This ranch resort has some of the best things to do around Zion National Park, and honestly? Four days is barely enough.
Phone time got you down? Are your opposable thumbs wondering if your legs even work anymore? Enough of being sedimentary … wait no, sedentary … and head to Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. Awarded one of “America’s Top Six Adventure Resorts” by U.S. News and World Report Travel, this ranch sits on 4,000 private acres just 7 miles east of Zion National Park. With that much room to roam, this trip will be layered with activity lists thicker than a layer of 180-million-year-old sandstone. So you know what to do, give your thumbs a break and rally the dirtbag-wannabe-besties for a long weekend.
If you’ve never been to this area before, knowing what to do in Zion for four days may seem like quite the cliff to climb. But don’t worry, we’ve come up with an epic itinerary to make sure you get to do everything. Or at least as much as possible. Zion Ponderosa Ranch has jeep tours, UTV rides, hiking, canyoneering, horseback rides, western dinners and even a two-tiered pool connected by a waterslide. Talk about making a big splash for the weekend.
We’re guessing you either drove 4-½ hours from Salt Lake City or 3 hours from Las Vegas. Perhaps with your outfitted Tacoma or Outback? Perfect, you’re just in time to check in. Did you choose to stay in a vacation home? Or how about a rustic but deluxe glamping tent? Or maybe in your younger years you floundered on the Oregon Trail so you chose to stay in one of the Conestoga wagons — to totally redeem yourself and prove you can survive in the wilderness. There are also cabin suites, cowboy cabins and RV sites. These all have electricity and WiFi, but still, you’ll definitely be touching dirt and be near activities more exciting than your phone.
Psst … If you stay in the cowboy cabins, cabin suites, glamping tents or Conestoga wagons, you’ll get a free continental breakfast. I mean, isn’t that everyone’s vacation dream?
Zion Ponderosa Ranch has some of the best things to do around Zion and we want you to feel prepared. It’s a big place, with big trees, big canyons and even bigger fun.
You’re about to have a wild time, so you’ll probably want to bring a decent amount of adventure gear. Don’t forget jackets, bucket hats and good outdoor shoes. Bring a water hydration pack, trekking poles, sunscreen and more.
Start your days early to avoid big crowds. It’s a popular place and for gol’ darn good reason. If the weather takes a turn, there are plenty of free resort activities. The recreation center has kayaks, paddle boards, sports areas for volleyball, pickleball and tennis. The lovely folks at the adventure desk offer tons of help to make sure your trip runs smoothly and will offer plenty of recommendations.
We know you just road-tripped here and your legs must be a little antsy from sitting for hours. This is the perfect opportunity to wander the resort to get to know the area. But first, don’t explore until you’ve grabbed some grub at the resort restaurant. Nobody likes a hangry vacation goblin.
See what the recreation center or pool area has to offer. That way you’ll have a heads up about other activities if plans need to be rearranged. Then take a short shuttle to an overlook for a 1-mile sunset hike. And since you’re already looking at the sky, why not add on the stargazing tour? Zion is certified as an International Dark Sky Park. Never seen this Milky Way? This is your chance. Telescopes are provided so you can see well into the heavens.
This day starts your exploration of things to do around Zion. After some coffee and a breakfast burrito, get your chaps ready for a guided horseback ride. There are several guided options, but the Pine Knoll ride is good for beginners. This ride takes you through the pines up to an overlook of Zion. Your guide will tell you old western tales and teach you about local wildlife. When lunch time rolls around, get something that reflects the scenery you’re in like the Slot Canyon Garlic Burger.
In the afternoon, take a guided hike to an abandoned mine. The guides are excellent ore-ators on this historic tour. If you can wait for a slightly later dinner, take a UTV ride to Crimson Canyon next. There’s no rappelling on this tour, but this slot canyon has 100 foot walls and sections only 6 feet wide. Every so often you’ll come across some boulders that need scrambling. If your palms get sweaty, just mutter, “I like that boulder. That is a nice boulder,” to yourself. It seems to help most people. Your guide will also happily assist you.
After you get back, Kiki Dee’s food truck will be waiting for you. You can get a Steak Junkie taco, perfect for the adrenaline junkie you’re becoming.
And on the third day, your guide said, “Let there be canyoneering!” And then there appeared a canyon. Or several canyons. Or several hundred canyons. Anyways, canyoneering is one of the best things to do around Zion National Park. Your guide with their rope will be your most trusted BFF for this exhilarating experience. On belay, helping you slay … that canyon. You’ll never look at those corporate “trust fall” activities the same again.
The expert guides at Zion Ponderosa Ranch offer several guided tours — short and long, easy to difficult and 2-10 hours. But let’s garner some guts and gear up for the Stone Hollow Canyon. It has 10 rappels, one being 100 feet. Yowza, happy harnessing! It will take most of your day, so don’t forget to get a to-go box from Ponderosa Eats.
Don’t be surprised if you’re super exhausted afterwards. That’s why this is the perfect day to treat yourself to a massage or IV treatment offered through the wellness amenities. And since you’ve been building your own adventure all week, why not go build our own pizza pie for dinner? You want ham and pineapple on it? We don’t judge. Throw in a Utah-famous Polygamy Porter, a short game of mini golf and unwind in the hot tub — just to remind yourself that having more than one adventure is a-ok.
We’re sure you’ve heard of Angels Landing. With 1,000 feet of cliffs so grand, and heavenly views above the land. Dangling chains on red-rock steeples, Walter’s Wiggles scare the peoples. While tourists below look like ants, you’d be oh so wise to bring a change of pants. You know, that Angels Landing. If you’re up for it, Zion Ponderosa Ranch will guide you up there. If that’s not your vibe, take a shuttle to Observation Point Trailhead ($7) instead. It offers almost the exact same views as Angel’s Landing but with a little less holy expletives muttered on the ascent.
Several other trails can be accessed from Zion Ponderosa Ranch as well, including Echo Canyon, East Rim and Orderville Gulch. Orderville Gulch gives you similar views to The Narrows, but even narrower. Zion Ponderosa also offers shuttles and gear packages if you want to wander through Zion on your own.
With that, your trip is almost over. Are you sick of your friends yet? We get it, that’s a lot of one-on-one time. Don’t worry though, we have the perfect idea to make sure any friendly squabbles are sorted — paintball. That friend that wouldn’t stop singing “Utah” by The Osmonds while hiking? Target number 1. And if that annoying friend was you … well, prepare to get painted.
For your last night at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, channel some Marty Robbins instead. When he sings, “The red hills of Utah are callin’ me,” truer words have never been spoken. And what better way to answer the call of the desert than with a final sunset horseback ride. Take in the views and remember that this place keeps your heart runnin’ wild, just like Marty said.
This is so sad, but you probably have to drive home now. At least now you’ve used your legs so much that you forgot you had thumbs. Uno reverse! Before checkout, take one last walkabout for a chance to see some wildlife. And yes we know it’s hard to leave, so take the slow way home with a scenic drive through Zion.
The grandeur of Zion is always waiting for you, so don’t take too long to head back.
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