I’m not an extreme sports type of girl. In fact, heights kind of freak me out. So while I can’t really offer any rational explanation as to why I decided to spend my vacation time hiking, canyoneering, rock climbing, and biking through the mountains of southern Utah (save for the fact that I’ll jump at the chance for some quality time with my best friend!), I can say that it was one of the best experiences of my lifewhich is why you should do it, too.
Located about two hours north of Las Vegas, Zion National Park boasts 229 square miles of pristine trails, canyons, mountains, and wildlife. If you want to get into the extreme stuff, it’s there (hello, scrambling up an 1,800 foot cliff!), but activities abound for everyone. Visitors can hang out at the camping ground next to the Virgin River, or stay at the Zion Lodge or Zion Mountain Ranch (the lodge is closer to the center of the park, but the ranch is located on a 1,500-acre buffalo preserve!). After arriving, families can have their pick of walking or biking the mellow Pa’rus Trail, watching for 271 species of birds, horseback riding, or taking a guided hike. What’s more, kids can complete an activity book (find them at the Visitor Center) and become certified Zion Junior Rangers.
While All the outdoor fun you can have at Zion alone makes it well-worth the trip, but for many people (myself included), I think it offers something even greater: an authentic experience with nature. This isn’t a stroll through your town park’s two-mile trailthis is the real deal. There are no buildings on the horizon, no guarantee you won’t run into a snake, and certainly no cell phone service. That all might sound a little scary, and at first, it is. But the return is worth it. After all, how many times in your life do you get to step back in time and see what the world looked like before modern society set up shop? The enormous rocks, the rushing water, the hundred-foot drop over the unprotected ledgeit’s all pretty humbling.