Many of the travelers who come to Southern Utah can only visit one national park. And that can make it tough, since it’s hard to choose between all five of the major parks. We at the Lodge understand this, and we want to try to help you out a little bit, so we’ve decided to write a couple of comparison posts. This time around we’re comparing Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks.
Bryce Canyon and Zion are the two most popular national parks in Utah – drawing in a combined total of 7 million annual visitors. So if you’re coming to Utah, chances are that you’ll need to decide between the two of these parks. Don’t get us wrong, if you have time to explore both parks, you really should. But if you need to choose, hopefully this comparison will help you decide.
Bryce Canyon National Park:
Scenery Description – Bryce Canyon is most famous for it’s hoodoos. In case you didn’t know, hoodoos are tall sandstone spires that have been shaped by erosion into otherworldly shapes. And Bryce Canyon has a whole amphitheater full of hoodoos – known, appropriately enough, as the Amphitheater. There are some other amazing geological features in the park, but they’re not as famous, or as accessible as the Amphitheater.
Pros – Bryce Canyon has some of the best programs of any national park in the state. Their Full Moon Hikes, for example, allow visitors to explore the Amphitheater under the light of the moon – something that you won’t find elsewhere. The park also actively encourages winter activities, and will rent some basic equipment to you. We find that Bryce Canyon has more of a personal touch.
Cons – Unfortunately – unless you are comfortable with lots and lots of hiking – Bryce Canyon is something of a “one-trick pony.” The Amphitheater is amazing, and we highly recommend getting in among the hoodoos, but there isn’t much else to see in the park.
Zion National Park:
Scenery Description – As we mentioned in our other comparison post Zion has a lot geological diversity. There are the towering walls of Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon, the narrow canyons of the Subway, white sandstone mesas, and even some arches and bridges.
Pros – Zion is substantially bigger than Bryce Canyon. And it has more variety, so there is a lot to see in the park. There are also more trails. This is especially important if you are planning a multi-day vacation. You’ll get to experience plenty of different things in Zion National Park. We wouldn’t really recommend spending more than two days in Bryce Canyon, but you could easily be in Zion for a week.
Cons – We’ve already mentioned before how crowded Zion National Park can get in the summer. (There are 4.5 million visitors every year, after all.) But something else that can make Zion somewhat unpleasant in the summertime is the heat. Zion is at a much lower elevation compared to Bryce Canyon, so it gets significantly hotter. This can limit what you are able to do during the day while you are visiting the park.
Hopefully you found some some of these points helpful as you try to decide which of Utah’s most popular parks to visit.