For many they have to wait more than a year to stay at Zion Lodge in Zion National Park so I consider myself quite lucky to have booked a room only two weeks ahead of my stay. To be fair it was a November visit, not quite high season but the bonus was that I felt like I had the place to myself. My visit to Zion National Park was a stopping point on my wellness/birthday vacation adventure St. George (Red Mountain Resort & Spa) – Page, Arizona – Zion Lodge – Las Vegas. It was a great mid-point on the road trip to appreciate the beauty of nature and take a much needed time out staring at the stars above (I needed to wish on them all!).
Driving to Zion Lodge (Route 9 and 89 entrance)
I didn’t realize there were two distinctly different entrances at the time so I entered Zion National Park from Page, Arizona (Routes 9 and 89 entrance from the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Page direction). I followed the road through the stunning scenery which included driving through a tunnel (built in the 1920s) and then twists and turns of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway as the car went from the higher elevation down to the base of the park.
As it was November and just before sunset, I was able to pull over multiple times to get out and take photos and just marvel in the quiet beauty of nature. Once I reached the bottom of the park, I made a right onto the road normally closed during tourist season (Spring-Fall) and serviced only by shuttle busses. Those staying at the lodge get a special parking pass from the Lodge prior to check-in (mine arrived by mail after my trip so the hotel provided me a car hangtag at check-in. I followed the road past shuttle stops #3 and #4 before I saw the Zion Lodge sign (shuttle stop #5).
If you enter from Springdale, Utah, the drive to Zion Lodge is easier as you are at the bottom of the park already so the drive is quicker, less scenic and less thrilling in my opinion.
Zion Lodge – Check-In
Zion Lodge is spread over two parking lots and multiple buildings. There are 40 cabins, 75 rooms and 6 suites in cluster of buildings. It is managed by Xanterra, which manages many national and state park lodging as well as a few tour groups and Windstar Cruises. The main lodge is for check in, restaurants and gift shop while the sleeping rooms are a quick walk away but have their own parking lot. So you can use the main parking lot (small, limited to 20 minutes) to get checked-in and pick up your keys and then drive to the parking lot to unpack your gear to take to the room (or cabin).
The main lodge was, as expected, warm, friendly and decorated nicely. The front desk welcomed me and offered an upgraded room (front of building) which I declined because I wanted the quiet in the back. The front would be next to walking path and the road which could be noisy when busy but offered a gorgeous view. The hotel also offered to extend my stay as they had open rooms at a discounted price but unfortunately I had already booked my next leg of the journey (Las Vegas).
I was given the key card and a laminated property map with the Wi-Fi code (surprisingly good connection for social media) and other information. Armed with my key card and map, I refilled my water bottle at the station in the lobby before I went back to the car to move it to the guest parking lot nearer my hotel room.
Zion Lodge – Hotel Room (Standard Double)
I was not able to book the separate cabins that sat out front of the buildings. My “hotel room” was on the second floor (no elevator) and I should have only brought in my overnight bag but I brought everything in with me, lugging it all up the stairs. I was a bit apprehensive as the online photo looked nice but didn’t have much else to go by – no video of the room or photos of the bathroom. When I opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised that it was nicer than online.
Upon entry, the bathroom was on my left with a sink and open closet area outside of the shower/toilet room. This was actually great design as I took my hiking boots off in this area and tons of sand poured out from my earlier visit that day to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.
With only my hiking socks on, I walked on the carpeted part of the room and put my things down on the desk noticing the recycle bins along the side. Zion Lodge has recycle bins throughout the property and their toiletries are also in refillable bottles. Being kind to the environment is taken seriously here.
My double room had two beds, a chair in the corner, desk and television area as well as an outdoor patio with two chairs. The view outside in the back of the building was very quiet but I realized I passed on a million plus stars out front – I only had a few thousand in the back.
The shower had a good water pressure and the toilet is similar to a cruise with a vacuum system (not quiet). The bathroom décor was simple with a few forest animal tiles but practical with a night light option.
Zion Lodge Restaurant – Red Rock Grill
My overnight rate (Winter Bed & Breakfast Promotion) included a buffet breakfast in the main lodge restaurant, Red Rock Grill, on the second floor of the main lodge (the seasonal Castle Dome Cafe was closed). The buffet had the standard breakfast fare – scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, oatmeal, potatoes, bacon, fruits and breads. Unfortunately for me, the scrambled eggs were made with milk so the buffet wasn’t quite for me as I’m dairy and gluten free. Fortunately, the server was able to have the kitchen make me two over easy eggs which I paired with potatoes, bacon and fruit. As for the juice, I asked if “fresh squeezed” and the server said “it’s fresh from the machine” so I stuck with water.
The restaurant is massive and includes an outdoor patio for warmer times. I can only imagine how packed this place gets in summer with hotel guests and visitors on the shuttle system. Advanced reservations are recommended.
For dinner, my rate included a bar drink but I wasn’t in the mood for a big supper or drink after my busy day in Page, Arizona and the subsequent three hour drive to Zion Lodge so I ate my takeaway sandwich I picked up on my drive (I’m always prepared with a snack bag of food). The restaurant décor echoes the warm and friendly vibe of the lobby. The menu is quite varied in options and price points.
Zion Lodge Shuttle – Zion Scenic Drive
Zion Lodge is shuttle stop #5 and there is an outdoor waiting area near the main lodge. You can take the shuttle down to the final stop #9 (Temple of Sinawava) for The Narrows Hike (8+ hrs roundtrip) or the easier Riverside Walk (1.5 hrs roundtrip). Going the other way, you can take the shuttle to the first stop #1 Visitor Center. As I visited in November, the shuttle was done for the season so I was able to drive the car to the various shuttle stops for pictures and hikes.
While I started at Riverside Walk prior to 10 a.m. when parking was easy to find on a November Thursday, by 11 a.m. most of the shuttle stop parking lots and side of the road were full so I had to pass on a few photo opportunities. The scenic drive closes frequently when there is no parking available (people get creative on the side of the road) so best to follow @ZionNPS on Twitter for updates. No matter as I had a lovely drive to myself and even saw an animal on the road. I was able to stop and take photos on the empty roads.
Overall Impression of Zion Lodge
I loved the quiet serenity and star filled sky at Zion Lodge and was disappointed that I hadn’t booked a longer stay, if only to sit on the deck and admire the beauty and sounds of nature. Reserve your room at Zion Lodge as soon as you have an inkling that you want to go to Zion National Park. It was a wonderful experience and so easy to do.
It’s in the simplicity that you find luxury – time saved from shuttles, time saved from commuting in/out of the park, more time with family and loved ones. I learned that “Zion” means peace and refuge and my stay at Zion Lodge was just that – a refuge away from the daily drama bubble that I live in, away from the work drama, a time to reconnect and be mindful in appreciating the small details along the path. And the star filled sky, well, that was just stunning bonus that is captured in my memory and reminds me to breathe and enjoy the silence.