Zion National Park Vacation by - Colin Gawel

Every two years we save up our pennies and flyer miles to splurge on a family vacation out West. Personally, I’m on the lazy side of the holiday spectrum. I’m not looking to hack through the rainforest in Brazil or skydive over the Great Wall of China. Plop me down on a beach with a book and some tunes and I’m perfectly fine spending a few days lost in my own head. However, living in flat Ohio, there really is no substitute for seeing actual mountains. It’s something I never saw until touring with Watershed in my early twenties and it left me awestruck. Not that I was complaining, growing up our family went to Ocean City, Maryland every summer and that was good enough for me. I suppose it still is.

However, my wife Erin is a “mountain” person as they say and certainly it’s important to us as parents to expose Owen to some different places while he is still under our roof. So the big ticket item for 2019 was a trip to Zion National Park in Utah. A number of things made this an attractive option for our family:

Watchman Hike

Watchman Hike

  • I had heard from numerous people that Zion is their favorite National Park

  • The trip could be done quickly and easily. Fly into Vegas and a 2 hour drive to our destination.

  • Once there, a shuttle system eliminated the need for further driving/parking.

  • The whole trip fit into a narrow window where Owen wouldn’t be missing many summer sports activities.

  • Can spend one night in Vegas and see The Beatles Love by Cirque Du Soleil.

So after countless hours researching and preparing from the coffee shop, our family took off Sunday, May 26th, on a direct Southwest flight to Las Vegas. The early departure had us on the ground 9:30 am local time and traveling North on I-15 cranking Outlaw Country the whole way. The ride itself was impressive as the interstate cut through the mountains of Arizona before we arrived at our destination of Springdale, Utah.

Springdale itself is basically a scenic two lane road dotted with hotels and restaurants leading to the entrance of Zion park. The city runs a free shuttle that takes folks staying in town to the entrance of Zion where you can catch the park shuttle to one of nine stops each with hiking trails of different degrees of difficulty.

While there were many good options to stay, we chose Cable Mountain Lodge as it was literally 100 yards from the park entrance, eliminating the need to ride the town shuttle. When taking a teenager hiking, one less shuttle is one less excuse to stay in the room and watch Game of Thrones on the IPad.

The lodge was very nice, not too big, with scenic views of the mountains from the balcony. It had a coffee shop, small store and a brew pub right on sight. The pool was kinda small but the hot tub was handy after a long day of hiking. I cannot recommend Cable Mountain or Springdale for pre-teen kids as there aren’t any kiddie options like mini-golf or water parks, but for older kids and parents it’s pretty perfect. Note to beer drinkers: Utah only allows for low alcoholic beverages at this time (4.0 or less) so if you are interested in something stronger you will need to stock up before you enter the state.

We knocked off the Watchman hike right when we arrived just to get the blood pumping and because cool temperatures and rain were forecast for Monday. Sure enough, the next day the weather was extremely unseasonable for the desert: rain and 48 degrees. Though this was a slight bummer, it came with an upside, as we had the park almost to ourselves for one day.



Riding the Zion shuttle couldn’t have been any easier and our first stop was to Riverside hike which takes you to the beginning of the Narrows, one of Zion’s two most famous trails. The Narrows itself requires you to walk in the river at the bottom of a towering canyon. However, with the rainy spring, it was closed as the water flow was too strong to allow people to safely make the journey. Still, Riverside was a very easy and scenic trail anyway. We got to see the Narrows, we just couldn’t go in the water.

The other popular trail is Angel’s Landing which goes straight up the side of a mountain taking folks to a stunning view of the Zion Canyon. The final step of this journey requires people to make a steep, narrow assent holding onto a guide chain. As it is a very popular trail, this last step can be very crowded and tack an hour and a half onto the trip. We decided to call it a day at Scout’s Landing, which was still plenty high enough for breathtaking views without the terror and aggravation of the final summit. It is best to start this trail before 8 am to beat the crowds. It is definitely worth the effort, though.

Three nights and two full days was plenty of time to enjoy Zion and we headed back to Vegas Wednesday around 10 am and were sitting by the Mirage pool by 2 pm. Since Love wasn’t scheduled until 7pm we had plenty of time to bathe in the Sun and take in some sights.

Sure, Las Vegas is trash, but I love it the same way I love KISS. There is nothing quite like it. While I never feel like an actual Vegas participant, I sure get a kick out of watching people who are. Crazy humans with our EDM pool parties and bottle service. And lots of tattoos. Fun stuff.

Owen and I laid down a few small sports bets before the show, (Damn you Mets, blowing a 4 run lead in the 9th) and LOVE was a sight and sound to behold. Burgers before bed and back on a flight the next morning at 9:30 am.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a better 96 hours in my life. - Colin G.

Below: Angel’s Landing and well….duh.