Zion National Park. It’s sufficient to say that the canyon is beautiful beyond imagination. Once you get over the shock and awe of the scenery, the people and the place come into focus. This part of Utah is very rural, and towns are small with limited services. We chose to stay in the town of Hurricane (HUR-ken), about 20 miles outside of Zion at the Willow Wind RV Park. Hurricane has a Wal Mart, grocery store, Walgreens, True Value hardware store and a Tractor Supply Company. Oh yeah, and an 8-screen movie house.They were running Suicide Squad.
The other major city of note is Springdale, which backs up to the park entrance. It has lots of potential, but the city is smothered by traffic. There are lots of what Ben calls “trinkets and trash” shops all selling pretty much the same stuff. There are any number of decent outfitter stores that will rent you gear to do things like hike the Narrows. The actual area of Zion National Park is huge. Zion Canyon is but a tiny portion of the acreage but it is the main attraction, so that is where all the people congregate. If Hurricane is bucolic small town America, Springdale is Bedlam. Cars vie for parking spots in the meager lots and on the street. Arrive much after 9:00 am and you’ll spend most of your time hunting for a place to park. The blessing is that cars are not allowed in Zion with the exception of those who are camping in the park or staying in Zion lodge. Shuttles bus people from Springdale into the park and to different hikes throughout the park.
After a long day in Zion (more about that later) we went back to Hurricane and we wanted BURGERS! Surely there must be a joint in town with a decent burger, right? We asked around and were told there was a good place out of the city limits, but it was “spendy.” There was also a relatively new “hole in the wall” a few blocks away. We opted for the hole. This is how we found a hidden gem in Hurricane. There’s a tiny strip of life on otherwise shuttered Main Street. In a row were an antique store, Yoga studio and the Main Street Cafe. The cinder block building was painted in happy tropical colors, and inside bright and spotless with a shady patio. Chef Tinoco, his wife and brothers cooked, cleaned and ran the restaurant. They had just moved from Las Vegas to open the place, and while we were two out of six customers, the food was amazing. We went back twice.
I used to be a backcountry camper, but time and tide have turned me into a day hiker. Still, the principle is still the same. Few people will actually walk more than a mile or two for a bit of scenery, so if you can walk farther, you’ll be mostly on your own. Show up early and be willing to walk a few miles and your national park experience will be great. Oh, and stay away from tour buses, the only other large vehicles allowed to roam at will in the park. They stop at each scenic overlook and disgorge hordes of people who have 20 minutes to dash around and take pictures and go to the bathroom.
Next up; favorite hikes in Zion.