My husband and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and went to Zion National Park in Southern Utah for a long weekend. We had a wonderful time and couldn’t have picked a better time to go. It rained, it snowed, the sun was out. It was gorgeous and I loved being able to experience the park in different conditions. If my kids would have been there I am sure we would have had a different experience so it’s good that we left them home for this trip. We were in Zion in early March so we were there at the tail end of the off season and felt like we had the park to ourselves.
We drove to Zion from Southern Arizona and had a lovely drive. We opted to take Route 89A, partly because Route 89 was closed due to a broken road, and partly because we were told it’s a beautiful drive. I am so glad we opted for this route!
We stopped at the Navajo Bridge to admire the beauty of the Colorado River. Supposedly you can drive down to the river but we didn’t learn about that until after we were home; the turn off is right after the bridge. Next time.
The drive from here into Utah is amazing. We made it to Zion around dinnertime.
We came in through the south entrance so we got to go through the 1.1mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel leading into the park. The tunnel was built in the late 1920’s and is literally through an entire mountain. If you have an oversized vehicle or a trailer be sure to check out the National Park Service website for entry restrictions. They will close the tunnel for larger vehicles but there is a small fee. The hole in the rock in the picture below is one of the windows inside the tunnel. You cannot stop in it but it’s fun to drive through a mountain. At least I think so. 🙂
We stayed in the Zion Lodge in one of the cabins. The cabin was one of my favorite places we have stayed within a National Park. It had a fireplace, was spacious and overall a good value.
Things to do
The Lower Emerald Pool Trail could be a good alternative to this trail and they both end in the same place – the Emerald Pools. We could see the trail from across the valley and from what I read it is paved, shorter and flatter. Good for kids.
Checkerboard Mesa during the snow storm and the next morning. This is near the south entrance and I recommend that if you do not come in this way that you venture up the mountain towards the south entrance. The scenery is really pretty and there are several places to stop and take pictures or stretch your legs. And you get to go through the tunnel.
A few pictures of Zion during the snow storm. We drove around for probably two hours just admiring the scenery and enjoying the blanket of snow. Being a desert rat I am not accustomed to waking up in a winter wonderland.
The Weeping Rock trail was short but steep. It’s a trail that leads you up to a rock where water runs off the front. You will climb 98 feet in about a quarter of a mile. This is the view of the canyon from the rock. It had snowed earlier in the morning so waterfalls were coming out of rocks everywhere. I think that took away some of the grander of Weeping Rock. It was neat to see once but it wasn’t terribly exciting. My kids definitely would have complained about the short, steep walk up. And the short, steep walk down.
On our way out of the park we stopped at the Canyon Overlook trail. This trail is not for kids or anyone scared of heights. In some areas the trail was a little hard to spot but we were able to look for footprints in areas that we weren’t sure of. Don’t let that scare you. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The view of the canyon was spectacular. We got there just after sunrise. It seems like the view would be better in the afternoon or later in the morning when the shadow is lesser.
If you have a picture obsession like I do the best place the view the sunrise is behind the visitor center. You will know that you are in the right place because there will be dozens of photographers. It was sooo cold this particular morning. The Husband and I were not properly dressed for freezing temperatures (to start, we did not have gloves) so we did not spend a lot of time here. Just long enough to get a few pictures before we lost feeling in our fingers.
The best place to view the sunset is at the bridge where the Zion Mount-Carmel Highway and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive meet. If you are in that area around sunset you will know exactly what I am talking about. Beware of people in the road.
If you are in Zion and it rains be sure to get outside as soon as you can to catch all the waterfalls that randomly appear. There are long black marks on a lot of the rocks and those signify running water. We went hiking right after it snowed and there were waterfalls everywhere we turned, but they dry up pretty quickly, at least they did when we were there, so you want to be sure to get outside as soon as you can. If I remember correctly there was an awesome waterfall near the Three Patriarchs. We noticed it after a rain storm and planned to stop and look at it later in the day. When we drove by later it was gone. 🙁 That was when we learned of the disappearing waterfall act.
One thing I love about being outdoors is getting to experience nature, in its natural setting. As we were driving to get a latte early one morning we were greeted by about 20 wild turkeys walking and flying right in front of our car. From what I understand, when wild turkeys mate the men puff out their chest and spread their feathers and make loud clucking noises. It was really amazing to see this. Fortunately there were no other cars on the road so we were able to sit and enjoy this for as long as we wanted.
Eating in Zion
Because it was the off season only the Red Rock Grill in the Zion Lodge was open so we ate there for almost every meal. I have several food allergies (dairy, eggs, and gluten) so it makes traveling that much more complicated. I was thoroughly impressed with the Red Rock Grill. They had a several great allergy friendly options for each meal and every server we encountered was knowledgeable and helpful. Eating at the Red Rock Grill was one of the most enjoyable dining experiences I have had since changing my diet. And their sweet potato fries…amazing. I am tempted to call and find out what brand they use because I cannot get them out of my head.
I have a slight addiction to soy latte’s and was fortunate to find a fabulous coffee shop just outside of the park in Springdale. Cafe Soleil is just outside the west entrance and was about 10 minutes from our cabin. They had one of the best soy latte’s I have ever had. A little slice of heaven to start the day.
Our final night in Zion we decided to go to Springdale for dinner and ate at Wildcat Willies. It was a fun restaurant, decorated with a country feel and Looney Tunes statues throughout. Unfortunately I did not enjoy my meal but that is because I ordered the ribs. Gluten and dairy free. Which meant I received plain ribs. Turns out ribs need sauce. When dining out I need to stick to steak, chicken or beef. No matter how many disappointing meals I have had, hopefully one day I will learn. My husband, however, really liked his meal.
Have you been to Zion? What are some of your favorite things to do?