An otherworldly oasis with majestic cliffs and breathtaking wilderness, Zion National Park is a getaway for memory making
STORY: Angela Hansberger
Photos: David Pettit, Main: Mike Norton
As massive walls of sandstone converge with the sky, it is impossible to put into words how impressive and stunning this site is. “Zion” means place of peace and refuge, and the title couldn’t be more fitting for Utah’s most visited national park. Whether planning a hiking adventure, peaceful retreat or family sightseeing trip, here’s how to spend time in and around the park.
Shuttles between hiking routes and sightseeing locations run April through October. The free service arrives frequently at nine stops along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Additionally, a shuttle service in the town of Springdale stops at nine spots from early morning until late evening.
For any essentials you need for exploring, Zion Adventure Company can get you sorted. For The Narrows hike, you will need canyon shoes, neoprene socks and a hiking pole. In colder months, a dry suit will keep you warm. You can rent a dry sack for gear, including one for a smartphone. Fill backpacks with snacks and lunch goods at Sol Foods grocery, which boasts an impressive selection of cured meats, cheeses and baked goods.
Where to Hike
Endless trails surround the Virgin River that flows through the center of Zion Canyon, and in one impressive excursion, the river is your trail. From the Temple of Sinawava, The Narrows trail follows the north fork of the river on a bottom-up hike through a narrow slot canyon that meanders as you walk through flowing water and occasionally scamper over or around large rocks. Choose your distance for this one; it goes on for miles.
From Weeping Rock trailhead, an 8-mile round-trip hike takes you on a paved journey up to Observation Point. Slick rock formations span the distance, culminating at the rim of the canyon with breathtaking views of colorful cliffs and lush valleys.
Angel’s Landing juts out of the center of the canyon, soaring 1,500 feet above your start. The hike begins at the Grotto trailhead and offers one of the most stunning viewpoints as a reward for the 5-mile round-trip. It’s a steep, uphill slog with a series of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles that lead to a lookout point. Some end here, while those without a fear of heights climb the narrow spine of the mountain to stand on the flat top. While a little intimidating, there are plenty of steps and chains to hold onto as you make your way to the uppermost point with 360-degree views.
Where to Eat
Preparing for a day of canyoneering or refueling after hours spent scrambling and wading is quite delicious in Springdale. Start off with specialty coffees at MeMe’s Café. The quaint spot has a large selection of savory and sweet crepes and squeezes orange juice to order. Roasted turkey with hollandaise makes for a substantial breakfast or lunch.
Oscar’s Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner on a spacious patio. Hearty dishes of green chile enchiladas give a taste of the Southwest with plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices to go with mountain views.
Zion Canyon Brewing Company is conveniently located at the park entrance shuttle stop to quench your thirst after a day in the sun. Sit on the large patio with a view of the Watchman, an icon of the park. The scenic backdrop makes pub fare of pretzel sticks, burgers and tiny sample sizes of Utah’s first microbrewery even tastier.
New on the dining scene, Moki offers modern takes on locally sourced, seasonal fare. The indoor/outdoor setting is crisp and stylish at the foot of the mountains. Cocktails and a concise menu of wine complement dishes of tuna carpaccio, goat cheese gougères (baked savory pastries made of choux dough mixed with cheese), and even Nashville-style hot chicken.
Where to Stay
The Desert Pearl Inn is situated near the entrance of the park and within walking distance of restaurants, shops and shuttle services. It’s nestled along the cottonwood-lined river. Like a desert oasis, rooms are both beautifully furnished and usefully appointed. Each has a view of red rock formations and either a private balcony or terrace. Rooms are plush, framed and decorated with natural materials. Convenience kitchens have coffee makers, toaster ovens and dishwashers. Bathrooms are divided into two Italian- tiled spaces for privacy and convenience. Each room has a sleeper sofa, making this an option for a family stay. There is a large pool and a hot tub for soaking under the starry Western sky. Deer are often spotted along the gurgling riverbanks.
Desert Pearl Inn
Zion Adventure Company
Zion Canyon Brewing Company