Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

5 Vacation Variations at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

By Brian Higgins
December 28, 2023

What about when you want to get away, but aren’t quite sure how? That’s when you point the car toward Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. You’ll figure it out once you get there — it’s made for that kind of thing.

Planning a vacation gets a lot easier once you know what kind of vacation you want to take. Sometimes it’s obvious. When your morning walk leaves you with numb toes and some unintentionally frosted tips? Next stop: southern Utah. Iced coffee cup melting in your hands? High altitude coolness, here you come.

What about when you want to get away, but aren’t quite sure how? That’s when you point the car toward Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. You’ll figure it out once you get there — it’s made for that kind of thing. The property has a full slate of southern Utah adventures to enjoy, along with unique lodging options like glamping tents, Conestoga wagons, log cabins and more. Oh, and full access to the resort’s shared pool and jacuzzi, no matter where you stay. It’s like multiple vacations all rolled into one, so no matter how you choose to stay, you’ll be a happy camper. Or glamper. Your call. 

Vacation #1: Glamp Like a Champ

If you’re a veteran camper, the idea of glamping might seem offensive to your hardened outdoor sensibilities. You might grit your teeth at the sight of those tents with a freshly made bed, well-decorated interior and a spacious layout. Or maybe you’re just gritting your teeth because your neck and shoulders are tense from another night on your camping pad.

If you’ve never glamped before, it’s well worth the extra dough, with the caveat that you may never go back to pitching your own tent. At Zion Ponderosa, you’ll have your choice of standard and deluxe glamping sites. Both options include at least one cozy bed and space to hang out both inside and out, with a grill and firepit for your s’mores-ing, stargazing pleasure. It’s some of the closest glamping to Zion National Park, and it’s set in a place that’s worth a visit all its own. 

But glamping is just part of your vacation; you’ve gotta do some exploring as well. You won’t have to interrupt the relaxing vibes you’ve got going for you, either, since Zion Ponderosa has lots of activities that inspire awe without interrupting your “aah.” Our vote? Horseback riding, which is kind of like the glamping version of hiking. With several tours to choose from and views of Zion National Park on full display, it’s the perfect activity for groups that want an authentic Western vacation while keeping things casual and comfortable. 

Vacation #2: Keep It Classic

Then again, the classics are the classics for a reason. You have a bed at home, after all, and traveling is all about getting out of your comfort zone. If you’re in the mood to sleep under the stars and get a little bit more in touch with nature, Zion Ponderosa’s campground is sure to scratch right where you itch. And if it doesn’t, there are plenty of good scratching sticks to be found around the campsite.

What kind of activity pairs best with a night of classic camping? How about some Zion classics? Hiking an iconic trail like the Narrows or Angels Landing before bundling up in a sleeping bag is about as authentic as it gets. Throw in a dinner of hot dogs over the fire, and you’ll feel like you're back in pioneer times (provided those pioneers stopped at REI). 

And when you stay at Zion Ponderosa, you’ll also have almost exclusive access to another Zion classic. Hikers within Zion National Park have been unable to access Observation Point since 2019, when a rockfall damaged its main trail. The only way to get there as of early 2024 is the East Mesa Trailhead on the edge of Zion Ponderosa’s property. The ranch provides a shuttle to this relatively easy 7-mile out-and-back hike, giving you the inside track to one of the most unbelievable and uncrowded vistas in any national park. 

Vacation #3: Cozy Cabin Life

When the weather outside is frightful, life inside one of Zion Ponderosa’s cozy cabin suites is so delightful. Of course, it’s delightful in the summer, too (especially with Zion Ponderosa’s cool, high-elevation weather). But there’s something about getting out of the cold to hunker down and cozy up that feels oh-so-right inside a log cabin. With three different layouts that sleep 4-6 people, these cabins are comfy for the whole fam, complete with a living room that’s got plenty of space for game nights and blanket forts.

And if you think there’s nothing to do when Zion National Park gets a snowy makeover, think again. Off-season crowds are smaller, wait times to enter the park are way down and the desert scenery is even more serene than ever. Up at Zion Ponderosa, wildlife abounds. The ranch doubles as a wildlife corridor come wintertime, and guests often see wild turkeys, bald and golden eagles, mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep outside their cabin windows. 

Activities are still in (mostly) full swing, too. If you thought you were getting Old West vibes from a regular horseback ride, just wait until there’s a coating of fresh snow under-hoof. Jeep tours are also still available, with a sunset tour running every evening. Sunsets are even better in the wintertime, so you’ll be thanking your stars you booked in the cold months. 

And speaking of stars, those are better in the winter, too. Book a stargazing session with complimentary hot chocolate and a galactic guide to point out constellations, or just bundle up with a blanket and a fire outside your cabin.

Vacation #4: Off-Roading Through the Ages

Ever stayed in a covered wagon? They’re more comfortable than you’d imagine. At least nowadays they are. We can’t speak for the ones the pioneers were riding in, but the Conestoga wagons at Zion Ponderosa are as comfy as can be. With a luxurious king bed, two bunk beds, WiFi, heaters and electrical outlets, these wagons would’ve made the Oregon Trail feel like a weekend retreat.

The wagons do have wheels, but they’re not going anywhere. That’s your job. Well, it’s the job of you, a guide and a state-of-the-art UTV. Off-roading has come a long way since the late 19th century, and there’s plenty of amazing trails and scenery to zip through around Zion Ponderosa. And the best part? When you book the Zion Pines and Diana’s Throne UTV tours, you get to drive. These two-hour tours take you through the hills and mountains of the East Zion backcountry in a speedy UTV, with you at the wheel the whole time. It’s one of the most thrilling ways to see the region.

Other off-road tours include several combined UTV and slot canyon adventures, as well as an awesome lineup of Jeep tours. You might think you know the area, or at the very least know what to expect, but each new turn on your off-road tour will reveal a different perspective on these stunning high-desert hills. From viewpoints and natural wonders to historical sites and passing wildlife, there’s a lot to do and see. In fact, we think Smash Mouth was staying at Zion Ponderosa when they wrote “So much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the backstreets?” 

Vacation #5: Go Big and Go (to a Vacation) Home

Did you forget that Zion Ponderosa is a Ranch Resort? Outside of the cabins, camping and Conestoga wagons, you’ll find lots of luxurious vacation homes that can fit your party’s needs. Some are big enough to house a whole family reunion (bunk beds and all), and some just give smaller parties more space to feel at home. 

And feel at home you will. You can cook your own dinner before watching the sunset on your own patio and sinking into your own private (or just slightly shared) jacuzzi. Wait, that’s actually way better than your home.

So you’re going big with your lodging. You should probably go big with your activities too, right? How big? How about rappelling into some of the world’s most impressive slot canyons? And you thought your vacation rental was cavernous …

Zion Ponderosa has an impressive array of canyoneering adventures with a full range of difficulties. You can spend a few hours wandering through a colorful canyon or spend the whole dang day making multiple 100-foot rappels. No matter which adventure you choose, it’ll be an unforgettable experience. Southern Utah’s slot canyons are part of what makes it one of the world’s most magical and mystifying geological regions, and you won’t quite understand it until you’re in it.

The same goes for Zion Ponderosa. There are almost as many hotels near Zion National Park as there are adventures to be had within it, but when you want your night of relaxation to match your day of exploring, there’s no place like Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. Start planning your next trip today.