We wanted to visit the National Parks in southern Utah, so we flew into the closest airport, Las Vegas McCarran International. We rented a car for the desert drive and found it fascinatingly barren along Highway 15 until we passed through the gigantic and weird peaks of the Virgin River Gorge. At St. George we turned onto Highway 9, which goes through the small town of Springdale, the principle community with numerous restaurants, shops, outfitters, and commercialized entertainment serving Zion National Park tourists.We liked the lunches at Oscar’s so much we returned on several days, but there are numerous other restaurants and eateries in this little town whose permanent population is ony about 350 people. We were glad we have a National Park Pass because entrance fees on a daily basis add up.
If you plan to visit several parks, the annual park pass is a must, and for seniors the Eagle Pass is only $10 for life and gives your camping at half-price. From April through October visitors to Zion and many other National Parks are required to ride the shuttle buses into the main areas of the park, which run so frequently there is never much of a wait. These prevent traffic jams, parking problems, and preserve the beauty of nature visitors come to see.
We wanted to be located in a place where we could access many of the National Parks in this area, so we were fortunate to find Zion Mountain Resort. Located at the East entrance to Zion Canyon National Park, this resort was the perfect, quiet location for our ventures into Zion. And it is just an hour or two on good, paved two-lane, quiet scenic by-ways to reach Bryce National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Coral Sand Dunes, Escalante National Monument, and Grand Canyon North Side, and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, and Lake Powell. You can choose packages that include meals, or just eat in the Bison View Restaurant when you wish, and they will pack box lunches for your forays.
We decided right away that Zion Mountain Resort would be the perfect place for family reunions, or a great escape for corporate retreats. The 3,000 acre ranch is the natural home of a wild herd of buffalo, which we enjoyed watching as they peacefully munched hay and tended their new calves in the huge, fenced meadow hillside that is the focal point for Buffalo View Restaurant and the surrounding cabins and activities of the resort. The pastoral setting is in keeping with its surrounding wide, high-desert meadows, forests, and plateaus, which overlook impressively deep canyons with distant views of red and white cliffs. This peaceful respite was created with the concept of preserving and extending the spirit and appreciation of nature, which the National Parks experience provides.
We were fortunate to meet the principal owners, Kevin and Stacy McLaws who have been creating and realizing their far-sighted dream for nearly a decade and have just initiated the next stage of developing this quiet place of repose and nature-enhancing appreciation experiences. With 52 cabins already accommodating about 130 people and a full service restaurant and shop, the owners plan to develop a lodge and convention center, golf course, and large tract home sites, all with the strict preservation of the natural environment and peaceful setting. Kevin grew up hiking and working in nature and has always deeply connected to the great Creator through the spirit he feels in nature. His vision for further development of Zion Mountain Resort properties will enforce restrictions which protect air, water, animals, land, forests, quietude, and even the vast night sky views of an enormous bowl of brilliant stars. The resort General Manager, Mike Davis, is experienced and adept at making sure that all the operations run smoothly as the resort expands and grows. This will always be the place to renew body, mind, and spirit and reconnect with what we lose in the hectic pace of modern society and the man-made cities in which most people live.
In addition to exploring all the National Parks in the area, traveling to a different one on most days, we enjoyed the peaceful rest of staying at our luxurious cabin and hiking through the cedar groves on the property. We could rent mountain bikes to go all over the dirt roads within the resort or as far as our muscles could carry us on the quiet Highway 9. Trail rides on the resort’s well-cared-for horses was fun and a good way to see the cliffs and canyons in early morning and late evening. We searched for Native American or dinosaur artifacts (which would belong to the resort had we found any.) Our photography opportunites were amazing. We loved our first ATV experience, which took us on adjoining Bureau of Land Management trails to see huge cliffs and canyons not visible from Zion. Hunting in season is also available nearby.
We felt the rewards of a rancher, or cowboy, or explorer, or mountainer by day, roughing it in the picturesque terrain without the duties and problems of maintainance of such beautiful property. Then at night we returned to our log cabin, which appears rustically in keeping with the ranch atmosphere on the outside. We sat awhile on our porch swing enjoying the scenery and brilliant sunset.
Then we went into our luxurious home away from home, designed to meet the most demanding preferences. We had a large sitting area with a queen-size comfortable leather sofa, which could sleep two extra people. We had a large TV , DVD player, table and chairs and modern efficiency kitchenette. The over-sized king bed was extremely comfortable. The decor has a ranch/mountain theme but with very tastefully-selected appointments of the finest quality. The large stone-tiled bathroom has a walk-in shower, vanity sink, and a huge, jet-blower tub for soaking aching muscles, which hiked a bit too far. Some cabins are double this size and sleep six, with extra roll-aways possible.
We found that Buffalo View Restaurant has excellent service from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. with a menu of varied selections. In addition to beef, fish, and chicken, they feature elk, and buffalo prepared in more ways than we could imagine. Our food was always freshly-prepared and delicious. Everyone enjoys watching the buffalo herd quietly eating beyond the large windows. Our hearty breakfast selections were substantial enough to hold a cowboy or hiker all day!
“Village of Many Nations” is located on the resort’s land near the Park entrance and is operated by Native American tribes to educate visitors about the original way of life of these tribes. There are nightly native dance and music performances along with story telling and educational talks about early tribal ways. This area was home to Navajo and Paiute Indians. We walked through real tee-pees and hogans, set up as the Indians lived and held ceremonial rites. There are sweat lodges, wikiups, a log cabin, and demonstrations of various crafts.
If our children had been with us we might have chosen to spend a night in a teepee in this campground, with everything provided as a novel Bed and Breakfast. When summer days climb in temperatures to over 100 degrees, these accommodations look too hot to contemplate, but rest assured that even then nights drop into 50’s or below.
This is an opportunity to appreciate native heritage and can be reserved for groups. The center is in its beginning stages and promises to grow.
Zion Mountain Resort is everything your enhanced National Park experience should be, an appreciation of nature and outdoor experiences without having to rough it. Whether you stay overnight or over a week, alone or with family and friends, it will never be long enough!