Your Family Road Trip Guide From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Utah, home to the Mormon Church, is one of the most scenic states of the US, with mountains, plateaus, rock formations, and national parks spread across it. And the best way to experience all these natural landscapes and grasslands is by taking a road trip across the state.
So, fasten your seatbelts, as today, we will take you on a road trip from the famous Zion National Park all the way to the mighty Bryce Canyon.
How far is Bryce Canyon from Zion? What will you find on the way? And which is the best route to drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon? You will get all your answers below!
You’d be surprised to know that the distance between Zion and Bryce is hardly 72.4 miles, which is even less than half the distance from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park.
But, even though the distance is less, there are plenty of exciting stops along the way that can make your Utah road trip memorable.
Our advice? Take it slow; visit every stop, even if it takes you a couple of days to reach Bryce Canyon! Because what’s the point of a road trip if you zoom your way through the entire trip without stopping to enjoy the spectacular views?
If you decide to go straight to Bryce Canyon without stopping on the way, it takes almost 1 hour and 20 minutes.
However, if you decide to make your trip unforgettable and discover the incredible secret stops along highways 12 and 89, your drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon can last from several hours to a couple of days.
It all depends on how you plan your trip and where you decide to stop on the way.
We think not! Because Zion National Park itself requires several days for you to explore it fully. And then the route from Zion to Bryce National Park is one beautiful drive with many places to see. And, of course, Bryce Canyon has 13 viewpoints along its 38-mile scenic route, in addition to various other activities.
So, if you’d like to take in each view, explore each stop along the way, and spend some quality time at each place, one day is not enough (without a very early start!)!
You need at least 2 to 4 days to see Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.
So, what is it that enhances and extends your visit to Zion and Bryce? Let’s have a look!
Once you reach Zion National Park, you can spend a day or two exploring the various attractions before starting your journey toward Bryce Canyon.
1. Duck Creek Village
As you exit Zion National Park along Highway 9, commonly known as Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Byway, you’ll have to take a short drive towards the East to reach Duck Creek Village.
This small village is a famous base camp that offers several activities for the tourists, like camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, and hunting. It has around four campgrounds near Navajo Lake, Duck Lake, and Aspen Mirror Lake for fun fishing trips; however, if you’re in for swimming, the best place is Navajo Lake.
Apart from water activities, Duck Creek Village has several hiking trails for people of all skill levels. The village’s main attractions are the Mammoth Cave, Ice Cave, and Bower Cave, where you can explore the mysteries that lie within.
If you explore everything at Duck Creek Village, you can easily spend 2 to 3 days there.
2. Checkerboard Mesa
Back to Mount Carmel Byway, after leaving Duck Creek Village, you will witness an uphill drive amidst switchbacks and slick rocks with sweeping valleys as you make your way towards Bryce Canyon.
It is truly a mesmerizing drive!
A mile-long tunnel will appear towards the right a few miles down the highway. What’s so special about this tunnel? It has windows carved on its sides, so you cannot miss the steep rock ledges!
As soon as you exit the tunnel, you will face the majestic Checkerboard Mesa. It is an actual work of nature, where Navajo sandstone has taken the shape of a beautiful checkerboard pattern, owing to thousands of years of wind, rain, snow, and heat!
The Checkerboard Mesa is truly a sight to behold, so don’t forget to click some pictures to capture this timeless beauty.
3. Mount Carmel Junction
As you move on from the Checkerboard Mesa, you will reach the Mount Carmel Junction, where Highway 9 ends. At this stop, you can refuel your vehicle and grab a bite.
From here, you have head North to take Highway 89 to reach Bryce Canyon; however, before you take that turn, why not check out some hidden gems just around this place? There are many scenic destinations that you can visit by taking a slight detour.
4. Red Hollow Slot Canyon
Approximately 5 miles to the north of the Mount Carmel Junction, almost 7 minutes away, is the Red Hollow Slot Canyon. It is considered a hidden gem of nature, as most people drive by it without realizing what they’re missing!
The Red Hollow Slot Canyon is located near the town of Orderville. And while there aren’t any proper signs or directions that lead to the trailhead, you simply have to look for a “Detour” sign near a construction site and follow the dirt road that ends at a water tower.
Here, you can park your car, and after making your way towards the river wash by foot, turn left to arrive at the opening of the Red Hollow Slot Canyon.
The red and white canyon walls are a magnificent sight that narrows down as you head towards the colorful slot canyon. The mesmerizing colors of the rocks in this canyon are something you may have never witnessed in your life!
There’s no entry fee for Red Hollow Slot Canyon
If you’re interested in the history of Native American tribes that once inhabited this area, head 11 miles from the Mount Carmel Junction towards the Moqui Cave.
It is a family-owned roadside attraction that has preserved Native American artifacts, pre-Columbian artifacts, dinosaur tracks, unique fluorescent rocks and minerals, century-old ceremonial pots, jugs, bowls, and working tools to give us an insight into what life was like back then.
It also has a gift shop where you can get Native American jewelry, rugs, and arts and crafts as souvenirs.
Note there is a $7 entry fee for Moqui Cave for adults
Just a few miles ahead of Moqui Cave, towards the left of the road, are the Highway 89 Sand Caves. While the hiking trail is relatively short, the steep climb up the slick rocks makes the whole thing dangerously nerve-wracking!
To climb these rocks, you need a trusty pair of boots with impeccable grip. However, once you make it past the climb, you have something absolutely amazing to witness: A series of glorious sand caves that open into the desert.
It’s the perfect spot to take some amazing instagrammable pictures!
It’s free to enter the Sand Caves trailhead
If you’ve had enough rock formation views and want to experience something refreshing and soothing, take a detour to Scenic Byway 12 from Highway 89, and head towards Dixie National Forest.
Although it is 50 miles off-track, it is worth visiting!
Dixie National Forest is like a refreshing burst amidst rocky mountain views. With pristine lakes, waterfalls, caves, and the famous Cedar Breaks National Monument, you’d be glad you took the time to visit this place.
We recommend this detour because there’s less crowd, more serenity, and the amazing view of pine bristlecones to refresh you for the remaining drive.
You can take your way back along Scenic Byway 12 and onto Highway 89 and make your way towards Bryce Canyon, which is hardly a 35-minute distance from this point onwards.
There’s no entry fee for Dixie National Forest, though overnight camping and cabins will incur a charge
If you’re starting your journey after staying at Zion for a couple of days, we recommend staying at Bryce, as it has hotels, inns, and campgrounds inside and outside the park.
There’s only one lodge inside Bryce National Park: The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. So, if you’re exhausted after the long road trip from Zion to Bryce, it is a good place for dining and a comfortable night’s sleep. You will need to make bookings well in advance.
The Best Western Plus Hotel is located just outside Bryce National Park and offers luxury rooms, complimentary breakfast, and a heated outdoor pool.
There are two campgrounds inside the Bryce National Park: the North and Sunset campgrounds. While Ruby’s Inn RV Park and Campground is located outside the park. All these campgrounds are budget-friendly options for people looking for camping and glamping outside the park.
Driving Zion to Bryce
Although short, the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon is full of adventurous and scenic stops that let you experience everything from caves and national monuments to mountains and forests.
So, if you’re planning a road trip from Zion to Bryce National Park, we are sure this detailed guide will come in handy at every step!
- If you’re planning on extending your trip further, you may also want to check out our complete guide to the Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah.
- Alternatively, you could head south next from Zion to Grand Canyon National Park, or extend your trip even further with this ultimate Southwest USA road trip itinerary.
- Visiting several national parks on your trip to Utah? It’s well worth investing in the America the Beautiful annual pass, a small upfront investment of $80, but it means you won’t be paying for every national park – the Utah national parks are incredible but also renowned as the most expensive to visit in the US!
- New to desert driving? You may want to check out our desert driving safety tips for beginners, as there are a few traps newcomers to the heat may not be aware of.
- Spring is the ideal season for visiting many of the best national parks in the Southwest – we explain why here.
- Never forget an important road trip item again! Head over here to see our complete list of road trip essentials, including a downloadable family road trip checklist – or grab it here!
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