Welcome to the most magical experience in the United States, Zion! Just six and a half hours outside of Los Angeles you will find Utah’s first National Park. MASSIVE sandstone cliffs of varying shades of red rise high into the sky, and all you will see are clear skies and beauty each way you look.
A few weeks ago, close friends of mine embarked on a trip to Zion and stayed at Cliffrose Lodge. I immediately started following their trip, not just because the views of Zion seemed spectacular, but because they were absolutely loving their stay at the lodge. I had just begun planning my trip to Zion when two weeks later, two of my best friends also went and stayed at the lodge. If it wasn’t clear already, Cliffrose was the place to stay.
The Cliffrose grounds are beautiful and calm and it is the PERFECT place to return home to after a long day of adventuring. They have several different styles of residency, from the King Suite my friend and I stayed in to beautiful homes meant for larger families or groups. They have two pools and hot tubs, a fire pit, patio, and grounds where you can sit out and picnic. We loved waking up every day and seeing deer out in our yard and the sunshine reflect off of the red canyons. The view from my room (last photo in this Cliffrose Lodge section) was stunning.
There are SO many perks to Cliffrose and reasons why it is absolutely where you must stay, but the two that stand out are its location and service.
As you enter Springdale, UT and approach the Zion Canyons, you drive along a one lane road for miles until you reach your destination. Along this road, every mile or so, you will see other hotels/lodges. Cliffrose Lodge is the closest to ‘town’ and closest to the canyons!! Other places we were looking at staying were up to 30 minutes away from the canyons and adventures! This proximity was sooo key!
THE PEOPLE AT CLIFFROSE ARE AMAZING. All I knew heading into the trip were a few of the sites I wanted to see, but I had no idea how to get to and from, what equipment I needed, where to park, where to enter ETC. Tyler and the Cliffrose team not only answered every question I had, but went out of their way to set everything up for us, so our experience was totally stress free. All we had to do was wake up and show up. They were also full of recommendations, from where to eat, to what to see, to when to do each adventure. I was in awe of their knowledge and service!
These are the two views from my room!
The restaurant at Cliffrose is called Anthera, and they have an adorable patio outside where you can dine. If you’d prefer to dine by the pool, in your room, out on the lawn, or by the fire, you can opt to have your food sent out to you, too! The lodge has live music on select nights, and we were treated to a Chef’s tasting dinner while watching sunset and listening to an amazing musician.
To start, we were served a mix berry salad, which was absolutely delicious. You can tell all ingredients are sourced local… everything was so fresh!! For our main course we were served a red wine poached salmon on sweet potato and trout over ratatouille. The dishes were incredibly unique and tasty! And for dessert, we ordered a locally made blood orange sorbet. Both my friend and I have food allergies, and the team couldn’t have been more accommodating!!
Now to the adventures! Going to Zion? Your first stop must be The Narrows!!
Let’s start with the two questions I was most asked after posting on my Instagram about The Narrows!
- Where did you rent your equipment?
There are several stores with gear in town! You MUST rent walking shoes (and the water socks) and the stick wasn’t a prop… it was NECESSARY!
- Was there bacteria?!
This was obviously a major concern of mine, too, going into The Narrows. We asked everyone from our hotel staff, to our private driver, to the people renting us our equipment if we should be concerned, and unanimously we were told that yes there was a concern, but as long as you don’t swallow the water we would be absolutely fine. (You won’t swallow water unless you literally bend over and drink it). They also assured us that even if we did somehow come into contact with the algae, we would be fine. There was one incident with a dog earlier in the summer (July 2020), but outside of that there have been no reported incidents. Also there was less algae now in September than there was in July.
Okay, now to the experience!!! (and some major pro tips!)
We were picked up at 9am by a private driver (arranged through Cliffrose). We had the option to have our driver hang and do the Narrows with us, or go at it alone. We opted to do it alone, but having the driver for the sake of drop off and pick up was major! The shuttle system, especially given these Covid times, is a bit tough. Pick ups are only at certain times and lines are longggg. Having that easy in and our of the park was amazing.
Before entering the actual water part of The Narrows it is a 30 minute walk. And once you are in, call it another hour and a half or two hours (depending how fast you are moving or how far you want to go). Two hours or so in, two hours or so out. ADVICE. As you can see in my photos, I’m not wearing much clothing. It was 95 degrees!! Or so I thought. The weather in Zion (in September) is quite interesting… It was about 55 degrees until 3PM when it would jump to 90. Also, even though it was 90 degrees in the morning, the narrows are totally shaded and enclosed, so it will ALWAYS be cooler than what you think. Bring a jacket or at least a flannel, and when you get hot later in the day throw it in your backpack or tie it around your waist. ALSO. Bring snacks and bring water. I had a fanny pack; you definitely should bring a proper backpack. Live and learn, right??
Let’s talk about my gear. You may be thinking I got the walking stick for a cute photo- wrong. Your feet will be totally soaked, so you NEED the proper “socks” and water boots. You can rent these many places in town. Wearing the boots and hiking through The Narrows is fascinating. It is ALLLL rock and you can’t totally see the bottom, but the boots have grips so I didn’t slip once. The stick- as I just mentioned the bottom is all rock of different sizes and shape, so you need to lead with your stick to find steady surface. I won’t say it’s impossible to do The Narrows without the stick, but it would be very very challenging and probably not very fun.
The way out of The Narrows went way quicker than the way in. I think it’s because it started to warm up and at that point we had our groove with how to navigate everything. We started our journey at 9:45AM. GO EARLY. By the time we were leaving it was getting super crowded with people. We got great pictures because we went early! I don’t think we would have gotten such clear photos later in the day with all the people.
Where to Eat:
Feel Love Coffee:
The cafe of my dreams was located right across the street from Cliffrose!!! Feel Love Coffee- a tiny cafe serving every kind of latte and tea you could dream of, gluten-free and vegan pastries and donuts, vegan soft-serve, GF avocado toasts and more!! We went here every day. Sometimes twice. The line is super long first thing in the morning, and they definitely sell out of their goods, but this is your gluten-free Mecca! Full menu here!
Bit N’ Spur:
Without fail, everyone’s first recommendation for where to grab dinner in Zion was Bit N’ Spur! MAJOR TIP: Everywhereeee in Zion gets a CRAZY long wait. We arrived for dinner at 7PM and we were told there was an hour and a half wait. Sadly, we didn’t stick out the wait, BUT you have the option to order takeout, so we did that and brought it back to our room and ate while watching the Full Moon rise. The food was delicious and like most menus I found in Zion, they note their gluten-free options on the menu! I ordered the Harvest Salad, no cheese and added shrimp, and Holly ordered the gluten-free BBQ ribs. Full menu here!
The next restaurant we were dying to try was called King’s Landing. In terms of food, it was the most upscale (and felt most allergy/ food preference accommodating). Because we learned the hard way that wait times are LONGGG in Zion, we got to King’s Landing at 5:30PM, to which we were told there was an hour and forty-five minute wait!!! I can’t make this up!! So we ditched King’s Landing and went to another recommended spot in town, Spotted Dog Cafe.
Spotted Dog Cafe is located just steps from Cliffrose, too! They only had a thirty minute wait, so Spotted Dog it was! Their outdoor seating was lovely, they had an amazing sunset view of the mountains, and their menu also noted gluten-free options so I was very happy with this choice. We ordered the peptia crusted red trout on wild rice and vegetables, Mediterranean Salad, and Gorgonzola Salad. The portions are hearty and fresh, and this was the perfect meal. Full menu here!
At the end of our trip, my partner in crime, Holly, and I thought back on ALLLL of the activities and adventures we did over the course of our 3 days (it felt like 3 weeks, ha!) and tried to pick a favorite. It was tough, but we both agreed it was riding electric bikes through the canyon! I had never been on an electric bike before, and now I don’t know how I’m going to ride a regular bike ever again!! The Cliffrose team set us up with the bikes, which were rented from a local organization in the town, and it was the coolest experience EVER. The bikes go up to 40 mph!! The road that takes you to all of the canyon entrances is closed to all traffic except private drivers and shuttles, and the bikes, so we rode our bikes on this road. We rode all the way to the highest point! To say the views were stunning doesn’t do it justice. You have to see it to believe it!! Again, major thank you to Cliffrose for hooking this up!!
Before heading to Zion, we were told the two absolute “must-do’s” were The Narrows and Canyon Overlook. Unlike The Narrows, Canyon Overlook is a relatively easy hike, 30ish minutes up and 30ish minutes back! Great views, but honestly, everywhere has great views so I don’t mean to sound like a broken record!!
We did this hike at Golden Hour on our first night. It is easy/moderate and long. Our intention was to hike to the highest point and watch the sun set, but we didn’t realize how long the hike was so as the sun set an hour into the hike, we turned around so we didn’t get caught in the dark. Every spot on this hike has an amazing view, so no need to even make it to the top!! We were super happy with how far we went. From the point pictured above we probably had another thirty or forty minutes to go… but I mean… just look at this view!! No need to overachieve 😉
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
HOW. COOL. WAS. THIS. After two full days of hiking, we were looking to change it up a bit! Friends of ours showed us Coral Pink Sand Dunes and we knew immediately we had to go! The park is located about an hour from Cliffrose. What was so cool about this drive was that up until this point, we had just been in Zion, and hadn’t ventured to the other side of Zion Canyon.
To lay it out, as you are driving into Zion, Cliffrose if about a half mile from the canyon entrances. Of the hikes, first is Watchman’s, then Emeralds, then The Narrows. Instead of turning INto road that takes you to the canyon’s, to go to the Dunes you drive PAST the road. Drive for another hour up and over the canyon and in no man’s land, with amazing views, and you’ll find Coral Sands!!
At the park you can rent ATVs and go Sand Boarding. We just rented the boards. There is an endless amount of sand, so an endless amount of places you can choose to board. Seeing the dunes was honestly something I’ve never seen before and couldn’t truly imagine until I was there. We spent about an hour here, and then drove back!
The Canyon Overlook hike is on this side of the Canyon, too, so we did this after the Sand Dunes.
Another amazing hike. What’s cool about Emerald Pools is that you can make the hike as short or as long as you want! We did the lower pool and upper pool, and round trip it was probably two hours. The views are amazing every direction you look, there are lots of cool waterfalls, and it’s pretty spacious. Definitely do this!
Goodbye, Zion, and thank you Cliffrose Lodge for an amazing experience!!! I can’t recommend this trip highly enough. Book your stay here!