This post is part 5 of a 5 part series of our road trip from Minnesota to Utah! Here’s a recap!
- Planning for the trip + what to pack
- Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde
- Arches and Canyonlands
- Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon
Don’t forget to check out my tips for traveling to a National Park before reading this post!
As mentioned in the previous post, we visited Bryce Canyon the day before Zion and stayed in Uinita Flats Dispersed camping. To get from the camp site to Zion took us about 1.5 hours.
Like many National Parks, Zion has a free shuttle that will take you to many of the main stops along the Canyon Scenic Drive. What we didn’t realize, is that when the shuttle is running during the summer months, absolutely no private vehicles are allowed on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive!! The only access through the scenic drive is by the free shuttle bus! So we were pretty bummed when we saw that because we would have loved to stop at a few places along the route and since we had our dog, Chevy, with us- the shuttle was not an option because there are no dogs allowed on the shuttles. This is also where most of the trailheads are for hiking- so if you’re looking to hike at Zion, be prepared to take the shuttle (and don’t bring your pets along!)
Here are the rules for having your pets at Zion.
So instead of the Scenic Drive, we improvised! We entered the park from the East through Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (Highway 9), which is a beautiful drive into the park! If you can’t do the Scenic Drive, I highly recommend doing this one instead! You go through the long tunnel and when you come out the other side your in the middle of the Canyon with a lot of switchbacks and great views to turn out on and explore.
We then left the park from the south entrance, through the town of Springdale. Springdale has a lot of food, lodging, and shopping, and looks very tourist friendly. It reminded us of Jacksonhole Wyoming, on the border of the Grand Tetons. It seems like a great place to stay and hang out if you’re visiting Zion for a couple of days and don’t want to camp.
After we exited the park, we drove through Rockville to the town of Virgin, where we took Kolob Terrace Road north. This road is paved and will give you a beautiful view of the west side of Zion, and you can drive up to West Rim Road and see the park from afar! The Right Fork, Grapevine, Left Fork, Wildcat Canyon, and the West Rim Trailheads are all off of Kolob Terrace Road and great options to hike if you want to avoid the shuttle and crowds.
If you’re looking for a place to camp (or should I say Glamp!) in the most epic spot ever, we highly recommend checking out Under Canvas Zion which you will pass if you drive up the Kolob Terrace Road! We did not stay at this location, but we stayed at Under Canvas when we went to Glacier a couple of years ago and it was one of our favorite National Park experiences to date! The people were great and the accommodations were so beautiful, comfortable, and they allowed our dog to stay with us! They also created this list of fun things to do in Zion if you’re looking for some thrill seeking activities!
On Kolob road, we drove all the way to West Rim Trailhead/lookout and turned around there. We then drove back down to the town of Rockville where we drove on the Smithsonian Butte Scenic Backway! This was the highlight of my Zion trip! If you have a high clearance FWD vehicle, I would highly suggest doing this! This road was nice and quiet, the perfect place to get away from the craziness of Zion! Amazing views all the way up, and some unreal dispersed camping sites along the way! We didn’t camp here that night, but we did pop up the camper to relax and hang out for a while in our Skycamp from iKamper! One thing that was very important to us during this trip was to have a easy-to-use camper that didn’t take up space in our car! We knew that we’d be exploring most of the parks till past sunset and we would be arriving to our campsite in the dark, so we wanted something that was easy to set up in the dark! With our SkyCamp, we are literally able to set it up in just minutes, which is so comforting when your on the road! Plus, it opens up to be a kind sized bed, so we had plenty of room even with Chevy sleeping up there with us! Tony carried him up the ladder every night, but we did have the Annex Room as well, so if you weren’t able to carry your dog up the ladder, you could set up their bed in there!
After hanging out on the Smithsonian Butte Backroad, we drove back into the park for sunset (while everyone was driving out!) and drove through Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (Highway 9) again to take some more photos since it was pretty packed earlier in the day.
If your looking for a couple of good hikes, The Narrows is the most famous attraction of Zion! You have to wade through the water during the hike, so it is no walk in the park! Angels Landing is another hike that has some amazing views of the canyon. It is a strenuous 5 mile hike and not suitable children or anyone who is scared of heights. Observation Point is a great alternative to Angels landing if you’re looking to beat the crowds that go to Angel’s Landing. This is an 8 mile round trip hike, which is why there are less people. We will be hitting these hikes up next time, for sure!
Well, friends! That about wraps up our road trip around the entire southern Utah National Parks! We had so much fun exploring with our dog and hope that you guys were able to learn about what to do when you travel there yourself! If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to help you out! Thanks for reading!