whose splendor has inspired humans for centuries.
Day one in Zion is all about verticality. Tackle two of the world’s most renowned hikes and summit to impossibly high — even heavenly — perches where you’ll get a vertigo-inducing view into the heart of Zion Canyon with the Virgin River below. Your heart will be racing from the steep climb but skip a beat when you peer over the sheer edge of this narrow rock fin. Then, from the depths of a gorge, you’ll gape upwards at the sheer scale of the narrow walls that surround you as you wade through the river that carved them.
Day two is all about expansiveness. At Bryce Canyon, you’ll feel you were transported into a new world with the massive expanses of brilliant-hued hoodoos — alien looking spires of rock. After dark, you’ll be treated to the unadulterated night sky with the Milky Way streaking across it so brightly it seems you could walk it like a trail.
Nowhere else will you find such a varied desert landscape in such a concentrated area.
You’ll get a huge taste of Utah in just a little time.
- Angels Landing
- The Narrows
- Zion-Mt. Carmel Drive and Hikes
As the sun rises in the east, it pulls back the curtain of night on Angels Landing. Set out early and meet the rising sun at the top. When the canyon warms up with the summer sun, cool off in the Virgin River by hiking deep into the Narrows. The day continues with the one-two punch of the Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Drive and the iconic beginning of Utah’s All-American Road, Scenic Byway 12. Pull into Bryce Canyon for a Dark Skies show. Reserve a night at the historic lodge or campground or book a night in Bryce Canyon City.
This classic Utah trail provides a spectacular half-day trip for well-conditioned hikers who have no fear of heights. A series of 21 switchbacks ascend to aerial views of Scout Lookout. Stop here or take on the final hair-raising pitch to the top of Angels Landing. 5.4 miles, round-trip.
An out-and-back day hike in the lower section of famous Zion Canyon Narrows, where the North Fork Virgin River runs beneath thousand-foot walls of Navajo sandstone beautifully sculpted by centuries of erosion. Up to 9.4 miles round-trip, depending on how far you hike.
The Zion-Mount Carmel stretch of S.R. 9 mixes one part stunning scenic byway and one part feat of engineering. The great state of Utah doesn’t want to brag, but this is one of the most spectacular dives in the world, plain and simple. Zion National Park fees apply.
- Dark Skies of Bryce Canyon
- Queens Garden to Navajo Trail
- The All-American Road Scenic Byway 12
Today brings Bryce Canyon’s iconic 3-mile Queens Garden to Navajo hike. After reveling in the scenery there, spend the rest of the day hiking other iconic Bryce Canyon trails like the excellent Bristlecone Loop at the 9,000-foot-level of Yovimpa Point or explore further up Highway 12. Kodachrome Basin State Park offers a photogenic snapshot of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Time permitting, finish driving the All-American Road (including options to stop at Calf Creek Falls or savor a farm-to-table dinner at the Zagat-rated Hell’s Backbone Grill). Otherwise, make mental notes for your next trip to Utah as you return home.
Bryce Canyon is the ultimate place to experience the splendor of the night sky. Protected by a special force of park rangers and volunteer Utah astronomy enthusiasts, Bryce Canyon is known as the last grand sanctuary of natural darkness and has one of the nation's oldest astronomy programs.
Photo: Prajit Ravindran
This must-hike trail descends from the rim at Sunrise Point down to the floor of Bryce Canyon past Gulliver’s Castle and Queen Elizabeth herself. Close the loop on Navajo and visit favorite hoodoo formations such as Wall Street and Twin Bridges. One of the best 3-mile hikes anywhere.
Discover two national parks, the vast Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the tranquil beauty of Boulder Mountain along with national forest lands and state parks unlike anywhere else. While you can complete the whole drive on one scenic three-hour tour, even a four-day itinerary only cracks the surface.