Last week my husband turned the big 3-0 and instead of a traditional gift, I planned a road trip to Utah to unplug, get away, and see five national parks. (Utah was actually one of the only states we missed when we took our huge road trip out west in 2011, so we figured since we live so close we should explore it!) The only catch was that we were going see Utah's National Parks in only five days! Definitely a feat, but completely doable. Honestly, the only main hiccup (besides one night of rain) was the fact we forgot that in all of the glory of not having cell phone reception, that also meant we wouldn't have Pandora radio. Definitely should have brought more CDs! Of course I made up for it by singing the chorus of like 5 songs over and over again (the only words I ever remember) because that's not annoying at all. Add that to the fact that J. is the captain of making up hilarious songs so we and the fact my stories take forever for me to tell, and we pretty much had constant entertainment the whole drive.)
So on to his 30th birthday trip.
We woke up early Monday morning and set off to Zion. Zion is one of J's favorite parks and he was excited to share it with me, but to be completely honest I'm not a huge fan of the desert and was a little worried I wasn't going to be as excited as he'd hoped. (I was mistaken; it's amazing.) Zion is a little over 9 1/2 hours from Denver, but that is specifically why I choose that to be the first place we stopped. Not sure about you, but I really can't stand long drives home (you're tired, hungry, etc.) so I figured it was best to just make our way out there and then break up the drive the whole way back with other stops. As soon as we got there we both agreed that was the best plan. I also booked a hotel that night so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a campsite. That took a ton of stress of of us- not to mention gave us a great night sleep to start off the trip.
So, like I said, we left early and arrived at Zion in the early evening. We drove 1/2 the park when we first got there. (Because I wanted to get off the interstate and actually see some of the beautiful landscape we arrived on the opposite side of the park that we needed to be. Ended up being a perfect welcome to the park though!) Half of Zion is only accessible via their shuttle system in the summer, so since we had a few hours we went ahead and jumped on that to see what we could that afternoon. There are a lot of short hikes so we knew we could squeeze in one or two. The shuttle itself is so well done and has a recording playing (that is perfectly timed) to let you know what you're seeing, the history behind it (which we both loved,) as well as points out a few things you might not have noticed otherwise. (Plan about an hour to an hour and a half just to ride all the way up and then back down to the visitor's center.) We wandered around a little, did the short hike up to Weeping Rock (which at that time of day was secluded and beautiful- the sunlight lit up the canyon as it was setting so the whole view was magical!) and then decided we should probably grab dinner before everything closed. (In case anyone is there and looking for dinner, we ate at Oscar's. Good food, massive portions.) Fully stuffed and happy, we drove over to the hotel (which was right by the park) checked in, and relaxed in the hot tub before calling it a night.
I was incredibly surprised just how much of the park we were able to see in a couple of hours, but that was great news since we were only going to spend another 1/2 day there before heading to Bryce.