Zion National Park

This past weekend Tyler and I made our way to Utah for a fun filled weekend of camping, mountain biking, and hiking. The RedBull Rampage was taking place just outside of Zion in Virgin, Utah, so we decided to turn the event into a weekend trip.

Doing some research on camping in Zion we discovered the campground directly in Zion (South Campground) was very sought after especially this time of year and the reserved campground (Watchman Campground) was already filled.

We left San Diego at 3am to get to Zion right when they opened (and to avoid California traffic). Tyler had read online that people get there before the park opens to get a campsite, especially on the weekends. The drive went pretty smoothly, we didn’t hit any traffic and made it in about 7 hours. One thing that we forgot to take into consideration was the time change. We lost an hour going there and arrived a couple hours after the park had opened. The first campsite (the one we really wanted) was already full, so we started to panic since we didn’t know where else we could camp. Luckily, there was another campsite (Hi-Road Campground) on the north side (just outside the park) that still had space in it.

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HI-Road Campground Office

One perk of driving North to our campground was that we were able to drive through the entire scenic route of Zion. The drive was so beautiful, the red rocks, the Virgin River, the mountains, the tunnels, all so breathtaking. Its honestly hard for me to think of a more beautiful place than this.

While driving through Zion you pass through two tunnels that are pitch black (as seen above). These tunnels can cause a little traffic to build on the drive, but with views like this it’s hard to complain about traffic. Once we made it to our campground we were able to pick out our site. There we a ton to choose from (only two campsites were taken). We decided on a partially shaded area that was pretty flat and had cute trail behind it.

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Our campsite

Living in California we don’t get the perks of seasons, so seeing the fall colors in full bloom reminded me of fall back in Michigan. I love fall and this cali girl got her fall color fix. There were a couple downsides to camping at this end of the park. The closest grocery store was pretty far about 20 miles north of the campground. We ended up making two trips to this area first to get our food and than to get more ice. Another downside, but not too terrible, was that the Rampage and most everything we wanted to do was at the southern most point of the park or just south of the park. So everyday we made one to two trips through Zion (which takes about 30 mins). It took a while, but was stunning views I took my time. This wasn’t a trip breaker, but we did learn that for next year we definitely want to reserve a campsite in the park (most likely at Watchman Campground), just so we can save time on driving.

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So many smells for ms. Ava

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Ava soaking up some rays

Ava our rescue dog came with us too. She loved camping, but unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed on any hiking trails. We didn’t find this out until we got there. We had read online the park was dog friendly, but we had missed the part that they aren’t allowed on the trials. After seeing some of the hiking trails that decision was understood. Most of the hikes were cliff hanging, had slick rock, and it gets incredibly hot in the park. Conveniently there is a dog day care just outside of the park, It’s called Doggy Dude Ranch. The Ranch has an incredible staff and tons of play space for the dogs (they also offer extended stays where you can customize your dogs experience with different activities).

After we set up camp we decided to check out the little trail behind our site. This trail wasn’t an official trail by the park with any signs so we thought we would try and bring Ava. It was a short trail, but really pretty and Ava got to expend a little energy.

After our little hike we decided to head into town and grab a little bite and watch the Broncos. In the little town of Springdale there wasnt too many options for eating, which is fine. I loved the small town and its cute shops and hotels. We also stopped by a really nice bike shop with a really friendly owner who gave us some great mountain biking trail recommendations.

Once we finished our snack and the game we made our way back through Zion to our campsite. By this point it was pitch black and driving though the winding roads was a little unsettling. At the campsite we quickly built a fire since the temperature dropped extremely quickly. It was now in the 50’s and I realized I did not pack enough warm clothes and was freezing. We got the fire going pretty easily and decided to hangout and warm up for a bit. As cold as I was I did manage to make the perfect s’more, which was the best way to end our first day in Zion.

Waking up I felt a little tired and extremely cold. We rushed to the showers in hopes of warming up a little. The showers weren’t as warm as my freezing body would have liked but they definitely helped warm me up and left me feeling refreshed and ready to hit Rampage. We headed back down the park to Doggy Dudes to drop off Ava.

The next post will be about the rampage and mountain biking in Utah, but for Zion that’s about it. A few things we’ll be doing differently next time:

  • Reserve a campsite

  • Hike Angels Landing and potentially the Narrows

  • Bring more warm clothes

  • Bring a pad or mattress of some sort

  • Buy booze outside of Utah (Utah law only allows beer with an alcohol content of 3% or lower)

For anyone looking for an escape or adventure or just to get in tune with nature I definitely recommend Zion National Park, see ya next year.

Zion Park Info:

Zion does have a very nice shuttle system throughout the park to get you to the hiking spots. Since the park is so expansive and they don’t have a ton of parking at each trailhead, shuttling is the way to go. The shuttles are free and go for most of the day, but do not allow dogs.

Park passes were only $30 for a week. The campsite we stayed at was $30 a night, showers and restrooms were close by and free.

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