Zion National Park, Utah
I’m a big believer in the planning/expectation part of a trip being part of the fun, but I was really busy leading up to our Grand Canyon and Zion trip and didn’t have time to do much research. I think I had photos from some of Utah’s other national parks in my head when I pictured Zion, so I expected it to be more of a desert and was surprised to find a river running through it and some fairly lush greenery.
After visiting the Grand Canyon, Ben and I drove to Zion National Park in Utah. The drive was beautiful. We followed proper road trip protocol and took the longer and more scenic route. Our stops along the way included the Navajo Bridge near the start of the Colorado River and Pipe Spring National Monument.
As soon as we arrived we checked in to our hotel and headed into Zion for an early evening hike so we could make the most of our short visit. The day started watching the sunrise at the Grand Canyon and ended eating buffalo burgers on the porch of a brew pub steps away from the entrance to Zion. It was absolutely perfect.
Springdale, Utah: Gateway to Zion
The tiny town of Springdale, Utah outside the entrance to Zion was a big part of what made us both love our short visit to Zion Canyon. Springdale had more restaurants and shops than the town nearest to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and many of the other national park “gateway” towns we’ve visited on other trips, but it still felt small and charming.
We stayed at the Cliffrose Lodge and we could walk into the park entrance from our room, which also had great views, as seen below in the photo of morning coffee on our patio:
We didn’t have time to check out the pool area at the lodge but the pool and gardens both looked wonderful. I could have stayed there for a week.
There were plenty of hikes to choose from at Zion, and several that fit our tight schedule. We hiked to the Lower Emerald Pool which had a pool of water (surprise!) and a waterfall. We also hiked to Hidden Canyon. Hidden Canyon was only a 2.5 miles hike, but it did gain a lot of elevation on the way up and we had to hold on to chains on the side of the canyon in a few spots, as you can see in the photo above. I was slightly terrified.
We did not attempt Angels Landing, Zion’s most famous hike, on this trip, and we didn’t venture off the beaten path to other areas of the park at all. Our visit was short but we still had a great time, and now we have a list of things to do if and when we can go back!
We didn’t need to bring our car into the park at all. The free shuttle at Zion (pictured above) made our quick trip very convenient. It came on a regular schedule and took us to all the spots and trailheads we wanted to visit.
Ben and I just scratched the surface of exploring Utah’s national parks with a day of hiking around Zion. I hope we can get back to Utah for more exploring sometime soon!