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  • Escape to East Zion Resort in Orderville, Utah

    Find some serenity in southern Utah with a visit to Orderville, Utah and a stay at East Zion Resort. The quaint town is set against a backdrop of red rock cliffs, canyons, and mesas, so it’s a simply stunning place to spend some tranquil time in the desert. Why Visit Orderville, Utah Orderville is a tiny town that is absolutely perfect for travelers looking for a peaceful escape in Southern Utah. Since it’s located smack dab between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, Orderville makes a great basecamp if you want to visit both parks. Where to Stay in Orderville: East Zion Resort East Zion Resort is THE place to stay in Orderville. Honestly, this might have the best view of any place we have stayed at in southern Utah…and we’ve stayed in a lot of places! East Zion Resort has several options, including tiny homes, yurts, and glamping tents, but we chose to stay in one of the treetop cabins, and this really showcased the stunning views. The cabin has big windows throughout, so you can take in the view from just about anywhere in the place. The treetop cabin also has a tiny kitchen, which is important because the dining options in Orderville are quite limited. I was able to make a simple dinner one night in our cabin, and there’s a grill available to use outside on the deck. You can also enjoy the heated pool and two hot tubs on the property, and believe me, we did! There are picnic tables and firepits, too, so you have plenty of places to relax outside here before you cozy up in your cabin for the night. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO East Zion Resort is a special place, and I highly recommend you experience staying here when you’re visiting southern Utah. Things to Do in Orderville While the nearby national parks of Zion and Bryce are obviously the biggest attractions in Orderville, the town has some fun places to check out and explore, too. Here’s what’s on my recommended itinerary when you’re in Orderville: Red Canyon Located right in town, this little hike to a slot canyon is a must-do! You walk through deep sand for much of this short hike before you arrive at a slot canyon. The slot canyon has beautiful light, and it's really fun to explore even though it’s short. Red Canyon is a perfect quick and easy adventure with kids at less than a mile round trip. If your kids aren’t into hiking, you can also take a horseback ride to Red Canyon with East Zion Adventures. My kiddos and I have done this tour, and although it’s a short ride, it’s a fun experience to horseback ride through the canyon. NOTE: I was so bummed to see so much writing and carving on the walls of the canyon on our recent visit. I don't remember it being like this a year ago when we hiked Red Canyon, and it was honestly heartbreaking. Please always follow the Leave No Trace principles when exploring in these amazing places and NEVER draw or carve anything on rocks or other natural elements. Rock Shops in Orderville Orderville has a couple great rock shops that are really fun to browse. Kids and kids at heart will love looking at all the cool unique rocks. The Rock Stop has an awesome assortment of rocks and gifts. Plus, they sell coffee and espresso along with soft-serve ice cream if you need a little pick-me-up or sugar rush. We got a cone, and it was yummy! Orderville Mine Rock shop also has a wide assortment of neat rocks. In fact, I just might have bought myself a beautiful rock to take home. :-) Maynard Dixon Legacy Museum This living history museum was such a treat, and I highly recommend a visit…even with kids. A self-guided property tour ($20/person, free for kids 12 & under) lets you walk through the home of artist Maynard Dixon. The buildings, which include the main home, bunk house, and studio, are so well-preserved that you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. It’s seriously magical! The tour begins at The Thunderbird Gallery, which has wonderful artwork on display in a beautiful old home. There, you’ll watch a video about Maynard Dixon’s life, which was really interesting and provided good background info, before you head out to explore the property. You’ll see reproductions of Dixon’s art throughout the buildings on the tour, and his work is just incredible…I’m a huge fan! The Shop Coffee Co in Orderville, Ut I just love this coffee shop in Orderville! I make it a point to come here every time I’m in the area. The coffee is so good, and everything we have tried on the menu has been excellent. We usually get a panini and smoothie (I especially love the watermelon one!), and they have amazing pastries as well. The Shop Coffee Company also has a wide assortment of gifts, jewelry, and artwork from local artists, so you can pick up some great souvenirs here. Other Dining Options in Orderville, Utah Orderville is tiny and only has a few restaurants, usually with very limited hours. Be prepared to cook your own meals at least some of the time (so make sure the place you stay has some sort of kitchen), but also know that the very small grocery store in town, Terry's Food & Drug, isn't open on Sunday. Here are the restaurant options in Orderville: The Shop Coffee Co (which I mentioned above) is awesome, but closes at 5pm every day and isn’t open on Mondays. Soup Town Cafe offers really good sandwiches and soup, but has very limited hours and isn’t open every day. Archie's Food to Die For is a food truck with burgers and more that also has limited hours, and it wasn’t open when we visited. The closest place for dinner is Thunderbird Cafe. It is 10 minutes away in Mt Carmel Junction. We ate there for dinner one night, and it was pretty run-of-the-mill diner food. Orderville Utah is such a great place to stay if you are visiting Zion National Park, Kanab, North Rim of the Grand Canyon and/or Bryce Canyon on your Southern Utah travels. And for the best place to stay in Orderville, check out East Zion Resort. Such a great place to stay with a family or even a romantic couples weekend. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • A Special Visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT

    If you’re an animal lover, chances are you might have heard of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary…but did you know that the sanctuary is located in southwestern Utah? This incredible place in Kanab, UT is the largest sanctuary of its kind in the US and provides a home for well over a thousand animals, including dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, horses, pigs and others. The gorgeous landscape of desert sandstone is a healing place for animals and the humans who visit. Along with homes for the animals, the sanctuary also offers several areas for peaceful contemplation during your time here. I highly recommend adding a stop at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to your Zion National Park itinerary when you’re visiting southern Utah. Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Location of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is located in Kanab, UT, about an hour away from Zion National Park. It’s one of my favorite towns in southwestern Utah, and you’ll find tons of awesome things to do in Kanab along with visiting Best Friends. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO The sanctuary entrance is at 5001 Angel Canyon Road, about five miles north of downtown Kanab on the right side of Highway 89. It’s marked with a big Best Friends sign so it’s easy to find. Book a Tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary If you want to explore the grounds and meet the animals, you can book a tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The tours tend to fill up, so making an advanced reservation online is highly recommended, but you can also visit the welcome center in person to book a tour. At the Best Friends Welcome Center, you can get maps to public areas on the sanctuary grounds and pick up a souvenir at the sanctuary store, too. The Welcome Center is open from 8:00am-5:00pm every day. Hiking Trails at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary You can explore the gorgeous red rock landscape in Angel Canyon on a few hiking trails at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Dogs are, of course, welcome on the trails at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary but must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times (this policy is strictly enforced). HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL The Hidden Lake Trail takes you to a cave filled with water that sits under a red sandstone cliff with neat rock formations. The 1.5 mile (round trip) hike includes a side trip to an ancestral Puebloan ruin where you can see a pictograph of a human figure. ANGELS OVERLOOK This trail runs from Angels Overlook to Angel Village, and you can start at either end. It’s a perfect hike to stretch your legs before or after lunch at the café. Be prepared for some rocky surfaces and a few moderate to somewhat steep ups and downs on this 1.5 miles round trip trail. KANAB CREEK We have hiked Kanab Creek, starting at Alton Road. The trail heads up to a cool little slot canyon and is a really fun area for kids to play around in during the summer. Stay at Best Friends Roadhouse If you’re spending the night in Kanab, Best Friends Roadhouse provides pet-centric lodging that is a lovely place to stay for people, too. The Roadhouse is just 5 miles from the sanctuary in the heart of Kanab and makes a perfect homebase for other adventures in the area as well. Plus, it has all sorts of amenities for your furry friends, including snuggling cubbies in the rooms and a dog park with a splash zone! The Mercantile also offers necessities, gear, and treats for both people and pets. This is also the perfect place to stay if you are planning on doing an animal sleepover (see details below). Our Experience Volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary The tour of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is wonderful, and if you want to do even more during your visit, you can sign up for a volunteer shift. Be sure to make reservations to volunteer in advance…the spots fill up fast to spend quality time with these awesome animals. My kids and I recently spent a couple days volunteering at Best Friends and had the most amazing time with the animals! Here’s a rundown of our experience at the sanctuary, so you can get an idea of what to expect if you want to do this yourself. Grand Sanctuary Tour When we arrived at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the first thing we did was take a tour of the place to get a little overview of all the different areas of the sanctuary. Our tour guide was SO awesome…and even knew all the animals by name! She was clearly very passionate about her job and sharing the mission of the sanctuary with visitors like us. MARSHALL’S PIGGY PARADISE The first stop on our tour was Marshall’s Piggy Paradise. Here we got to walk around, go inside the pens and get up close and personal with the animals. My kiddos absolutely loved this! There were also some very sweet goats that we were able to pet. HORSE HAVEN The next stop on our tour was Horse Haven. Many of the horses were recovering from trauma so they were not up for petting, but we were able to go up and say hi to a few of the horses. PROPERTY TOUR After Horse Haven, we drove around the absolutely stunning property that the sanctuary sits on. As we rode around, our guide told us all about the history of how the sanctuary came to be and the improvements that they have made over the years. CAT WORLD/DOG TOWN/BUNNY HOUSE/PARROT GARDEN Then we got the chance to visit Cat World, Dog Town, Bunny House, and Parrot Garden, which are all located near each other. We were able to get up close and pet all the animals at each spot. My kids were truly thrilled to pet all the sweet animals. Lunch at Angel Village Cafe At that point, it was time for lunch, so we headed to Angel Village Cafe. The café is located in the gorgeous lower canyon on the property and serves a vegan lunch every day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu changes daily and features options ranging from fettuccine alfredo to fake “meatball” subs to Korean street tacos and much more. Lunch is only $5/person for a main dish, two side dishes, fruit, a salad, and dessert. We have actually been here a few times now, and it is such a beautiful spot for a meal. And we got especially lucky on this visit because, while we ate, a few of the employees from each area of the sanctuary gave updates about some of the wonderful animals that have been adopted and rehabilitated here. Volunteering at Parrot Garden After lunch, we were ready to do some volunteer work at the Parrot Garden. We were tasked with making "chop" food for the birds. While we were cutting up and blending the veggies, one of the parrots was hanging out with us, which made our experience such a blast! And our supervisor at the Parrot Garden was super awesome, telling us all about the birds and giving us tons of great information as we worked. After making the chop, we helped in another area of the Parrot Garden by sorting through old toys for the birds and salvaging what we could to make new toys. Then we got to give the parrots a bath by spraying them with spray bottles. If they hid from the water, we would move on to the next bird, but if they looked like they were enjoying it, then we would spray them until they were soaking wet. It was a good time for everyone, people and parrots alike! Bunny Sleepover Our last stop for the day (but not the end of our time at Best Friends) was picking up two bunnies for a sleepover. They gave us everything we needed to care for the bunnies for the night, and we stayed at Best Friends Roadhouse in Kanab, so the room was all set up to host animals. It was such a treat to get two cuddly bunnies to be our slumber party buddies for the night! They were the sweetest bunnies, and I really wish we could have adopted them. Volunteering at Cat World The next morning, we dropped the bunnies back off, and then went over to volunteer at the Cat World, where we were assigned to the area with cats suffering from leukemia. Even though the cats were sick, they were so gentle and lovely. We cleaned out their home and spent quality time cuddling and petting them. We even got to give some of the cats a stroller ride. It was too cute! The cats really loved it and so did my kiddos. Angels Rest, Gratitude Garden, & Angels Overlook We finished up our time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with a visit to Angels Rest and Gratitude Garden. We walked around the graves of animals lost, which are covered in little stones and mementos. It's a very peaceful environment, with wind chimes adding to the soothing feeling. We then walked the short trail to Angels Overlook. There is a cool solar water fountain along the trail, rocks to scramble and climb, and plenty of exploring to do as you hike. The views are breathtaking as you overlook the sanctuary from this spot. In my humble opinion, our time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was better than any zoo visit that I’ve done with my kids….and the whole experience was free. The sanctuary is such a special place, and I highly recommend a visit to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for any animal lover! Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon – Road Trip Guide

    Southern Utah is full of so many incredible landscapes, which can be amazing to explore but also a little overwhelming to figure out the best places to go! If you’re struggling to decide where you should visit, one of the best ways to experience as much of this desert paradise as you can is to take a road trip from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park features the famous Angels Landing hike, The Narrows slot canyon, and a simply gorgeous landscape of stunning sandstone cliffs. When you add on a trip to Bryce Canyon, you’ll also see the highest concentration of hoodoos anywhere on earth and breathtaking vistas of the desert terrain of southern Utah. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO Seriously, you could spend several days exploring both Zion and Bryce Canyon and never run out of spectacular views! Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon Itinerary I recently took a day trip with my kids from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon, and we had such a fantastic time! From hiking to e-biking to horseback riding, we loved all our adventures through Bryce Canyon. Here’s what our one day in Bryce looked like, along with some insider tips for your trip from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon…and our favorite place to stay if you want to spend more time exploring Bryce Canyon. How to Get From Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon The drive from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon is just under two hours. From Springdale, head east on UT-9 through Zion to Mt. Carmel Junction where you’ll then go north on US-89. Eventually, take UT-12 east, then turn onto US-63 to the Bryce Canyon park entrance. LOCAL TIP If you are going this way I recommend stopping at The Shop Coffee Co in Orderville. They have the best coffee, pastries and sandwiches plus a great assortment of local gifts. The other way you can go from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon if you are staying in Hurricane or Saint George is by going north on I-15 to US-89 to UT-12. LOCAL TIP If you are going this way make a stop in Beaver at The Creamery. They have a wonderful gift shop, amazing Mac & cheese, ice cream, and even a little learning center for kids. ONE DAY ITINERARY IN BRYCE CANYON Morning: Hike Navajo Loop Trail Once you arrive in Bryce, stretch your legs on the Navajo Loop Trail. It’s the perfect family-friendly hike that packs a lot into just under a mile and a half. The trail takes you down some switchbacks and through Wall Street, the only slot canyon in Bryce…it’s super cool! Then you’ll hike through hoodoos along the canyon floor before heading back up to the rim. Navajo Loop Trail Details Distance: 1.4 mile loop Elevation Gain: 515 feet Location: Starts at Sunset Point along the rim of Bryce Canyon Mid-Morning: Rent E-Bikes Explore more of Bryce by e-bike, which you can rent right in the park. We brought a couple e-scooters with us for my younger kids, and then my oldest and I rented e-bikes, and we all had an absolute blast! Biking is only allowed on paved trails in the park, and there is a wonderful shared-use path that runs 18 miles from Red Canyon to Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon. You can bike as little or as much of the path as you want to. Bike Rental Details Where: Historic Service Station (north of the lodge on Lodge Loop Road) Hours: 8:00am-6:30pm (rentals end at 4:30pm) Price: $50 for 2 hours for an e-bike (or $25 for 2 hours for a standard bike) Lunch: Valhalla Pizzeria When you’ve worked up a hunger after your morning fun in Bryce, head to Valhalla Pizzeria right in the park next to the Bryce Canyon Lodge. Grab a tasty pizza or a salad, along with beer and wine. Valhalla also features coffee and pastries if you just need a quick pick-me-up. Afternoon: Horseback Riding For a unique adventure in Bryce, we took a horseback ride with Canyon Trail Rides and it was AWESOME! We chose the shorter ride (about 1.5-2 hours) to fit into our already adventure-packed day, and it was a simply stunning ride down into the canyon and past Sunset and Sunrise Point. You can also book a longer 3-hour ride which goes even farther along the Peek-A-Boo Loop. Horseback Riding Details Duration: 1.5-2 hour or 3 hour rides available Price: $75-$100 per person Age Limit: 7 years+ for shorter ride, 10 years+ for longer ride Weight Limit: 220 lbs Season: April 1-October 31 (3 hour ride only available May-October) Evening: Mossy Cave Trail This short hike is a must-do, and it makes a perfect end to a day of exploring Bryce. The trail follows Water Canyon where you’ll get to see some of the iconic hoodoos that Bryce is known for. You’ll make a couple creek crossings before ending up at a lovely little waterfall and Mossy Cave itself. Mossy Cave Trail Details Distance: 0.8 miles round trip Elevation Gain: 120 feet Location: The trailhead is just off UT-12 on the north side of the park near the entrance Dinner: Showdowns After a full day of adventure in Bryce Canyon, head to the nearby town of Tropic, UT for dinner at Showdowns. From steaks to pasta to campfire trout, you’ll definitely find something delicious on the menu, and it’s such a fun atmosphere for the whole family. There’s a big green lawn for the kiddos to run and play on, plus a fire pit to sit around and roast marshmallows. Where to Stay: Bryce Glamp & Camp If you want to spend the night, Bryce Glamp & Camp is such a great option! You’ll stay in a super cool geodesic glamping dome with amazing views through the dome windows. The domes are well-equipped for families and have plenty of amenities, including a large bathroom with a walk-in shower. Each dome also has its own outdoor area with a picnic table, grill, and a gas fire pit. Plus, the property has a ton of games like cornhole, horseshoes, and disc golf to keep everyone entertained. Yet the place still feels quiet and tranquil, especially once it gets dark, when you can sit on the stargazing pad and soak in the stunning night sky. Tips for a Road Trip from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon Get an annual National Parks pass if you’re visiting both Zion and Bryce Canyon. The entrance fee for each park is $35/vehicle so it will be $70 to visit both, while the annual pass is only $80 and you can use it at any national park for a whole year. You can extend your road trip from Zion National Park to Bryce Canyon by going the long way via US-15 if you want to visit Kanarraville and Cedar City along the way. If you stay overnight near Bryce, you could also visit Kodachrome Basin State Park the next day. It’s only a half hour farther east and features really neat stone spires of multi-colored sandstone. And if you’re making Zion your home base for a visit to southern Utah, check out more awesome day trips from Zion here! Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • The Best Time to visit Zion National Park

    When is the best time to visit Zion National Park? That is a question that I get asked a lot and I must say, it's a hard one to answer. In truth, I think any time is a great time to visit Zion but with any outdoor destination, there are things you need to think about and prepare for so that you can have the best time possible. To figure out the best time to visit Zion National Park, you need to think about the weather during each season, the crowds you might encounter, the Zion shuttle logistics, and what restaurants and shops in Springdale might be open or closed at certain times of year. Average Temperatures in Zion National Park The typical weather at different times of year is an important thing to keep in mind when choosing the best time to visit Zion National Park. Here’s a quick overview of the average temps for each month in Zion: *Temperature info from Zion NPS Of course, weather isn’t the only factor in deciding the best time to visit Zion National Park. Here is the lowdown – including my best insider tips – on visiting Zion in each season. Visiting Zion in The Summer (May-September) Visiting Zion in the Summer is when you are going to have to work around the most crowds and also when the heat is going to be the most intense but I would never tell anyone not to visit in the summer. In my opinion, summer is when Zion is at her most beautiful. Everything is so green and lush in the canyon and if you like water, well this is the best time to visit Zion National Park and play in the Virgin River. To avoid the crowds make sure to get out first thing in the morning. Never, never, never try to get on the shuttles anytime after 8:00 am if you want to avoid crowds and lines to get on the shuttles. The early start time is so worth it you guys! Having that little bit of solitude in the mornings is priceless. If you are hiking one of the more popular trails like Angels Landing or The Narrows I suggest you line up for the shuttles at 6:00 am. View the Zion shuttle schedule here, and be sure to check out my guide to everything you need to know about riding the Zion National Park shuttle here! A few of my favorite hikes to beat the crowds in Zion are Lower Pine Creek trail, Sand Bench Loop trail, East Mesa trail, or Clear Creek. Clear Creek isn't an actual hiking trail but you can turn it into one pretty easily by walking along the dry stream bed for miles. ely cater to families, with some tents having adjacent tents specifically designed for kids. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO Another way to beat the crowds in the summer is by entering the park in the later part of the day. By 3:00 pm the lines for the shuttle have usually died down and visitors have started heading back to their hotels and campsites for the day. Stay in the park until sunset or even after with a headlamp. Evenings in Zion are magical. The shuttles usually go as late as 9 pm and if you are on the east side of Zion you can explore in the dark as long as you like. Heading out first thing in the morning or later in the day is also a great way to beat the heat. Bring more than enough water and wear light breathable clothing. Hiking along a stream or river is my favorite way to hike in the summer. Riverside Walk/The Narrows is by far the best hike in Zion to beat the summer heat. It's crowded though so getting out first thing in the morning is a must. Also, be aware that July-September is monsoon season in Zion, and the torrential rain can quickly lead to dangerous flash floods. Always check the NOAA flash flood forecast when visiting Zion during monsoon season, and don’t attempt to hike The Narrows or other slot canyons if rain is threatening. RELATED BLOG POST: DON'T VISIT ZION IN THE SUMMER UNTIL YOU READ THIS Visiting Zion in Spring/Fall (Oct-Nov & March-April) The great thing about visiting Zion in the spring or fall is that you won't have to deal with the intense heat or cold and the crowds won't be quite as bad. I still suggest getting out first thing in the morning but it will be harder to stay in the park later in the day since the days aren't quite as long as in the summer. Fall colors in Zion are absolutely gorgeous against the soaring sandstone cliffs, and if you catch the changing leaves at their peak, fall can seriously be the best time to visit Zion National Park. In early October the park is filled with tiny yellow flowers everywhere. It is stunning! The fall foliage starts earlier at higher elevations, around the end of October, and the colors typically hit Zion Canyon and the lower elevation areas of the park at the end of October and can even last into late November. Dressing in layers is a must in the spring and fall. Mornings and evenings can get pretty chilly but the days usually warm up nicely so having layers to peel off when it starts to warm up is nice. Be aware of the shuttle schedule when you are visiting. In the offseason, the shuttles shut down or run on a reduced schedule. I'm hoping this year that the shuttles go longer and start earlier. It may seem like a luxury to be able to drive your car into the canyon but in reality, it isn't. Parking in the canyon is extremely limited and it turns into a mess really fast. When parking reaches capacity the canyon gets shut down and traffic turns into a disaster. If you are visiting on a weekend or holiday and the shuttles have limited service either avoid the canyon altogether or go in and get parking at the crack of dawn. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THIS ITINERARY THAT WOULD BE GREAT FOR FALL OR SPRING | A FALL FAMILY ADVENTURE - ITINERARY Visiting Zion in the Winter (December-February) Visiting Zion in the winter is when you will have to deal with the least amount of crowds (Except for over Thanksgiving break and Christmas/New Years see below), but the temps can get pretty cold, and you may have to deal with snowy or icy conditions. The trails can also get pretty muddy. During this time it is essential to have the proper gear and warm clothing. Some great winter hikes include Watchman Trail, Riverside Walk, and Pa'Rus Trail. LOCAL TIP If Angels Landing is on your must-do list, winter might not be the best time to visit Zion National Park. Walter’s Wiggles can become a sheet of ice after it snows, since it stays mostly in the shade and doesn’t fully melt out. The chains section also can get icy, which makes the steep drop offs potentially dangerous. If you come prepared with YakTrax or microspikes, you might still be able to complete the hike to the top of Angels Landing, but the potential for ice definitely makes it a more sketchy hike than in other seasons. The Narrows is another iconic Zion hike that takes extra planning in winter. It will be absolutely freezing in the water and require a dry suit to navigate safely. For sightseeing, photography, and cold weather hiking visiting Zion in the winter is quite spectacular. Be aware that during the winter season the shuttles are typically not running and many of the restaurants and shops in Springdale tend to close down. Also, the road through the Kolob Canyons section of the park often closes in winter during big storms. Related: Don't Visit Zion In The Winter Until You Read This When To Not Visit Zion I don't usually tell people not to visit Zion but there are certain times of the year that Zion can get pretty crowded. Labor Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend, Thanksgiving holiday (if the weather is nice) and Christmas holiday (if the weather is nice) are times when Zion reaches max capacity and you are really going to have to work around the crowds.. If you are going to be in Southern Utah during these times try visiting more off the beaten path spots like Snow Canyon State Park, Kanab, and Red Cliffs Reserve. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CHECK OUT THESE OTHER RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • 8 Best Zion National Park Glamping Spots to Spend the Night

    Nothing beats a night under the stars in a beautiful landscape – especially when your sleeping arrangements are a little more luxurious than your typical tent. Surround yourself with the red sandstone of southwestern Utah and treat yourself to a fancy stay in the desert at one of these exceptional glamping Zion National Park spots. While I live right by Zion National Park, I’ve taken many staycations to experience the local lodging, and glamping near Zion truly can’t be beat for an adventure with a touch of indulgence. The Top 8 Glamping Zion National Park Spots Here are the top 8 amazing properties for Zion National Park glamping that I would highly recommend (and I’ve stayed at all of them): Zion Glamping Adventures Under Canvas Zion Zion Wildflower Basecamp 37 Open Sky AutoCamp Zion Zion Ponderosa Cave Lakes Canyon Ranch 1. Zion Glamping Adventures Zion Glamping Adventures features plenty of amenities to make your stay comfortable, but the key attraction here is truly the location. You’ll get to soak in stunning views of the red rocks without all the crowds in Zion itself. At this glamping Zion National Park spot, you can choose to stay in one of the 21 bell tents, which include standard or deluxe glamping tents, a couple dry tents, and the special suite tent. There is also a rock cavern, which is a unique cabin with a jacuzzi and spectacular mountain views. You book the type of tent you want online, then you walk around the site and choose the perfect accommodation for you upon your arrival. Read more about team mate Matti's experience glamping with a baby at Zion Glamping Adventures here! LOCATION Zion Glamping Adventures is located about an hour from Zion in Hildale, UT on Water Canyon Road. AMENITIES Each tent (except for the two “dry” tents) has wifi, electrical outlets, heat, and A/C Shared bathrooms & showers (with provided shower gel & shampoo) Private and communal hang out areas with picnic tables, fire pits, grills, and yard games Pet-friendly & child-friendly 2. Under Canvas Zion Under Canvas Zion ups the glamping game with luxurious safari-style tents featuring ensuite bathrooms…and they definitely cater to families, with some tents having adjacent tents specifically designed for kids. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO Under Canvas is also a great glamping Zion National Park spot because they offer tons of activities and experiences. Under Canvas features camp programming including outdoor games, live music, and yoga, all for free. And for an additional fee, you can book guided adventures like mountain biking, canyoneering, and rock climbing in the desert playground near Zion. Read more about my family stay at Under Canvas Zion here! Note: Under Canvas Zion is only open from mid-March to early November each year. LOCATION Just 25 minutes from the Springdale entrance to Zion, Under Canvas is quite conveniently located. AMENITIES Safari-style tents with private bathrooms Bedside battery packs to charge devices Nightly firepit w/complimentary nightly s’mores Counter service dining available on the premises Games & activities for the whole family 3. Zion Wildflower Glamping at Zion Wildflower is a truly special experience. The location, the property layout, the different camping options…I seriously love everything about this place! It makes a wonderful getaway for families and would also be lovely for a romantic couple’s trip. Zion Wildflower has a number of accommodation options…including covered wagons!...but the Grand Mesa tents are what the glamorous part of Zion National Park glamping is all about. These tents practically feel like a luxury hotel room, and each Grand Mesa tent has an in-suite bathroom and a private deck where you can appreciate the amazing views of the red rock landscape near Zion. Read more about my stay with kids at Zion Wildflower here! LOCATION Zion Wildflower sits on a hill in Virgin, UT, just a 20 minute drive from the Springdale entrance to Zion and 10 minutes from the Kolob Canyons area of the park. AMENITIES Air-conditioned tents Luxury bathhouses Pool & hot tub to soak in Yard games for kids and the whole family Fire pits to use in the evening Complimentary bicycles to borrow 4. Basecamp 37° If you’re seeking a secluded spot to stare up at the starry night skies, you can’t beat BaseCamp37° for Zion National Park glamping! This amazing place only has 5 tents on the property, so you’ll find unspoiled views on the 37th parallel. BaseCamp37° is a small, off-grid, women-owned and operated glamping property, and you’ll truly feel at home in the desert here. Each tent has a Cal King bed with handmade Oaxacan bedspread, and some of the tents also have an additional futon if you’re bringing the family or a bigger group. Read more about my glamping staycation at Basecamp 37° here! LOCATION BaseCamp37° is located in the Chocolate Cliffs of the Grand Staircase, only ten minutes from downtown Kanab and just under an hour from the east entrance of Zion National Park. AMENITIES Each tent has a private porch to relax on & soak in the views WiFi & solar-powered charging bank Two bathrooms in the main house with hot showers Communal kitchen with indoor appliances & outdoor grill Hammocks and outdoor seating areas Fire pit (s’mores supplies stocked in the kitchen) 5. Open Sky Take glamping near Zion to the next level at Open Sky, which offers seriously 5-star accommodations in their safari tents. Each tent is designed to blend into the landscape and positioned to maximize both breathtaking views and privacy. And these luxury tents are so decked out, you might not even realize you’re in a tent! While you’re well-situated to explore Zion and other hikes in the area, Open Sky also features 5 miles of hiking trails right on the property, so you can take a nice stroll before settling into your glamping accommodations for the night. LOCATION Open Sky is in Virgin, UT and actually borders the far west side of Zion National Park. It's only a half hour drive to the west entrance of the park. AMENITIES Each tent has a private patio with gas fire pit Private ensuite bathrooms and indoor & outdoor showers Luxurious linens, bath towels, and robes WiFi, bluetooth speakers, and lanterns Air conditioning & indoor gas fireplace Small refrigerator, microwave, & Keurig coffee maker 6. AutoCamp Zion For a unique spin on Zion National Park glamping, check out (or into!) AutoCamp Zion. Here you’ll be glamping in an Airstream instead of a tent…although some of the suites combine an Airstream with a tent for families and bigger groups. The classic Airstream trailer includes a queen bed under a panoramic window, a sitting room, a kitchenette, and a private bathroom with a rain shower. Along with a community firepit and lounge area, you’ll have your own patio with a fire pit to enjoy and unwind on. Plus, you can soak in the pool or dip your feet in the Virgin River, which runs right through the property. LOCATION AutoCamp Zion is located right along the Virgin River in Virgin, UT, just 20 mins from the west entrance to Zion National Park. AMENITIES Modern clubhouse and a general store to grab groceries Complimentary mountain bikes to use on the property Swimming pool (which is heated seasonally) Spa-inspired bathrooms in each Airstream Free coffee, tea, and granola each morning ***Images courtesy of Zion Ponderosa 7. Zion Ponderosa Zion Ponderosa is a large resort that offers a wide variety of accommodation options, from vacation homes to cabins to Conestoga wagons to campgrounds. While I have stayed at Zion Ponderosa many times, I haven’t tried their Zion glamping options, but I’ve always had great experiences here. You can choose from standard glamping or upgrade to the deluxe glamping tents at Zion Ponderosa, which have a deck, table, and grill. Showers and restrooms are available in a separate building nearby. You’ll also have access to the resort amenities, including a pool and hot tub. Read more about my experiences at Zion Ponderosa here! Note: Glamping at Zion Ponderosa opens in March each year. LOCATION Nestled on the east side of Zion National Park, Zion Ponderosa is perfectly situated to easily get to the less crowded east entrance of the park in just 15 minutes. AMENITIES Electricity and WiFi in the glamping tents Complimentary continental breakfast Hot showers in the shower house Access to resort facilities including a pool and hot tub Guided experiences you can book, such as canyoneering & Jeep tours 8. Cave Lakes Canyon Ranch Cave Lakes Canyon Ranch is really something special, and my team and I got to visit for a little glamping getaway. It was a magical experience where we hiked and explored the property, paddled the lovely pond, got out of our comfort zone with an exhilarating cold plunge, and laughed around the crackling fire just outside our tent. We stayed in a luxury canvas cabin, but Cave Lakes also has a few waterfront glamping tents and even a unique tent in its own amazing private cave. While Cave Lakes is the perfect home base to visit Zion, Bryce, and other awesome places in southwestern Utah, the ranch itself offers so much to explore, you might not want to leave! Read more about our Zion Adventure Photog team retreat to Cave Lakes here! LOCATION Cave Lakes Canyon Ranch is set in a private canyon just 6 miles north of Kanab, UT and half an hour from the east entrance to Zion National Park. AMENITIES Access to the 2.5 mile long private canyon Three spring-fed ponds and 110 natural water springs Onsite tour company offering adventures Hot showers and restroom facilities WiFi and power outlets to keep things charged Nothing beats a night under the stars in a beautiful landscape. Immerse yourself in the stunning red sandstone vistas of southwestern Utah and indulge in an upscale desert experience at any one of these remarkable glamping options near Zion National Park. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • A Guide to the Zion Shuttle; Zion National Park

    POV: You’re headed to Zion National Park in Utah for the first time and are ready to drive through its spectacular red rock canyon with all your windows rolled down. But wait, what is that you say? You just found out that you CAN’T drive your car through Zion Canyon?! That’s right. While beautiful, the Virgin River-carved canyon is not so friendly to many guests driving and parking. From February to November each year (and sometimes the holiday season in December), you will take the Zion Shuttle into Zion Canyon. A free shuttle runs from the Zion National Park Visitor Center to nine shuttle stops. Private cars are not allowed on the route during this time. Outside those times, you can drive your car into the Main Canyon, but parking can be tough. The other portions of the park are open to exploring in your own vehicle, but Zion Canyon has limited parking and resources, making a shuttle necessary. Unfortunately, the Zion Canyon shuttle system can be confusing for first-timers. I’m here to help you plan your ride through the canyon BEFORE you step foot in the park. Here are the basics of what you need to know to ride the Zion National Park shuttle: Zion National Park Shuttle Pricing and Availability The Zion National Park Shuttle is FREE for all park guests, but you must pay admission to the park or show your national park at the entrance station. No reservations are required; you can hop on any shuttle that isn’t full. That said, shuttles are typically full in the mornings, quieter in the early afternoon, and practically empty by early evening. If you want to hack the system, see destinations beyond the shuttle route in your private vehicle during the morning and ride the shuttle up the canyon in the afternoon or evening. You’ll get the beautiful trails and views all to yourself. SHUTTLE SCHEDULE Shuttles run seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in summer (May until September 17). The last shuttle of the day leaves the Temple of Sinawava at 8:15 p.m. and arrives at the visitor center at 9:00 p.m. From September 18-November 4, the start time shifts to 7 a.m., and the final shuttle out of the canyon leaves at 7:15 p.m. In November and December, hours are shortened. Check Zion National Park’s official shuttle schedule for more information. Good to know Zion Shuttle information You’ll board the shuttle at the visitor’s center at Zion’s Springdale entrance. It typically comes every 10-15 minutes, but you may have to wait longer if it’s crowded. There are nine stops on the route, and it will take approximately 40 minutes to travel the 7.7-mile route from the visitor’s center up the canyon to the final stop. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO On the way up, the shuttle does not stop at stops 2, 3, and 8. So, if you were looking to skip the visitor’s center by walking to another stop to board, you’re out of luck. You cannot ride the shuttle up and down as one scenic route. You’ll need to exit the shuttle at the final stop (Temple of Sinawava) and get in line to take the shuttle back down the canyon. To get from the visitor center to the last shuttle stop, #9 Temple of Sinawava it takes about 40 minutes. Local Insider Info I recently boarded the shuttle with my kiddos on a weekday in August at 10:00 am. The line looked long and I was nervous, but it only ended up taking us 18 minutes to get on the shuttle. I was pleasantly surprised by how fast it went. If you are visiting on a holiday weekend the line will be much longer and it will take significantly more time to board the shuttle. Shuttle Stops in Zion Canyon and What to See At Each One Shuttle Stop #1 - Zion Canyon Visitor Center This is the hub of the park. Here, you can go through the walk-in entrance station, visit the park gift shop, learn from exhibits in the Visitor Center, stamp your national park passport, get a junior ranger handbook for your kiddos, and buy a national park annual pass. There are two trails beginning at the visitor center: the popular 3.5-mile paved Pa’rus Trail, which you can walk or bike, and the Watchman Trail. The Pa’Rus trail is 3.5 miles long, and leashed dogs are welcome to walk on it. Great for anyone with mobility issues or disabilities who’d like to see views of the park. It’s also great for a casual stroll or for taking one of the many side trails down to the Virgin River for a little bit of solitude. The Watchman Trail in Zion National Park is often overlooked for more popular trails like Angels Landing or The Narrows, but it shouldn't be. This trail is absolutely stunning with epic Zion views and a prime view of the iconic Watchman Mountain. It’s a 3.3-mile roundtrip with about a 456-foot elevation gain, making it a fun and challenging family-friendly trail that is a must for Zion enthusiasts and new visitors alike. Shuttle Stop #2 - Zion Human History Museum This stop is a mile from the visitor center, but don’t try to bypass the crowds at the visitor center by hitting up this stop. This stop only goes down the canyon to the visitor center. You can not get on a shuttle going up canyon from this stop. Jump off here to visit this fascinating museum and gift shop. Watch the Zion Forever Project Movie, “We Are The Keepers”. It is a beautiful film about the history of the park and how we can all do our part to take care of the park. Don’t miss the viewing deck at the back of the museum where you can sit and watch the light change on the cliffs known as Temple of the Virgins. From this stop you can also access Pa’Rus Trail by taking a short path west of the museum. Shuttle Stop #3 - Canyon Junction This stop is 1.7 miles from the visitor center and ONLY goes down the canyon. You can not get on a shuttle going up the canyon from this shuttle stop. This stop provides access to the Pa’rus Trail. This is also a very popular spot to watch sunrise or sunset from the bridge. The views from the bridge are iconic with an incredible vantage point of the Watchman Mountain and the Virgin River below. Shuttle Stop #4 - Court of the Patriarchs This stop is 3.2 miles from the visitor center and provides access to the Court of Patriarchs Trail and the Sand Bench loop trail. From this stop you can follow a short, steep path for views of the three patriarchs (mountains) across the canyon: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This stop is excellent for some off-the-beaten-path exploring along the Virgin River. Make your way towards the Court Of the Patriarch mountains, and you will come to a stunning bridge and cascading waterfall. This is a beautiful spot to watch sunrise or sunset. If you walk across the bridge you can connect to 1.25-mile Sand Bench Loop. It’s a great option to get away from the crowds. Shuttle Stop #5 - Zion Lodge This popular stop is 4.3 miles from the visitor’s center and is the starting place for the Emerald Pools Trails and the Grotto Trail. Take some time at the lodge and get a bite to eat at the Castle Dome Cafe or The Grill at The Lodge. The Loge has a big grassy area to rest and enjoy some shade under a giant cottonwood tree. The Emerald Pools Trail is a can’t-miss favorite that leads to beautiful pools and waterfalls in the heart of Zion Canyon. It’s great for families and kids. It is 3 miles roundtrip to the Upper Pool, 2 miles roundtrip to the Middle Pool, and 1.2 miles roundtrip to the Lower Pool. You can connect the trails to see all the pools. The Grotto trail is a flat and easy 0.5-mile trail that will take you to The Grotto shuttle stop. Shuttle Stop #6 - The Grotto This stop is 4.9 miles from the visitor center and is the starting point for Kayenta Trail, Angels Landing, and West Rim Trail. The Kayenta Trail is 2.2 miles and leads you to the Lower Emerald Pools Trail—if you’re looking to make it a longer walk. The most popular hike on this stop is Angel’s Landing. This 5.4-mile trail has 1488 feet of elevation gain and is one of the most popular hikes in the park. If you don’t have a permit to hike the chain section, hike to Scouts Lookout and then take the West Rim Trail to continue your hike. Note: A permit is required to hike Angel’s Landing from the chain section. Do not begin your hike without one if you plan to climb the chains at the top of the trail. CHECK OUT OUR BLOG POST - Hiking Angels Landing - Zion National Park Shuttle Stop #7 - Weeping Rock This stop is 6.4 miles from the visitor center and features the Weeping Rock Trail. This 0.4-mile roundtrip hike is short, but it packs a punch with a beautiful stream, hanging gardens, and an alcove with stunning views and an endless stream of rain weeping from the rock wall overhead. This stop was once the starting point for East Rim Trail, Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point but a massive rockslide damaged the trails and it is uncertain if the trails will ever be accessible again. NOTE: You can still get to Observation Point via the East Mesa Trail on the east side of the park. No shuttle needed. Shuttle Stop #8 - Big Bend This stop is 6.6 miles from the visitor center and is a down-canyon stop only. Do not try to exit on the way up-canyon. Note that this stop does not have services like restrooms, water fountains, or hiking trails. It’s a popular rock-climbing destination and a great spot to see the park’s wildlife. Shuttle Stop #9 - Temple of Sinawava The final shuttle stop is 7.7 miles from the visitor center. It is the most popular stop, leading to the family-friendly Riverside Walk Trail, and the popular but more challenging slot canyon water hike, The Narrows. Riverside Walk trail is 2.2 miles roundtrip and is paved the whole way. You can get a preview of the Narrows by walking along it, and it is excellent for people with disabilities, children, or anyone with mobility issues. You’ll follow this paved trail to reach The Narrows. The Narrows is one of the most famous adventure hikes in Zion National Park. This hike is 4.5 miles one-way. You can hike beyond that point with a permit, but most people hike just a portion to experience being surrounded by 1,000 foot cliffs and then turn around. In the summer, this hike is the perfect reprieve from the intense summer heat. In winter, specific gear is required from outfitters to safely walk in the cold water, but you won’t find any crowds in that quieter season. CHECK OUT OUR BLOG POST - HIKING THE NARROW IN ZION NATIONAL PARK or if you are hiking with kids 10 TIPS FOR HIKING THE NARROWS WITH KIDS The Springdale Line for Lodging Guests Staying in Springdale? There’s a free shuttle that will take you from many town hotels to the park. The Springdale Line, or town shuttle, stops at nine locations in town and picks up and drops off riders at the walking or biking entrance at Zion Canyon Village. Reservations are not required for this shuttle either. Hours vary depending on the season. Bike/Shuttle Combo Another way to use the shuttle while exercising is to combine it with a bike ride. Either rent or bring your bicycle and load it on the shuttle’s racks at the visitor’s center. Ride the shuttle all the way to the final stop (Temple of Sinawava), then pull your bike off the rack and enjoy an entirely downhill pedal. You are welcome to pull over and park your bike at any of the shuttle stop parking areas, and the shuttles are not allowed to pass you on your bike until you’re fully pulled over—making this a safe way to explore, too. CHECK OUR OUR BLOG POST - E-BIKING THE ZION CANYON Zion National Park Shuttle Rules You may want to snack on a sandwich while riding, but this is prohibited. No food or drink is allowed on the shuttle besides water, so plan ahead. It’s also best to not wait for the last shuttle of the day. If you miss the last shuttle, you may have to walk the nine miles back to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center! Pets are not allowed on shuttle buses. That's about it! Once you figure it out, the Zion Shuttle system is super easy to navigate. I hope this guide helps you plan your trip next time you visit Zion National Park. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • Hiking Cascade Falls- Duck Creek, Utah

    Looking for epic views and a unique waterfall without embarking on a lengthy trek? Cascade Falls Trail is your dream hike! At only 1.2 miles round trip- out and back, and less than 150 feet of elevation gain, this hike delivers stunning views overlooking the southern edge of the Markagunt Plateau and Zion National Park. At the farthest point out from the trailhead, you'll be treated to Cascade Falls, a rare type of waterfall that starts in Navajo Lake, drains through a lava tube, flows straight out of a cave on the side of a mountain, and cascades down steep cliffs filling the North Fork of the Virgin River. Cascade Falls is a fairly straightforward hike perfect for families, but it's always best to take a look at a map of the trail before you start hiking. LOCATION OF CASCADE FALLS Cascade Falls is located on Cedar Mountain near the small mountain town of Duck Creek, Utah. The trailhead is a 45-minute drive from Cedar City, a 70-minute drive from Bryce Canyon National Park, an 85-minute drive from Hurricane, and a 95-minute drive from Springdale. CLICK HERE FOR DRIVING DIRECTIONS HIKE DIFFICULTY FOR CASCADE FALLS IN DUCK CREEK Cascade Falls is an easy, well-maintained trail with less than 150 feet of elevation gain. The gravel path is lined with stairs and benches on which to rest as the elevation goes up and down. This is a family-friendly hike, but keep your little ones close. The gravel can be slippery, and there are some steep drop-offs. As with any hike, it's a good idea to wear appropriate footwear, carry enough water, and be aware of weather conditions. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO LENGTH Cascade Falls Trail is a 1.2 mile round trip- out and back hike. Average hike time is 30 minutes. BEST TIME TO HIKE CASCADE FALLS IN DUCK CREEK Cascade Falls is best hiked from late May through October. Due to the increased water flow from spring snowmelt, visiting in early summer will give you the best chance to see the waterfall flowing at its peak. In drier years, the water may stop flowing by the fall. The trail is inaccessible in the winter months through early May due to snow. TRAIL DETAILS FOR CASCADE FALLS You will start your hike at the Cascade Falls Trailhead. Be sure to check the trailhead for any posted notices or updated information. The trail begins by meandering through the lush pine forests of Dixie National Forest. The path is generally well-maintained but may have some areas with uneven footing. Take in the sights and sounds of the forest as you hike. With stunning views overlooking the southern edge of the Markagunt Plateau and Zion National Park, you will come across interesting flora and fauna along the way. This is a favorite hike for bird watchers- lucky birders may even spot the Lewis's Woodpecker or a Pygmy Nuthatch. As you continue along the trail, you'll hear the sound of rushing water. This is a sign that you're getting closer to the bread and butter of this quick hike- Cascade Falls. Be prepared for some elevation change as you approach the falls. Wooden stairs along the path will make this easier. Eventually, you'll arrive at Cascade Falls. The waterfall is a multi-tiered beauty fed by Navajo Lake, with water cascading over rocky cliffs. The sight and sound of the falls are quite impressive, especially in the spring when the snowmelt increases the flow. When you're ready to head back, retrace your steps along the same trail to return to the trailhead. Always be respectful of the land. Leave no trace and pack in + out anything you bring with you. Leave nothing behind. GOOD TO KNOW Pit toilets are available at the large parking area. Cascade Falls is at a higher elevation than much of Southern Utah, bringing slightly cooler temperatures. Even so, hikers should still be prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen. Dogs are permitted on the trail and may be off-leash in some areas. The trailhead is located within Dixie National Forest. There are no entrance fees. List Of Things To Bring With You When Hiking Cascade Falls HIKING SHOES OR HIKING SANDALS - Hiking shoes or hiking sandals are an excellent option for this hike. Click here for my favorite hiking sandals on the planet..... I'm a Teva's girl! HIKING CLOTHES - Wear comfortable, light and breathable clothes if visiting in the summer. If visiting in the spring/fall, bring a light jacket. Chances are it will warm up mid-day. SUNSCREEN - Always take sunscreen with you wherever you go in the desert HAT & SUNGLASSES - The sun is intense. Having a hat and sunglasses is a must. SNACKS AND LOTS OF WATER - Always hike with snacks and plenty of water HIKING DAY PACK - You will want a small backpack to carry snacks, water, camera & phone. Best Places To Stay When Visiting Southern Utah I recommend staying a few days in the Hurricane Valley to explore all the different sections of Zion. There is so much to see and do. The Hurricane Valley is located 30 minutes from the west entrance of Zion National Park, 2 hours from Bryce Canyon, 2 hours from the north entrance of the Grand Canyon, and 1 hour from the Cascade Falls trail.. READ MORE ABOUT VISITING THE HURRICANE VALLEY HERE SPEND THE DAY IN DUCK CREEK, UT You've spent some time hiking and now want to unwind? Duck Creek is a thriving mountain town located within Dixie National Forest, featuring restaurants and shops perfect for a quick getaway. Duck Creek Village sits at an elevation of approximately 8,400 feet, making it a popular destination for a break from the summer heat found in most of Southern Utah. For an afternoon adventure after your hike, seek out Duck Creek's many guides for fishing, horseback riding, ATV riding, and mountain biking. My parents built a beautiful cabin in Duck Creek that we love. Lucky you, they also rent it out. Check in out on AirBnb here. ***Hidden Haven Trail 12 Hikes + Things To Do Close To Cascade Falls Trail Duck Creek Village Brian Head Hike The Navajo Loop Trail Cedar City Utah Shakespearean Festival Hiking Ashdown Gorge Hiking Spring Creek Canyon Trail Swim At Navajo Lake Spend A Day In Bryce Canyon National Park Hiking Taylor Creek In Kolob Canyons Hiking Kanarraville Falls Visit Hidden Haven Falls Cascade Falls trail is one of those magical Southern Utah hikes with big views, a stunning waterfall and a short hike. What more could you ask for! I hope you get a chance to enjoy this trail on your next adventure to Southern Utah. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • Hiking Northgate Peaks Trail On Kolob Terrace in Zion National Park

    Want to get off the beaten path and visit areas of Zion National Park less traveled? This is how you do it! Northgate Peaks Trail is located in the stunning Kolob Terrace section of Zion National Park. The trail takes you along a flat ponderosa pine forest for 2 miles and then rewards you with stunning views of Zion peaks and backcountry canyons. Located at almost 7,000 feet in the protected Zion Wilderness Area, this secluded trail is a refreshing break from the high summer temperatures found in most of the park. The trail can be a little confusing so pay attention to the signs and look at the map of the trail at the trailhead before you start hiking. This is the area of Zion that most people don’t see. It’s so worth it to get off the beaten path and explore all that Zion has to offer. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO Location Northgate Peaks Trail starts at Wildcat Canyon Trailhead a little more than 15 miles up Kolob Terrace Road. (This is also the starting point for Wildcat Canyon Trail and The Subway top-down route.) The trailhead is a 40-minute drive from Hurricane, a 40-minute drive from Springdale, and a 75-minute drive from Cedar City. CLICK HERE FOR DRIVING DIRECTIONS Difficulty This is a flat and easy trail with only about 100 feet of elevation gain. While not extremely strenuous, hikers should be prepared for slight elevation changes and uneven footing. As with any hike, it's a good idea to wear appropriate footwear, carry enough water, and be aware of weather conditions. Length Northgate Peaks Trail is a 4.5 mile round trip- out and back hike. Average hike time is 1.5-2.5 hours. Best Time To Hike Northgate Peaks Trail Northgate Peaks Trail is best hiked in the spring, summer, and fall. August is one of the most beautiful times to hike on Kolob Terrace due to the many wildflowers in bloom along the trail. Another great reason to take this hike during the summer months is because it is at a higher elevation (almost 7,000 feet) so it is a little cooler than many of the more popular Zion hikes. Please note that the trail is not accessible in the winter months from November - April because of snow. Trail Details The Northgate Peaks Trail is a beautiful hiking trail located in the almost 200- square mile protected Zion Wilderness Area of Zion National Park. This designated wilderness area, of which Kolob Terrace is a part, encompasses a diverse range of landscapes, including canyons, mesas, arches, and unique rock formations. This trail is perfect for people who enjoy exploring nature, want to see some amazing views, and are looking for an off the beaten path Zion experience. When you start hiking the Northgate Peaks Trail, you'll find yourself surrounded by tall ponderosa pines, stunning wildflower filled meadows, and interesting rock formations. The trail is about 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers) round-trip, so it's a good idea to wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring some water to stay hydrated. After setting off at the trailhead, you will hike east approximately 1.2 miles along the Wildcat Canyon Trail. After passing the intersection with Connector Trail, you will turn right onto Northgate Peaks Trail. Hike along the trail for another mile and you’ll find yourself right between Northgate Peak West and Northgate Peak East. These are massive rock formations that sort of look like big towers made out of stone. They're really impressive and provide an epic backdrop for photos. When you get to the peaks, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. After spending some time taking in the views and enjoying the peacefulness of the mountains, you can start making your way back down the trail to the starting point. Overall, the Northgate Peaks Trail is a moderate-level hike that offers a great mix of nature, exercise, and stunning views. It's a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just someone who loves to explore, this trail has something special to offer. Always be respectful of the land. Leave no trace and pack in + out anything you bring with you. Leave nothing behind. Good To Know While there are pit toilets at the trailhead, there isn’t any water, so be sure to bring all the water you need for this hike with you. No dogs are permitted on the trail. Please plan to leave your 4-legged friends at home. There are no service stations along Kolob Terrace Road, so make sure you have plenty of fuel and a spare tire. Cell service is also spotty. All guests are required to show your Park Pass or pay the Zion National Park entrance fee. List Of Things To Bring With You HIKING SHOES OR HIKING SANDALS - Hiking shoes or hiking sandals are a great option for this hike. Click here for my favorite hiking sandals on the planet.....I'm a Teva's girl! HIKING CLOTHES - Wear comfortable, light and breathable clothes if visiting in the summer. If visiting in the spring/fall, bring a light jacket. Chances are it will warm up mid-day. SUNSCREEN - Always take sunscreen with your wherever you go in the desert HAT & SUNGLASSES - The sun is intense. Having a hat and sunglasses is a must. SNACKS, AND LOTS OF WATER - Always hike with snacks and plenty of water HIKING DAY PACK - You will want a small backpack to carry snacks, water, camera & phone. Best Places To Stay When Visiting Kolob Terrace I recommend staying a few days in the Hurricane Valley to explore all the different sections of Zion. There is so much to see and do. The Hurricane Valley is located 30 minutes from the west entrance of Zion National park, 2 hours from Bryce Canyon, 2 hours from the north entrance of the Grand Canyon, and 40 minutes from Northgate Peaks Trail. READ MORE ABOUT VISITING THE HURRICANE VALLEY HERE Top Lodging Recommendations Near Northgate Peaks Trail So, you’re sold on an off the beaten path hike and you want to take that a step farther with a fun and unique lodging experience? We’ve compiled our favorite places to stay close to Northgate Peaks Trail. Located only 20 minutes from the trailhead, Zion Under Canvas offers a unique glamping experience, providing luxury tents with modern amenities set against the backdrop of breathtaking red rock landscapes. It combines the adventure of camping with the comfort of upscale accommodations. Zion Wildflower Resort is a charming retreat located only 30 minutes from Wildcat Canyon Trailhead. This brand-new glamping destination provides guests with many different types of cozy accommodations in a fun and relaxing setting. Just 35 minutes from Northgate Peaks Trail sits The Dwellings, a modern tiny home property on the rim of the Virgin River, overlooking a beautiful 344-acre park below. The setting is incredible, with views of the emerald-colored river against the backdrop of lava rock cliffs and panoramic views of Pine Valley Mountain. 17 Hikes + Things To Do Close To Northgate Peaks Trail 1 - Visit Cedar Breaks 2 - Hike Timber Creek Overlook Trail 3 - Hike Kanarra Falls 4 - Hike Taylor CreekTrail 5 - Visit Sheeps Bridge Park 6 - Hike Lambs Knoll 7 - Visit Grafton Ghost Town 8 - Hike Red Reef Trail 9 - Visit Snow Canyon State Park 10 - Hike Watchman Trail 11 - E-bike The Canyon 12 - Hike Lower Pine Creek Falls 13 - Hike Ashdown Gorge 14 - Go to the Shakespearean Festival 15 - Canoe Navajo Lake 16. Hike Grapevine Trail 17. Hike The Subway NorthGate Peaks trail is a Zion hike that will let you enjoy some solitude while getting out and into some areas that most people visiting Zion don't see, so get out and enjoy! Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • 12 Awesome & Adventurous Day Trips from Zion National Park

    Southern Utah is simply spectacular, and if you’re planning a visit just to see Zion National Park, you might need to add a few more things to your must-see list. I highly recommend adding on a few day trips from Zion National Park to explore the surrounding area in southern Utah and into Arizona and Nevada. From photogenic spots that you’ve seen all over social media to hidden gems where you can escape the crowds, these day trips from Zion are absolutely worth adding onto to your southern Utah itinerary. The Top 12 Day Trips from Zion National Park Even though a visit to Zion might be what brings you to southern Utah, you’ll find so much more here. Check out my 12 favorite day trips from Zion National Park: Kodachrome Basin State Park Cedar Breaks National Monument Lake Powell Page, AZ Bryce Canyon National Park Snow Canyon State Park Brian Head, UT North Rim of the Grand Canyon Cathedral Gorge State Park, NV Valley of Fire State Park, NV Great Basin National Park Kanab, UT The drive times mentioned below for these day trips from Zion National Park are estimates from the Springdale entrance to Zion. Some of the destinations require you to drive through the park (so you need to have a pass or pay the entrance fee) or take a somewhat longer detour around the park. NOTE: Be aware that Utah is in a different time zone than Nevada, if you’re heading to a destination there. And Utah observes daylight savings time but Arizona does not, so keep that in mind when you’re taking day trips from Zion in Utah to locations in Arizona from March to November. 1. Kodachrome Basin State Park With all the amazing places in southern Utah, Kodachrome Basin State Park tends to get overlooked, but it’s really a hidden gem worth exploring. Kodachrome Basin features 67 stunning stone spires (known as sedimentary pipes) made of multicolored sandstone. In fact, the colors you will find here are what led the area to be named after the Kodak color film in 1948. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO DISTANCE FROM ZION Kodachrome Basin State Park is just over 2 hours northeast of Zion and about a half an hour east of Bryce Canyon National Park. Driving through Zion is the quickest way to get there from Springdale. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO While it’s not quite Angels Landing in Zion, Angel’s Palace is a lovely, family-friendly 1.5 mile loop hike that showcases the gorgeous landscape of Kodachrome Basin. For a moderate hike, check out Panorama Trail, a nearly 6-mile double loop that takes you to Panorama Point and passes by several of the park’s sandstone spires. Mountain bikers can also ride on three of the trails in Kodachrome Basin – Panorama Trail, Big Bear Geyser Trail, and Grand Parade Loop. And don’t miss Grosvenor Arch nearby! This incredible double arch of yellow sandstone is about 30 mins away in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 2. Cedar Breaks National Monument Described as the “Circle of the Painted Cliffs,” Cedar Breaks National Monument is a naturally-formed rock coliseum full of colorful arches, hoodoos, and canyons. It’s also home to ancient bristlecone pine trees which add even more intrigue to the breathtaking landscape. DISTANCE FROM ZION Cedar Breaks National Monument is near the town of Brian Head, approximately a 1.5 hour drive north from Springdale. You do not have to drive through Zion to get there (although you can). COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO Explore the variety of terrain in Cedar Breaks by hiking to Alpine Pond, a 2-mile loop trail through forest and meadows with plenty of views of the rock formations. After you reach the pond, the trail continues through some bristlecone pines before heading back. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a fantastic place to visit in the winter, when you can snowshoe or cross-country ski on the trails. You can even go snowmobiling on the trail that runs along Utah Highway 148. 3. Lake Powell Looking for an oasis on your desert adventure? Lake Powell is the perfect day trip from Zion for you! This massive reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam is such a fun place to splash around, and the whole family will love it. DISTANCE FROM ZION Lake Powell is just over 2 hours west of Zion. You’ll have to drive through the park on UT-9, then take US-89 until just after you cross the border into Arizona. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO The Chains area of Lake Powell is my favorite spot since you don’t need a boat to have fun here. You can swim, cliff jump, or explore and hike around the red rocks. You can rent kayaks and SUPs at many places on Lake Powell or take a boat tour if you do want to get out on the water. Cathedral in the Desert is a super cool site to explore that was once hidden underwater but has since emerged. You can only get there by boat or kayak. 4. Page, AZ You must add Page to your southern Utah itinerary…it’s a little town perfectly situated right by some of the most breathtaking outdoor spaces in the entire southwest. While it might be worth spending more than just a day here, you can still check a lot of things off your bucket list on one of the best day trips from Zion National Park. DISTANCE FROM ZION Page is around 2.5 hours east of Springdale. The drive will be slightly shorter if you go through Zion, or a little longer if you head through Hurricane then take AZ-389. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed sites in Arizona and an absolute must-see in Page. Park in the lot right outside town ($10 fee) and take a 1.5 mile hike on a paved path to the famous overlook. Antelope Canyon is another stunning attraction near Page. The light streaming through these sandstone slot canyons will truly take your breath away! Since the canyon is on private land in the Navajo Nation, you must take a guided tour to hike through Antelope Canyon. If you don't want to do a guided tour you can paddle board from Lake Powell to visit a differrent section of the canyon. If you can snag one of the coveted permits to hike The Wave, the trailhead for this iconic sandstone formation is about an hour from Page. And, of course, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell are right outside Page when you need a refreshing dip in a desert swimming hole. 5. Bryce Canyon National Park Visit two incredible national parks in southern Utah by taking a southern Utah road trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. Even though these parks are so close together, the landscape of Bryce looks so different…it’s all about the hoodoos here! DISTANCE FROM ZION Bryce Canyon is northeast of Zion, and it’s about a 2 hour drive if you go through the park or 2.5 hours if you go the long way around through Cedar City. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO Navajo Loop Trail is the number one hike I would recommend in Bryce! It takes you from Sunset Point down below the rim to the Wall Street slot canyon. You can head back up the switchbacks the way you came or connect to the Queen’s Garden Trail for a 3-mile loop that takes you back up to Sunrise Point. For a longer hike in Bryce Canyon, check out the Fairyland Loop Trail. This 8-mile hike heads down from Fairyland Point into the amphitheater of the canyon where you’ll find yourself surrounded by hoodoos. You can also see the arches of the Tower Bridge formation on a short spur off this hike. 6. Snow Canyon State Park Snow Canyon State Park is really one of the best day trips from Zion, since it’s quite close by but offers a lot more solitude. You’ll still find awesome views and plenty of amazing sandstone and basalt rock formations here. DISTANCE FROM ZION Snow Canyon State Park is just north of St. George, so it’s about an hour drive to the west of Springdale. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO The Petrified Sand Dunes are so fun to explore! The out & back hike is just over a mile, but you don’t need to stay on the trail as you walk around these hills of Navajo sandstone…kids will love running around here. A short, sandy walk of about half a mile will lead you through Jenny’s Canyon, an easy slot canyon that the whole family will enjoy. The Lava Tube Trail is a unique hiking experience with wide open views of the desert but also three different caves you can go in and explore. Bring a headlamp or flashlight for these! 7. Brian Head, UT Brian Head is known as the place to ski in southern Utah, but it’s also a premier summer destination and totally worth a day trip from Zion any time of year. Because Brian Head is at higher elevation (around 10,000 feet), it makes a cooler escape from the summer heat. DISTANCE FROM ZION It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Springdale to Brian Head north along I-15 through Cedar City. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO In the winter, hit the slopes and go skiing at Brian Head Resort. In the summer, you can mountain bike down the hill on 18 different trails instead. (Lift ticket required.) Grab an all-day activity pass ($15/adult & $10 for kids) to experience all the summer activities at Brian Head Resort, including hiking, zip lining, bungee trampolining, and so much more fun. You’ll also have access to the 18-hole disc golf course on the mountain. 8. North Rim of the Grand Canyon While the vast majority of visitors to the Grand Canyon go to the South Rim, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is equally incredible…and a much shorter drive for a day trip from Zion. Take in the epic canyon views from the North Rim without the overwhelming crowds! Note: The North Rim closes to vehicles in the winter (typically around mid-November) and reopens in mid-May. DISTANCE FROM ZION To get to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s about a 3-hour drive south from Springdale (through the park or not). COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO The most popular scenic overlook on the North Rim is Bright Angel Point. Here is where you’ll find those sweeping views of the massive Grand Canyon. For sunrise or sunset, check out the Cape Royal viewpoint, which also lets you see all the way down to the Colorado River. Definitely stop at the Roughrider Saloon during your visit to the North Rim. It’s a coffeehouse in the morning that turns into a bar later in the day…and you can’t beat sipping a margarita at sunset on the patio! 9. Cathedral Gorge State Park, NV Cathedral Gorge State Park is full of spires, but not the red sandstone ones typical of the area. These cream-colored clay spires were formed after a volcanic eruption over a million years ago, and they erode and reshape each time it rains so the landscape will never be exactly the same. DISTANCE FROM ZION It’s just over a 2-hour drive from Springdale northwest to Cathedral Gorge, which is across the state border in Nevada. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO Just south of the parking area by the water tower, you’ll find a maze of caves, slot canyons, and spires which you can wander around and explore to your heart’s content. For a nice family-friendly hike, take Miller Point Trail, which is about 2 miles round trip. From Miller Point Overlook, you’ll get an awesome view back down the whole canyon. 10. Valley of Fire State Park, NV In a region of gorgeous landscapes, Valley of Fire State Park stands out with red sandstone formations contrasting with lighter colored rock structures. Petrified trees and petroglyphs add to the other-worldly feel of this desert landscape. DISTANCE FROM ZION Valley of Fire State Park is located in Nevada, just over 2 hours southwest of Zion on the way to Las Vegas and near Lake Mead. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO Definitely hike to Fire Wave, an incredible red and white striped formation that will blow your mind. The trail is just over a mile round trip (and it’s closed in summer due to heat). Another must-see at Valley of Fire is the White Domes, which stand out from the orange and red desert backdrop. The mile-long loop hike also takes you through slot canyons and caves. If you want to see the petroglyphs in the park, head to Atlatl Rock where ancient Puebloans carved symbols into the sandstone. 11. Great Basin National Park Great Basin National Park doesn’t attract the crowds of the national parks in southern Utah like Zion, but it is an amazing landscape that is very different from the desert sandstone. Great Basin features Nevada’s second tallest mountain, Wheeler Peak, along with cool limestone caves and ancient bristlecone pines. DISTANCE FROM ZION This is one of the longer day trips from Zion, but it’s absolutely worth it. Great Basin is around a 3-hour drive northwest, just over the state line into Nevada. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO At the top of the list of things to do in Great Basin is to see the stalactites, stalagmites, and unique shield formations in Lehman Caves. You need to take a ranger-guided tour to explore the caves, and advanced reservations are highly recommended, since the tours sell out. Also, be sure to check out the ancient bristlecone pine groves along the Bristlecone Trail. You can connect this trail with the Glacier Trail for a nearly 4-mile hike that culminates in a view of the only glacier in Nevada, which sits beneath Wheeler Peak. 12. Kanab, UT Kanab is one of my favorite little towns in southern Utah, surrounded by the wide open desert and red rock cliffs. It’s a fantastic day trip since it’s super close to Zion, but you can also make it your home base for adventures and go glamping at Basecamp37. For even more fun things to do in Kanab, check out my detailed blog post full of 20 Reasons you should visit Kanab. DISTANCE FROM ZION Kanab is just north only about an hour away from Zion driving through the park east on UT-9, then taking US-89 south until just before the Arizona border. COOL HIKES & OTHER THINGS TO DO While The Wave is the most famous hike near Kanab, you’ll find lots more awesome trails for family-friendly adventures. Belly of the Dragon is a cool tunnel in an old water culvert, Moqui Caverns/Kanab Sand Caves are a must-see, and the fun formations of The Toadstools will delight everyone. Kanab is also home to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a 3,700 acre haven for adoptable animals. Take a tour and play with all the adorable furry friends! I hope this amazing list of day trips from Zion National Park is just the inpiration you need to add a few more travel days onto your trip to Southern Utah! Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • 15 Refreshing Swimming Holes in Utah (Beat the Heat in Southern Utah)

    When you’re seeking an oasis during the heat of a dry desert summer, check out one of these awesome swimming holes in southern Utah. From lakes to rivers to waterfalls, these refreshing spots are where you want to go to cool off during your desert adventures. Splash In These Swimming Holes in Southern Utah Here’s a list of my favorite swimming holes in southern Utah, where I love to escape for a break from the heat. Sheeps Bridge Park (aka Falls Park) Fire Lake/Ivins Reservoir Babylon Arch Swimming Hole Lower Pine Creek Falls Sand Hollow State Park Confluence Park Quail Creek State Park Toquerville Falls Pa’Rus Trail Gunlock Reservoir Virgin River Skimboard Park Navajo Lake Lake at The Hills Lake Powell Jackson Flat Reservoir I’ve included all my local insider tips for these swimming holes in Utah, so you can choose the perfect one – or more! – for you to explore. Many of these spots are free to access, but I’ve noted the ones which have entry fees. 1. Sheeps Bridge Park (aka Falls Park) - Virgin, UT Sheeps Bridge Park, also known as Falls Park, is truly one of the best swimming holes near Zion. You can do a little (mild) cliff jumping here, and the kids will love tubing down this section of the Virgin River. It’s also a very sandy area, so bring the sand toys to have some fun on the beach, too. Local tip: From the end of June through July, you’ll find that this spot is full of tiny baby frogs! 2. Fire Lake/Ivins Reservoir - Ivins, UT Fire Lake is a beautiful place to enjoy the water with views of the famous red sandstone of the desert and stunning views of Snow Canyon State Park in the distance.. A few years ago, the Ivins Reservoir was transformed into this regional recreational site, which features clean bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, a pergola, and grassy fields for the whole family to enjoy. You can kayak, canoe, tube, swim, and even fish in the lake, or just relax on the beach. It’s really an awesome spot to spend a day! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO 3. Babylon Swimming Hole - Leeds, UT Deep in the desert near Leeds, UT, drive a windy dirt road to a hidden gem of a swimming hole on the Virgin River. Along with the sandy shore and deep patches for swimming, you’ll also find sandstone cliffs you can climb up and then jump in the water from. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you to stay hydrated while you’re enjoying the beach. And watch out – the deep sand surrounding the river in this little area gets really hot in the summer, so be sure to protect your feet. LOCAL TIP: The dirt road to the trailhead is a little rough in sections and the sand can get pretty deep, I would highly recommend a 4WD vehicle so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck. 4. Lower Pine Creek Falls - Zion National Park This place is seriously one of my favorite swimming holes in Southern Utah…I just love Lower Pine Creek Falls! This spot is a bit of a secret in Zion National Park, since the park doesn’t advertise it, so it’s extra special because it’s more secluded. Stream hopping and boulder scrambling on the short trail will take you to a couple pools and a waterfall with a nice sandy beach. You can even jump from the little cliffs into the water…it’s so fun! Fees: You’ll need to pay the $35 entry fee/vehicle for Zion or have an annual National Parks pass. 5. Sand Hollow State Park - Hurricane, UT The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is the perfect place to spend a day enjoying the water with a beautiful backdrop of red rocks. Everyone can get in on the fun, from playing in the sand to swimming to watersports. Sand Hollow Reservoir is a super popular sport for cliff jumping, with beginner to advanced cliffs. Find out more details about cliff jumping and exploring the lake in my full blog post about visiting Sand Hollow State Park. Fees: It costs $15 (weekdays) or $20 (Fri-Sun) per vehicle for residents ($20-$25 for non-residents) to enter Sand Hollow State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass. Increased weekend fees apply from March through October. 6. Confluence Park - Hurricane, UT Confluence Park is a 344 acre sanctuary in La Verkin, with a trail that runs along the Virgin River where you can find two swimming holes. One of the spots you can swim is about a ¾ mile hike from the La Verkin trailhead, while the other is right below The Dwellings. Enjoy a sandy beach, picnic tables, and even a rope swing here! Local tip: Confluence Park sits in a gorge below The Dwellings, which I highly recommend for lodging in La Verkin. If you stay at The Dwellings, you even get your own dedicated access point to the park. 7. Quail Creek State Park - Hurricane, UT At Quail Creek State Park, you’ll find a spectacular reservoir where you can soak in the water all day long. A lot of improvements have been made at the reservoir over the past few years, and now you’ll find plenty of picnic benches and shade structures all over. Along with swimming, SUPing, and kayaking, you can play at the St. George Aqua Adventures Waterpark right in the reservoir. Kids of all ages will have an absolute blast on the water slides, obstacle course, trampolines, and swing…and believe me, adults will have a ton of fun, too. (The waterpark requires tickets purchased online or walk-in.) Local tip: You can rent kayaks and paddleboards right on the shore from DIG Paddlesports…which also has a great concession stand when you need snacks. Fees: It costs $15/vehicle for residents or $20/vehicle for non-residents to enter Quail Creek State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass. 8. Toquerville Falls - Toquerville, UT This double waterfall oasis is truly what desert dreams are made of! Toquerville Falls is one of the most epic waterfalls in southern Utah, and the whole family will savor the time spent splashing around in these stunning waterfalls. You don’t even have to hike to get here. Local tip: But you do NEED a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle to make it to Toquerville Falls. There is a nearly six-mile stretch of road to the falls that isn’t accessible in any other vehicle. Do not try to drive this road in anything less…seriously, you will get stuck and ruin your car. 9. Pa’Rus Trail - Zion National Park Most people miss the Pa’rus Trail since it’s right near the entrance to Zion. But it is a lovely paved trail running along the Virgin River, so it’s perfect for stopping to dip your toes in the water...or even go for a swim. In fact, “Pa’rus” means “bubbling water” in Paiute. The trail begins behind the South Campground and runs from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. Fees: Since the Pa’rus Trail is located within the Zion park boundaries, you’ll need to pay the $35 entry fee/vehicle ($20/pedestrian) or have an annual National Parks pass. LOCAL TIP: Also check out George Barker River Park right outside the park entrance in Springdale. You can enjoy a sandy beach area along the river here, with amazing views of Zion. Both the Pa’Rus Trail and George Barker River Park are dog-friendly if you have a four-legged family member. 10. Gunlock Reservoir - Gunlock, UT About 15 miles northwest of St. George, you’ll find the welcoming waters of Gunlock Reservoir. You can boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, fish, and swim in the reservoir at Gunlock State Park. Beach campgrounds are available on a first-come/first-serve basis if you want to spend more time on the water. And if you’re lucky, Gunlock Falls might even be flowing during your visit! Fees: It’s $10 per vehicle for residents or $15 per vehicle for non-residents to enter Gunlock State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass. 11. Virgin River Skimboard Park - Washington, UT The Virgin River Skimboard Park is a unique spot where kids can bring their own skimboards and play in the small waves. A man-made waterfall has created small pools to splash around in, and I see people bring sand toys and beach chairs and just spend the whole day here. 12. Navajo Lake - Cedar Mountain, UT Located in Dixie National Forest, Navajo Lake is absolutely gorgeous! It’s also absolutely freezing, since it’s an alpine lake on top of Cedar Mountain. It was naturally formed by lava flow and you can explore the lava beds in the area when the water gets too chilly. 13. Lake at The Hills - Cedar City, UT Lake at The Hills is a small, man-made lake right in the middle of Cedar City. It’s easily accessible if you just want to take a quick dip, and you can also go kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing here. 14. Lake Powell - Page, AZ Lake Powell is the largest man-made lake in North America, and you’ll want a boat to explore a lot of it. But my favorite section of Lake Powell is The Chains, which is super easy to get to without a boat. The Chains is located just past Glen Canyon Dam on the Page side of the lake, and it is awesome for swimming, cliff jumping, and scrambling around the red rocks. Find out all about exploring The Chains at Lake Powell in my guide here. 15. Jackson Flat Reservoir - Kanab, UT A beautiful little lake in Kanab, Jackson Flat Reservoir is a really nice spot for playing in the water and hanging out. You’ll find lots to do here, with a sand volleyball court, a disc golf course, and even an outdoor gym. We loved e-biking on the trail around the lake. Local tip: You can rent e-bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards at ROAM Surf & Sport at Jackson Flat. Virgin River Algal Bloom Advisory Algal bloom toxins were discovered in the Virgin River in July 2020 after a puppy died 20 minutes after coming in contact with the water. Since then, the Zion has been monitoring toxin levels in the park’s streams and rivers. As of July 2023, the park has downgraded most of the water bodies in the park to a Health Watch level, while North Creek (including The Subway) remains at a Warning Advisory level. You can check the current status of the Virgin River Watershed monitoring here. During warning advisories, the park recommends that recreators avoid swimming or submerging their head in the river because toxins can enter the body by swallowing water or through the nose, eyes, or open wounds. Drinking water from the Virgin River is NOT advised. Toxins cannot be filtered out by standard hiking filtration methods. Dogs must be kept on a leash. If pets get into the river, remove them from the water immediately, rinse off their fur thoroughly, and monitor for symptoms of toxin poisoning. A dog can die in as little as 15 minutes from anatoxin-a poisoning. Thoughts from a Local Since July 2020, thousands of people have continued hiking The Narrows and swimming in the Virgin River. I have hiked The Narrows and swam in the Virgin River myself, and I have not gotten sick or heard of anyone getting sick. Tips for Enjoying Swimming Holes in Utah Bring lots of water, especially to the spots you have to hike into. Even though you’re playing in the water, you’re still in the desert where it’s easy to get dangerously dehydrated (and the water at swimming holes isn’t safe for drinking). Use sun protection! Waterproof sunscreen is key here, since the desert sun is still hot even when you feel cool in the water. Don’t forget towels if you want them…or you can just air dry pretty quickly in the dry desert heat. A lot of these spots have nice sandy beaches, so I love bringing sand toys for the kids. As always make sure to Leave No Trace, and clean up all your trash. Leave the swimming hole looking better than you found it for other people to enjoy as much as you did. Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • Best RV Park in Southern Utah; Dark Sky RV Resort in Kanab, Utah

    Looking for an RV park that ups the ante for your Southern Utah getaway? Take advantage of Dark Sky RV Resort in Kanab Utah. Dark Sky is a boutique RV park near Kanab and Coral Pink Sand Dunes. I stayed in June with my three kids, ages 7, 10, and 13, and we had a blast exploring all this property had to offer. We love that they paid attention to details when building the park, adding valuable perks for families traveling together. The property sits on 40 acres of wide-open sagebrush just east of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. It is just a few miles from the Utah-Arizona border--making it the perfect basecamp for any Southern Utah adventure. It features 18 pull-through sites with full hookups and glamping-style amenities like propane fire pits, shade structures, hammocks, lounge furniture, and an outdoor dining table. By day, take in vermillion and red cliff vistas, then wait for sunset to see the Milky Way and stars fill the dark skies. Trails winding through the property are fun for kids and grown-ups to stroll along, and the hilltop seating area is the perfect place to take in a stunning sunset. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO The amenities go far beyond scenic views; Dark Sky RV Resort also boasts communal gathering spaces, exceptional bathrooms, fast WiFi, dog-friendly facilities, and outdoor adventures the whole family will love. Communal Gathering Spaces at Dark Sky RV Resort in Kanab, Utah After we checked in, we enjoyed meeting other campers at the outdoor communal space. We barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs there one night and enjoyed the cozy seating around the fire pit. There's also a full outdoor kitchen and an Ooni pizza oven to create an Italian feast. Cornhole and tether ball were set up in the area, and my kids had a blast playing. The space also hosts a social hour on Thursdays so campers can meet and a series of summer sound baths and meditations. Walk from the communal area to a hilltop with lounge chairs to take in the southern Utah vistas. Kids activities at Dark Sky RV in Southern Utah One thoughtful detail I loved about Dark Sky was the kids' activity focus. My kiddos rode the 75' zipline again and again and again. I wished it were big enough for adults too! There's also a dig pit with bones where kids can play paleontologist or dig for buried treasure. Honor System Store at Dark Sky If you didn't bring food or just forgot something and want to get it without heading into town, visit the park's honor system store. It's open 24 hours a day and has no attendant, so you must account for your purchase. The store has snacks, coffee, farm-fresh eggs, sodas, handmade touristy items, beer and wine, and Keurig coffee. On hot days, open the cooler to find some great ice cream bars. Cash, Venmo, and PayPal are accepted in the market. The Best Modern Bathhouses for an RV Park Suppose you're used to typical campground bathrooms with dirty pit toilets. In that case, you'll be blown away by the hip, elegant bathhouses at Dark Sky. The two bathrooms are next level and feature high-end amenities like heated floors, indoor/outdoor showers, and open-air laundry facilities. They're especially great if you don't have a full RV and travel in a smaller rental van like we did. It gives everyone more space and comfort and keeps you from dirtying the van's facilities. Dog-friendly Lodging in Kanab While I don't have a dog, Dark Sky is a great place to bring your furry friend. Fido can play in the leash-free enclosed park, and there's doggie daycare on-site that you can use if you're planning to visit a national park or another site that doesn't allow pets. It's just $15 for short visits and $50 for the whole day. Stay Connected Worried about staying connected to home or work while you're away? Don't be. Dark Sky has excellent cell coverage and fiber optic WiFi for working remotely or just creating Instagram Reels of your trip. Rental Options at Dark Sky If you want to reach the backcountry, rent one of Dark Sky's Roxors. These 4x4 off-road utility vehicles can take you to hidden lakes, dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, slot canyons, and rock formations that regular cars can't access. We didn't have time to experience these vehicles. Still, I love that they're street-legal, so you can cruise into Kanab during your rental period. Another way to explore downtown Kanab's hip shops and incredible restaurants is by renting one of Dark Sky's e-bikes. They're available by the hour, day, or week and allow you to get a bit of exercise pedaling without working up a sweat like you would on a regular bike. Heading to Zion National Park? Rent an e-bike! Instead of taking the park's shuttle buses, hop on a bike, cruise up the canyon to see Zion's famed cliffs, and stop for side hikes. Dark Sky also rents an e-bike-friendly bike rack so you can transport it on your vehicle to the park. Lodging Options and Rates at Dark Sky RV Resort One downside for tent campers is that Dark Sky is an RV, van, or rooftop tent location, so you can't stay with a basic tent. We rented a van from Adventure Family Van Builds in Hurricane, and it was a super fun way to travel with my kids and stay at Dark Sky. The company's smaller vans sleep three to four, while the larger family van can sleep 10 people. If traveling with a full RV, choose an RV experience site with full hookups, a propane fire pit, a shade structure, and comfy lounge furniture. It's spaced out from neighboring sites and accommodates up to 70 feet long RVs. Electric vehicle charging is available. When traveling in a smaller van or in a vehicle with a rooftop tent, choose a smaller Camp Luxury site. It only includes electric hookups, not water and sewer. It has the same shade structure, propane fire pit, hammock, and lounge furniture that bigger sites offer. Water and septic dumping are available, but towed vehicles are prohibited in these sites. Nightly rental fees decrease the longer you stay, and a monthly rental includes laundry and two hours of e-bike use. DRIVING DISTANCES FROM DARK SKY RV PARK Bryce Canyon National Park (80 miles) Cedar Break National Monument (68 miles) Coral Pink Sand Dunes (24 miles) Grand Canyon North Rim (83 miles) Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (12 miles) Lake Powell- Wahweap (67 miles) Pipe Spring National Monument (23 miles) Zion National Park (45 miles)​ OUR 2 DAY ITINERARY FOR DARK SKY RV IN KANAB Day 1 - 1/2 day A Stop at Best Friends Visitor Center in downtown Kanab to pet the kittens Dinner at Big Als Frost Stop - Buffalo burgers, sweet potato fries, and yummy milkshakes Check in to Dark Sky Spend the evening playing corn hole, zip lining, wandering the beautiful property, watching the sunset, and making smores under the magnificent Southern Utah sky Day 2 - Full Day Wake up early to watch the sunrise from camp Slow morning with coffee and cereal and playing on the property, ziplining & diggin up bones Hiking Squaw trail - Such a great hike in town that takes you to great views of Kanab Lunch in Kanab Drug. They have the best girft shop and great sandwiches/ice cream. Swimming and kayaking at Jackson Flat Reservoir Dinner at camp Day 3 - 1/2 day Breakfast and slow morning, then check out Coffee at Kanab Creek Bakery Parked the van at Greenhalsh Trailhead (look up with google maps). There was lots of shade to park the van under. We explored the area, played in the water, and hiked up Kanab Creek. Great for a chill morning. Stopped at Pipe Springs National Monument on the way home. Just 30 minutes from Kanab with lots of interesting history about the Paiute Indians and Mormon pioneers. The buildings are well preserved and so fascinating to wander through. There is a great museum there as well. Dark Sky RV Resort in Kanab is close to so many things to do! Check out this list I have put together of 16 hikes and things to do during your stay. ***Pipe Springs National Monument Most of these things we have done but there are still a few on my list for next time and I'm sure I will continue to find more and more. 1 - Hike Wire Pass Trail 2 - Hike Buckskin Gulch 3 - Hike The Toadstools 4 - Hike Whitehouse Trail 5 - Hike Coyote Buttes North 6 - Hike The Wave 7 - Hike to Moqui Caverns 8 - Hike Belly of the Dragon 9 - Paddle Board Antelope Canyon 10 - Visit Horseshoe Bend 11 - The Chains at Lake Powell 12 - Hike Mansard Trail 13 - Hike Water Canyon 14 - Go Canyoneering 15 - Try a guided slot canyon UTV tour 16 - Pipe Springs National Monument For more inspiration and info about staying in Kanab check out this post 20 Reasons Why Kanab, Utah Should Be Your Next Family Vacation Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

  • Hiking Spring Creek Canyon Trail in Kanarraville, UT

    If you’re seeking solitude in the slot canyons in Southern Utah, Spring Creek Canyon Trail is a hidden gem nestled near more popular…and MUCH more crowded hikes. While Spring Creek Canyon might not have the stunning waterfalls of Kanarra Falls or the fame of Kolob Canyons in Zion, it is actually an equally incredible hike through a slot canyon where you won’t have to deal with the crowds at those more well-known trails. Everything You Need to Know About Hiking Spring Creek Canyon Trail Get off the beaten path in southern Utah by hiking the Spring Creek Canyon Trail in Kanarraville, Utah. This trail is located just 5 minutes away from the very popular Kanarra Falls hike. It makes an awesome alternative since it does not require a permit, it’s way less crowded, and it is one of coolest slot canyons in southern Utah! LOCATION Spring Creek Canyon is in Kanarraville, which is 10 minutes north of the Kolob Canyons area of Zion National Park and 20 minutes south of Cedar City. From I-15, take Old US-Hwy 91 to Spring Creek Road to get to the trailhead. CLICK HERE FOR DRIVING DIRECTIONS DIFFICULTY Spring Creek Canyon Trail is moderate overall and is totally doable with kids, although the slot canyon section can be more challenging for the little ones. While there’s not a ton of elevation gain on this trail, you will find lots of ups and downs, pebbly stream beds, and a few spots where you have to scramble over some big boulders. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO LENGTH 5 miles round get to the slot canyon section it is about 1/2 mile in. This is an out and back hike. If you don't go the full 5 miles it is still a great hike! BEST TIME TO HIKE SPRING CREEK I’ve hiked Spring Creek Canyon Trail in spring, summer, winter and fall, and I would recommend spring or fall as the best seasons for this hike. Spring is awesome because the creek is flowing, but it slows to a trickle in the summer and is totally dry in fall and winter. Even though the creek isn’t running in the fall, you’ll find vibrant fall foliage on this hike in October…and possibly as early as late September. TRAIL DETAILS Don’t be discouraged by the start of this trail…the first mile or so is not that exciting, but trust me, the good stuff is yet to come. Soon you’ll reach towering sandstone cliffs that will totally take your breath away! Head into the canyon, which will narrow in several spots, but never become too tight of a slot canyon to struggle through. Winding your way through the depths of Spring Creek Canyon will definitely provide the amazing red rock experience that you come to the desert of southern Utah to explore…but without the crowds of the busier hikes in the area. Always be respectful of the land. Do not write on the canyon walls and pack out your trash. Leave it better than you found it. GOOD TO KNOW While there are pit toilets at the trailhead, there isn’t any water, so be sure to bring all the water you need for this hike with you. There is a convenience store just a few miles away if you need to grab some beverages and snacks before or after hiking Spring Creek Canyon Trail. As with all slot canyons in southern Utah, do NOT do this hike if rain is in the forecast due to the serious potential of dangerous flash flooding. Be sure to bring bug spray if you hike Spring Creek Canyon in the spring or summer because all the water means there will be LOTS of bugs. Summer can get ridiculously hot in the desert, so make sure you’re prepared for the heat if you choose to hike this trail then. While the canyon section stays cooler, the first part of this trail is exposed with no shade. LIST OF THINGS TO BRING WITH YOU HIKING SHOES OR HIKING SANDALS - Wear water shoes like Teva's or Chaco's when hiking Spring Creek in the summer. Keen also has great water shoes for kids. Click here for my favorite hiking sandals on the planet.....I'm a Teva's girl! HIKING CLOTHES - Wear comfortable, light and breathable clothes if visiting in the summer. If visiting in the spring/fall, bring a light jacket. Chances are it will warm up mid-day. SUNSCREEN - Always take sunscreen with your wherever you go in the desert! HAT & SUNGLASSES - The sun is intense. Having a hat and sunglasses is a must. SNACKS, AND LOTS OF WATER - Always hike with snacks and plenty of water HIKING DAY PACK - You will want a small backpack to carry snacks, water, camera & phone. WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING SPRING CREEK I recommend staying a few days in the Hurricane Valley to explore all the different sections of Zion. There is so much to see and do. The Hurricane Valley is located 30 minutes from the west entrance of Zion National park, 2 hours from Bryce Canyon, 2 hours from the north entrance of the Grand Canyon, and 30 minutes from Spring Creek Trail. READ MORE ABOUT VISITING THE HURRICANE VALLEY HERE 15 HIKES + THINGS TO DO CLOSE TO SPRING CREEK CANYON TRAIL 1 - Visit Cedar Breaks 2 - Hike Timber Creek Overlook Trail 3 - Hike Kanarra Falls 4 - Hike Taylor CreekTrail 5 - Visit Sheeps Bridge Park 6 - Hike Lambs Knoll 7 - Visit Grafton Ghost Town 8 - Hike Red Reef Trail 9 - Visit Snow Canyon State Park 10 - Hike Watchman Trail 11 - E-bike The Canyon 12 - Hike Lower Pine Creek Falls 13 - Hike Ashdown Gorge 14 - Go to the Shakespearean Festival 15 - Canoe Navajo Lake Spring Creek slot canyon trail is such a great trial in Southern Utah to enjoy some solitude and get those stunning red rock cliffs. Get out and enjoy! Happy Adventuring, Arika Check out more about me and book a shoot here CLICK HERE FOR RELATED BLOG POSTS

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