I have always wanted to visit Zion National Park. I can maybe list the number of national parks I’ve visited on one hand. Growing up in California, I think I take for granted all the landmarks the States has to offer because my home state is already rich with many things to do and see. I’m lucky in that way. But with air travel bans and stay-home restrictions, my need to explore was increasing every day. As soon as I learned that Utah was opening back up, I immediately checked the park’s website to see if Zion was open. Zion is indeed open!
When we were there, they were not charging entrance fees. That is largely due to the shuttle services not operating. There are also trails like the Emerald Pools and the top of Angel’s Landing that are closed due to the inability to keep six feet apart.
Where to Stay in Zion
Most people will stay in Springdale, which is the town just outside of Zion National Park. We actually rented an Airbnb in Hurricane, Utah. The place we rented was a beautiful A-frame “tiny house” with a side glass roof that opens up completely. It had a deck with a propane grill and a firepit! To the side, there is a separate A-frame shed with a clean shower and toilet. The experience was similar to glamping, except more deluxe and comfortable! Waking up every morning to the view of the mountains was amazing!
The only downside to our Airbnb was that it was exactly 57 minutes away from Zion. Getting there and back was a bit of a hassle. If the park is largely on your itinerary, I suggest staying in Springdale. The town in Springdale is cool and there’s a lot to do and see. If you’re more so looking for someplace to escape in Utah, book this tiny house!
Day 1: Hiking Watchmen’s Trail and the Narrows
We started our day bright and early at 6 am. Remember when I mentioned the park wasn’t charging any entrance fees? Due to the closure of the shuttle service, Zion has brought back the option to drive through the park but you have to get there early. When we arrived, there wasn’t a line going into the park but we did make the mistake of parking in the visitor center.
What we should have done was drive up to the Canyon Junction to find parking there. They have been closing the Canyon Junction entrance by 6:30 am once they hit the capacity of parking spaces. We got up early and missed that entirely. Long story short, don’t do what we did. Here is the info sheet to Zion that I highly suggest you download.
Anyways, we were none the wiser and parked our car at the Visitor’s Center. We made our way up the Watchmen’s Trail which is a pretty easy hike. We thought we were there early but we saw people on their way down as they caught the sunrise moments before. Once we got up to the trail pass, we took some amazing photos of the sun peeking through the red mountains.
Once we made it back down and realized the Canyon Junction was closed, Brian and I drove out of the park. We decided to go to Zion Outfitters next door to rent bikes. Zion Outfitters has everything you need, from gear for the Narrows to bikes and tubing equipment. We rented bikes for a full day and made our way up to the Narrows.
The infamous Zion Narrows hike was a one-of-a-kind experience. It was beautiful, challenging, and strenuous – but so worth it. Here’s an in-depth breakdown of our adventure through the Narrows, what to expect, and what to pack.
Day 2: Meadow Hot Springs
After a long first day, my entire body was out of commission. We had a day planned to go tubing on the Virgin River, but got the news that the water levels were too low. Our next plan was to meet up with my friend at Meadow Hot Springs, about 2 hours north of Zion.
Meadow Hot Springs consists of three hot springs areas located on private property. The best part is the hot springs are dog-friendly so we could bring Lyla along with us. We hung out at the second hot springs and mingled with other visitors, but we were told that the other two springs have different temperatures.
Day 3: Swimming in the Virgin River
On our last day in Zion, we wanted to bring Lyla into Zion with us so she wasn’t cooped up all day in our Airbnb. Zion has a dog-friendly trail called the Pa’rus Trail. It’s a paved trail that runs along the Virgin River. As you continue up, you’ll find openings to river access. We packed lunches, brought towels, and our camera, and off we went!
We ventured pretty deep into the trail and found access to the river that was right below a cascade. It was beyond cool. Well, quite literally cool because the water was freezing. Brian even got Lyla to come into the water out of her own free will! We swam, ate lunch, and had an amazing final day in Zion.
Afterward, we explored the gift shops in Springdale. We bought the most souvenirs from Zion Rock & Gems, a shop with a large selection of gemstones. They had really cool coasters made of rocks or stones, and eccentric jewelry with amethyst and other crystals. We also stopped by Fort Zion, which had a petting zoo outside. This store was full of souvenirs and little trinkets like dinosaur teeth and raptor footprints hanging on the walls.
Day 4: Day Trip to Bryce Canyon
We woke up early in the morning, packed up, and said goodbye to our A-frame weekend home. Brian and I hit the road and made our way to Bryce Canyon. This national park is truly breathtaking, even more than Zion if I dare say. I have never seen rock formations quite like Bryce Canyon. You can hike down into the rock formations via several pathways, like the Navajo Trail. We had Lyla with us so we were limited to the paved trails. If you have time, I would recommend staying in Bryce for 2-3 days at the very least.
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