Our very first installment of The Weekenders saw us enjoying the toasty pools and small-town charm of Lava Hot Springs. But the magic of nearby escapes doesn't stop there. For the second chapter in our series, we aimed our sights south. To the land of Zion, we went. Mind wobbling that this cut of earth -- made so, in part, by the Virgin River -- boasts such amazing mesas, slot canyons, and natural arches in our backyard. This stuff is too close to ignore, and too pretty to miss. You nailed it, Brigham. This is the place.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, 4.5 HOURS: Getting to Zion is stupid simple, but it is a solid road trip, so best to get an early start. Real early. Slam a bit of coffee, pack necessities [fruit leather, carabiners, fleece, a Grigri, whiskey] and strike out for the interstate. Stay alert, pals, because the quiet of southbound I-15 at 5 a.m. is tranquil enough to lull you back to sweet sleep. Just before Hurricane, exit UT-17. A quick jaunt through Toquerville, La Verkin, and Rockville [don’t blink or you’ll miss them] and then park it: you’re in Springdale. It's the final town before reaching Zion and your new base camp. Just a few hundred kindly souls there to keep you company between hiking Angel's Landing [a hairy one], climbing Prophecy Wall, navigating the Narrows, and channeling Ansel Adams.
Check In: Zion Park Motel, 865 Zion Park Blvd. -- During the off-season, getting a room on the cheap is as easy as falling off your rope while rappelling because you didn’t knot your clove hitch properly. Newbie. Zion Park Motel isn’t fancy, but if you wanted that, you’da driven straight past Hurricane and gone to Vegas. For $54 per night, you get a hot shower and a clean bed. After a day spent dropping into haunting chasms, downclimbing through persimmon-colored corridors, and swimming through potholes of limb-numbing water, that’s all you’ll want.
Eat Out: Deep Creek Coffee, Zion Park Blvd. -- Start your day at this humdinger joint for breakfast and a cup of hot stuff. Proprietors, Scott and Heidi, make a mean egg bagel sandwich. Everything is made from scratch, and their coffee comes only from small-batch roasters. For apre-canyoneering, consider the Bit and Spur, 1212 Zion Park Blvd. Right fine place to secure a brew, take a turn at some pool, and scheme about ways to make Springdale your permanent place of residence. If you’re looking for beta on a secret climbing locale, don’t bother asking manager, Hannah: she ain’t talkin’. [We totally get it.]
Hook Up: Zion Adventure Company, 36 Lion Blvd. -- Before you go all Bear Grylls, make sure you're properly educated and outfitted. Special shout to our new pal and ZAC’s own, Laura Dahl. She hooked us up and was even kind enough to join for a day of canyoneering. Easy on the eyes and classy, too: not a single f-bomb was dropped when she had to climb back up a 35’ high, smooth-as-a-baby’s-ass cliff to retrieve the rope we’d left behind. We know. Newbies.
Spend Pesos: Like most towns whose livelihood is based largely on tourism, there is no shortage of galleries in Springdale. They literally line the main drag, but the local talent these galleries support and promote is flat-out legit. Jackson Hole and Aspen gallery owners, be warned: Southern Utah’s artists are ballers.
The toughest part to any weekend getaway is the end, when the reality sets in that it’s time to return to pressing deadlines, monotonous routines, and unrealistic expectations that plague us. Take comfort knowing those distractions will be better managed with your newly-invigorated soul.