In February, 2011, Alex and I decided to go on a weekend trip to Zion National Park in Utah. The trip started out with a long drive from our home in the San Gabriel valley all the way to St. George, UT, with a “quick” stop over in North Las Vegas. It would have been quick, except for the fact that we couldn’t find a Shell gas station anywhere near I-15. We ended up getting off at Lake Mead Blvd., thinking there was a gas station, but there were none to be found. We ended up getting on and off the I-15 twice more before we found one, about 2 miles off the highway. North Las Vegas felt a lot like driving in Compton, CA… it was scary!
After our little adventure trying to find gas, we continued on our journey through the less trafficked part of I-15 north of Las Vegas. The highway drops to 2 lanes, but the traffic was light, so we made it to St. George by 4:30 MST. That was one thing that got us for the whole weekend, the time difference. Utah and Arizona are one hour ahead of California in the winter time. For Christmas, we received a gift card to the Outback Steakhouse, so we used it for a nice meal of ribs and potatoes in St. George. Then we headed for Zion, or more specifically, Springdale, which is the town just south of the national park. The whole southwestern part of Utah is really nice in the winter. The red rocks with the white snow sprinkled around are gorgeous, and the temperature is not blazing hot!
We checked into the Pioneer Lodge in Springdale where we heated up our leftover ribs and vegged out before bed time. The next morning we woke up early to head out to the park. The red rocks look amazing in the early morning sunshine. It was an awesome sight to behold, and is the first step towards making you feel very tiny and insignificant. One thing to note is that the price of admission for a single vehicle is $25 in Zion, which is $5 more than most of the other national parks that I have visited. After finding an ATM to get an extra $5, we headed into the park to do some hiking. We stopped first in the visitor center which is directly after you enter the park by car. Luckily, you can still drive a private vehicle along the scenic drive at the floor of the valley during the winter months.
After passing the Canyon Junction, we stopped at the Court of the Patriarchs to get a good view of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We headed further north towards the lodge and the Emerald Pools. We found the trails to the middle and upper pools to be closed due to ice, so we hiked the lower trail. It was less a hike and more a leisurely walk, as pretty much all of the trails in the park are now paved. It makes it easier for the masses to experience the park, but makes it feel less naturey and more man-made. To find dirt trails, and real hiking, you will need to head up into the back-country. After seeing the lower Emerald Pool, we headed up to the Grotto to have a nice picnic lunch. It was not crowded at all, since it was about 50°F outside, and we easily found a picnic bench to eat at. After our lunch of PB&J we headed to the Temple of Sinawava to follow the Riverside Walk. About two-thirds of the way into the walk, it was closed off due to a large pile of ice built up in the shade. Since there was an easy path around the chains that were “blocking” the path, we continued, being careful on the short section of ice. It was a very pleasant walk to the end of the path where it meets the river. In the summer, that would be where you take your boots off, wade across the river, and continue the trip. In the winter though, the water is just above freezing and that would be insane. We headed back to the visitor center to visit the gift shop before heading back to the hotel to prep for dinner.
For dinner, we tried to continue our Valentine’s tradition of having Mexican food. We went to Oscar’s Cafe, which got very good reviews on Yelp. The Mexican food sucked. It was almost as bad as the “Mexican food” I had in Iceland. The service at Oscar’s wasn’t the greatest, but I’ve had worse. It makes me wish we had gone to Amigos across the street from the Pioneer Lodge. I will never eat at Oscar’s Cafe again and I will give it 1 out of 5 stars. I will also no longer rely on Yelp for helpful information.
We did a little bit of shopping before heading back to the hotel for some much needed rest. It was a long day, but well worth the time we spent in the park. Zion National Park is a great weekend getaway, and I would recommend visiting any time of year. The Pioneer Lodge had excellent accommodations and could easily charge 50% more for their rooms and still be a good value. They get a 4 star rating from me. In conclusion visit Zion and stay at the Pioneer Lodge.