Zion National Park springs up out of nowhere in the middle of southern Utah.
It’s really crazy, actually, how you’re driving through the desert – wide, open expanses with some rock cliffs off in the distance – and then you come upon this gorgeous chunk of land with massive rock structures, canyons carved by a teeny river, various shades of green with pretty wildflowers and something impressive everywhere you look. We arrived in Zion in the afternoon and drove through the park to get to our campsite in Springdale, which is a small, charming town just outside the gates of the park. After spending the last week or so in more rural areas, it was nice to have cute shops and restaurants nearby and the kids were especially excited about the great pool (which they hopped into right away).
The next morning, we decided on a few hikes to try and took the shuttle from Springdale into Zion. At the Visitor’s Center, we took another shuttle that runs through the whole park and makes 8 or so stops along the most popular sites and hiking trails. The shuttle made things super easy for us; the drivers share some information as they drive and you get to just take in the views.
Our first hike was the easy Riverside Walk. It’s about 2 miles roundtrip along a paved path that runs parallel to the river. Zion is famous for its hanging gardens – something I had never heard of before venturing into the park. Water from rain and snow seeps into the rocks and hits a harder inner layer, which forces the water back out the face of the Navajo Sandstone. It becomes the perfect place for ferns, wildflowers and mosses to grow – just hanging on to the side of a cliff. Our next hike was to Weeping Rock, a .5 mile hike (really more of a quick, teensy bit steep walk) to a carved out area where the water literally drips from the rock overhead. I was mostly taken with the maidenhair ferns that grow wild and abundantly along the trail (you can see more of my fern obsession on my pinterest board dedicated to the lovely plant). It’s pretty crazy to see these shade/cool-temperature loving plants growing in the high desert!After a stop for a picnic lunch on the lawn outside of the Zion Lodge, we took off on one more easy hike to Lower Emerald Pools. This one was paved, curved around the river and ended at a small pool that takes on a green-ish hue due to the minerals in the water. It wasn’t particularly emerald (or all that impressive), so the boys continued up to the middle Emerald Pools which they said were bigger and prettier. Audrey needed a break from all this hiking, so we sat back and she played with my hair while we waited :)
The hike back to the lodge was really nice and full of wildflowers, trees, deer and a flowering cactus. We spent most of the day in the park and took the shuttle back to the base of Zion, and then another back to our trailer for dinner.
Our plan was to spend the following day driving to Bryce Canyon (about 2 hours away) to do more hiking, but by the end of our day in Zion we decided we needed a break. Our pace has been quick; we have done a lot of walking and sight-seeing, lots of driving and very little hanging out without an agenda.
So rather than fill our day with more driving and hiking, we opted for a whole lot of this:
The kids swam for most of the day. I sat poolside with three months worth of my favorite magazines I hadn’t gotten to. Ryan spent time catching up on work. We took a walk to a funky coffee shop. We ordered pizza from a local pizzeria (so good). It wasn’t at all what we had planned for the day, but it was absolutely what we needed.
Roadtrip Life Lesson #1: Be willing to stray from the plan for the health of the people.
As it turned out, we were driving the next day from Zion to Moab, Utah and Bryce Canyon was less than 30 minutes off our route. Rather than skip it altogether, we decided to just make a quick lunch break out of it and ventured in to Bryce Canyon National Park. These crazy rock formations are called hoodoos – tall skinny piles of rock that resemble totem poles.They are so strange!Since we didn’t have time for a big hike, we just took the shuttle to the rim trail. The walk from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point was less than 1 mile and the perfect vantage point to take in the sweeping views.
We only stayed for an hour or two, but we were so happy to at least see the park, stretch our legs and snap a few photos.
This portion of our trip was a little more challenging than others – not so much because of where we were, but more because of how quick we’ve been traveling and how BIG these places we’ve been visiting are. We went from Yosemite to Southern California to The Grand Canyon to Zion within a week and a half and our brains, bodies and emotions were a bit overloaded. Someone told me that it would take a few weeks to settle in to this new way of life and I think we needed to work through some of it during this stretch of days.
Both Zion and Bryce are gorgeous and we hardly cracked the surface of enjoying their beauty. Someday we’d love to come back, but I will always remember these two places for the good lessons we learned while here: listening to the heartbeat of our family, slowing down, taking time to be agenda-less and having a willingness to stray from the plan.
Good lessons learned in awe-inspiring places!
Thank you for calling it Zion. Not Zions. A common mistake. I don’t know why that always bugs me
Could you tell a little about what you’re using to take pictures with? The photos from this trip have been amazing – the color and clarity are beautiful!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Awww, Zion will forever hold a special place in my heart – we got engaged there, more than 12 years ago! We made a quick stop at Bryce too. I was shocked at the greenery though – we went in February! :) There was snow and ice at Bryce. :)
Our family has been living in England for the past 18 months, and my husband loves planning road trips and days out to see lots of beautiful places. I definitely relate to just getting burned out. My mind and emotions can only handle so much at a time. I’m glad you all stopped for a rest and that you still had the chance to see Bryce Canyon!
We have been on the road for two weeks today. We have driven through 18 states. Arizona to Maine. Our favorite days are the ones left unplanned without reservations. Of course for some sights reservations are a must…we treasure the days inbetween. Although we do enjoy a hearty pace! We plan to venture through 10 more states in the next 2 weeks before being home. Boy, do we love a good road trip.
I’m enjoying following along on your big adventure! Taking days off for rest is a valuable lesson; goodness, it is so tempting to fill each day when there is so much to see! But as you said, for the emotional well-being of everyone involved, you need down time too. Years ago we took a 6-week road trip from Florida to Maine and back with our (then) 5 young children. We planned every Sunday as a rest day: no travel, no tours. My husband had learned about the pioneers traveling across the country in wagons doing this and actually making better time than those who didn’t take a sabbath. Those who did not rest were the ones dragging behind with ill livestock and short-tempered families!
I see that you are almost to Seaside, hopefully you will rest there and enjoy our beautiful white sand beaches and emerald waters, as well as the relaxed atmosphere of 30A : ) If you pop into the Anthropologie at Grand Boulevard, say hello to my daughter, Katrina, who introduced me to your blog several years ago.
I hope your using your national park pass and your passport book, getting a stamp from each of the parks. My Husband and I spent 30 weeks in New Mexico as traveling nurses and enjoyed each of these beautiful parks. We now have about 80 stamps in our NP passport book from all across the USA. ENJOY!
My whole family took a road trip to a few years ago and visited those places as well as the Arches and the Grand Canyon. I agree, you really need to spend a day or two at each place if not more! Quite breathtaking :)
Glad you enjoyed the beauty of our part of the country! Safe travels.
Just to think that “we walk hand in hand with the One who created the world with a word!!”
What a wonderful trip. I am so enjoying your pictures–in fact they are breath-taking.
Thanks for sharing so well!
Last fall we took a camper trip from Central IL out to Glacier Natl Park (NW corner of Montana). We were fortunate to have a month to dedicate to that trip. When I saw your 3 month trip, I was jealous….but seeing your proposed route….Holy Cow! I think you are *definitely* moving faster than we did. I, too, missed that we didn’t have a lot of “down time.” Good job recognizing that was exactly what you’re family needed. Don’t forget to do it again soon! Safe travels!
So~ It looks like yo took out Twin Falls Idaho?? :(
We had a few extra days at the end and decided to squeeze in Glacier National Park in montana :)
To imagine that you are all absorbing epic vacation spots that most people plan well for just “one” of the destinations.
You are all so amazing!
I would love to be seeing their faces light up as they visit each new place. What a treat for a mom and dad!
Your photos are filled with expression and quality!
Love to all,
Em- I am loving the blog and all the great stories of your trip! What a great adventure you are on! Prayers for safe travels and can’t wait for the rest of the story to unfold:-)
I want to visit that area of Utah so badly! When my family went to the Black Hills in SD, there was one day where it was 103 out so we opted to go back to the hotel. We got the pool all to ourselves and then later we wet to the movies. If I remember correctly, we saw Cars. It was very relaxing.
Hi Emily! I’m a long time reader and have loved following you on these adventures! My girls, husband and I took a similar jaunt around the Western part of the US for 5 months in our trailer two years ago (our blog was http://www.wrightopenroad.com if you want to see where we went!) and we still talk nearly every day about some aspect of the trip. It’s been amazing having these memories with the girls-what a wonderful gift you are giving your kids! Good luck out there!
You absolutely need a “vacation” from any vacation longer than 4 days. It is one of my absolutes when traveling. No sightseeing or schedule, just vegging. Maybe even some laundry or something not vacation-y. I actually plan this in when I travel. You get so much more out of the traveling when you pay attention to how you are feeling. If things seem forced or rushed, it isn’t going to matter what beautiful or historic place you are seeing. I’m so glad you could get that day and figure this out for your family so early in your trip!
PS – I love the sights in Utah. I have felt something I would almost describe as spiritual there. I’ve been there a few different times and even despite loving it, I always find it overwhelming!
I just love following you on this trip. I never have done Instagram but did so in order to follow your trip! I wish I had been so daring when I had small children. My grandkids are your kids ages now however my husband and I dream of going on a trip and we are watching your posts for ideas and suggestions. I know you plan to be in DC on July 4th. Our son is in the Navy Band there. The band does concerts on the capitol lawn so if you are there any other Monday but the 4th you could catch a free concert. We are in Tennessee and I do not think your trip takes you here!
have a wonderful time
Thank you Elaine! And I hope you are enjoying instagram :)
We will be in Tennessee a little later this summer. We’re very excited for a few days to see your state!
Wow, you have seen so much!! I am loving following along with your family adventure. We visited Zion and Bryce last year: http://www.theoutsideandin.com/utah-family-trip-zion-national-park/
I think it is smart that you deviated from your itinerary to give everyone some downtime :)
Bryce was one if my top favorites from our “canyon” trip. I could stare at those hoodoos all day watching the light & shadows and seeing things like castles or animals in the rock formations. I would definitely recommend you returning if you can!
Although my children are grown I am really enjoying following you all on your journey. Stay safe & keep making memories?
I’ve been following your blog for a very long time, and I’ve been so excited to see your Road Trip journey. I’m from Utah, so this post was especially fun to see. I’m so happy that you were able to make it to Bryce as well…. isn’t it so interesting how both Zion and Bryce are so close to each other, yet look so different? All in the middle of the desert? What a treasure you are giving your kids. I’ve talked about your trip with my husband and hope to one day take our boys on a similar adventure across the country. You are teaching your children so much about America that is so valuable. Obviously you want to spend more time in each location, but how fun and neat to be able to get a glimpse of all these different parts of America and then plan future trips to some of your favorite destinations. Anyways, I’m just rambling now…. just wanted to say hi and that I’m happy you were able to make it to this beautiful state.
Thank you Brittney! We are moving pretty quickly, but we’re getting a great taste of each place that will hopefully keep us wanting more!