Zion Mountain Ranch is located just a couple of miles from the East gate of Zion National Park so your adventure easily begins here. Drive the winding scenic roads of the park and enjoy taking photos or shooting video at many of the pullouts. You are near the top of Zion National Park and this upper end has a very different terrain than the lower areas. Stop at such view areas as Checkerboard Mesa and then park near the entrance of the Zion Tunnel and take a leisurely walk to the Blind Arch overlook. The mile-long tunnel in Zion goes right through the side of the mountain. You’ll enjoy driving slowly through the tunnel because there are windows in several intervals that look out onto Zion National Park. Once you exit the tunnel you will follow a very scenic drive down into the valley of Zion National Park where your elevation will be approximately 4,000 feet. From April to October a shuttle runs from the town of Springdale and takes you into the main canyon. This shuttle is your only access into the canyon during these months, so park your car in Springdale and jump on the shuttle. This will take you to any number of scenic stops.
You may wish to take walks to Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock and the "Narrows" via the trail that begins at the Temple of Sinewava. Also stop at the turnout to shoot photos of the park’s most famous formation "The Great White Throne." More adventurous hikers might want to take a look at "Angel’s Landing" and other backcountry adventures. the staff at Zion Mountain Ranch can pack lunches and drinks for your day of adventure in Zion National Park. If you’d like to make a loop out of your trip, you can venture off the road at the town of Rockville and venture to the old Ghost Town of Grafton. Here you’ll see an old school house and other buildings from the early settlers of this community. It is also the location of a famous movie scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From here you’ll follow the well-graded dirt road up the hill and around toward the community of Apple Valley. You’ll pass the Smith’s Mesa and circle onto highway 59 and drive through Hildale on to Pipe Spring National Monument, a fort constructed for protection from the Indians along the Arizona Strip. You’ll circle through Kanab and back to he ranch near the end of a great day. Return to the ranch in the afternoon or evening for a relaxing soak in the tub or Jacuzzi and a delicious dinner at the Buffalo Grill.
Zion Mountain Ranch is a great jumping off point for many of the regions National Parks. The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is just two hours drive to the south. The drive is spectacular as you pass by Coral Pink Sand Dunes, the western town of Kanab and then make your way up onto the Kaibab Plateau and through the dense forest of Ponderosa Pines. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. Coral Pink Sand Dunes is just a short drive off Highway 89 (7 miles) and offers beautiful views of reddish colored sand dunes.
Kanab is a historic town and one where over 100 western movies were filmed in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Stop by the Frontier Movie Town to see old movie sets used by John Wayne and other famous men of the movie west. The north rim of the Grand Canyon is higher than the south rim and it is said that the views are more spectacular. This is different than Zion National Park where you are looking up at formations, at Grand you are on top looking down at it all. Have lunch at the lodge or the staff at ZMR will be happy to provide you with a lunch for the day. There are many trails that you can venture on across the rim or even down into the canyon. Just remember that wherever you go down, you’ll need to hike back up. Take a water bottle in any case. You’ll need your camera and plenty of film or disk space on your new digital camera. The drive back from the north Rim is spectacular, as you’ll be treated to views of the Grand Staircase. Vermilion Cliffs, White Cliffs and Pink Cliffs will be visible in the distance, each one stair-stepping up and above the other.
Bryce is just an hour to the North. At the gate you will be given a map of the park. Just past the main gate you can stop at the visitor center and view the various displays on the geology and other information about the park. Drive to some of the overlooks. The main road in Bryce Canyon goes from the Gate on the North for 20 miles to the South end of the park. There are many places to stop and take photos in Bryce Canyon National Park. If you enjoy walking then there are many trails that lead from the top of the park down in and among the formations. Use the map given you at the gate. As you stop at the overlooks you will be looking to the East into the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and across the Bryce Valley toward Powell Point which rises to over 10,000 feet. Depending on the season you can enjoy many activities near the park – such as rodeos, chuck wagon rides and entertainment, horseback riding, helicopter rides, etc. If you have time you can go further venture past Bryce Canyon to Kodachrome Basin State Park for the afternoon. This is a magical place with unique formations. There are also opportunities to see wildlife at the Bryce Canyon Animal Safari. Call ahead for reservations.
Circle north again to the quaint town of Panguitch (just 40 minutes away) and then go south and climb the mountain on a beautifully paved road to Panguitch Lake (the word Panguitch means – "Big Fish"). Here you can rent boats and gear for fishing or bring your own. There are stores and restaurants for lunch or dinner and supplies. When you're finished viewing this sparkling large lake in the mountains, continue south and West to Cedar Breaks National Monument. You'll be close to Brian Head Resort if you want to drop down into the town. Here you can rent Mountain Bikes and ride a large network of trails. In summer you can even put your bike on a ski lift to the top of a mountain and ride downhill through the forest.
At Cedar Breaks you can view the formations of the Markagaunt Plateau. It is much like Bryce Canyon. From here you can circle south and then east on highway 14 to see overlooks toward Zion National Park. You’ll pass Navajo Lake, which sits like a jewel in a mountain valley. You can take an easy walk to Cascade Falls and see where water seeps from the side of the mountain and literally cascades into the upper Virgin River. The Virgin is the river that has carved Zion National Park. Venture further East on highway 14 and stop at Duck Creek Village. From here circle back to us just 40 minutes for a relaxing evening.
The East side of Zion National Park offers some excellent short walks, ½ day or full day hikes and several excellent technical hikes that include rappelling in slot canyon areas.
Walks to the Blind Arch Overlook and around Checkerboard Mesa are easily accessible and there are many pull-outs throughout Zion National Park where you can easily venture off for a short walk in a side canyon. In all areas use good judgment and caution about where you walk or hike.
The Blind Arch Overlook walk begins on the east side of the road at the top of the main tunnel. This walk offers views into the Pine Creek area which is adjacent to the tunnel and then takes you out to an overlook into the main Zion basin. The view is spectacular and the walk will take between 1 and 1.5 hours depending on how much time you spend shooting photos, viewing foliage and enjoying the scenic overlook.
The Checkerboard walk goes around to the back of the mesa and begins and ends at the parking lot just to the North of the mesa. This walk is slightly strenuous and will take approximately 1 ½ hours depending on your ability.
This includes hikes to places such as the Zion Narrows, Orderville Canyon, Englestead Canyon, Mystery Canyon, Spry Canyon, Keyhole Canyon, Pine Creek and Fat Man’s Misery. These are all spectacular but should be attempted only with the right equipment and experience.