Zion National Park 2023

At Thanksgiving in November, I learned that Xanterra was having a “Thankful at Thanksgiving” sale for its properties, and Zion Lodge was on the list. I figured that I would already be in the neighborhood—sort of—and was able to tack on two nights at Zion Lodge after my time in Death Valley. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited Zion (4 or 5), but this would be my first winter trip there.

Death Valley to Zion

Driving from Death Valley to Zion should take about 5 hours of wheels-turning driving, and I took about 7 hours with a few stops along the way. One was at the Amargosa Opera House, but it was closed to visitors when I was there. Apparently, it has quite the history. I also stopped at a car wash on the north side of Las Vegas to get the caked mud off the underside of my car. I was amazed at how good of a job it did for an automated car wash.

Zion National Park Lodge

This was my first time staying in the park at Zion Lodge and, aside from the great location, it comes with the added perk of being able to drive your personal car deep into Zion Canyon. During the normal season, the canyon road is closed to the general public, and you’re required to take a free shuttle into the canyon from the visitor center. (Lodge guests get a code to open the gate to drive back to the lodge.)

The lodge has the main reception building with a restaurant and gift shop, several hotel-like buildings, and several small cabins. I was in one of the hotel buildings, and the room was gorgeously appointed with real quarter-sawn oak Craftsman style furniture. I loved it.

Click on the photos in the galleries below to enlarge them for better viewing.

When I left the building to go to dinner, there was a young buck and about 8-10 does wandering just feet from the steps to the lodge. They were completely oblivious to our presence.

Dinner in the lodge was pretty tasty: a grilled chicken breast with jalapeño-lime sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, and broccolini (a first for me—so much better than plain broccoli). That, and a glass of wine set me back $27. Much more reasonable than at The Last Word Saloon.

Riverside Walk

The Virgin River is what carved Zion Canyon over the millennia, and there’s an easy 2.2 mile / 3.5 km out-and-back paved walk along the river that takes you back to the famous Narrows, a deep canyon that you have to wade in the river to traverse.

It’s a wonderful walk to just saunter along, taking your time and enjoying the sights. In some ways, it may be better in winter because none of the trees had leaves on them, so you could see more of the canyon walls as you walked.

It was a brisk 34° F / 1° C when I started my walk early in the morning, and there were only a handful of other hikers on the trail. I imagine in the summer when everyone is trying to get to the Narrows, it’s a constant parade of humanity.

Eastern Zion

The vast majority of tourists spend a good bit of their time in the main canyon, and with good reason. But the eastern side of Zion National Park—east of the 1.1 mile / 1.8 km Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel—has some amazing scenery to explore as well. You get a great feel for the geology of the park with the layers of sandstone going in pretty much every direction.

Springdale, Utah

Springdale is the town just outside the main entrance to Zion, and it’s filled with shops, outfitters, galleries, and restaurants. For my last night of the trip, I popped into the Zion Canyon Brew Pub for dinner and a beer. The pastrami Reuben sandwich was tasty, and I enjoyed their Red Altar beer.


Yes, my time in Zion was limited to two nights and a single full day, but I made the best of it and had a really good time. It helps, too, when you return to a place you’ve been before, you don’t have to spend as much time trying to figure out where you want to go and what you want to see. You already have a good understanding.

Luckily, the weather held for me. Snow was at the higher elevations of the park, but in the main canyon, it remained near 50° F / 10° C through most of the day. But, once again, the next atmospheric river was approaching, and I needed to make my way home. It rained solidly pretty much all the way from Barstow, California to San Diego. Once again, Cajon Pass proved to be a bottleneck. Oh well. I made it home safely.

3 thoughts on “Zion National Park 2023

  1. Have never been to Zion – great photos- it is quite beautiful! On my bucket list to hike-
    Loved the video of the deer!

  2. Beautiful photos and the so interesting report. When we went in summer last year, and we wanted to see the stars at 10pm, but instead we saw the same deers and they scared away, so we returned to the lodge 🙂

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