horseshoe bend

Two Days at Zion National Park

plus the Hoover Dam and Horseshoe Bend


I’m going to try to let the images speak for themselves when it comes to this trip but let me just say… Zion National Park is absolutely indescribable. Southern Utah totally blew our minds and stole our hearts.

For this 3 night trip, we flew into Las Vegas, visited the Hoover Dam, drove through Vegas, headed to southern Utah where we spent a day and a half at Zion National Park, drove to Horseshoe Bend for sunrise, visited the Grand Canyon for one day (and one night), drove south through Sedona and then flew home out of Phoenix. I’ve split this trip into two different blog posts because I just had so many images and I have very, very different takes on the first half vs. the second half of our trip.

I need to give a shoutout to my clients and friends, Bri and Bobby, who shared their Utah/Arizona itinerary with us, gave us insight and feedback and allowed me to ask lots of questions about this trip! Honestly, I should have listened to them MORE. Thanks guys! You were SO RIGHT.

To summarize the highlights of this first half…

  • In-N-Out is a must. My order is a Double Double with just cheese, spread on the side.

  • The Hoover Dam is really cool but sort of expensive between parking, the visitors center and then an actual tour. We opted just to park and walk around on our own and then headed back towards Vegas.

  • We did not spend any time in Las Vegas - we just drove through. In my opinion, doing Vegas would be an entirely separate trip.

  • If you want to not believe your eyeballs… go to southern Utah. It rivaled Iceland with it’s completely unbelievable scenery.

  • Except be prepared for their weird alcohol laws. One person cannot have a pitcher of beer, you can’t drink without ordering food (but you are finally now allowed to order your alcohol first before your food), they have strange restrictions about the the ABV of beverages, there are laws about partitions so you can’t see bartenders making drinks, cocktails or well drinks can only have 1.5 fl oz of liquor and some other bizarre things that harken back to the fact that most of the population of Utah is LDS.

  • Zion is unlike any National Park we have ever been to. Words will completely fail me here so just know that it’s rugged and unrivaled. It was peaceful and rejuvenating. We loved every, single, solitary moment.

  • Zion’s weather is constantly changing. We did not plan to hike The Narrows but they were closed anyway due to flooding. Two of the trails we did plan to hike were closed for major rock slides and I was too worried about my fear of falling/heights to hike Angel’s Landing but maybe we’ll go back one day to do that. Just be prepared for changing conditions and be flexible.

  • Zion is family friendly but the families we saw there were definitely more experienced travelers. There were no strollers, almost everyone with young kids was babywearing or their older kids hiked on their own. There was a great mix of hikers of all levels, climbers, adventure tourists, families and couples. Everyone we came across was respectful and the park was very clean. This comes more into play when I get around to blogging about the Grand Canyon because we found the two to be in stark contrast.

  • We stayed in Springdale, the little town just outside of the park. There are tons of affordable options here but there are also some luxury accommodations as well. We went with cheap-but-clean because we never spend any time in our room anyway!

  • We drove to Horseshoe Bend on our way to the Grand Canyon and left Zion at about 3:45 AM to be able to be at Horseshoe Bend for sunrise. It was amazing and I’m glad we were able to visit when we did. It’s a bit of a hike back to the overlook and it was really cold! It looks like the NPS is adding an actual parking lot, amenities and will be charging admission in the near future.

  • If you’re planning an itinerary similar to ours, we recommend visiting the Grand Canyon first and saving the Utah parks for last. Zion is just THAT unbelievable. After spending 2 days based out of Springdale experiencing a huge chunk of Zion, when we moved on to the rest of our trip, we realized that we peaked too early.

If we did it again, we would…

  • Add another day at Zion to explore the north-west side of the park that you need to drive to (the Kolob Canyons area).

  • Skip spending the night at the Grand Canyon altogether and allot maybe 7-8 hours there max.

  • Add Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park.

And finally…

  • Don’t miss Zion Pizza and Noodle Co. and The White Sun pizza (garlic infused olive oil, spinach, pineapple, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, cheddar & parmesan cheeses)!!!

  • Make sure you experience Zion after dark. Head out into the park at least 3 hours after sunset and just… look up.

  • Do your research about the town and park shuttle systems, park entrance fees, hiking safety within Zion and the history of the park before you go!

I will be blogging the second half of our trip (the Grand Canyon and Sedona) really soon! Be sure to follow me on Instagram so you’ll know as soon as it’s live!

If you loved this post, you might also enjoy…

4 Days in Southern Iceland

48 Hours in Québec City

3 Days in Tulum