Location: Springdale, Utah
Designation: National Park
Date NPS designation declared: 11/19/1919
Date of my visit: April 2017
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After visiting the Northern section of Zion called Kolob Canyons (separate post here) we drove to the Southern entrance to Zion Lodge to explore the main part of the park.
We spent 3 nights in Zion Lodge and so were able to experience a lot here. Staying inside the park meant we were able to get most places quickly via the shuttle system or on foot. We had motel rooms in the Watchman building. The rooms were very comfortable with king size bed, TV and quiet ac unit. We had a private balcony with red rock views and rocking chairs. Vanity separate from the bathroom. There is a common area with a fireplace and board games where families can spend time together.
Everything was clean and in good condition. It’s no luxury resort but the convenience of being right in the park can’t be beat. There are long lines of cars during the day waiting to get into the park because the NPS hasn’t figured out how to make one lane for people who already have the park pass and another for those who need to purchase one. And this park is becoming increasingly popular…it just isn’t equipped for the droves of visitors flocking to the famous hiking trails and beautiful canyon.
Lower Emerald Pool Hike
We hiked to lower emerald pool our first evening in the park. The trail is paved and easy and leads to a trickle of a waterfall (which you can walk under) spilling into a bright green pool. Because it’s across from the lodge, everyone takes this trail. It was difficult to enjoy nature with hordes of rowdy, obnoxious tourists.
We headed into Springdale early morning on our second day to try out canyoneering. We opted for the half day family Canyoneering trip. Because there were only three of us, they asked if we could pair up with a mother-daughter team which worked out great since they were similar in age and ability to me and my daughter. Our guide, Chad, drove us through some undeveloped areas of Zion to a slot canyon just outside park boundaries (rope work is not allowed within the confines of the park.) Chad was excellent and so patient, helping us rappel, climb and squeeze through the canyon.
Most of us were not in top physical condition, but Chad made it easy for us to accomplish what we’d thought was impossible going in. He took pics throughout and sent us the jpegs in email soon after our tour finished.
This was a great bonding experience for us.
Hidden Canyon Trail
We asked Chad to suggest a good afternoon activity in the park that wasn’t as crowded as the Emerald Pools. He suggested the Hidden Canyon Trail hike.
This hike starts at the trailhead to the more ambitious Observation Point, but then splits off to the right. It is fairly strenuous going up, with switchbacks, so just take it slow and enjoy the view. It’s not a very long trail, maybe a mile each way. Near the top, it becomes a rocky path with chains bolted into the cliff for climbers to hold onto. My teen and I stopped at this point, while my husband continued on to the end and Hidden Canyon. He says this part is not as daunting as it seems because the walk is banked in towards the cliff wall and the chains…not as scary or as crowded as Angel’s landing.
Scout Lookout/Angel’s Landing
We started the hike to Angel’s Landing at 8 AM on our third day in the park. After a brief pleasant flat stretch along the river, we began to ascend. For those of us not in great shape, we had to take frequent breaks to catch our breath. The higher up we got, the more beautiful the view.
When we got up through the tight switchbacks called Walters Wiggles, we came to an open area called Scout Lookout with gorgeous views and plenty of places to rest. Only my husband made it the final half mile to Angel’s Landing. This stretch is a steep scramble over rocks and a narrow ridge with chains set in the ground to hold onto. My teen attempted it, but quickly turned around when she realized that everyone had to use the same chain…going up or down. With so many people on the trail, it was more than a little chaotic and scary. It took my husband over an hour to come back because of having to wait for people to come up before going down. Several people have died falling off the ridge, the most recent is a 13-year-old girl a few months ago. I’m really glad my daughter stayed with me and took photos from the safety of Scout Lookout.
The views from Scout’s Lookout were stunning, so I didn’t regret not finishing the hike.
We were exhausted from that strenuous hike to Angel’s Landing, so after lunch, we rode the shuttle to the visitors center and picked up the Pa’Rus trail there. It winds through campgrounds at first and then by the Virgin River. There are several river access points along the way if you want to get right down by the river. The water was really high and fast during our visit, which caused the NPS to shut down the park’s other epic hike, The Narrows (part of which must be hiked IN the river.)
As you near the end of this trail, you need to look downstream for the iconic view of the Watchman towering over the river. The trail ends close to another shuttle stop, which we hopped on back to the lodge.
For being an easy trail, I was surprised by how peaceful it was. We only encountered a few cyclists and pedestrians along the way.
Red Rock Grill: We ate here twice during our stay at the Zion Lodge. With days chock full of physical activity, we simply could not muster the energy to drive into town for dinner.
The ambience here is not as stuffy as some of the other Nps historic lodges. We went in our hiking clothes, no problem.
The food is ‘clean’ and is ok. Nothing spectacular, but nice. We had the pork chop, bison meatloaf, sirloin and bison burger. All well prepared and prices what you would expect inside a national park.
They have a nice seating area outside too.
Castle Dome Cafe: We came down from the Angel’s Landing hike hungry. We just beat bus loads of people arriving at the cafe so we didn’t have to wait too long. Burgers were ok, fries were decent and we had some mango smoothies from the ice cream stand. Sat at a table on the patio under the red rocks
Spotted Dog Cafe: Nice local restaurant, we reserved via open table. Lovely server. Red Rock views. Nice decor. We were grubby from hiking in the park, but it didn’t matter. It says casual dining right on the door.
I had pasta purses filled with pear and ricotta in a butter sage sauce…heavenly! We also had the NY strip with parmesan fries. Those fries were very tasty. The Panna Cotta with strawberries and balsamic glaze for dessert…delicious. Prices were fair for the experience we had.
Cafe Soleil: Stopped at this cute little cafe for lunch after a morning of canyoneering. We were starving and Cafe Soleil did not disappoint. They have a vast selection of tea which I appreciated.
We had the chicken pesto Panini, California blt, and chicken pepperoni panini. All served with a nice bag of chips, a slice of melon, and a smile. We were in and out of there pretty quick so we could get on with our day.