Zion National Park
After experiencing the beauty of Antelope Canyon in Arizona, we continued the road trip on to Utah! We went to St. George for a few nights and then to Springdale for even longer. Zion National Park is in Springdale, a small town in southwest Utah that offers some of the most epic hiking trails in the United States. Zion National Park was Utah’s first federally designated park and is currently the most visited park in Utah with around 3+ millions visitors per year.
While in Utah, we hiked up to Angel’s Landing, lost a dog, trudged up and down the Virgin River, made friends with the locals, and decided that we prefer the dry heat of Utah compared to the ridiculous hot heat of Texas.
Zion National Park has some of the most epic hiking trails I have been on so far. We were able to hike up mountains and hike through a river in the same day! I highly recommend starting as early as possible. Summertime temperatures will hit at least 104° everyday around 2PM, so plan on being somewhere cool or inside by that time. Plus, the earlier that you get to the park, the better parking you will get. Once the lot inside the park is full, you can utilize the town shuttle. There is also shuttle inside the park to get hikers and tourists from stop to stop. This shuttle system here makes it easier to see more of the park in a shorter time frame!
Angel’s Landing is probably the most well known hike in this park, and we did it! Well… kinda, this is really the only time my broken arm held me back. There is a lookout point, called Scout’s Lookout, that you can stop at just before continuing on to Angel’s Landing. Here the trail becomes so narrow and precarious that you must hold onto a metal chain to keep from falling off of the cliff. We had to stop at Scout’s Lookout because I could not hold onto a chain with a broken arm in a sling. But, we were still tired by the trek up and amazed by the views gained. Even if you have a fear of heights- go up to Scout’s Lookout because the payoff is worth it!
Ultimate hike at Zion: Start hiking around 4AM and head up to Angel’s Landing to see the sunrise over the red mountains of southern Utah. After witnessing Mother Nature in all her glory, hike back down to the shuttle stop and continue on to where you can hike in the Narrows. The Narrows are slot canyons that the Virgin River runs through, so you will be hiking in the river! It is incredibly refreshing and deep enough at some places that you can even swim. But- in most parts and especially the few miles at the beginning- the water is about knee high. Regardless, you should only carry what you can get wet! or use a dry bag to keep your electronics and other items dry.
“Zion means “the heavenly city” and the park’s Kolob Canyons are named after a place described in Mormon scripture as being near God’s throne. There are no churches in Zion National Park, but there’s plenty to inspire reverence.” (Source)
Tips for hiking Zion
Plan ahead!: This park is gaining in popularity and there is now a lottery system in place for some of the trails. So the earlier you plan your trip to Zion, the more likely you will get to do what you want.
Some trails require permits or the lottery system: If you want to hike the Subway you have to plan ahead! (The Subway is a super epic part of Zion that has recently gained a LOT of attention, and you have to enter the lottery to attempt to go there). Permits are being put into place to help control the amount of hikers in certain areas to help preserve the natural ecosystems. However, most areas of the park are open to the public without special permits.
Walking sticks are a good idea!: Especially if you have a broken arm in a sling… but seriously having a walking stick while in the Virgin River helped with balance and support SO MUCH. Walking sticks are also a lifesaver on your knees on the way back down from Angel’s Landing.
Hiking shoes: as you can see above I was in my running shoes, and I did just fine climbing up to Scout’s Lookout and walking in the cool Virgin River. Just make sure whatever shoes you bring have enough time to dry before your next day of hiking/exploring.
Buy your snacks before getting here: The grocery store prices were CRAZY when I compared my hiking supplements and other munchie choices to the prices at the local grocery in Springdale. For example: cookie butter is normally $4 at Trader Joes, but in Springdale it was $9! My favorite caffeine chews that are normally $2.50 at REI were $5.50 in Springdale. However, gas prices were normal compared to the rest of the state.
Traveling with dogs? Dogs are only allowed inside Zion National Park on one trail and the campgrounds, so you might be looking for a place to keep your fur baby. Kacie and I used the Doggy Dude Ranch in Rockville (a town about 20 minutes from Zion) to watch our pups, Lily and Brandy, while we hiked. And although Lily escaped from here and was lost for two weeks, my dog Brandy, enjoyed her stay and I do recommend the doggy daycare. The owner and workers are great and I now know them on a more personal level and can personally vouch for them.
Where we stayed
We ended up being in Utah a lot longer than planned and ended up staying in hotel rooms instead of camping outdoors. The first 3 nights were spent in St. George, Utah. And the last 2 nights were spent in Springdale Utah, where Zion National Park is located.
(We stayed longer in Utah because Lily the Vizsla dog escaped from the Doggy Dude Ranch and went on a two-week adventure. If you haven’t already- go check out the full story! It’s an emotional roller coaster with a very happy ending ♥)
The main reason we chose to stay in a hotel versus camping were the outside temperatures. The temperatures in Southern Utah during June do not drop below 100 degrees until after midnight, and that sounded like hell. And hotels have AC , which sounded like heaven.
Bumbleberry Inn– We ended up here because it was the only hotel with vacancy in town, but it turned out to be a great fit for us. It was in a great location, right in downtown Springdale and right near all the yummy food. The beds were nice, the shower was great, and we were treated very nicely by everyone at the hotel. (Note: we were able to have Brandy stay in these hotels rooms without any problem because Brandy is my registered service animal)
This is another time to plan way ahead of time if you want a campsite. When I was planning 6 months out, all campsites in the park were already full for our travel dates. The site for checking availability is here: camp Zion. So unfortunately I have no personal experience for camping in Utah or Zion National Park. One day, when all of my limbs are intact and working properly, I will go back and hike all the way to the end of Angel’s Landing AND hike in the Subway.
Eating in Springdale
Since we were in Springdale for quite a while, we were able to try all of the major eating spots. And everything was good. However; the grocery there is overpriced, which I talked about above. All restaurants below are in downtown Springdale and I personally recommend them!
Blondie’s Diner– This American diner is open Monday-Saturday. Blondie’s is a great spot for a quick burger or sandwich after hiking all day. I had the Elk Burger and it was delicious!
Meme’s Café– This café is open daily from 11AM-10PM and offers a wide variety of food options. We went here for lunch one day and it was good! I had the chicken bacon ranch sandwich and I was a fan.
The Flying Monkey- This is a great pizza place right by the grocery that is open daily from 11AM-10PM. A good take away option- get pizza and head to Bumbleberry Inn and watch one of the DVDs you can rent. Kickback and enjoy delicious pizza after a long day of hiking or searching for precious lost dogs.
Wildcat Willies– This is a grill right in town that serves daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open from 7AM-10PM. We ate here for breakfast. (free breakfast coupons come with each night at the Bumbleberry Inn- seriously this hotel is great!) Their breakfast burrito is delicious and make sure you check out the other half of the store where the souvenir shopping is!
Springdale Candy Company– Open daily after 11AM, this place has delicious ice cream and candy. Plus one of the friends who helped in the search for Lily works here and she sells her homemade mugs!
If you like to drink, Utah has some weird rules about alcohol. You cannot just go into a place and grab a beer or a drink like you can in Texas or anywhere else in the world I have ever been. In Utah, you MUST order food in order to get alcohol served to you. And if you buy alcohol in the stores, the alcohol percentage is less than normal, pretty much because the Mormons don’t want you to have any fun. JK but we thought it was weird, and with those weird rules I never got to try a porter that I wanted too. I like porters and stouts, and there is a local porter called the “Polygamy Porter”.
La Verkin Overlook
On our way to Zion the first day (to get permits) we drove past a sign that said “La Verkin Overlook” and decided to check it out. After turning off the main road, Highway 9, you will go about 1 mile or so on a rocky dirt road until you reach a cul-de-sac (aka dead end). Once you make it, you will get some awesome views of the town below and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Below are some of my favorite panoramas that Kacie took.
River Rock Roasting Company
While on the way to Zion from St. George you will pass through a small town called La Verkin. After you cross “the bridge to Zion,” this cute coffee shop sits seemingly on the edge of a cliff on your left. We stopped here and found a low key coffee shop with some epic patio views!
River Rock Roasting Company is a quaint little coffee shop with a breathtaking view. The back patio view here reminded Kacie and I of a smaller, less subtle Horseshoe Bend, because of the way Virgin River bent just like the Colorado River did back in Arizona.
River Rock Roasting Company has delicious lemon bars, yummy teas, and great smoothies. They also have sandwiches, pastries, beer, and coffee. This is a great stop along the way to Zion National Park and I highly recommend it! You could pick up a few sandwiches and pastries before hiking along with a hot coffee or tea for the ride there. Or be like Kacie and I, and stop here after Zion for a delicious pick-me-up.
A compilation of some of the 40 hour drive
This drive is incredible and I even made a video of some of our driving- video here.
onward & upward,
traveled during June of 2016