Summer Road Trip to Zion National Park

I have no idea how to relax. Relaxing involves having to sit still for prolonged periods of time and just… existing. It’s just not a vibe I understand. Maybe it’s an untreated form of anxiety, but if I’m not up and doing something, I feel like I’m wasting time. Anyone else feel this way? Cuz I do all the freaking time. There’s just so much to do and so much to see before, you know, life happens. This mortality is what motivates me every day to hustle and go do shit.

That said, guess what I did this past weekend? A spontaneous trip to Zion National Park! 7-hour drive, 110+ degrees, summer crowds. WHOOOO! Seriously though, after venturing there this past winter, I was itching to check out Zion National Park without a blanket of snow covering the canyons. Plus, I seriously love Utah’s landscape.

Now entering, The Narrows
DAY 0

Thankfully, both boyfran and I have pretty flexible work schedules (he works remotely and gets a Friday off every month and I’m a freelance writer). So after researching and booking places to stay in both Vegas and Zion, we head out the door Thursday after work and make our way to Vegaaaas. Or more like Henderson, a city near Vegas.

Thursday nights in Vegas are actually pretty cheap. But what you don’t know from the initial listed price is that it’s not showing you the FINAL price. It’s missing the $20-$40 daily resort fee and the daily parking fee (self or valet). So that cheap price isn’t so cheap anymore. Which is why I decided to stay in Henderson at one of the business hotels in the area. After searching on AAA Travel (I’m a member), I found a pretty good deal at a Best Western Plus. Free parking, free WiFi, free breakfast! It’s all I needed for a 5-hour snooze at a hotel. Yeah, we got to Henderson past midnight and had to wake up at 5am to get to Zion National Park. I mean, we didn’t HAVE to, but we wanted to so that we could maximize the trip. YAY.

DAY 1

We noshed on our free breakfast and began our journey to Zion. Zion National Park is only about 2 hours away from the Vegas area, but remember that you lose an hour as you venture East. Mountain Time. Yup.

Of course, we arrived at a not-so-ideal time for a national park, so there was absolutely no parking inside the park. Instead, we had to park in the nearby town called Springdale and use the free shuttle system to get around. Not bad at all and most of the roads inside the park are actually blocked to normal vehicles. Had no idea about that since the roads are all open during the winter.

We headed to Zion Outfitter to grab our Narrows gear. Now, we definitely had our doubts. Is the gear necessary? Will we REALLY need these fancy boots? For ~$20, you get a pair of boots, neoprene socks, and a walking stick. And after using the gear and seeing other people struggle a bit, I say yes, it’s worth it. The neoprene socks keep your feet warm. The boots are super grippy and allow you to navigate the stream pretty easily. The walking stick makes you feel really cool and helps you keep your balance. We brought along extra shoes/sandals strapped onto our packs so that we could change into them for the walk back along Riverside Walk. That was probably the best decision ever. As comfy as these boots were, they’re just not as comfortable and dry as my Teva sandals 🙂

Check out the sneakers strapped on boyfran’s pack.

Something to note about The Narrows. During our hike, clouds started coming in and thunder rang through the canyon. Mother Nature is an unpredictable beast, so after hiking for two hours, we decided to turn around. Flash floods are no joke. But we got a good taste of The Narrows and went pretty far. We just didn’t want to risk a stupid death.

The water was turquoise blue!

After The Narrows, we were ZONKED and hungry. After a quick Yelp search, I found Stage Coach Grille in La Verkin. Best Yelp search ever. Stage Coach Grille is this super rustic restaurant with solid wood furniture and Americana decor. Two painted wooden eagles perched within their “nest” were staring at me as I ate. It was great. We ordered the pork chop, linguini alfredo with chicken, and St. Louis-style pork ribs, and this feta/tomato/basil appetizer. The Pork Chop was the most tender pork chop I’ve ever had. Cooked perfectly and just super tasty. The Linguini Alfredo was light, yet creamy. The pork rib meat fell right off the bone. And the appetizer was super fresh. It was just a bomb meal. So bomb that we went back the next night.

Wall mural at Stage Coach Grille. We saw a bunch of wild horses out in Utah, so quite fitting.

With full bellies, we checked into our next Best Western Plus in La Verkin and jumped into the pool. It was glorious. Day 1 well spent.

DAY 2

Angels Landing day. Woke up at 5:30am, ate the free breakfast at the hotel, drove over to the park, and… proceeded to wait an hour for the shuttle. Oh man. Not sure what the hold up was, but it took FOREVER to ride a shuttle. Thankfully, it wasn’t hot yet, so the waiting wasn’t so bad.

Finally, at 8:30am, we got to the trailhead for Angels Landing. The hike varies from paved to not paved at all with a pretty steep elevation gain towards the middle. Speaking of… I. Hate. Switchbacks. There’s a section called, “Walter’s Wiggles,” that includes 21 switchbacks and is a quick elevation gain. HOOO boy. Cardio workout for sure. Once you’re past that, you’ll end up at Scout Lookout and the real fun begins. Ridge hiking fun. Grab on to those chains, find secure hand and foot holds, and don’t look down. Or do. I did… to take photos 🙂 I thought I couldn’t, but as the hike progressed, I wasn’t so worried about how high I was. I was more worried about not to losing my footing and making sure I was grabbing on to those chains or a boulder. One fear/concern overpowered the other. Oh, brain. You’re quite something.

Held onto those chains REAL tight.
This is basically the trail. Eep.

When I started the hike, I was genuinely scared. Like fuuuuucking scared. I got to the middle of the hike and looked at where we had to climb and let out a big NOPE. But I told myself that I couldn’t wuss out. Had to keep going. And I’m so glad I did. It was so rewarding. I used my entire body to get to the summit. Arms, legs, core, brain, everything. Once we got to the top, we were higher than the birds. It was … beautiful.

Canyons galore.
Looking down at the shuttle bus route.
Higher than the birds!

On our treacherous hike down (tbh, this is what scared me the most), we saw a California Condor perched on top of a boulder! So cooooool. We saw a fair amount of wildlife while we were out there in Zion National Park, but a condor was completely unexpected. It was so close to us and the local condor conservation group (I think) was keeping a watchful eye on it as others took a look. And I’m glad they were there. Some tourists are idiots and I can’t even begin to imagine what they would have done to it if that group wasn’t around. DON’T FEED WILDLIFE, PEOPLE. YOUR POTATO CHIP IS NOT GOOD FOR THAT GROUND SQUIRREL.

After scrambling down, we made our way to Zion Lodge to grab a quick bite of terrible pizza and delicious frozen yogurt. After some thinking, we thought, why not. Let’s squeeze in another quick hike to the Emerald Pools. As if Angels Landing wasn’t enough. Big mistake. We ended up hiking in the worst part of the day (HOT HOT HOT) and most of the Emerald Pools hike is in the full sun. Honestly, it was the worst decision ever and I’m pretty sure I was on the verge of a heat stroke. Know your body, folks. Don’t do stupid hikes. Plus, after seeing the Emerald Pools during the winter, this summer one was kind of … wack. No waterfalls, no cool snow to climb through, too many people, and it was just too damn hot.

We quickly made our way back to the car, chugged cold water from my Hydro Flask (THANK YOU, HYDRO FLASK. Seriously a life saver.) that’s been sitting in my car the entire day, and ventured back to the hotel. This was around 3:30pm.

Showered, cooled down, and ate at Stage Coach Grille again. While eating, it started raining like CRAAAAZY. Very cool experiencing a sudden desert rainstorm. The nearby cows freaked out a bit. Naturally, we decided to take a drive to Checkboard Mesa. Ha. Don’t worry, the rain wasn’t so bad. It actually cooled down significantly and presented a very neat backdrop.

Favorite drive through Zion National Park.

Finally got back to the hotel. Ate some more free cookies from the hotel’s lobby and passed the f out.

DAY 3

Vegas traffic on a Sunday is the worst. To avoid that bs, we hustled out of our hotel by 6:30am. Decided to make a detour through the Mojave National Preserve to venture to Joshua Tree National Park before heading home. I’ve never done it before, but thought, why not. We’re already out here.

Stopped along the road through Mojave National Preserve to take a photo of this formation. Wowowow.

As we ventured over, we found ourselves driving along Route 66! We stumbled across Roy’s Motel and Cafe, which actually ended up being a historic landmark. TBH, it creeped me out. It was desolate, abandoned, and in the middle of nowhere. But it did fascinate me. Apparently, some guy who owns a chicken chain owns the town of Amboy (including Roy’s). He’s adamant about preserving the 1950s feel there. Wild! The things you discover while on the road.

Roy’s Motel & Cafe

So we eventually end up at Joshua Tree and take some pics.

Couldn’t handle the desert heat anymore and made our way back to our comfortable abode in cool San Diego. I love home.

And that is how my spontaneous road trip to Zion National Park went. Until next time, Utah!

The happiest cows ever.

Fun discovery: Spotify now has podcasts! We binged on Criminal. The world is now a scarier place.

If you have questions about anything else, leave a comment!

Trails Hiked

  • Angels Landing
  • Riverside Walk / The Narrows
  • Emerald Pools

Places We Stayed At

  • Best Western Plus Henderson
  • Best Western Plus in La Verkin

Places We Ate At

  • Brew Pub
  • Stage Coach Grille
  • Zion Lodge

Note: My SD card broke in the beginning of my trip, so all of these are shot with my iPhone 6s.

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