Family Fun and Adventures at Zion Ponderosa Resort
When we were planning our road trip from Austin, Texas to my parents’ house near Lake Tahoe, Nevada this summer, I had one demand: We have to spend a couple of nights by Zion National Park. (Okay, I had more than one demand, but the others were about snacks and music choices.) We’d driven by Zion a few years ago, and I was eager to go back and spend more time in this gorgeous, remote part of America.
Zion is in the southwest corner of Utah, with the closest big city being St. George. It’s also only a 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas, making it convenient to fly in to either there or St. George, then rent a car to travel the rest of the way. It’s location makes it the perfect home base to explore nearby national parks, with Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon each just over an hour’s drive away, and Arches National Park in Colorado a 4.5 hour drive east. Basically, if you’re into canyons and red rocks, Zion is where you need to be.
Lodging options at Zion Ponderosa
The lodging choices in this area are numerous, ranging from camp sites to nice hotels. My family’s preferences fall somewhere in the middle, with my husband’s idea of “roughing it” being slow Wi-Fi, so I was happy to discover the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. Zion Ponderosa is located just outside the main entrance to Zion National Park and the setting is something straight out of a Western movie. Can’t you just imagine John Wayne galloping into the valley ready to fight the bad guys?
Zion Ponderosa has lodging that runs that gamut from tents, to rustic cowboy cabins, to deluxe vacation homes. No surprise, my family opted for the deluxe vacation home and stayed in a beautiful house with five bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen and TVs in every room. It was just what we needed after being in the car together for three straight days, trust me. Ponderosa and Zion Ridge Vacation Homes are perfect for large groups, and are priced reasonably when the cost is shared. Here’s the one we enjoyed:
If you’re more into glamping, Zion Ponderosa also has 19th century pioneer-style Conestoga Wagons available that will let you live out your “Little House on the Prairie” dreams. The wagons sleep up to six, with one King and two twin bunk beds. And, unlike Half Pint, you’ll have access to Wi-Fi and electrical outlets inside the wagon so you can make everyone on Instagram jealous with your vacation pictures. #IWokeUpLikeThis
Activities at Zion Ponderosa
Now on to the activities at Zion Ponderosa, and there are many. Your trip should of course include a trek into the national park, which I’ll cover in a minute, but there’s a lot to keep you busy at the resort, too, starting with the pool. It’s as refreshing as it looks and a great place to let your kids burn off some energy while you relax nearby with a drink from the poolside grill.
ZP’s other activities include paintball, zip lining, horseback riding, guided tours, a rock wall, a miniature golf course, a basketball court and more. One night we signed up for the sunset Jeep tour, only to find out the Jeep wasn’t running so we had to take an ATV instead. I wasn’t so sure about this, but it turned out to be one of the most fun things the four of us have ever done on a vacation. (And yes, I know how amazing I look in those goggles.)
Here’s the view that awaited us at the top. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t in a “Lord of the Rings” movie.
Dining options at Zion Ponderosa
Most of the lodging at Zion Ponderosa includes some kind of a kitchen, but the on-site restaurant, Ray’s, offers great breakfast, lunch and dinner selections. My son Jack said the steak he ate at Ray’s was the best he’s ever had, and he’s had a lot of steaks. Unfortunately, we missed the Wagon Ride and Dutch Oven Dinner where you take a wagon ride through the forest to an outdoor dining location to enjoy BBQ chicken, beans, corn and everything else you’d expect from such an outing. How fun does this look?
Visiting Zion National Park during your stay
Now, let’s talk about Zion National Park. The main entrance to the park is a quick drive from Zion Ponderosa, and it’s best to get there as early as possible so you can snag a parking spot. It’s open 24 hours, with the guard gate issuing passes starting at 8 a.m. from what we could see. The drive through the park is gorgeous, with giant red and white rocks everywhere you look. You might even see a few Big Horn Sheep, like my husband did when he rode his bike through the park early one morning.
Zion NP relies on the Zion Canyon Shuttle System to efficiently move people around the park, and they depart from the main visitor’s center. We had to wait for quite some time, despite it being early, so definitely incorporate that into your plans if you’re going during high season. Here’s just one of the views from our time in the park:
There are quite a few hikes in Zion NP (we just did a 2-miler because it was crazy hot), with one of the most popular being The Narrows. Zion Ponderosa offers guided hikes and transportation to and from many of the trailheads, so take advantage of that if you’re a guest. I’m not going to show you a picture of me hiking in Zion, because those are not for public viewing, but here’s a nice one of two people who aren’t sweating their faces off and asking for wine spritzers.
If you’re even more adventurous, you can also try canyoneering with an instructor from Zion Ponderosa. Again, this picture isn’t of me, because I’d be wincing and yelling, “Make it stop!” if I had to do this to my thighs, but these people are definitely having a great time.
Take a look at Zion Ponderosa’s website for more information on all they have to offer, and also be sure to check out the Women’s Retreat that’s coming up in October. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab a few of your friends and head on out to Utah for a weekend of adventure, bonding, and wide open spaces in this scenic and peaceful part of the country. And if you do go on the Women’s Retreat, please be sure to invite me along because I really want to get a picture of myself looking just like this on a rock. No goggles necessary.
Thank you to Zion Ponderosa for hosting my family for two nights. We loved our time in your beautiful spot.Published August 11, 2017. Last updated March 18, 2018.