I love a good “nature/food combo”, a destination where you can fuse the yin of the great outdoors with the yang of civilization – food, drink, golf, shopping and more.
I found such a place: the Greater Zion area in southern Utah.
Greater Zion (aka Washington County) is famous for the incredible Zion National Park, where you can immerse yourself in nature, take must-see hikes (like Angels Landing), and stroll along incredible creeks and trails . The Greater Zion region has become an “all you love to do” destination.
With enough comfort, it might be the perfect base camp for nature and food lovers like me.
Greater Zion (greaterzion.com) is 2,400 square miles nestled in the southwest corner of Utah. Your best bet for air travel is to land at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where you can either rent a car and drive approximately 160 miles or take a connecting flight to St. George, about 50 miles from the park proper.
There are many choices for accommodation. I’m a big fan of Red Mountain Resort (redmountainresort.com) in St. George. They have plenty to do on site (and they serve you three meals a day), and offer outings throughout the region.
For a more urban vibe but still with amazing views (you can see those red rocks and walk to dinner too!), there’s The Advenire (marriott.com/en-us/hotels/sguak-the-advenire- autograph-collection/overview/), a Marriott Autograph Collection property located in the heart of St. George.
To amp up your adventure with your time at base camp, there’s Open Sky (stayopensky.com), a place that takes glamping to the next level.
And these are just a few.
Once you’ve chosen your base camp, it’s time to plan your adventures.
Of course, a day in Sion is a must. You don’t need a reservation to take the shuttles and walk around Zion, but if you want to do the famous Angels Landing hike, you do need a reservation. (nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm)
You’ll find endless activity choices in St. George, Springdale, Hurricane, Ivins and the towns in between.
The culinary scene is hot. In St. George, places like the Painted Pony (where you should try to book an outdoor patio) and Viva Chicken, where fast/casual food is taken to a new level with their Peruvian chicken, are just two of many choice.
In Springdale, you’ll find another casual and fast-paced spot at Camp Outpost and plenty of craft beer choices at Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon.
At Hurricane, Lonny Boy’s BBQ serves great barbecue in a rustic setting, and Muddy Bee’s Bakery offers both great baked goods and healthy options to fuel your enjoyment.
And it’s a lot of fun to fill up.
Mountain biking is huge in the region: Greater Zion offers more than 40 mountain biking trails through desert, urban, mesa, and alpine landscapes, as well as the only year-round bike park in Utah. These include the famous Gooseberry Mesa, where you can even stay in lodges and yurts designed for cyclists.
There’s golf, of course: Greater Zion offers 13 world-class golf courses within a 40 mile radius. There’s stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, and even snorkeling in a water spring in the middle of the Sand Hollow desert.
There’s also culture, thanks to the region’s more than 40 galleries and museums.
It’s also a place to catch a big event, like the annual Red Bull Rampage mountain bike competition and now the Ironman World Championship followed by the Ironman 70.3 World Championship also take place there.
Zion is known for its natural beauty – and now you know there’s so much more.