Prior to this month, the only place in Utah I’d ever seen was Salt Lake, and at 300+ miles away, that’s hardly helpful in picking a hotel. So, for my Southwest Roadtrip, I turned to a trusted friend in booking a room: Google.
As it turns out, there’s a number of options around Zion. Most people stay on the west side in Springdale which features national names like Hampton Inn, La Quinta, Best Western, and a number of local chains. There’s also a few hotels out in Orderville to the east, just don’t stay in St. George… way too long of a drive to make daily.
But I don’t know, being in the same style hotel I visit for work trips, that’s just not what I think of on an adventure. So, with a little more searching, I stumbled into Zion Ponderosa Ranch. Log cabins at a price better than any major hotel… didn’t take much more to sell me on the place.
If you’re looking for Zion National Park lodging that fits into the outdoor culture, this is it.
In late fall and as a solo traveler already fully equipped to make my own adventures, I didn’t get to experience the hotel’s full offering directly but it’s apparent that you’re at far more than a “hotel” as soon as you just drive up…
There’s simply a ton of activities here: a full on rock climbing wall, ATVs and dirt courses, horse riding, guided hikes & canyoneering “adventures,” a resort-style pool, a full service spa, two restaurants (only one is open off season) gift / general shop and many other things as noted on brochures. No one tried to upsell me much either, which was well appreciated, but then again, it was way off-season.
Again, I can’t speak to most of the activities, but, being there in off season gave me a chance to actually speak to the people who lead them (the staff lives downstairs, under the main building). The outdoor leaders were quick to talk about the biggest hikes, and their own experiences… throwing out suggestions even though I wasn’t booking with them. Even things like the climbing wall, while basic, was tall enough to be actually interesting (I’ve been climbing since I was a kid).
Heck, even the food was unexpectedly good for what you’d think of at a family-focused, mass market resort (I expected burgers / fries / bar food, which they do have, but they did everything really well).
I’ve got nothing but good things to say on their services but do remember, this is Utah, if you want a drink, the local options are… different.
From their website, it’s not really clear what the options here, so I’ll break them down further:
1. At the “top” of the list, you have Cabin Suites, private & separate buildings (i.e. you will be in your own “place”) with a bathroom inside. There’s a separate bedroom (queen bunkbed or regular bed), fold out sofa, microwave, coffee maker, etc. They’re all well spaced out and built with logs & mortar to be super stable… BBQ and porch with picnic table outside. This is the smart bet for a family or couple wanting a “full” option. $168 – $195 / night
2. Next, you have the Cowboy Cabins, which is what I stayed in. These are essentially smaller versions of the Cabin Suites, still separate but just one room, with access to shared bathrooms. They’ve got full power, heat and a fan for climate, are very spacious considering for a single space and include a great queen bunkbed (made use of both levels, just because), a fold out sofa, dresser and chair plus a bbq (outside of course). This is more ideal for people who are out all day, but want something solid when they return (or when you’ve got 18 degrees nights in November). $70 – $97 / night.
3. Then you’ve got the Western Wagons. Exactly as the name describes them, these are essentially like camping without having to bring the tent or get on the floor… Wood built frames, cavas topped, they look just like an “old west” wagon with a bed and small private area inside. Firepit / bbqs outside and of course, shared restrooms. Probably makes for the best photo op you’ll ever have from a hotel too. $49 – $69 / night.
4. There’s also tent sites (bbq grill, fire-pit & table) and RV sites (full hookups+ bbq). All of those share the same restroom options (fully private showers are included) as the Cowboy Cabins and Wagons plus a number of larger, community fire pits to use.
All rooms and most of the property is connected with free wifi. Really fast wifi (by hotel standards… around 10mpbs+).
Where you are, where you can go.
Being on the East Side of the park (7 miles from the gate), it’s about 45 minutes back to Springdale, 20ish to Orderville which means that, while you’re not right next to everything, you are in a good starting place for exploring more of the area…. Bryce was about 90 minutes and coming back up from the Grand Canyon for my second stay from, I was able to stop off at Kanab, 45 minutes or so.
I’m not saying the place is perfect: talking with the staff for 6 days, it’s clear the place is mobbed in busy season. You are further from the park and it’s main features than Springdale, you are more or less limited to the options on property and there are things that need some fixing up. But, heck, I booked the place twice (3 days initially and then 3 more when I realized I wanted more than a day in Zion)… and that says it all.