Late last year, hubby and I attended a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas. We had an absolute blast and it was so much fun. After 6 days of craziness and neon lights, however, we were ready for a change of pace. We hired a car and drove to Springdale, Utah, where we stayed overnight before setting out the next day to explore Zion National Park. The drive from Vegas was only about 3 hours and very easy along Interstate 15. Springdale itself is a gorgeous, small, quaint township of less than 1000 people but whose population swells by the tens of thousands of people who visit each year to explore this spectacular National Park.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for one night. It wasn’t our first choice, as we booked quite late, and although it was comfortable and adequate, it didn’t live up to our expectations given what we paid (almost AUS$380 for the night). There are loads of hotels to choose from of all different standards, so my advice would be to book early to ensure you’re not disappointed.
Springdale is at the very entrance to Zion and we found the easiest way to access the park was to jump on a shuttle that was literally outside our hotel. We had a hire car but decided to go via shuttle as there is only limited parking inside the park, which fills up quickly. The shuttle service is free and efficient with a large number of stops, the wait is generally no more than 15 minutes. Once at the entrance to the park it cost only US$15 each for admission and the pass was valid for 7 days.
It’s up to you how much of the park you explore and, therefore, how long you will be there. It’s prominent feature is the steep red cliffs that have cut through the coloured Navajo sandstone by the north fork of the Virgin River. It is huge at 590 square kilometres and stretching for 24 kilometres, so remember to take a few essentials like water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, jumpers, etc. On entrance to the park you will also receive a copy of the Zion newsletter which will give you maps, trail information, shuttle schedule plus other important information.
Once inside, we made our way to the Visitors Centre where we boarded another shuttle to take us around the park. This took us on an 80-minute ride to the Temple of Sinawava and back with various stops along the way. Cars can’t enter this part of the park when the shuttle is operating and this has helped to reduce noise and pollution. We jumped on and off several times and on one of the stops decided to do the hike to the Middle Emerald Pool. This hike was 3.2km and took about 1½ hours and was moderately difficult. You do need to be careful as most of the trails are unpaved, quite rocky and unfenced and one wrong step you’d be off the side in places. I’ve got to say I loved it.
And as for the Canyon itself, words like stunning and spectacular just don’t seem to do it justice. It’s an incredible part of the world that just has to be seen to be believed!