Springtime vacations in Utah's classic canyon country hardly get better than in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Why? The days are getting longer, the sunshine is getting stronger, and these popular parks aren't as crowded as they will be in the summer months. If the open trail is your thing, Zion and Bryce Canyon make excellent spring destinations. Their proximity to one another (about 86 miles between them) suggests a combined visit for most travelers.
Each magnificent park offers extensive opportunities for heart-pumping things to do. From deep slot canyons, like the fabulous Virgin Narrows in Zion, to trails that lead you over 9,000 feet in elevation, like Bristlecone Loop in Bryce Canyon, there's a plethora of energetic hikes to choose from that show off some of the world's finest views. The best part? It hardly feels like exercise since you're so busy taking in the stupendous, highly unusual topography.
Best of all, a duality in terrain and temperature means you might get to play in two seasons during one vacation. At Zion, warm weather is edging in, snow is melting from the high country, and active adventure beckons. Yet higher elevation Bryce might still sport a deep blanket of the white stuff, which attracts snow-shoers and cross-country skiers—yes, even through the spring months.
In Zion, Angels Landing is a must-do hike. While we still recommend caution on this dizzying trail, it's an exceptional springtime choice. On the trail's exposed sections the cooler temps mean less roasting and more enjoying. Fewer hikers also help you gain a greater appreciation for this impressive rock monolith, so-called because original explorers deemed it a place “where only angels could land.”
One of the world's most well-known hikes, the Virgin Narrows is a spectacular slot canyon that demands hiking through the river itself. You'll need a good fitness level to traverse the entire length of this famous gorge: it requires at least one overnight unless you fancy a very long day hike, as about 60% of the 16-mile hike is through the boulder-strewn water. The Narrows are very deserving of a place on your bucket list of dream trips.
Virgin River Narrows — Photo courtesy of Ada Be
Bryce Canyon's lofty elevations mean it's often still covered in snow while Zion is already basking in new grass and cheerful wildflowers. Ranger-led Snowshoe Hikes offer a highly aerobic way to see the unique hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. Snowshoeing is a much more cardiovascular activity than most people might think. Rangers lead weekly hikes as long as snow is still on the ground. But you can bring your own snowshoes or rent them and take off on your own through the white landscape. Prepare to get your lungs pumping along with your legs.
One of the most unique experiences Bryce Canyon offers is its Full Moon Hikes. If you plan your visit around when a full moon graces the sky, sign up for this never-to-be-forgotten evening hike. Lights are forbidden, but remember to bring your sense of adventure on this lunar excursion. Trail destinations are kept secret until the morning of the hike, which adds a little mystery to the already heightened anticipation for this matchless tour.
Don't forget to pack your hiking boots and your bold spirit as you make your way to Bryce Canyon and Zion. Hit them up for a lively outdoor spring break and see for yourself why these two spectacular places hold cherished spots in the national park system.