Located in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is considered by many to be one of the top 10 national parks in America. Although it’s the premier attraction in the area, Zion is actually just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sites and activities. There are also four state parks and myriad spots for hiking, mountain biking and bucket list activities like canyoneering.
Of course, the Greater Zion area is best known for its beautiful scenery and wealth of outdoor activities. But it also has a burgeoning art scene and some amazing cuisine — so when it’s time for a much-deserved break after a hiking, biking or canyoneering excursion, be sure to take advantage of the other amazing things the area has to offer. Here’s how to plan a trip to the area from Greater Seattle. As always, check COVID-19 restrictions and opening hours for everywhere you travel.
It takes approximately five hours to get from Seattle to the Greater Zion area. Take a two-hour flight to Salt Lake City, then switch planes and hop on the hourlong flight to St. George Regional Airport. From there, it’s another hour driving to Springdale. If you’re willing to pay for the convenience, an Uber or taxi makes sense, but there’s also a shuttle that runs five times per day.
Where to stay
Beyond your typical chain hotels in Springdale, one option is Cliffrose Lodge, which features beautiful gardens and grounds, so be sure to make time to explore the property. The hotel recently opened a pool and hot tub that are located steps away from the Virgin River, so you can enjoy stunning, unobstructed views of the surrounding peaks as you relax in the pool or hot tub. The waterfall hot tub in the main pool area is especially enjoyable. Treat yourself at the hotel spa, perhaps, and be sure to dine at Cliffrose’s restaurant, Anthera. The menu includes foods to satisfy every craving, including salads, pastas, gyros, tacos and burgers.
In St. George, consider The Advenire, an Autograph Collection hotel that was a real treat. This charming boutique hotel has 60 rooms, each of which features unique decorations and art. The aesthetic is chic but unpretentious. The Advenire’s restaurant, Wood, Ash, Rye, was also a standout — and it’s definitely worth dining there even if you aren’t staying at the hotel. Using regionally sourced ingredients, the chefs cook up delicious, one-of-a-kind recipes that rotate depending on the season. The craft cocktails are amazing, too.
The highlight of Zion National Park is its expansive canyon, which is about 2,000 feet deep. In order to choose the hike that’s best suited to your skill level and personal preferences, stop by the visitor center.
Kolob Canyons is an excellent option, especially if you’re not looking for a rigorous hike. Take the 5-mile drive along Kolob Canyons Road, which has many spots to pull over for a scenic viewpoint of the breathtaking crimson canyons and also access to a hiking trail.
A popular hike at Zion National Park is The Narrows. As the name suggests, this is the narrowest part of Zion Canyon. The walls are 1,000 feet tall and the river narrows to less than 30 feet wide at certain points. Since the hike involves walking in the Virgin River, be prepared to get your feet wet. You can make your hike brief and enjoy taking in the scenery and getting a taste of the area, but there’s also the option of making The Narrows an all-day hike.
All the state parks in the area are worth visiting, but Snow Canyon State Park was a standout. You can take in the scenery in a variety of ways, including horseback riding, hiking or mountain climbing. I opted to hike without a guide, which allowed me to go at my own speed and stop to take in the beauty at spots that caught my eye. During a visit to Snow Canyon, be sure to visit the petrified dunes, located in the heart of the park. One of the most beautiful places in the area, the petrified dunes are composed of the sediment of an ancient sea. Located 300 feet above the canyon floor, it’s been described as a playground of upraised sandstone. This is a fun spot to explore and take plenty of photographs.
Sand Hollow State Park is a popular spot to get adventurous in your explorations. ATV Adventures offers adventures for every skill level that typically last about five hours, although there’s also an option to customize your tour. Don’t want to drive an ATV? No problem. Take the five-hour petroglyph van excursion, a guided tour from the comfort of an off-road van.
Mountain biking fans won’t want to miss the opportunity to bike at Gooseberry Mesa. Like everywhere else in the area, you’ll be treated to stunning scenery as you bike. The trails are surrounded by massive sandstone monuments, shadow-filled gorges that frame Zion Canyon, and the Kolob Canyons, which are particularly breathtaking at sunset. When you reach Gooseberry Point, you’ll find another amazing view as it overlooks the scenic Virgin River.
If you’re feeling adventurous and looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a guided canyoneering excursion through Paragon Adventures. Southwest Utah is considered one of the best canyoneering locations in the world, so this is definitely not an opportunity you want to pass up. During your canyoneering expedition, you’ll explore the slot canyons through hiking, rappelling and even swimming. Paragon provides all the necessary equipment and you’ll be in good hands with their top-notch guides, who are excellent at teaching the techniques to move through the labyrinth passages in the area. Where exactly will your guide take you? Well, this is kept secret in order to avoid crowds, so you’ll just have to wait and see — but rest assured, it’s incredible.
Other fun activities in the area
Kayenta Art Village is a charming area full of galleries, gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. Beautiful art is everywhere you turn, from street art on the pavement to sculptures placed throughout the village. It’s the perfect spot to get a one-of-a-kind souvenir for yourself, a gift for a friend or family member, or both.
Don’t leave Kayenta without eating at Xetava Gardens Cafe. Their brunch, which is served from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays, is the stuff of foodies’ dreams. The Heaven Waffle, a Belgian-style waffle topped with agave syrup, peanut butter, fresh berries and homemade whipped cream, is a must, and they also make an incredible frittata. Xetava also has an extensive beverage menu full of unique, delicious coffee and tea drinks.
Speaking of food and drink, Zion Brewery Station II is a fun, laid-back spot to spend an afternoon tasting microbrews. If you’re not a beer drinker, fear not! They also serve wine and a variety of cocktails.
King’s Landing Bistro was another favorite restaurant during my trip. The menu changes frequently because the restaurant prioritizes making recipes from locally sourced ingredients. If you’re not sure what to order, just ask your server — they’re extremely knowledgeable and can steer you in the right direction if you tell them what type of flavors you’re in the mood for. King’s Landing also boasts the best dining views in Springdale. After a weekend of hikes, bikes, peaks, rivers, art, food and more, what more could you ask for?
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.