Epic Roadtrip Stop #4: Zion

Zion National Park

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Well now! We’ve done a bit of traveling since my last post. On Friday, we went to Zion. On Saturday we went to the Grand Canyon. And earlier today (Sunday), we went to Lake Powell. I’ll write about the Grand Canyon tomorrow, and I’ll write about Lake Powell on Tuesday. But today, I want to share a little report about Zion National Park. Since I grew up so near Zion, it’s the National Park I know best and I’ve visited most. I love getting to share it with my kids.

Zion is the sort of place where you could spend a week or more, but it’s small enough, that you can also get a good taste of it in a couple of days. Earlier in the week, as part of Cousins Week festivities, my mom had taken the kids to Zion to tube in the Virgin River, so when we visited on Friday, we considered it Day Two at Zion. And we didn’t even have the whole day — we had some tasks in St. George on Friday morning, and it was already early afternoon by the time we arrived at the park.

So we kept it simple. We started by watching the IMAX movie about Zion. I was nostalgic about it and was excited for the kids to see it, but man oh man, I was surprised to watch it and realize it felt dated and a little cheesy. Oh dear! But, the nice thing about the movie, is that while we watched, a summer storm moved in. By the time we got out of the theater, the temperature had dropped from obscenely hot to totally reasonable, and everything smelled all-caps AMAZING.

One funny thing: During the movie, there’s a flash flood scene, and right when it was happening, all the cell phones in the theater started buzzing with texts about a flash flood warning in the area. For a minute, I was wide-eyed and wondered how in the world the movie triggered the alerts. Then it finally dawned on me it must be storming outside the theater. Silly me, I know.

After the movie, we hiked to the Upper Emerald Pool. It’s the perfect hike for a family of all ages — uphill enough to get your heart pumping, but ultimately short and sweet, with lots of beautiful water spots along the way. The hike was particularly wonderful because everything was so fresh from the storm, and grey skies kept the sun from beating down.

Once we reached the Upper Pool, we cooled our feet in the water, scrambled around the rocks and dunked our heads per family tradition. There’s no swimming allowed there, or we would have jumped right in, clothes and all.

I didn’t have our big camera with us, but I took some iPhone photos that might be the best I’ve ever captured in Zion. The light was just spectacular that day!

After the hike, we knew we had time for one more thing before we drove back to the hotel. We gave the kids a couple of options and they chose a visit to Grafton — the ghost town that’s near the park. We hadn’t been back since we filmed in Grafton for Olive Us, so the kids were excited to see it, and our exchange students were fascinated by the idea of a ghost town as well.

I think it was one of our best days on the trip (at least so far). Not too much driving, and a good balance of indoor and outdoor activity. I keep looking at the photos from that day on my Instagram stream because they make me grin.

Have you ever been to Zion? Do you have a favorite hike or activity there? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — If you grow up in St. George, when you say Zion, you pronounce it Zi-yun. But when I talk to people that grew up in other places, many pronounce it Zi-yawn. What’s your preferred pronunciation?

21 thoughts on “Epic Roadtrip Stop #4: Zion”

  1. That’s so funny you mentioned the pronunciation of Zion. I pronounce it the way you do, but have heard others here in LA, pronounce it the other way. I secretly want to correct them, ha ha. But I’ve never heard a local pronounce it Zi-yawn. We are off to St. George in the morning for a quick trip – I hope we get some cooler weather while we’re there too! Love hearing all your vacation stories and seeing the pics. Southern Utah is so beautiful!

  2. My family and I also took an epic road trip this summer and The Grand Canyon and Zion were two of our stops as well. We also visited Arches National Park and Monument Valley. I really loved Zion and wished we could spend more than a day hiking and exploring. Glad it rained while you were there to cool the temperaures. It was hot when we were there in June, too.

  3. Nicola de Vries

    Hi,
    We are an Australian family living in Boston and we have been told that Zion is one of the best places to visit. You stayed in a hotel? Any suggestions for a family of five?
    Thanks and enjoying the blog as always Nicky

  4. I’ve never heard Zion NOT pronounced Zi-yawn, but I’ve always heard it in a religious context, not the national park.

  5. Last year we did Yellowstone, Tetons/Jackson, Bryce & Zion (and now I’m all confused about how I pronounce it, ha). Was so unprepared for the grandeur of Zion. You look up and over and down and are gasping in awe (and for breath) all the time. Pictures do not do it justice. I am terrified of heights so could not do some of the loftier hikes, but enjoyed the cool, sloshing thru the Narrows early one hot day before the crowds. Magical. And Grafton was a very interesting place, imagining those early isolated days. You’re lucky to have come from this fascinating part of the world.

  6. A few years ago we spent a few days at the Grand Canyon, then camped at Zion and loved it! We did the Watchman Trail, Emerald Pools hike, and Angel’s Landing. I passed on the last part of Angels Landing and wouldn’t let my youngest go, but after finding out exactly how dangerous it is, I probably would’ve stopped my daughter too.
    We had such a good time we went back to Zion a couple of years later and did The Narrows and Kayenta Trail. That’s also when we saw the movie :). It was so bad it was good, and yes it was air conditioned!

  7. This epic road trip sounds, well, epic! I would LOVE, love, love to see your rough itinerary to understand how one goes about planning this type of trip! Enjoy.

  8. Great post! I would love to go to Zion with my kids. This really helps me get an idea of what I would actually do with them there. Thank you!

  9. Zion is such an amazing place! We’ve been there six or seven times. We loved backpacking the Narrows and canyoneering (you can hire guides if you’re not experienced). Also, Angels Landing Trail is gorgeous!

  10. I say “zi-uhn” – I feel so native!

    10 years ago, I did a month-long road trip of the American Southwest. I have always regretted not spending more than an afternoon in southwestern Utah. St. George = love. Moab and northern Arizona took more time than I originally planned. I have loved revisiting that trip through your photos this week!

  11. My boyfriend (now husband) knew how much I loved backpacking so he surprised me with a mystery trip in 2001. I knew we’d be camping and backpacking, and for how long, but I didn’t know where. I had clues given to me over about two months, with my coworkers even joining it with maps and Google searches, trying to figure it out. A couple weeks before departure, I was given some specific items to pack (jungle boots, even! And dry bags! I was completely confused!). Then the morning we left from O’Hare, I was handed a ticket — to Las Vegas. Las Vegas? What?! I was kind of hoping for California or the Oregon coast. But the desert, eh? Finally, once we were in the air, I was given a map and a guide book for … Zion! We ended up hiking in the Virgin River through the Narrows — 18 miles in two wet, spectacular days. Those jungle boots were the bomb! Met some stellar people who hiked with us, had terrific weather and a great memory for us to share. So yes, I love Zion!

  12. What an awesome story, SueB. I am from a little town between St. George and Zion (now living in California), and my grandparents live in Springdale. My other grandparents used to be the park rangers and park cook way back in the day, and my grandpa used to own most of Grafton. My brother worked on the trails in Zion for many years. So yes, Zion has significant meaning to me. I hiked the Narrows ONCE, and loved it and hated it at the same time. We did it in one day and it was beautiful, but a torturous hike. Go slow and take 2 days! Your EPIC trip sounds so fun. Glad you guys take the time to do trips like this with your kids. They will look back on this trip with great fondness.

  13. Zion is the best place in the world! I’m so lucky to have grown up so close to it (in Hurricane, now I live in Cedar City–still close enough to visit every chance we get). The smell there along the Virgin River is incredible, especially after a good rain. I love the Emerald Pool trail and the Temple of Sinawava river walk. I love seeing your pictures of St. George, too, so many memories! (You are brave to visit during the summer heat…)

  14. Living in the Bay Area, one thing I truly miss are the Southwestern summer monsoons. There is just nothing at all like an afternoon thunderstorm in the desert. Lovely photos.

  15. Haha! Seeing the photo, I assumed Zion was synonymous with the temple, like you were making a pilgrimage to your version of Mecca. Got it, will now proceed, says the person from the east coast. :)

  16. My husband and I both grew up in Utah, we were just discussing how people pronounce Zion the other day, we both along with all other Utahans I know rhyme it with lion. ;)

    1. I was trying to think of how to write how I pronounce Zion and you hit the nail on the head – rhymes with lion!
      As an Australian living in the US I’m always pronouncing things differently to everyone else and often it doesn’t occur to me that there could be more than one way to pronounce particular words until I hear them said completely differently to what I’m used to. It’s nice to know I pronounce this one like a local :)

  17. My mother’s family is from Springdale and Rockville at the mouth of the park, and they pronounce Zion like you do. But their pet peeve is when people add an “s” to the end of the word. I have heard my mother say “It’s Zion, not Zion’s” so many times! Now it’s rubbed off on me.

  18. I camped overnight at Zion on an epic road trip of my own about 15 years ago. My favorite memory is waking up at our campsite and realizing we were in an apricot orchard. Breakfast was served! Your trip is bringing back lots of memories!!

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