My husband and I have a joint bucket list. We want to visit EVERY National Park in our great country. We have made a big dent in that bucket list but still have more to visit. And many we want to return to.
Recently my husband added another element to our bucket list—to stay in the National Park lodge for the park we are visiting, at least once. And our first lodge on this new addition to our bucket list was Zion National Park Lodge. A great one to kick off the checkmarks on the latest bucket list.
We have been to Zion National Park before. 2 times to be exact. And both times the only part of Zion that we visited was the area from the Visitor Center to the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway turn and then on the highway driving east. The Zion Scenic Drive was closed to personal vehicles when we visited in the past and we didn’t have time for the shuttle, so driving through the park on the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway was our only option for visiting this National Park. And it was stunning both times we have driven it. It left us in awe of the forces of nature and the art those forces created. And it made us want to go back and see the part we had never seen before.
A couple of years ago, our youngest son and daughter-in-law spent some time in Zion and they took the shuttle. They did the hikes so many go to Zion to do—the thrilling hikes sought out daily by those who live for the thrills and the adrenaline. Their photos were gorgeous and only solidified our desire to one day, go back and see that part of the park for ourselves. (But there was NO WAY I would be hiking Angel’s Landing! Not this girl! No need to test my fear of heights on that hike. I will leave that hike for others to do!)
Well, 2020 came along and brought with it some challenges for us. A new knee for my husband. A back injury for me. And a pandemic that kept us home for most of the year. Those challenges made our desire to travel stronger. We decided to take a short trip to see my sister and brother-in-law….at least that would get us away from the house and we knew we would be safe at their home.
A few days after deciding to take the trip, I got a text from my husband who was at work. He just wanted to let me know, that though I might think he was crazy, he had made a reservation for us at Zion National Park lodge for 2 nights following our visit to see my sister. Okay?? THAT totally came out of the blue!
And of course, I said yes!
These past few years have been about not saying no. About taking leaps of faith. About living fully, with no regrets. So, I had to say yes. Even though I thought he might be a little crazy.
I am so very grateful that he made that reservation. And extremely happy I said yes to going. Our couple of days inside Zion National Park were rejuvenating, relaxing and nothing but spectacular.
We arrived around lunch time, stopping at the visitor center first. It was CROWDED! It was like any other times we had been there. And if it were not for the masks people wore and the markings on the ground for social distancing while in line, we would not have known there was any pandemic happening in our world.
We left the visitor center with our souvenirs and with our red hang tag and gate code in hand we headed up the road toward the lodge. At the intersection where we normally head straight, we turned left, following a shuttle bus. At the gate we entered the code and magically it opened. We were off. Excited to see in person what we had only seen in pictures.
The drive was amazing! We were surrounded by trees—which for us, having lived in Arizona for 6 years now was quite the sight! And the walls on both sides of the road were stunning. We were among giants. My heart was happy here.
We arrived at the lodge and checked in. Our room had a great view off the balcony and out the window from the bed.
I would be so happy waking to this view every day.
We rested a bit and shopped in the gift shop before getting our hiking gear and heading out for a short hike. We left the lodge and crossed the road, where we were met by the beautiful sight of a bridge over the river, with huge rock cliffs behind. Wow!
We enjoyed the view and waited for others to leave so we could get some photos of just the scenery. Then it was off on our hike. We hiked the Lower Emerald Pools trail. Though the day had been quite warm, the evening was cooling down and the breeze coming off the river at the beginning of the hike as quite refreshing.
The hike to the Lower Emerald Pool was an easy hike, with a slight elevation change. The views were amazing on the entire hike. And the trail was not busy, only passing a few people while we were out there.
We heard the water before we saw it. Finally, we arrived. It was so cool! And not in a temperature kind of way. Just beautiful. The 2 waterfalls were small due to the dry summer, but there was water. And we walked right under both. That felt so nice! We spent quite a bit of time in the area, enjoying the views, the sound of the water, and the time together.
Reluctantly we headed back to the lodge, we didn’t want to be out on the trail after sunset.
And this is what we found when we arrived back at the lodge to order our takeout dinner from the restaurant.
It was not just dinner time for us. These mule deer were having dinner. At one point we counted 29 of them. We enjoyed watching them as we waited for our food. Quite a pleasant and unexpected gift!
We went back down to the green lawn after dark to enjoy the night sky. WOW! It was so dark. We could see thousands of stars, twinkling in the dark. We marveled at the Milky Way and watched the International Space Station fly over our heads before returning to our room. An amazing first day in the park.
The next morning, we boarded the open-air shuttle with the tickets we had purchased the night before. I highly recommend this open-air shuttle. It was slow, yes. But our driver told us what we were seeing and some of the history of the park on our way to the Temple of Sinawava at the end of the road.
The views were amazing from the shuttle. And we could see the people at the top of Angel’s Landing as we drove past. They must have gotten up really early to be at the top already.
We arrived at the Temple of Sinawava and were quite surprised by how many people were there. It was here, that those hiking the Narrows, started. But the river having a dangerous bacteria in it and the vast warnings about the dangers, had us thinking it would not be crowded. Boy were we wrong.
We hiked the River Walk trail to the end, where the Narrows hike starts. It was a beautiful hike.
Stunning views all around us. We didn’t go fast, we wanted to enjoy the views. And we were not getting in the river. Not this trip anyway. Despite the bacteria, most of those on this trail with us, were there to hike the Narrows.
We really enjoyed the hike, even with our masks on. After our hike, we had some time before the shuttle would be picking us up for our return to the lodge, so we found a spot next to the river to enjoy the view, have a snack and do some people watching.
It was a beautiful spot. And the other tourists were quite entertaining.
We then meandered across the road to a secluded spot on the river and enjoyed some quiet time, just the two of us and mother nature. This was the BEST way to spend our morning.
We arrived back at the lodge at lunchtime and found a spot in the shade on the big grass lawn to eat our lunch. My husband had planned everything perfectly and brought folding chairs and a small camp folding table for us.
We enjoyed the afternoon, there on the lawn. We ate, we read, I wrote and we enjoyed a conversation with another couple. It was so relaxing. So peaceful. Even with all the people roaming around. I think we could have stayed there forever.
We took a short walk that last evening and again enjoyed the mule deer having dinner on the grassy area and then the night sky after dark.
Zion was everything we expected and SO MUCH more!
We left the next morning, feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on whatever craziness that 2020 would be throwing our way next.
For the third time, we took the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway as we left the park. And it was just as spectacular as we remembered.
We made a couple of stops to enjoy the views as the sun came up.
Zion National Park is a spectacular park that offers many things for many people. Yes, there are the big hikes, the ones that thrill seekers love. But for those of us, who can’t do those hikes, for whatever reason, there are still hikes we can do. The park offers hikes for all levels of ability. And the views on the easy hikes are just as beautiful and amazing as the more strenuous hikes. Different views, yes. But no less impressive.
If visiting Zion National Park is on your bucket list, but you wondered if it would be worth it if you couldn’t or wouldn’t hike to the top of Angel’s landing, I will tell you, Yes, it is worth it! Our 2 short hikes made the trip worth it. Sitting for a few hours on the big grassy area at the lodge made the trip worth it. Watching the mule deer each evening made the trip worth it. The spectacular view of the night sky made the trip worth it. The time together, off the grid, made the trip worth it.
Our two days in Zion National Park left us renewed and rested. And I couldn’t be happier that I took the leap, trusted my crazy husband and went on the trip.