Right now we should be sailing down the Nile River, exploring Egypt, and then adventuring through Jordan, Israel and Turkey, but Covid-19 gave us the middle finger and put a big STOP to those plans.
But no one puts the Murphys in a corner… not even “the Rona”… so I booked a trip to Under Canvas, Zion and we got the hell OUTSIDE, and social distanced in the best way possible.
We have been to Zion, Utah before, but it is so breathtakingly beautiful, and there is so much to do, that we wanted to go back and experience more.
At just a little more than six hours away, it’s a really quick way to feel like you’ve landed on another planet!
Under Canvas is a safari style glamping experience (similar to what we do every holiday), with tents that can easily accommodate a family of four, with some luxury versions that sleep up to six!
A deluxe tent (at Zion), comes with its own en suite bathroom and shower.
We spent most of our days outside adventuring, so this was exactly what we needed, although if I were to try another location I might see what the next level up would feel like.
The main tent served breakfast and dinner, indoors or outside, although with that view… why would you skip the patio?
The sunsets were spectacular, and the kids were able to roam around while mom and dad sipped on some beers and took in the majestic rock formations.
We arrived on a Friday, early evening, and explored the campsite and had dinner.
Saturday morning we began our day horseback riding through the canyons.
You can book quite a few adventures directly through Under Canvas, although it’s more expensive to do so. I’m okay doing that the first time around, for convenience and lack of knowledge, but the next time we go, we will book directly through the individual companies (which I am going to give you below… you can thank me later 😉 ).
JR, from Blue Sage Resort and Ranch, was a true cowboy and a gentleman, and even did a backflip off of his horse, to the delight of everyone (except me, the former gymnast, who was thinking about his poor ankles in those cowboy boots).
We rode along the edges of the canyons and even off trail.
Parker and Avery loved it so much that we extended our two hour ride into three, even though my bum was sore by hour one. The things we do for our children, right?
Later in the day we went for a relaxing tube ride down the Virgin River (Zion Tubing) and ended up with a treat from Fort Zion, a kitschy souvenir shop with an old-school ice-cream parlor. It was delicious, and the cheesiness of the establishment reminded me of my own childhood road trips through Texas, where I’d beg my mom and dad for a turquoise rock or dried rattlesnake.
Sunday morning we woke up early to go “canyoneering”. I didn’t even realize what we were really in for (I tend to fly by the seat of my pants), but BOY did this adventure ROCK (pun intended).
This was a really great family “team-building” experience, because in many cases you were required to lend a hand…
… or an entire body!
We cheered each other on (this was a bit out of Avery and the Hubby’s comfort zones)…
… and squeezed through, climbed up, and rappelled down rock faces.
It was stunning, and exhilarating! This is Parker going down an eighty foot drop!
Parker is my mini-mi, and is an adrenaline junky… but I am SO proud of both Patrick and Avery for pushing their boundaries and conquering their fears!
Avery tackled the twenty-five to thirty foot faces on her own, and one big drop (eighty foot) strapped in, in front of our guide, who led her down.
Here’s where Avery and Patrick tapped out… one hundred feet and windy, they hiked down together to watch Parker and I rappel the final challenge.
Negotiating the edge… (my heart was POUNDING).
This is our instructor, but I wanted to show you just how high up we were!
Again… we booked this experience through Under Canvas, but if you want to go directly through Zion Guide Hub, you can do so, OR contact our guide Steve directly at email@example.com.
I cannot say enough positive things about Steve. He was calm, encouraging, amazing with the kids, and knew everything about the environment, land, plants and rocks. It was like getting a bonus geology and history lesson with our experience.
He also gave us a HUGE tip for our Monday trip through Zion National Park. See below!
I’m not even going to go INTO the complicated task of driving your car into the park, or reserving shuttles, etc, because if you want to do it right… just ditch the car and grab a bike.
Steve (our beloved canyoneering instructor) was kind enough to reserve us two Rad Power Bikes, with seats on the back, in Springdale (where the park entrance is located). You can reserve them yourself at Zion Cycles (do it way in advance… the shop had a line forming outside of the door before they opened).
From Under Canvas, the drive was thirty minutes. We picked up some coffee, smoothies and snacks at Deep Creek Coffee (superb), parked our car at the shop, hopped on our cycles, and rolled right into the park (about one mile).
The length of the park is about eight miles. If you are on the electric bike, it feels like four.
Patrick and I like to challenge ourselves, so we kept our settings low, but that assist was golden when we needed it!
The beauty of biking the park is that you can get from zone to zone (hikes) so easily! You don’t have to hoof it mile by mile (and then hike), and you don’t have to stand and wait for shuttles.
We had many a family on foot, or on regular bikes with their kids complaining loudly behind them, stare and point longingly as we zoomed by!
We were the envy of all (thank you Steve).
We biked to The Narrows (very end of the park), had enough time to hike for about two hours, and rode back through the park and into Springdale (if you want to get an even better view of this ride and its magnificence… go to my Utah Story Highlights on Instagram).
Because of this experience… we will most likely never take a car into a national park again (if bikes are readily available).
Three full days, four major adventures, dirty, and tired in the best way possible… we headed back to LA (with plans to visit again).
Side Note: The beauty about these glamping sites, is that you are away from crowds of people, in pristine settings, and enveloped by nature and habitats that are unique and oh-so-special.
These habitats can also be fragile, and support local wildlife and vegetation that once destroyed, will never thrive again.
Glamping (because of it’s relative cheapness in relation to hotels), is becoming more and more popular, and in danger of becoming the new Carnival Cruise Line of deserts, mountains and camp sites everywhere. This kind of growth and saturation will ultimately ruin the experience that these types of excursions were meant to provide.
Please research these companies and hold them accountable.
There is a new development planned for Kolob Mountain (near where we stayed), that aims to build tents and structures that would allow for ONE to TWO THOUSAND people on sacred land which would devastate the area for generations to come. Climbing sites (like the one you see above), would be ravaged and too crowded to enjoy.
If you’d like to sign a petition to hopefully halt this development… you can sign here.
Side Side Note: Most people we came across were respectful about social distancing and wearing a mask, especially at the campsite. Although you don’t see us wearing them in the photos above, while we were on our family excursions, we had them with us at all times and used them whenever we entered buildings, came close to other groups, etc.
Zion National Park has limited numbers, but there are areas where more people congregate (trailheads, etc.), so this is where we saw the most amount of individuals.
All in all, though, there are PLENTY of places to hike, bike, climb, and be with your family… so get outside and enjoy!