In May 2021 I ventured out to the West Coast to tackle my first national park: Zion National Park. It happened to be one of the most spontaneous trips I’ve had yet (the quickest YES decision I’ve made for any vacation), while also being one of my favorite adventures to date!
Now reflecting I believe this was a trip I’ve been manifesting for a while, under my radar. During the pandemic I made a few stops to the public library where I found interest to check-out National Geographic’s Atlas of the National Parks. And yet, not even a year later my fascination came to life. How did it all start? A group text with a few fellow friends/travelers and a collective vision to get out and travel.
I brought back with me so many awesome memories that I needed to share! From food to hikes to stays, here’s a glimpse of the many details during my 3-day exploration to Utah:
Penny Ann’s Cafe (Draper, UT) – After we touched down in SLC, stayed at a local Hilton overnight and woke up early to prep for a 5-hour drive to our Airbnb close to Zion, we did a quick online search and stopped at this nearby restaurant. We got in before the rush, and had ourselves a hearty meal before the haul. I got myself an omelette and their well-known “Heavenly Hot Cakes”.
Stage Coach Grille (La Verkin, UT) – An American classic steakhouse, and happened to be down the street from where we were staying. I grabbed myself a burger for dinner to fuel myself for our biggest day ahead: hiking Zion National Park.
Davis Food and Drug (La Verkin, UT) – A small, quaint grocery store that was right down the road from the Airbnb. Here I found some staples for a few homemade lunches (which helped to not only stay a bit consistent with my normal food regiment but to also not eat out as much = saving money) and we even prepped for a big friends-dinner one night!
FeelLove Coffee (St. George, UT) – After officially hiking Zion National Park (woo!), we rented bikes and explored the local area. We stopped at this very popular coffee joint, and though it took over 30 minutes for me to receive my order, my coffee and vegan donut turned out to be quite fantastic.
River Rock Roasting Co. (La Verkin, UT) – A local spot near our Airbnb with outdoor ordering and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. This ended up being quite the pick-me-up for another long – yet thrilling – day.
Washington, UT – As our drive to home base (our Airbnb) continued, we pulled over to stretch & explore a visitor’s area. Location unknown – I was too excited to even think about where we were. But, it was my first taste of what I was getting myself into. Lots of climbing, scaling, and sightseeing.
Snow Cannon State Park (St. George, UT) – Home to Jenny’s Canyon – which is a short walk into a slot canyon. Once we hiked to an overlook, there was a beautiful view of Snow Canyon Sand Dunes. Due to endangered habitat (seasonally closed from May 15 – June 1), most of this area was closed off, but we still got to experience and snap a few photos. Other trails here include Johnson’s Canyon, Pioneer Names, and Hidden Pinyon.
Zion National Park – A feeling I’ve never experienced before in my life. This was the breathtaking experience I readied myself for. I ventured to Zion Canyon, the most visited part of the park, and hiked West Rim Trail (bypassing Angels Landing but taking in all the great views) to I believe one of the highest elevations possible on that trail. Elevation gains: up to 2,148 ft. Spectacular.
Even More Adventure
Quail Creek State Park (Hurricane, UT) – Crisp, blue water and yet another spot for the most magnificent scenery. We rented a 6-person paddle board and shared a lot of laughs as we ventured into this 600-acre reservoir. Great place to go swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating.
Shopping (Near Zion National Park)
The Zion Prospector – A cool shop full of stones, minerals, fossils, and other beautiful collectables. Lots to browse!
Joy Craft & Design – Full of stylish clothes, jewelry, accessories, home decor & more. I snagged a new fanny pack and a souvenir shirt here.
Frontier Plunder Antiques – A Native American Trading Post displaying treasures of antiques and collectibles for over 20 years, such as old Indian jewelry, traditional silverwork from the reservations today, native beadwork, baskets, frontier and tribal textiles, vintage books, cowboy gear, and much more history. As someone who is very interested in their Native American roots, I had a blast browsing and learning more about my heritage.
Hilton Garden Inn (near Salt Lake City Airport) – Not too much to say about this one but clean and got the job done. As previously stated, once we landed at night in SLC, we checked-in for a quick overnight stay to prep ourselves for an early morning ahead filled with lots of driving.
La Verkin, UT – We booked an entire house (3 bedrooms, 4 beds, 2 baths) (approximately 25 mins. from St. George and 20 mins. to Zion National Park) through Airbnb. Here I experienced the continuous theme of gorgeous mountain views and saw my first shooting star at night!
- I carried a BUNCH of snacks with me (made it safely through TSA). To name a few: Ritual‘s Essential Protein vanilla protein powder, Chomps Beef Jerky Sticks, and Solely fruit jerky
- I brought my GoPro and captured some of the COOLEST videos of my hikes. Totally worth packing
- Woke up super early one morning to catch a mountain sunrise – HIGHLY recommended
- We booked an SUV rental through Turo
- There were 6 of us who traveled together
- Flew Delta for the first time both ways – easy breezy flights
- We purchased shuttle tickets for Zion National Park (now currently discontinued) to bypass a very long line for transportation to the park
- We hiked Zion on what is the most popular and most packed day of the year for the park: Memorial Day
To put it simple, my biggest takeaways from this entire experience are to “save to see” (save your money for future joys – if I didn’t do so this trip wouldn’t have been so spur-of-the-moment), embrace the unknown, challenge your limitations (my nerves did not stop me, but prepared me to hike the highest of altitudes), and be present to admire the beautiful terrain this planet has to offer. I’m beyond grateful for the success of my visit to Utah and hope to visit again down the road!