A secluded ranch resort on the backside of Zion — Utah’s most popular national park — opens its doors to families, corporate events and any other group of people who want to get together and prefer to do it somewhere monumental.
Zion National Park is the sixth most visited national park in the country. March through October there’s a strict shuttle-only policy on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to mitigate the high-season traffic. With four million visitors annually, peace and friggin’ quiet are at a premium. And who are we to complain? How could we begrudge a crowd we’re a part of?
But if hordes of people cause you the anxiety you’re going into nature to avoid, there’s still a way for you to enjoy Zion. Zion Ponderosa Ranch is a rustic 4,000-acre resort on the eastern border that drops you into the most beautiful and remote parts of the park. It’s sort of like seeing Zion the way settlers did in the 19th century, but with comfier beds and a hot tub
Vacation homes, cabin suites, tents, glamping or RV campgrounds give groups a variety of lodging options on the ranch. There are two-bedroom homes that sleep eight people up to giant lodges like The Patriarch that sleep up to 40. Want something in the middle? Deer Haven fits about 14. Perhaps you were looking for something more rustic, but not, you know, primitive... Glamping combines canvas charm and real-bed comfort. See all lodging options here.
The ranch is located in the middle of a ponderosa pine forest 6,500 feet above sea level, and its higher elevation means cooler temperatures, making it the best way to actually enjoy Zion in the summer. (Zion Canyon, just three miles away, is only 3,000 feet up and often tops 100˚ in the summer.) For some, a high-altitude desert is the best of both worlds: Limited precipitation means your hiking won’t get rained out very often, but the snow sticks in the winter so you can snowshoe and cross-country ski.
Some great mountain trails run straight out from the ranch, and they also provide shuttles to and from trailheads in the area. If you’re not familiar with desert terrain, it’s a pretty darn helpful service. Was that the trail or a riverbed?
A group probably exists, somewhere in the world, with a member or two who don’t enjoy hiking through the desert. (Weird.) Well, if they also don’t like Zion Ponderosa’s climbing wall, jeep tour, volleyball, tennis, swimming, paintball, mountain biking, or a dozen other available activities, uninvite them.
Note: The recreation center is closed during winter months.
If you want an added dimension of peace and quiet, visit the ranch during the fall and spring months. The vacation homes are open all year long for all groups of all sizes.
Off-season also means lower rates, friends. It’s brilliant, really: No crowds, smaller bills and wide open spaces, western style.