Zion National Park’s canyon walls shelter the beauty held inside Utah’s first national park. Thousands of visitors a day come to see this other-worldly place. The park can be extremely packed during the summer and spring months. For instance, more than 21,000 people visited Zion in one day during the weekend of April 15, 2017, according to John Marciano, the park’s public information officer. The most popular time to visit is in the June, July and August months. When trails become congested, the desert and canyons outside of the park can be a beautiful getaway from the hustle and bustle.
Here are five places to visit outside of the park.
“Springdale is a great little charming town that has great restaurants, hotels and retail shops,” says Marciano.
This quaint little section of Zion Canyon looks like it is out of an old western film. Stop at Driftwood Lodge for a place to spend the night while enjoying the views of Zion Canyon. Try the BumbleBerry Inn to experience Springdale’s longest family owned and operated business. The BumbleBerry also offers a free shuttle service around town and into Zion National Park, although visitors still need to pay the park fee. On BumbleBerry’s property also sits a great place for travelers to refuel before going back into the canyon. Wild Willie’s Ranch Grill Saloon sits outside of BumbleBerry and offers a wide menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to keep you going throughout your stay.
Nearby State Parks
The beautiful aspects of Zion can still be experienced right outside of park limits on public land.
“There are surrounding national and state parks and hikes on public land properties.” Marciano says. “You can really experience the whole corridor of Zion Canyon.”
Some beautiful state parks perching on the edge of Zion include Gunlock State Park, 66 miles to the south entrance from Zion. Gunlock has a lake and sandy beach for boating and fishing purposes. Spread out a picnic blanket by the lake for a beautiful lunch.
Another great park to stop at is Quail Creek State Park, which is located just 33 miles south of Zion by way of Hwy. 15. This gorgeous state park is complete with a reservoir, excellent fishing, red rock desert scenery and camping spots. It even has a paddle board rental shop called “DIG Paddle Sports.”
Take a trip to Ivins, Utah, for a visit to Snow Canyon State Park. Just 55 miles from Zion, this park is known for its red sandstone and big sand dunes. Ancient black lava rock is also abundant when camping in Snow Canyon State Park.
These places, among many others, are great spots to enjoy Utah nature without the thousands of hikers at Zion.
Mountain biking is prohibited in Zion National Park, with the exception of the Pa’rus trail. Fear not mountain bike fanatics, there are hundreds of acres and trails to pedal around outside of the park. Gooseberry Mesa trail is a great hot spot for biking outside of the park. The ride is considered “moderate” and goes a distance of 10 miles. There are also more technical routes off of the original path for more experienced riders looking for single track. Just drive seven miles south of Rockville to reach the trailhead.
Another great spot outside of the park to bring your mountain bike is the “Holy Guacamole” ride. Starting just outside of Zion, grab a trail map in Springdale and make your way to Dalton Wash Road off of Hwy. 9. The ride is technical and 11 miles long but not difficult. Reaching the top rewards you with amazing views of Zion and the surrounding areas. For an easy and beautiful family ride try the roads leading in and out of Zion. Road biking is very popular in the area and offers incredible 360 degree views with little difficulty.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Seventy miles from Zion sits Kanab, Utah, which is home to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. A place where injured or homeless pets can be adopted and cared for. This sanctuary is a “no kill” shelter, meaning all animals will either be adopted or live out their lives in Kanab. Many furry and feathered friends live at the sanctuary. One can find dogs, cats, parrots/birds, pot-bellied pigs, goats, rabbits and others. Best Friends is also home to a “wildlife rehabilitation center” which takes many different animals into care from bobcats to tortoises.
Maynard Dixon Living History Museum
Fifty-five miles from Zion National Park sits the Maynard Dixon Living History Museum in Mt. Carmel, Utah. Dixon was considered to be one of the most talented western painters of his generation. The living history museum does not feature any Dixon originals but does have reproductions. Visitors can explore his home and property May through October. This museum is preserved and run by the Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts.