Amusement Parks
National Parks
Route 66 Cities Beaches




Getting There Lodging Restaurants Hiking Backpacking The Narrows The Subway Springdale

The first priority for anyone visiting Zion should be to stay at Zion Lodge. It's a magnificent old national park lodge, with a fine restaurant, incredible views, convenient location and an accompanying vehicle permit. You can only drive past the gate into the park if you present to the security guard your reservation card for the lodge. All others park and board the propane bus. The lodge was built in 1924 as a compromise. The state of Utah wanted a much larger facility and the Park Service wanted only cabins. So this moderate sized lodge with a cluster of cabins around it was built. It's rustic. There's no reliable wifi service due to high canyon walls. Do not expect to use your phone (sometimes you might get lucky.) But the rooms are modern, and service is cheerful. Several hiking trails begin right here at the edge of the yard. The park shuttle bus stops here every 20 minutes. There's no air conditioning but the canyon cools down nicely at night and during the day you'll be out hiking. Deer graze outside your window. The restaurant is a bit pricey but the food is very good. However, you must make reservations three months ahead or more as the lodge fills up every night all year.

A cluster of cabins was built around the lodge and remain in service today, although they've been updated several times. Twenty-eight cabins have two double beds, while the remaining twelve have one queen bed. All cabins have a gas log fireplace, private porch, full bath, microwaves and mini refrigerators. These cabins are within walking distance of the lodge. Most people eat their meals at the lodge restaurant. There's no air conditioning but you won't need it. If you come during the Fall, Winter or Spring, you'll appreciate the gas log fireplace, since the nights chill down and, deep in canyon shade, mornings take several hours to warm up. As with the lodge, you must make reservations 3-5 months ahead, as these cabins stay full. The refrigerator and microwave do allow you to fix your own meals, but if you plan on doing so, you must plan ahead. There are no grocery stores inside the park or at the park entrance. If you come in from the south, you can find a grocery in Springdale. But if you come in from the east or north, you need to stop at one of the small town groceries in Orderville or Mt. Carmel.

Camping is a fine option here in the desert, where you're free of flies, gnats and mosquitoes, there's not much humidity, and it rarely rains. We have camped here several times. There are two campgrounds, South and Watchman. Both border the Virgin River. There are trees, but you are very likely to be camping in the Sun. Each site has a picnic table, fire pit and grill. There are restrooms and drinkable water but no electricity, fire wood or showers. Bring gas stoves. During the Summer, afternoon temperatures average 95-100, with nighttimes averaging 65-70. The best way to cool off in the afternoon is to go sit in the river, which flows ice cold. We also chilled drinks in the river. As with the lodge and cabins, you must make reservations several months ahead, because they fill up every day all Summer. Tents with mesh bodies and rain flies are ideal here because you can leave the flies off and lay in bed looking up at the stars in the astonishingly clear sky. Every couple of days you can drive into Springdale, use the pay showers and buy groceries.
Another option is Zion Ponderosa high on the East Rim, right along the park's eastern boundary. Long ago this was a logging camp housing the men who cut timber and lowered it from the winch on Cable Mountain down to the valley floor, where it was used to build the lodge, cabins, ranger residences, visitor center and park headquarters. Then the camp sat empty for 50 years. It has been finally developed as an alternate lodging site. You can camp in your own tents here, or rent a "glamping" tent (photo, left), cabin, Conestoga wagon, or chalet. Unlike the valley campgrounds, there are hot showers here. You can cook at your campsite, eat in the restaurant or sign up for a cookout, which takes you by horseback and/or buckboard to a site out in the forest. Horseback rides, skeet shooting, a zip line, guided hikes and canyoneering expeditions are available. There's a hot tub and double swimming pool. Since you're already on top of the East Plateau, hiking to Cable or Deertrap Mountain or Observation Point are level eight mile round trippers. You have to take the shuttle around and down to the valley for the Angel's Landing, West Rim or Narrows hikes. For youth groups this is a very good alternative.

If you can't get reservations in the park, or if you want more amenities than they offer, you can stay in Springdale adjacent to the NPS boundary. Springdale offers a dozen motels, several with pools. Springdale is a great small town. It includes four excellent restaurants and several others of varying quality. It includes three very classy Native American and Southwestern jewelry stores. There are two excellent rock shops and several bike rental shops.

And it includes Zion Outfitters, who will rent you canyoneering boots that grip wet and underwater surfaces, neoprene socks, heavy hiking sticks designed for the river, and watertight packs for keeping food and gear dry.

Springdale also offers wifi service so you can come into town once every couple of days to call home.

Our first recommendation outside the park is Cable Mountain Lodge, as seen in photos above and at left. The rooms are nice and there's a pool. But most importantly, Cable Mountain Lodge sits directly adjacent to the bridge into the park. This means you do not have to wait for the shuttle either to or from the park, or drive yourself and spend 45 minutes hunting a parking space at the Visitor Center. Considering the 100+ plus heat and the crowds, this is a huge advantage. After a hard day's hiking, and riding the park shuttle back to the Visitor Center, not having to wait for and then ride another shuttle, where you may have to stand, is worth the prices Cable Mountain Lodge charges. A queen studio begins at $160 a night, depending on amenities and dates. In high Summer, expect to pay more.
If Cable Mountain is full, our next suggestion is the Driftwood Lodge in town. The rooms here are excellent with fantastic views of the canyon and the rock formations towering above town. The river runs right past the property. At night views of the sky are incredible; many long time patrons bring their telescopes. If you get one of the rooms facing the field, deer will graze outside your patio every evening. The Springdale Shuttle stops right in front beginning at 8 a.m. every day. There's a small but nice pool kept chilled in the 100+ degree heat. There's no complementary breakfast but the lodge offers vouchers for Oscar's, just up the street, and there's a convenient store almost next door. Rooms begin at $200 in high Summer. There's a very upscale restaurant in the lodge, but it's only open for dinner. Wifi is free but sketchy, you can make phone calls or handle emails but to upload or download anything you'll have to go to the lobby.

The Desert Pearl Inn is one of Springdale's finest motels. Owners Kent and Robin Palmer are long time Zion and Springdale veterans. Kent's father drove one of the park's old tour buses. They describe their Desert Pearl as a labor of love. The trestle wood used throughout the building is old railroad trestle lumber salvaged when the railroad abandoned the bridge. There's a beautiful pool and hot tub for relaxing in the evenings. The Virgin River runs right by the property. This is a 1998 facility, so everything is modern. There'a a coin laundry for clothing worn on hikes or canyoneering. Wifi is free throughout the place. The adjacent Moki Bistro serves very good food. The shuttle stops right in front.

If you're on a budget, the 1972 Zion Park Motel isn't quite as upscale (there's no hot tub and the rooms are a bit smaller), but rates are very reasonable. You can rent a room with one queen bed for $90 a night, or one with two queens for $130. There are family units with two bedrooms, kitchen and living room.

This is no cheap motel. There's air conditioning, wifi and a nice pool. Rooms have mini fridges and microwaves. You get free coupons for coffee across the street. The shuttle into the park stops just a few steps away. The views are spectacular. The staff is cheerful and helpful.

The Zion Park is surrounded by restaurants, shops and galleries. The same family has owned it since 1972. Make reservations as far ahead as possible because it has a loyal following.

Like Us On Facebook (OutpostUSA.org) To Receive Our Daily Outdoor Adventure News and Travel Notes And To Post Comments
This Year's Unique Visitor Tally : 1,003,492 Contact us at Omlordw@aol.com Meet our writers at Staff