Since we had decided to leave a day early from Dinosaur National Monument, we were leaving without a final destination in mind. We knew we were going to head toward home, so we gassed up in Vernal and hit the road. The planner in me was screaming, “What are you doing?” After a few deep breaths I realized that it was kind of exciting to head out with no particular place to go!
As we drove, I researched possible destinations and decided that we should do “the long haul” down to Zion National Park. I will admit, it was a LONG day in the car for all of us. I found myself wanting to ask “Are we there YET? The kids did amazingly well for clocking over 9 hours in the car. We didn’t reach Zion National Park until 8pm. By that time, all camping spots within the National Park were filled.
Luckily, the Ranger told us there was a campground right outside the entrance to the park in the town of Springdale. We got there in five minutes! Zion Canyon Campground was a little pricey and the sites were a little too close to the neighbors, however, having full hook-ups made up for that. The ability to run the air conditioner was worth it (it was definitely warm here)! We chose a pull-through site since we knew we would have no need to unhook the truck as there is free transportation to the park. This resort also offers a playground, heated pool, and swimming and/or tubing on the Virgin River.
Bright and early, we headed to the front of the resort to catch the free shuttle to the entrance of Zion National Park. The Zion Canyon Visitor Center is right as you walk in. This is the perfect starting point for your Zion adventures. Park Rangers are available to help plan your time within the park. Don’t forget! They do offer a Junior Ranger program at Zion. Pick up your books at the Visitor Center as well.
Zion now uses a free shuttle system along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in the summer months to help reduce traffic, noise and pollution. within the park. The shuttle stops at some of the most popular scenic areas and trail heads along the canyon. The park map they supply helps to determine which stop to disembark to head off for your desired adventure. Going round trip would take approximately 80 minutes.
For us, the first stop was the hike to Weeping Rock. Besides remembering this hike from when I was a kid, the last time I did this hike, I was pregnant with the twins. When I shared with Drake and Mia that they had been here before but in my tummy, they thought it was cool. It is only .4 mile paved trail and is suitable for all ages. The hike takes you to a rock alcove with dripping springs. Being there in late summer, there wasn’t a lot of “dripping,” but it does offer lovely views of the surrounding peaks.
Back on the bus, we headed to the end of the line, the Temple Sinawava stop. This is where the beautiful Riverside Walk begins. The paved trail follows the Virgin River along the bottom of a narrow canyon lined with cottonwood trees. Along the trail, you can see dripping springs which are home to clusters of wildflowers and maidenhair ferns. Keep in mind the squirrels are bold here. I had to remind my kids not to try to feed or touch them. They will bite!
The trail ends at a wide spot of the river where kids splash in the still water as parents watch from the rocky shore. This is where “The Narrows” trail continues up the Virgin River along soaring walls, sandstone grottos, and natural springs. It is considered a strenuous hike as most of the time hikers will be wading, walking or swimming in the river. Maybe when the kids are older we will tackle this adventure.
We were getting hungry so we went took the tram back to the Zion Lodge. This area of the park is beautiful. The large grassy area outside the lodge was full of picnickers and folks just wanting to relax under the shady trees. We chose to have lunch in the upstairs Dining Room of the Lodge and wanted to be seated outside. Due to a “bee problem” we thought better of it and ate indoors. The food was mediocre and service was slow. My recommendation would be to either bring a picnic lunch or head out of the park to Springdale, as there are many lunch options available for less money.
It was time to head back to camp and it was only then that I realized that even though I have been to Zion several times, I have only ever seen a tiny piece of this majestic park. We didn’t even visit the Zion History Museum or Nature Center. Next time we visit, I would like to try longer hikes take in a ranger program, and possibly explore the Kolab Canyons area of the park (different entrance near Cedar City). If you do something special in Zion National Park, make a comment or send me an email. I want to get my list ready for the next visit!
In the morning, it was time to make the final drive towards home. I will admit, it wasn’t always easy on our first RV trip. There was a learning curve for all of us, but in the end, the good certainly outweighed the challenges.
What we gained was immeasurable. Our kids got to learn organically through their five senses. The moments of awe that we saw on their little faces was truly a gift. I learned that the memories you create during your RV adventures will truly last a lifetime!