Zion National Park is a little more than 4 hours away from Salt Lake City, making it the perfect location for a weekend getaway. There is so much to do that you could easily spend the weekend just in Zion but there are other areas and hikes that are worth checking out. In a recent trip to Southern Utah, I visited Zion Nation Park, Kanab, and went through a ghost town. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic Zion continues to see record numbers of visitors. March 2021 had 429k visitors compared to its highest ever monthly total of 373k in 2018. If you’re a fan of data and numbers like me, go here to see park attendance totals for past months.
There are different entrances to the park depending on where you are coming from: the south entrance near Springdale, the east entrance along Route 9, and at the Kolob Canyons entrance. Access to the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is by Shuttle Bus only beginning Presidents Day Weekend (February 13 and 14) and every weekend until everyday service begins March 13, 2021. As of publication they are requiring reservations. More information on that here.
If you are looking for accommodations inside the park you will need to make those reservations in advance. You can find more information at the National Parks website.
There are many dining options to choose from outside the park from cozy coffee shops, cafes & diners.
About 15 minutes southwest of Springdale is the ghost town of Grafton. I recommend using your GPS to find this town. You will first come to the cemetery and then you will continue on a little further to the buildings. The town is only a quarter of a mile from the main highway to Zion National Park, but is reached by a 3.5 mile road (unpaved for the last 2 miles), which does not have great signage. Five large structures remain and all have been carefully restored following the 1997 creation of the Grafton Heritage Partnership.
The site was first settled in 1859 at the direction of Brigham Young, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons). The settlement was mostly destroyed in a flood. They rebuilt about a mile upriver and named it New Grafton. The town grew quickly while they farmed cotton, dug irrigation canals, and planted orchards. The last occupants left in 1944.
We took the scenic route from Grafton to Kanab, cutting through a dirt road (Sheep Bridge Road) to UT-59 and heading south. We made a stop in Colorado City, Arizona to drive past the infamous home of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. We also did a hike here but I have been sworn to secrecy on the location, ha!
Kanab, Utah is located on Kanab Creek just north of the Arizona state line. The area was first settled in 1864. It is named for the Paiute word “place of the willows”. As of 2018 the population was 4,798. Kanab is situated within an hour of Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona and nearby Pipe Spring National Monument, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, the largest animal sanctuary in the United States, Best Friends Animal Society.
Locals refer to Kanab as “Little Hollywood” due to all of the movies and television series that have been filmed there. It is a great basecamp for many adventures such as road cycling, hiking and off roading.
There are many lodging options in and around Kanab, from camping, hotels & cabins. I stayed at the Best Friends Roadhouse which had updated furnishings and fixtures. I probably wouldn’t stay there again unless I was traveling with pets. The offered a complimentary breakfast and had a pet washing area, play area for pets and a mercantile with super cute merchandise.
Kanab has many dining options to choose from. We had dinner at the Sego Restaurant located in the Canyons Hotel. The next morning we went to the Kanab Creek Bakery for breakfast. Its best to get here early because its very popular and many items sell out quickly.