Ok, none of this happened in my California kitchen (except the PB&Js I made for hiking), but I love to travel so I thought I would share with you some tips and recommendations for two of Utah’s beautiful national parks.
My husband and I took this little road trip from southern California on a long weekend in November, extended by the Veteran’s Day holiday. This is my first tip…November was perfect for this trip. We got some foliage, some snowy vistas at Bryce, hotels at off-peak prices, and significantly smaller crowds than you would find in the summer (we were told the summer is so crowded you have to wait in line during the most popular hikes).
Our route: Orange County, CA–>St George, UT–>Bryce Canyon National Park, UT–>Zion National Park, UT–>Orange County, CA
We left on a Friday a little bit after noon and stopped for the night in a little town called St. George so we could head to Bryce Canyon first (so that by the time we got to the more-crowded Zion, it would be Sunday and less crowded for at least some of our stay there).
This is our itinerary, and we were beyond thrilled with it.
Day 1, Friday: Orange County–>St George, 6 hours
We stayed at the Best Western Coral Hills which was perfect for a quick night’s stay. It was new, clean, super affordable, and had comfortable beds.
Just a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel was George’s Corner Restaurant. It had really good, freshly made food and even some cool live music! We liked it so much, we almost wished we could stay a little longer to go there again.
I got onion rings (and a wedge salad) because I love them…and they were perfect!
Day 2, Saturday: Even though the hotel had a free small breakfast, we decided to go for something a little more filling to prepare for our hikes, so we went to the Bear Paw Café, also just a couple minutes’ walk from the hotel. I had a delicious Belgian waffle and my husband had a very large and filling egg scramble with tons of bacon and hash browns.
After breakfast, we drove to the park: St George, UT–> Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, 2 hours
This was our view entering the park, that’s snow you see on the rocks!
I am so happy we chose the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. It was newly built, and probably the nicest Best Western I have stayed in. It also had a mini refrigerator and freezer. A note about Bryce Canyon, it was WAY out there. There is not much around. This hotel, along with the other Best Western (Ruby Inn), is pretty much your only option if you want to stay in a hotel really close to the park.
We fit in a nice easy hike at Bryce this day: Sunset Point–> Navajo Trail (moderate hike) –>Queen’s Garden (easy hike)–>Sunset Point ( 2 mile loop, 1.5 hours)
If you start at Sunset Point, there is a short paved trail that is easy for anyone to do, and some of the very best views can be seen from this trail. After the hike, we started a little driving tour along the long road in the park.
This picture was taken at one of the stops on the drive, Inspiration Point.
We saw these cuties from the road just before sunset while driving around the park.
For lunch this day, we had packed some PB&Js, trail mix, and other little snacks. We ate these at one of the many stops along the drive from Sunset Point and to Rainbow Point. For sunset, we hung around at Bryce Point, until it got a little bit dark and saw the most stars I have ever seen in person. I highly recommend this!
For dinner, there were not very many options (especially at this time of year). I did see a Subway sandwich shop near our hotel, but besides that, there is little else besides the buffet for dinner at Ruby’s Inn (just a minute or two drive from our hotel). The buffet wasn’t the healthiest and definitely not gourmet, but there was enough to eat that we enjoyed there. They have a salad bar that comes with the buffet, as well as about 10 hot dishes. I also had some yummy cornbread here.
Day 3, Sunday: We ate the free breakfast at the hotel nice and early so we could head to Zion.
Bryce Canyon National Park–>Zion National Park, 1.5 hours
We saw this bighorn sheep near the side of the road on the ride into Zion, keep your eyes open for them!
We stayed at the Cliffrose Resort, which we really loved. It had a nice comfortable bed, free AMAZING homemade breakfast, and a great location. It also had a mini refrigerator and freezer. The guest rooms are situated in rows such that each room’s door opens up to the outside so there were some little bugs that hung out by the door frame, but they didn’t BUG us (ha, get it!?)
The hotel’s location allowed us to walk straight into the park! Another tip, something good to know about Zion is that you can only travel throughout most of the park in a shuttle during the weekends May through November (though a lot of things you read say it’s May through October, lies!!). Since we got there on a Sunday, we had to use the shuttle to do the hike we had planned for this day. The Cliffrose was PERFECT for this, as the shuttle stop is just about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. The parking lots for the shuttle stops were COMPLETELY full by the time we got there in the afternoon, so I don’t know what we would have done if our hotel wasn’t within walking distance to the shuttle.
By the time we caught the shuttle, and got to our hike stop, we had just enough time for our hike, Observation Point (8 miles round-trip, 4-5 hours, steep and strenuous).
Saw this bad girl on the hike up to the top, yeesh!
This was my favorite hike of the whole trip. If you are in reasonably good shape, this hike is not to be missed. This route climbs pretty much straight up (2,100 feet!!) and was a great workout. Make sure to pack tons of water, and some food. My hiking shoes are only ok, and I struggled with toe pain on the very steep hike back down (this can happen if your shoes allow your feet to slide forward in them).
Quite the steep hike, but the view was worth it!
Zion has a few more food options than Bryce Canyon. We had a really great casual dinner at Bit and Spur. It was a little bit crowded, but we got there early enough (around 6:30 pm…we were hungry!!) to avoid a longer wait. We chose it for the interesting menu with lots of gluten-free options (my husband got the amazing sweet potato tamales and the delicious gluten-free berry crumble pictured below)!
Day 4, Monday: The hotel had such a plentiful free breakfast, we didn’t even consider going somewhere else. They had homemade granola and yogurt parfaits, bacon and egg burritos, eggs, sausage, toast/bagels, and lots of other typical continental options.
This day we did a couple of the more popular Zion attractions. Since it was Monday, we drove our car into the park straight to the hikes.
The first hike was Angel’s Landing (5 miles round-trip, strenuous). Made famous for being somewhat dangerous (several people in the past decade have fallen to their deaths), it had similar views to our hike the previous day, but was significantly more crowded. Much of the hike is so narrow with cliff drop-offs on both sides that you must hold on to a chain as you make your way up and down. It was kind of cool, but I could have skipped it if we had less time.
This is Angel’s Landing. Yup, you hike your way up this narrow ridge!
Chipmunks hang out at the top of cliffs hoping to catch hikers’ crumbs!
We ate lunch in the car after Angel’s Landing, which consisted of applesauce, crackers and spray cheese (equally gross and delicious), nuts, and cookies.
We then did another little hike at Zion, which wasn’t really a hike at all, but a scenic walk on a hard surface. Riverside Walk (2 miles round-trip, easy). There were some really great views on this path and it was great for families or for people who don’t like to or can’t hike.
This is the view from the easy Riverside Walk.
For sunset, we parked near the bridge over Virgin River at the Canyon Junction shuttle stop. It was beautiful, but make sure to get there an hour or so before sunset if you want a parking spot, it gets crowded!
Sunset from the bridge.
For dinner, we decided to go to a restaurant that was a little bit more upscale to celebrate the last night of the trip, The Spotted Dog Café. It was pretty good, but not very memorable.
Day 5, Tuesday: We ate at the hotel for breakfast again (yum).
We did a couple of easy little hikes before leaving the park.
Lower Emerald Pool (about 1 mile round-trip, easy) and Weeping Rock (0.5 miles round-trip, easy). The emerald pool trail was pretty but the pool wasn’t emerald! We might have hiked up to the upper pools if we had a bit more time, but I wasn’t too impressed with the hike that we did. The same goes for Weeping Rock. That being said, it’s always nice to walk around a beautiful place.
From there, we headed home! Zion National Park, UT–>Orange County, CA, 6.5 hours
That’s it! We absolutely loved this trip and both agreed it was one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.