Disneyland? Meh. California Adventures? Yawn. Epcot Center? Boooring. Sure, these theme parks have their place in the world. Say, for example, if you love feeling claustrophobic for most of your day. Or enjoy inching your way through a concrete jungle. Or prefer a vacation full of monotony with a few thrills thrown in.
But if you want a destination experience that’s less tourist-trap and more holy-crap, drop a pin in Zion National Park. It’s a playground sculpted by mother nature herself — and her attractions are killer. What do we have that those other commercialized parks don’t? Check out these guided outdoor tours with East Zion Adventures. And remember to keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times.
1. These Rides Take You Places
Maybe your idea of a theme park adventure isn’t complete without being strapped into some sort of mechanized contraption. No problem, we’ve got you covered. Only this ride isn’t on rails. When you head off-road on a Zion Jeep Trail, you’ll bounce and bound through the most scenic wilderness on the planet. You haven’t truly experienced Utah until you’ve reveled in its splendor via 4x4 utility vehicle.
● Checkerboard Overlook Jeep Tour Duration: 45 minutes–1 hour
Witness majestic rock formations like Checkerboard Mesa and Jolley Gulch as you traverse from a perch overlooking Zion’s East Rim Trail down to the edge of the park. Sit down. Strap in. And hold onto your butts.
● Radio Tower Jeep Tour Duration: 2–2.5 hours
Drop your jaw at incredible park vistas as you travel up to the Radio Tower. It’s like taking a ride through a real-life Jurassic Park, minus the dinosaurs (oh they’re here, all right — they’re just long dead by now).
● Brushy Cove & Elevator Road Jeep Tour Duration: 2–2.5 hours
Ascend switchbacks to scenic viewpoints, learn all about the flora and fauna of the area, and check out abandoned miners’ cabins on this intense 4x4 trail. There’s a golden adventure waitin’ for ya in them there hills.
● Red Canyon Jeep Tour Duration: 2–2.5 hours
Make your way to scenic panoramas of the east fork of the Virgin River and learn how the Native Americans and early settlers lived in this rough terrain. Keep your camera ready for real, actual wildlife (sorry, no animatronic animals in this park).
● Zion Sunset Jeep Tour Duration: 1–1.5 hours
Have you ever asked yourself, “When should I do a Jeep tour at Zion?” Let us tell you, dear friend. The answer is sunset. Taking in the pastel hues at dusk over the western horizon is part of a life well-lived.
2. Canyons Are the Coolest
If dropping from great heights is your idea of a good time, canyoneering through Utah’s slot canyons might just be your thing. As it should be. Whether you’re rappelling down steep, narrow walls, or wading through cool, tributary water, making your way through Zion’s canyons is a thrill worth seeking. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. Your guide will make sure your harness is nice and snug.
● Full-day Canyoneering Tour Duration: 7–8 hours
Spend a full day climbing, hiking, rappelling and exploring Zion National Park’s stunning slot canyons. This once-in-a-lifetime experience may have you coming back for more. In which case, congrats on having multiple-in-a-lifetime experiences.
● Half-day Canyoneering Tour Duration: 4–6 hours
If you’re in a time crunch, or just feel faint at the thought of a full day of canyoneering (no judging), you can opt for a half-day adventure. Still chock-full of slot canyons. Still amazing. Still, bucket-list worthy.
● Rappelling Class Duration: 1 hour
Is the canyon calling your name for the very first time? You may want to take a quick rappelling class to learn the basics before heading out. Consider this your kiddie-coaster warm-up before you go full-on loop-the-loop.
3. The Best Kind of Play is Horse...play
Back in the day, making your way through Zion on horseback was the way to go. The only way in fact. Modern society doesn’t know what it’s been missing. This au-naturel adventure will have you traversing the park like the pioneers of yesteryear — on the back of a living, breathing creature. If you’re someone who craves an authentic experience, then hop in the saddle and giddy-up.
● Pine Knoll Horseback Tour Duration: 2 hours
Meander up switchbacks toward Pine Knoll, where you’ll take in wondrous views of the park, including Checkerboard Mesa, Kaibab Plateau, and Glendale Bench. Forget virtual-reality attractions — real reality on a horse is where it’s at.
● Pine Grove Horseback Tour Duration: 1 hour
If you’re worried about getting saddle sore, or you’re just a beginner, this shorter tour might be more your style. It’s a peaceful ride through trees and open areas that’s sure to spur a natural, legal love of horses.
● Sunset Horseback Tour Duration: 1.5 hours
Admit it — you’ve daydreamed about riding off into the sunset atop your trusty steed at least a time or two. Now you can actually do it. Saddle up and soak in the views of Zion as the sun sets in the west. Yippee-ki-yay, partner.
4. Hiking Is the O.G. Experiential Trip
This is adventure time in its purest form. Nothing but you, the wilderness, and the feet you walked in on. Okay, sure, you’ll have a guide and your crew. But when you lace up for a hike, you’re ready to connect with Zion as intimately as possible. This particular activity may be more low-key than a typical theme-park ride, but when you find yourself standing hundreds of feet above a mind-blowing landscape, it’s no less breathtaking.
● Full-day Guided Hike Duration: 6–8 hours
See the secrets of Zion during a full day of guided exploration. Choose from iconic locations like Angels Landing, the Narrows, Canyon Overlook, and a dozen more. Don’t forget to bring water, sunscreen, your camera, and a cheery disposition.
● Half-day Guided Hike
Duration: 4–6 hours
Start in the morning. Or start in the afternoon. This half-day hike is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of thing. No matter when you get going, you’re sure to have the time of your life (there are no corners here to put Baby in).
● Sunset Guided Hike Duration: 2–3 hours
Photographers, families, and fans of things that are generally amazing will love seeing the sun go down over Zion from 2,200 feet above the canyon floor. This is nothing like the split-second view from the top of that roller coaster in the middle of whatever city.
Play in a Park Like No Other
Disneyland this ain’t. But who needs the so-called happiest place on Earth when you can spend time in the most magnificent instead? Hit up the wide-open spaces of Zion National Park and immerse yourself in 360-degree perspectives of mother nature at her best. Beats being surrounded by manufactured murals at some expensive theme park. Skip the endless parking lots. Leave the city behind. And make your way through an adventureland like no other.