I Love Utah! In all honesty I love most of the Southwest of the United States. From the vastness of the Grand Canyon to the small state parks sprinkled throughout the area. But, in all honestly, it is Southern Utah that is one of my “happy places” on this planet. First – it is GORGEOUS. Just when you think you have seen the most amazing formations of rocks you drive around a bend and there is one even more stunning!
If you have only a few days to spend in Southern Utah then I recommend the following as a route that is family-friendly and full of adventure. Please keep in mind to do your due diligence before venturing out as parts of Utah are at a pretty high altitude and some of the trails that I may mention are not for the novice hiker.
Start your adventure in St. George and Ivins
St. George ,Utah is a very charming city just a few miles north of the Arizona border and about 75 minutes from the Las Vegas airport. It has something for everyone! From adorable vintage, antique, and thrift shops to outdoor sports to please nearly everyone. One of my favorite places to stay is actually a wee bit north of St. George at the Red Mountain Resort. This place is not your typical hotel (and adults only)- but rather a resort that insists you relax and unwind. There are just so many spa treatments to indulge yourself in, healthy eating, and a pool and several spas to help you rejuvenate. While it is not cheap- it is worth every penny.
When you are in the area of Ivins- drive over to the Snow Canyon State Park. It will take you less than 10 minutes to get there. The price of entry to the park is $15 per carload. We stopped at nearly every area that had trails of mild to moderate degrees. My favorite is Jenny’s Canyon. Oh gosh, this place was amazing. Hubby really loved the Sand Dunes. And the area known as Lava Flow was very popular – especially with kids hopping the lava rocks. Johnson Canyon also was popular. The walk was not extreme, but pleasant. Sadly, very little of this park is wheelchair accessible. There are some paved areas near Johnson Canyon – but not much more than that. Two areas for restrooms are available and park rangers are in the visitor’s center to assist you.
Fall in Love with Zion National Park (ZNP)
Arizona may have Sedona and the Grand Canyon – but Utah wins the beauty contest in my book with Bryce and Zion. There are trails to hike at both places, but in the snow it is a bit dangerous and necessary equipment is needed for safety. Frankly, I was lucky to have my winter coat during this last trip.
There is something about Zion that makes it indescribable. I have been three times and each time I fall more in love with this park. Maybe because it appears differently each time I visit. This past trip the park was slightly dusted with snow. It was magnificent. I have written about Zion before and you can read more here.
To enter Zion NP you either need to take a shuttle bus from the various spots along the main route leading to the park in the town of Springdale or pay $30 and up to drive through. There is a third option for those who wish to drive through the park and that is to have the America the Beatiful National Park Pass. This pass allows you entry into the 2,000 federally owned recreation sites, such as national parks in Utah! The park opens early – 8 am. Be there when it opens to maximize the grand effect it will have on you with the quiet and stillness of the early morning. The River Walk is for novice hikers and accessible for wheelchairs. There are many more adventurous areas to explore such as Angel’s Landing. (not for the faint of heart or this writer.) A list of the trails, their ratings, and when they are open (some are closed due to weather, etc.) may be on this up-to-date website.
Below is a picture that hubby snapped while we were driving through the twists and turns of Zion.
We stopped to snap this lovely mountainside. Sadly, my shot doesn’t quite capture the grandness of this area.
Make sure to stop at the Visitor’s Center in Zion NP and also if you drive all the way out the east exit – keep going. There are so many wonderful little shops and places to visit within a few miles of the park. PLUS… it is the back route to Bryce Canyon National Park – a “short” 90 or so miles from Zion NP!
BRYCE CANYON – So much to say – so little time!
When you enter Bryce you may think it will be a nice little drive through a wooded area. But, then you are nearly gob-smacked with the awesomeness that surprises you around each and every corner. This is the majesticness of Bryce Canyon National Park!
I prefer visiting this park using a system that my family calls the Disneyland method! Start at the end and work your way to the front of the park. The drive from the entrance gate to the end is about 20 miles. Be sure to stop at the visitors center on your right-hand side right after passing through the gate. The price is pretty much as Zion – so getting that America Beautiful Pass is really worth it! At the center there is a preview movie about the area and a nice walk-through set of exhibits. The gift shop is really filled with practical items – like sunscreen and water bottles.
My favorite area is called the Rainbow Bridge. It is a marvel to look at. Hubby really enjoyed exploring the region call The Apitheater – and it truly does look like one!
While it is possible to cover both Zion and Bryce in a day- I don’t recommend it. You made it this far to visit two of the most beautiful parks in the world – why rush it? Stay a few days and enjoy!
And, meander around the local area as well. There is the town of La Verkin that has the River Rock Roasting Company – a must for those who love to eat! This place has awesome pizzas, quiches, and of course – COFFEE! Springdale also has numerous shops and restaurants for most palates. Hurricane, “known as the gateway to the parks” – is great to stock up on supplies and explore some antique shops.
Need more convincing as to why you should travel to Southern Utah? Well, I just happen to have a few more photos to show you! Enjoy and Happy Travels!