Best of Utah Trip - Zion and More
Updated: Feb 26
We recently took a wonderful little family trip to Utah and we saw some of the best places (in our opinion) in only 4 days and 3 nights. Utah has some really beautiful national parks and other great things to do and see so I don't know if we can claim that the things we did on this trip were the absolute best attractions in Utah. But we packed a lot of fun, education and exploration into four days so we thought we would highlight what we did and show off some of our best pictures to inspire other families to take a similar trip and enjoy the best of Utah!
Day 1 - Drove to Saint George and Enjoyed the Pool
On day 1 of our trip we packed up and left our house at around 10:30am. We stopped for lunch in Grand Junction, CO and drove through the afternoon. It's takes about 7 hours to drive to Saint George from our house so we arrived there around dinnertime and stopped for dinner before checking into our hotel. We found a great deal on the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham through priceline. My husband chose it because it has an outdoor pool with palm trees right by the pool. We love to see palm trees on vacation because we live in Colorado. So a hotel with palm trees by the pool was ideal for us. We all got dressed for the pool right away after arrival and headed downstairs. I think we swam and played at the pool for about 2 hours that first night. Our little guy LOVED the pool shelf because he could jump right in and splash around and the water wasn't too deep for him. My husband and I loved the hot tub that was right by the pool so we could soak and keep an eye on the kids while enjoying the view of the palm trees.
Day 2 - Visit to Zion Canyon in Zion National Park
We woke up and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then hopped in the car for the 45 minute drive to the entrance of Zion National Park. There are several hotels closer to the entrance and even a lodge inside the national park but we chose to save some money and we stayed in Saint George instead. If you visit Zion in the busy season (summer) be prepared for parking issues. There were signs saying it's best to park in the town and then walk into the park because parking is so limited inside the park. We entered by vehicle anyway and drove around a packed parking lot before finding what looked like the last spot on the side of the main road between the visitor's center and the museum.
Zion Canyon in Zion National Park is breathtaking!!! We visited in 2013 and have wanted to go back ever since. It's a lot more crowded now than it was a few years ago so there are lines and shuttle buses that remind me of Disneyland. One of the park rangers said the growth in popularity is because the park has become "Instagram Famous" So I thought I would do my part in promoting this national treasure (see me on Instagram @destinationfamilies) I think some of the park rangers would prefer if everyone would visit one at a time or in smaller crowds, LOL! They actually did a great job handling the crowds and the views are amazing so it is definitely worth it to visit with a few thousand other people. Pictures can't even capture the beauty of this park. I love to take photos and I actually got tired of taking them because everywhere I looked there was another beautiful spot that I thought was worthy of a photo. I'm glad we don't have film cameras these days because I would have needed way too many rolls of film.
There is an amazing part of Zion Canyon that we completely missed the first time we went there in 2013. It's called Carmel Tunnel and if you go to Zion National Park you must drive through this tunnel. We've never seen anything like it. There were several windows cut out the the side of the tunnel so you could see out to the beautiful canyon while you were inside the tunnel. I captured a few photos from inside the tunnel if you scroll through the ones below you can see the interior photos. The photo of the mountain side also shows one of the cut out windows from the tunnel. It was a very unique experience!
Our list of top 8 things to see in Zion Canyon with a family would be:
1 = Upper & Lower Emerald Pools
2 = Watchman Tower
3 = Riverside Walk
4 = Zion Lodge
5 = Carmel Tunnel
6 = Weeping Rock
7 = Pa'rus Trail
8 = Archeology Trail
Remember to bring your camera! You will need it! Also, pack your sunscreen, water bottles, and cooling towels (during the really hot parts of summer) and be prepared for crowds. I have some Amazon links below that can help with your trip preparation. These are affiliate links so there is a chance I can make a small commission at no cost to you that will fuel my blogging habit, ha!
Day 3 - Kolob Canyon and the Museum of Natural Curiosity
Our visit to Zion Canyon on day two was amazing but there is another part of Zion National Park that is equally as beautiful and a lot less crowded. It's called Kolob Canyon and it is located north and west of Zion Canyon. Both canyons are part of Zion National Park. The entrance to Kolob Canyon is just off Interstate 15 as you north between Saint George and Cedar City. We were headed north to Salt Lake City on day three of our trip so Kolob Canyon was right on the way. This canyon offers a spectacular 5 mile scenic drive with plenty of photo stops along the way. At the top of the scenic drive there is a great little hike called the Timber Creek Overlook Trail. The hike took us about an hour total and was easy enough for our 4 year old. The views from the top and along the way were simply amazing! We highly recommend this scenic drive and short hike. You could even pull off of I-15 on your way to Las Vegas to visit Kolob Canyon and have a scenic place to stretch your legs.
In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. - Psalm 95:4&5
The Museum of Natural Curiosity in Lehi, UT
This wonderful kid's museum is near Salt Lake City and it might be our kid's favorite kids museum we have ever visited. It is so well done! They have a water works area, a huge jungle theme playground, a city with a music studio, green screen room, puppet theater, veterinary clinic and more! Our kid's favorite activities were the water works area, the jungle playground and the stop motion and green screen room.
I have a blog about our visit to the Museum of Natural Curiosity in June of 2018 that you can check out as well. We found out after our visit in 2018 that this great museum is part of the ASTC passport program. We became ASTC when we heard about it and as members we got 2 adults and 2 kids admissions free at the curiosity museum this time. We love bargains and fun so we really love it when they go together. To check out this great museum membership please visit the ASTC website.
Day 4 - Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and drive home
On day 4 of our Utah trip we finally got to see the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Salt Lake City. They opened it a few years ago and we've been wanting to go but it hasn't worked out until now. We were so impressed with this aquarium. We heard it is the 9th largest aquarium in the USA. Our list of favorite things we saw was: 1=Sloth, 2=Otters, 3=Penguins, 4=Sharks, 5=Stingrays, 6=Clouded Lepord and 7=Sea Turtle. We put sloth first on our list because we have never seen one in person before. The sloth wasn't very exciting though, he was true to his name and was just hanging around being a sloth, LOL! Still, it was amazing to see one and we even bought a plush sloth for our son who loves sloths.
It was really neat that they had employees at some of the exhibits to tell you animal facts as you walked around. They also had different areas such as South America, Utah, Asia, Antarctica and the Ocean Explorer. Each area was decorated accordingly and had animals from that region. We probably spent the most time watching the animals in the biggest ocean aquarium. We just love watching sharks, rays and turtles swim around. We had an excellent time and would recommend this aquarium if you are traveling through the Salt Lake City area.
I put together this little video of highlights from our Utah trip. My favorite part is around the one minute mark where my 4-year old is adamant about it raining when it really wasn't, LOL! But don't argue with a 4-year-old folks, it won't do any good, ha! I hope this blog and our trip inspires other families to take the time to go see the most beautiful parts of Utah and make memories together. Be sure to check out our other blogs while you are here and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for great travel tips and family adventures.
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