Day 2: Angel’s Landing & Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Drive
We’ll start the second day in Zion National Park with the park’s most thrilling ride, followed by a scenic drive and a short hike to a fitting scenic lookout to end the visit.
Angel’s Landing Hike
The hike to Angel’s Landing is the top highlight of their visit to Zion National Park for most visitors. Perched atop a seemingly impossible-to-reach cliff 5,790 feet above the canyon floor (1,765 m), the views from Angel’s Landing are hard to forget.
This challenging hike starts across the small bridge next to the Grotto shuttle stop. It will take about five hours to complete, including stops, but be prepared for heavy traffic along the trail. After a gentle start, the paved trail quickly ascends above the canyon floor via switchbacks and enters a narrow crack in the canyon wall known as Refrigerator Canyon. More switchbacks are then on the menu, this time via Walter’s Wiggles, an impressively-constructed series of quick turns that end at Scout Lookout.
The last leg of the trail is the most challenging, less so from a physical perspective. From Scout Lookout, hikers must cross the narrow ridgeline to Angel’s Landing. Chains assist some sections, and you’ll need to watch your footing in others.
You’ll understand how Angel’s Landing got its name when you make it to the top. From up here, Big Bend is beneath your feet, and Zion Canyon is stunning in every direction. So take your time up here to celebrate your achievement, say hello to the unshy resident chipmunks, and see if any condors are patrolling the skies.
Back on the canyon floor, enjoy a picnic lunch at the Grotto or head to the Zion Lodge stop for a proper sit-down lunch or a picnic on the shaded lawn. See if the outdoor bar is open and treat yourself to a well-deserved ice-cold beer.
Zion-Mount Carmel Scenic Drive
Well-rested from the memorable hike, head back to your car and enter Zion Canyon, only to turn right to the scenic Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. You’ll need to purchase a vehicle pass with your park ticket to drive on this road.
As you twist and turn above the canyon floor, pull over in designated spots to enjoy views of Zion Canyon and the Great Arch, still not entirely detached from its “mothership”. The highlight of this scenic drive is crossing the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, an engineering marvel constructed in the 1920s. The one-lane tunnel was blasted through the sandstone and usually requires a bit of waiting for your turn to enter. Continue for about six miles after exiting the tunnel to see the peculiar-looking Checkerboard Mesa.
Canyon Overlook Trail
We’ll bid farewell to Zion Canyon on the Canyon Overlook Trail. Pick up the trailhead at the tunnel’s eastern entrance.
Though just a mile long (return), this hike is rewarding from start to finish. The trail weaves its way above a creek rich in pine and juniper trees. Check out the eroded sandstone that created many exciting highlights, such as arches, caves, and jagged pinnacles.
The trail ends 1,000 feet above the Zion Canyon floor at Canyon Overlook. The highway you’ve driven on now appears like a tiny snake. Straight ahead, enjoy the last views of Zion Canyon. Try spotting two of its iconic peaks, the West Temple and Sentinel.
On this two days in Zion National Park itinerary, we covered the top highlights in and around Zion Canyon and hiked some of its top trails. Check out the Zion National Park travel guide collection for more information about Zion, including additional itineraries, essential planning tips, and descriptions of the best hikes. If you’re visiting other parks in Utah, more resources are available.
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