A few years ago I took a class on the Intermountain West & People at SLCC. Among the many things I walked away from that class with was a greater appreciation for the natural beauty Utah has to offer. Utah has 5 National Parks and 43 State Parks. Visitors come from all over the world to see what is literally in our own backyard. I’ve spent the majority of my life here and I hate to admit that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring Utah. This year I’ve made a goal to visit all 5 National Parks (and a few State Parks). First on the list was Zion.
Zion was the first National Park in Utah. It was dedicated in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt developed a program called the Civilian Conservation Corps that put young, unemployed men to work on public lands. This plan benefited the men by providing them skills for future employment, as well as benefiting the park. The men built many of the trails, fought fires, built campgrounds and park buildings, and helped reduce flooding from the Virgin River. Today Zion National Park is one of the most visited in the country, welcoming millions of visitors each year from all over the world.
This last weekend my three children and I loaded up the car and headed down south. We decided to take the scenic route down I-89 through Manti down to Richfield and into Panguitch. I’ve taken I-15 south many times and I would really recommend the scenic route. It doesn’t add too much time and it’s much prettier. Also, entering the park in the east entrance is much less crowded and more scenic.
We got to the park at about 2:30 in the afternoon so we didn’t have much time to explore. We found a spot to pull over on the side of the road and went for a quick hike. One of the amazing things about Zion is that there are no bad views. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by beautiful towering mountains and rich colors.
My kids went crazy. All three of them climbed and ran and climbed for a good hour. At one point my 9-year old said to me that this was the most fun she had ever had on a vacation (even better than Maui!) and begged me to bring them back.
We spent the night with family in St. George. There are camping spots in the park, as well as hotels and bed & breakfasts in the town just outside the west gate. I’m thinking we may camp next time we’re down there.
The next day we headed back into the park to hike around some more. We parked in the town of Springdale and took the free shuttle to the park. Once inside we jumped on another shuttle that took us inside the park and up to the trailheads. We opted to hike the Emerald Pools Trail because it’s one of the easiest to do with children. There are a total of three pools and we hiked all the way up to the top one. It was about a 3-mile roundtrip and was really crowded. The hike up to the first pool is paved and is wheelchair/stroller accessible. The view from the top is stunning.
I opted to purchase the annual pass for $80 that grants access to any national park or federal recreational site. A day pass if you drive in is $25 or $12/person if you take the shuttle from town and walk in.
Right now is the perfect time of year to visit Zion National Park. The weather is perfect, everything is starting to bloom, and the wildlife is active. Pack the car and head south for a fun road trip the entire family will love!
Candice Brown was born and raised in the Ogden area. She spends her free time reading, crocheting, and adventuring with her offspring. You can keep up with her on Instagram here.