Our drive through Utah provided us with incredible sights, easy camping, fun hikes, spiritual and self-discovery all while checking off destinations on our bucket list. How amazing is it that one state was able to give us so much?! Zion National Park was another landmark that we had heard about for many years, but never took the opportunity to visit. We drove an hour and a half from Bryce Canyon to Zion. We had a late arrival, pulling into the park around sunset. We drove through, walked around the parking lot and found the Visitor’s Center had already closed. With no wi-fi available and reception/internet was non-existent on our phones, finding a free campsite was impossible. We were tired and hadn’t showered in a week, so we decided to pay for a campsite for the first time and take advantage of the amenities.
In Springdale, a small town right next to Zion, there are several hotels and restaurants that fit the needs of all tourists. We found a Quality Inn that managed a campsite right behind the hotel. We paid for a tent site which cost $42 for one night. I’m unsure about the exact price, but I know we were charged per person, and we were given the wrong rate because the man who checked us in forgot to count Riley. Overall, it was expensive, but it was somewhat expected since it was such a touristy area.
Next door to the Quality Inn are a couple restaurants. We decided to dine at Whiptail Grill to treat Riley out for some Mac and Cheese and for us to have a beer. We were unaware of this until that night, but Utah has a law that prohibits customers from consuming beer without food on the table. We ended up ordering chips and salsa with our drinks.
The following morning, we headed back into Zion and made the Visitor’s Center our first stop to plan out what hikes we wanted to do. Prior to arriving at Zion, we were given recommendations on The Narrows and Angel’s Landing. The Visitor’s Center has a giant screen that maps out all of the hikes and gives important information on each trail. Unfortunately, hiking The Narrows required waterproof gear since the trail goes through the river, and Angel’s Landing was not recommended for “young children and those afraid of heights.” It appeared the trails that were highly recommended to us were not going to work out unless we bought waterproof gear or kept Riley on a tight leash. We decided on two other popular, yet easier hikes: The Emerald Pools and the Riverside Walk.
Zion has a bus system that takes visitors to points of interest. We got on the bus and made our first stop the trail for the Emerald Pools. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip (0.6 miles to Lower Pool, 1 mile to Middle Pool, and 1.5 miles to Upper Pool) and fairly easy. The trail has a small climb and a couple switchbacks. A waterfall will greet you at the first pool. If you don’t have much time, this hike may be your best bet since you can take in some awesome sights in a short amount of time.
After the Emerald Pools, we strolled along the Riverside Walk, a 2.2 mile paved path along the Virgin River. We are typically not fans of paved paths, but this walk provided very scenic views through the giant canyons. We ended our day at Zion just before sunset and realized we needed to leave quickly so we could find another place to camp. There was no way we were going to spend $42 again!
Zion was the end to our journey through Utah. Five National Parks later, we had experienced more in a week than we have in years. The sights, the colors, the way nature made us felt is something we will hold onto for a lifetime. Thanks for the experience, Utah!
Basic Information on our Zion trip:
Park Entrance: $30 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. We saw 2 campgrounds near the south entrance by Springdale.
Zion Campgrounds: We saw 2 campgrounds inside the park: South Campground and Watchman Campground. Both were filled to capacity and this was in November. Reservations can be made for the Watchman Campground. Running water and flushable toilets are available, but no showers. $20 for tent sites and $30 for electrical sites.
Campsite behind the Quality Inn: Zion Canyon Campground is located behind the Quality Inn in Springdale. Full hook ups and tent sites. Hot showers, sinks to rinse dishes, laundry facility. We paid $42
Restaurant information: Whiptail Grill 445 Zion Park Blvd Springdale, UT right next to Zion Canyon Campground. Known for vegetarian items (per yelp reviews). Prices seemed lower than other restaurants in the area.