Unless you’re one of the world’s best triathletes, you’re probably not going to St. George this May to compete in the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. But even though you’re not swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 and running 13.1, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in Greater Zion. In fact, you can probably have a lot more fun, because that sounds terrible.
While those iron men and women are out chasing records and standings, you’ll be out chasing sunlight and trying to enjoy everything this incredible landscape has to offer. Who needs a bib number and a steady diet of energy goos to enjoy southern Utah? Not you. You’ll be having a triathlon of fun instead! A Funathlon if you will. And you can still bring those goos if you want.
If you need help getting pumped for the Funathlon, get inspired at one of the other athletic events happening in Greater Zion. Obviously there’s the IRONMAN Championship to behold (or volunteer at!). But if swimming and biking aren’t your jam, you can check out the annual St. George Marathon, held on the first Saturday of October. As one of the most scenic marathons in the world and one of the fastest Boston Marathon qualifiers in the country, the event draws top-notch runners from around the globe.
But any young buck can run 26.2 miles in a few hours, right? Big whoop. Try doing the 1500-meter race walk when you’re 90! That’s the kind of inspirational performance you’ll see at the Huntsman Senior Games throughout the first two weeks of October.
The world’s largest annual multisport event for athletes over 50 also draws competitors from around the world. (Hey, that kind of seems like a theme around these parts.) These silver foxes and foxettes are ready to prove that age is just a number, competing in over 30 different events ranging from Square Dancing to Rugby.
Sure, competing in a half-IRONMAN will take your breath away, but the scenery in Greater Zion can leave you pretty breathless too. That’s why your Funathlon starts off by taking you to see the sights.
There are lots of places you can start your exploration, but why not kick things off with the region’s namesake, Zion National Park? Sure, some namesakes are overrated, but Zion isn’t Plymouth Rock — it’s well deserving of its hype. Whether you’re doing one of the park's iconic hikes or just feeling small beneath the towering canyons, there’s no wrong way to Zion.
And Zion isn’t the be-all and end-all of Greater Zion, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The region boasts four state parks that can hold their own against plenty of national parks out there. Go take a dip at Sand Hollow or hike through the canyons, dunes and ancient lava flows of Snow Canyon. And if you wanna take out a boat or cast a line, Quail Creek and Gunlock State Parks are right there waiting. There’s plenty more to see than just Zion, and missing out on these parks would be a bigger travel mistake than going to Plymouth Rock.
But what if you want to see it aaaaaaallllllll? Well, if you want to see all of Greater Zion, the quickest way to do so is, well, all at once. Book an aerial tour in a helicopter, plane or hot air balloon and you’ll have soaring views of just about everything in the region. With so much scenery and wilderness in front of you, you’ll feel like the Pilgrims landing on a boring rock.
You didn’t think you were just gonna look around at stuff, did you? It may not be an IRONMAN, but your Funathlon’s still gotta get the blood pumping, and the Greater Zion area is chock full of activities that will plaster a big stupid smile all over your face.
The easiest way to shift your activities into the next gear is, well, to literally shift into the next gear. And whether you’re doing that on a UTV or a mountain bike, you’ll find world-class trail systems for both in Greater Zion. Off-roaders can enjoy just about every type of trail imaginable, from forested foothills to sand dunes and desert rock crawls. And if you like your riding with a side of music festivals and golf tournaments, the weeklong Trail Hero event at the off-road mecca of Sand Hollow State Park will suit you just fine. Meanwhile, mountain bikers can proceed with a little less guidance — with more than 300 miles of trails, there’s not a bad place to ride.
If you’re more of the “Don’t look down!” type of adventurer, don’t worry, there are plenty of heights to go around. Because it’s a place in southern Utah, Greater Zion obviously has incredible rock climbing and canyoneering, but it’s also one of the few places you can enjoy the unique experience of Via Ferrata. After climbing iron-rung ladders up canyon walls and traversing sheer drops (with a guide and harness), you’ll have earned your adventure stripes and then some.
Of course, not everyone’s an adrenaline junkie. If your morning coffee is enough excitement for the day, we’ve got good news — in Greater Zion, you can let other people handle the adrenaline for you. Head over to the Red Bull Rampage freeride mountain bike event in late October and your palms will be sweating like you’re the one about to backflip off a cliff. And the Rampage isn’t just one of the premier freeride events in the world, it’s also one heck of a party. And partying is pretty exciting, so you’re actually an adrenaline junkie after all.
In the IRONMAN 70.3, athletes have to complete a grueling half-marathon run to finish off their race. What kind of reward is that? With a final stretch of relaxation, Funathlon contestants will be able to cruise to the finish line in total bliss. Now that’s how you finish an event.
There are plenty of ways to relax in Greater Zion, but after all your adventuring, there’s no problem letting the experts take the reins. Whether headed to a day spa or a stay spa, the local pros will help massage, soak and soothe your troubles away. Isn’t it about time someone else took care of that?
You can also go relax with a good old fashioned day by the water. With warm but mild temps throughout the fall, #BeachSeason gets an extension down south. Rent a paddleboard from a local outfitter and head over to Quail Creek, Gunlock or Sand Hollow State Parks and give this relaxing but just-active-enough-to-say-you-exercised sport a try. Not in the paddleboarding mood? When in doubt, the “camp chair and a beach read” method of relaxation has yet to fail.
If, for some reason, you’re the kind of person who finds golf to be relaxing and not a “pull out your hair” affair, you’ll find that St. George has some of the best golfing in the country. And there’s no better time to go than when those mild fall breezes start blowing. There are a whopping 14 courses to choose from in the region; you could stay for almost two weeks and not play the same hole twice! And with scenery so beautiful and weather so fine, you won’t even care when you're splicing onto one of the other 13 courses.
And so your Funathlon has come to an end. Good work! Take some time to celebrate by grabbing dinner and drinks in downtown St. George. You deserve it — not everyone can have fun to such an expert level. Who knows? Maybe you’ll qualify for the world championships next year.