Do you like driving for 7-8 hours nonstop? I don’t, and I’m sure you don’t either. It isn’t safe so you need to make stops. That’s why I’ll share with you the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon South Rim with at least 6 great stops! It’s a great way to drive from Utah to Arizona which I did during my USA West Coast road trip. The first two stops are still in Zion National Park but outside the main valley which I explored the day before. Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River is near the Grand Canyon South Rim and is a must see at sunset. In between there are a few places to stop which I’ll show you one by one in what I think is the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Stop 1: Canyon Overlook Trail – Zion National Park
The first stop is at the Canyon Overlook Trail which is after a 10-minute drive over the Zion – Mt. Carmel Highway (UT9). You’ll pass a long tunnel after which the trail starts. There are a few parking spaces on both sides of the road. The Canyon Overlook Trail is a hike you should not miss while driving the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon. The trail is with 1.6 kilometers return not long and you’ll ascend only 55 meters. It’s a rocky trail so care must be taken if hiking after rainfall. With a bit of luck, you might to spot a big horn sheep, one of the larger wild animals in the area. Lizards are abundant and yucca, juniper, and other high desert plants make up most of the vegetation. It’s beautifull high desert nature!
It takes about 30-40 minutes to arrive at the overlook where you will have an awesome view through Pine Creek Canyon (photo above). In a distance beyond the canyon, you’ll see the major peaks of the Zion National Park including The West Temple, Altar of Sacrifice, The Streaked Wall, and The Sentinel. Imagine that the Virgin River carved this canyon over thousands and thousands of years; isn’t nature magnificent? It’s also a great spot to make a gigapixel photo; you’ll get details as you can see in the two enlarged parts below (you can’t spot them in the photo above as it’s downsized). Now, hike back and continue the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon South Rim.
Stop 2: Checkerboard Mesa
The next stop on the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon is at Checkerboard Mesa, the last stop within the Zion National Park and in Utah. Checkerboard Mesa are rocks with unusual crack patterns that resemble a checkerboard. There are a few great viewpoints of which one is just in front of a huge hill which is the perfect example of this checkerboard motive. Just a mile further down Highway 9 is a larger parking spot for a wider view on the hill you just passed. After this stop; it will be a 2.5-hour drive further towards Marble Canyon in Arizona. On the way, you’ll pass various parking spots with beautiful views where you can take some photos but keep in mind you’ll have to be at Horseshoe Bend at sunset!
Stop 3: Marble Canyon Navajo Bridge & Lee’s Ferry
Once you arrive at the Marble Canyon turn left first towards the old Lees Ferry and visit the Navajo Bridge later. Lees Ferry (down the road) is the only place along the Colorado River where you can drive up to the river; on both sides. At least I touched the Colorado River as the next day I would only hike halfway down the Grand Canyon towards Skeleton Point to only see it. It was the only crossing over the 1125-kilometer-long canyon for a long time. The ferry sank in 1928 but wasn’t replaced as the Navajo Bridge nearby was almost completed. This bridge got replaced in 1995 by a new stronger bridge but the old one remains next to it and can be walked across. At Lees Ferry, you can also visit an old ranch or go rafting on the Colorado River all the way down the Grand Canyon. I didn’t have time for that so I continued to Lake Powel Dam as I had still time before sunset. If you are running short on time drive directly to Horseshoe Bend which is one of the highlights if you drive the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon.
Stop 4: Horseshoe Bend Colorado River
The highlight of driving the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon is watching sunset at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Rivers don’t take the shortest route as they carve through the softest parts of rock. This sometimes means they will turn 360 degrees like the Colorado River does forming the Horseshoe Bend. The Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River is the last stop of the best route from Zion National Park to the Grand Canyon. It’s located about 1200 meters from the road and there are no facilities at all so take enough water. The Colorado River flows about 300 meters down in the canyon which got its shape during millions of years of erosion. This Horseshoe Bend is so huge that an ultra wide-angle lens is needed to photograph it but you’ll get a lot of distortion in the corners. Read my gigapixel photography guide to learn how I made the photo below. Sunset at Horseshoe Bend was one of the highlights of my USA West Coast roadtrip. That view! Isn’t it amazing?
After I finished watching sunset at the Horseshoe Bend I got hungry and so was my daughter. We decided first to drive the last 90 minutes to our hotel at the Grand Canyon South Rim. Why? Because we wanted to have a delicious steak at Yippee-Ei-O! Steakhouse which a friend of mine recommended. My daughter was really hungry and she did finish the cowboy steak; normally only for real men! It was a long day but a great one. I will never forget the sunset at the Horseshoe Bend and the next day when I hiked halfway down the Grand Canyon to Skeleton Point with my daughter. Make sure to read my ultimate West Coast road trip itinerary to must see places in Utah and Arizona!Stay tuned for more stories and subscribe to the newsletter or follow CTB on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram including Instagram stories; on all social media you can find CTB @christravelblog) to get updated information.
Did you visit Zion National Park or Grand Canyon too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!