The Complete Guide to Zion National Park

Cathedral-like canyons and majestic sandstone cliffs create a wondrous landscape

A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as in any man-made church—this is Zion.
—Isaac Behunin, 1861

Don’t be surprised if your first glimpse of Zion National Park with its vast red rock canyons and towering sandstone temples feels a bit like a spiritual awakening. You wouldn’t be the first person moved by its majesty.

The Southern Paiute called it Mukuntuweap meaning straight-up land. They found sanctuary and sustenance within the sheer walls of Zion Canyon harvesting plants and seeds for food and medicine and cultivating corn, squash, and sunflowers near the Virgin River. When Mormon settler Isaac Behunin built a cabin on the canyon floor in 1863 he was inspired to proclaim, “A man can worship God among these great cathedrals as well as in any man-made church—this is Zion.”

Zion National Park’s more than 148,000 acres sit at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin, and the Mojave Desert in Utah’s southwest corner. The fusion of these distinct geographical regions created the park’s wondrous landscape which comprises six unofficial sections: the Main (Zion) Canyon, Desert Lowlands, Kolob Canyons, Kolob Terrace, Upper East Canyon, and Zion Narrows.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These ecosystems nurture verdant hanging gardens spilling with maidenhair ferns and high-country forests teeming with aspens and ponderosa pines. They provide refuge for abundant wildlife from tiny endemic Zion snails to bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and the critically endangered California condors. But despite the richness of its flora and fauna, the real star of Zion’s show is the scenery—Navajo sandstone cliffs, soaring rock spires, and a spectacular gorge carved over millennia by the Virgin River’s powerful surge.

Today Zion attracts 4.5 million visitors annually from the most adventurous rock climbers to laid-back sightseers looking to enjoy an easy hike and continues to evoke a profound sense of awe in all those who witness its splendor.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip

St. George offers the easiest access to Zion National Park. From there it’s only 45 miles northeast to the charming gateway town of Springdale and Zion’s main entrance. But many people drive 165 miles northeast from Las Vegas through vast swaths of the Mojave Desert to Springdale.

Zion National Park is open year-round and each season frames a unique view of the park’s beauty. Only a fraction of visitors come between December through February when daytime temperatures hover around 50 degrees and dip below freezing at night. Quiet trails and scenes of fiery vermilion sandstone dusted with snow reward those who brave the chill.

March and April deliver temperatures ranging from 35 to 70 degrees and an influx of spring-break travelers as snowmelt feeds waterfalls and wildflowers.

The mercury begins to rise in May and by mid-June daytime temperatures climb into the triple digits where they linger until September. Fortunately, they drop to 60 to 70 degrees late in the evening. An early-morning start, frequent water breaks, and seeking out shady trails are the keys to summer in the park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the perfect mix of comfortable weather with temperatures ranging from 70 degrees during the day to 40 at night, fewer crowds and affordable lodging options, late September through November is ideal. Though the days are shorter, trails and services should be fully operational and the cottonwoods will be decked out in autumn’s golden glory.

The park’s visitor centers, shuttles, museum, restrooms, buses, picnic areas, and Zion Lodge are all fully accessible and several campsites in the Watchman Campgroumd are reserved for those with disabilities. Additionally, all shuttle stops have benches and many trails have flat rocks perfect for resting a spell. Rocking chairs on Zion Lodge’s porch offer a lovely place to while away an hour in the shade.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of the park’s action happens in Zion Canyon which visitors can access only via free park shuttles from March to November and during peak holiday periods. These shuttles make nine stops at major trailheads and points of interest along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Visitors are only allowed to drive on that road and access the canyon in their cars during those times of the year the shuttles aren’t running.

When they’re operating, park at the main entrance and board a bus at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center but be aware that lots fill early especially during the busy summer months. A second shuttle stops at multiple points along Zion Park Boulevard in Springdale, making it easy to leave your car at your hotel or in the town’s paid parking areas and avoid the hullabaloo at the main entrance.

Though most visitors never venture beyond Zion Canyon you can easily escape the masses in other park sections. You can drive to trailheads and viewpoints in seldom-explored areas along the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway (which links Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to the park’s East Entrance) and in Kolob Canyon, about 45 miles north of Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to stay and eat

Built in 1925 and restored to its original stone-and-timber charm in 1990, the Craftsman-style Zion Lodge, the only in-park hotel sits right in the heart of Zion Canyon. Set against a majestic red rock backdrop, its 81 rooms and 40 cabins sprawl across a verdant expanse of lawn shaded by a 100-year-old Fremont cottonwood tree. Request a room or cabin with a porch overlooking the lawn and surrounding cliffs.

Dine on upscale fare with desert flair at the lodge’s Red Rock Grill—and sit out on the outdoor terrace for gorgeous canyon views. Two menu standouts: chili tacos made with Navajo fry bread and a locally sourced bison burger topped with cheddar cheese and jalapeños.

Open seasonally, the Castle Dome Café which serves snack-bar favorites such as hot dogs and ice cream on a shady patio makes for a good pit stop if you have wilting grandchildren in tow.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a heftier dose of the great outdoors, put down roots at one of two campgrounds for RVs and tents near Zion Canyon Visitor Center. The South Campground (open March–November) has 117 sites (three accessible) encircled by towering cliffs between the Virgin River and the popular Pa’Rus Trail. Tucked at the foot of Zion’s iconic Watchman rock formation, the eponymous Watchman Campground (open year-round) offers 197 sites (seven accessible plus additional flat sites with easy access). Both campgrounds have restrooms but only Watchman has some sites with electricity. Just outside the park entrance at Zion Outfitter in Zion Canyon Village you’ll find token-operated showers and laundry facilities.

Campsite reservations which are highly recommended can be made for the South Campground two weeks in advance; for Watchman up to six months in advance. Permits cost $20 to $130 nightly.

Backcountry camping is available May through September at the first-come-first-served Lava Point Campground off Kolob Terrace Road, about an 80-minute drive south from the park’s main entrance. It has just six (free) primitive campsites with pit toilets but no water.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Things to do

Zion Canyon section

Zion National Park’s main attraction is Zion Canyon. Fifteen miles long and nearly 3,000 feet deep in some spots the canyon wows visitors with some of the park’s most dramatic scenery including the Court of the Patriarchs, the Great White Throne, and the Towers of the Virgin. Walking among these sandstone monoliths with their massive, multilayered peaks streaked with iron oxide feels like being in a giant’s sculpture garden.

Get oriented at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center where you’ll find trail maps, helpful rangers, and the canyon shuttle. The shuttle ride and accompanying recorded narration is a relaxing way to experience Zion Canyon’s highlight reel. It takes about 40 minutes to travel the 6.6 miles from the visitor center to the last stop at the Temple of Sinawava, a soaring stone amphitheater named for the coyote god of the Paiute people. Hop on or off at any of the shuttle stops along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the second stop, don’t miss the new film We the Keepers created by the not-for-profit Zion Forever Project. The 23-minute film plays throughout the day at the Human History Museum providing a moving overview of the park and its stewards. Museum exhibits showcase the natural and cultural phenomena that helped make Zion what it is today. On the patio, park rangers give talks on everything from survival tactics of the park wildlife to Zion’s fascinating geology.

Visitors can best experience Zion’s beauty by trekking any of its 35-plus trails totaling more than 90 miles and in Zion Canyon those with mobility issues or those looking to go on an easy bike ride should set out on the Pa’Rus Trail. Named for the Paiute word meaning bubbling, tumbling water, the trail starts just north of the Zion Canyon Visitor Center at the South Campground and follows a paved, 1.7-mile path through beautiful open canyon.

Another easy, magical hike in the canyon, the 1.1-mile Riverside Walk (the first 0.4 miles fully accessible) begins at the final shuttle stop and traces the edge of the Virgin River. Along the way, lush foliage spills from weeping canyon walls and cathedrals of rock envelop you on all sides.

The trail ends at the entrance to the Narrows hike which leads into the legendary slot canyon that marks Zion Canyon’s narrowest section: About two miles into the gorge the sheer, 1,000-foot canyon walls flanking the Virgin River close in leaving just 20 feet between them.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re an adventure-seeker planning to hike the Narrows come prepared with closed-toed, waterproof hiking boots—you’ll be wading through the river much of the time—and a walking stick to help navigate the slippery riverbed. Some people liken it to walking on wet bowling balls. Don’t dismay if you decide to turn back early: Even a short foray into the canyon delivers a memorable experience.

You might also like saddling up and exploring the canyon on horseback, a fun way to cover more ground than you might on foot. At the corral for Canyon Trail Rides, across the road from Zion Lodge, join a one-hour excursion along the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs, three towering terracotta-hued peaks named for the biblical figures Abraham, Isaacm and Jacob.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In other park sections

Some of the park’s other areas offer unsung hiking paths and gorgeous overlooks minus the canyon’s crowds and plenty are accessible by car.

One excellent option: a drive along the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway, a 10-mile stretch of twisting switchbacks and stunning vistas that links the Main Canyon to the park’s eastern boundary. Kick things off with a stop at the Canyon Junction Bridge—the view over the Virgin River with the giant rock buttress Watchman in the distance is particularly spectacular at sunset. In about 3.5 miles, you’ll reach the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel where six huge windows cut into its sandstone walls deliver a fleeting glimpse of the canyon below.

For another splendid drive, take the road even less traveled and head 45 miles north of Springdale to the park’s Kolob Canyons section, a vast maze of towering crimson finger canyons replete with solitude and breathtaking wilderness. The Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, a 10-minute drive from the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center makes a perfect picnic spot. From there, a gentle jaunt on the half-mile-long Timber Creek Overlook Trail leads along the ridgeline and boasts scenery that rivals anything you’ll see in Zion Canyon.

Springdale © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gateway towns

With its small-town atmosphere, sweeping canyon views and location just outside the park’s South Entrance, Springdale makes an ideal home base for exploring Zion National Park and offers multiple diversions including art galleries when your feet need a break from hiking.

For accommodations, you’ll find everything from chain hotels to boutique resorts, cozy inns, and vintage motels along Zion Canyon Boulevard, the town’s main drag.

For lunch-to-go on your way to the park, pick up gourmet panini from Café Soleil. Later, reward a day of hiking and exploring with a cold craft beer at Zion Brewery then head to local favorite Oscar’s Café for its huge burgers and delicious, Mexican-inspired pub grub. Or wash off the dust and go upscale at King’s Landing Bistro. Whet your appetite with a King’s Ol’ Fashioned made using Utah-distilled High West Campfire Whiskey before tucking into dishes such as rabbit cacciatore over polenta.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

En route

Many Zion visitors drive north from Las Vegas. For the first 100 miles or so the highway beelines through barren desert lowlands passing through a small corner of the rugged swath of land between the Grand Canyon and the Utah border known as the Arizona Strip.

About 40 miles outside Vegas take a short detour to visit Valley of Fire State Park. On the 10-mile Scenic Byway that winds through the park several easy hikes lead to arches, petroglyphs, and pinnacles. Two popular ones: Fire Wave and Rainbow Vista.

Nestled into Utah’s southwest corner, the Greater Zion region is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and culture seekers alike. Spend some time here before going on to the park basing yourself in the vibrant hub city of St. George. Check into the family-owned Inn on the Cliff for panoramic views of the red rock landscape, or the Advenire, a luxe new downtown property.

At Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, 18 miles northeast of St. George, try stand-up paddleboarding on the reservoir during warm-weather months or head into the dunes on a guided ATV excursion with ATV Adventures year-round.

Sand Hollow offers a variery of camping amenities. Westside, Sandpit, and Lakeview campgrounds have fire pits, tables, and access to restrooms with showers. Westside Campground offers full hook-up sites at $50 per nighy. Lakeview Campground has partial hook-ups ($45) and full hookup sites ($50).

 In Ivins, nine miles northwest of St. George, browse the galleries at the Utah-centric Kayenta Art Village and take in a show at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, a natural sandstone amphitheater featuring a seasonal lineup of Broadway-caliber performances.

Zion National Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience. I hope this guide helps you plan your adventure and that you’ll soon discover the magic of this park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are a few more articles to help you do just that:

Fact box

  • Location: Utah’s southwest corner
  • Acreage: More than 148,000 acres
  • Highest peak: Horse Ranch Mountain, 8,726 feet
  • Lowest point: Coalpits Wash, 3,666 feet
  • Miles of trails: More than 90 miles along more than 35 trails
  • Main attraction: Zion Canyon
  • Entry fee: $35 per vehicle, valid for seven consecutive days; $20 for an annual Senior Pass (62+)
  • Best way to see it: The Zion Canyon Shuttle (from mid-March through November) which makes nine stops on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
  • When to go to avoid the crowds: Late September through November

Worth Pondering…

It is a place where a family can rest at streamside after a pleasant morning hike.

It is a vast labyrinth of narrow canyons where one can become hopelessly lost, shrinking to invisibility beneath dark, towering walls of stone.

One may feel triumph and exhilaration, or awesome smallness atop Angels Landing; thirst and fatigue, or a rewarding weariness, on the return trek from the backcountry.

Perhaps one’s view of Zion is in the eyes of the beholder.

—Wayne L. Hamilton, The Sculpturing of Zion

10 Road Trip Destinations from Las Vegas

Pack your bags and check your tires; it’s time for a road trip from Las Vegas

Vegas baby! For many, a trip to Sin City is simply slot machines, video poker, and getting stuffed at all-you-can-eat buffets. But if Lady Luck isn’t on your side or you’re just looking for an adventure away from the strip, Las Vegas is a great starting point for a road trip. Whether it’s a quick day trip or a longer outing Las Vegas is perfectly positioned to give you some amazing experiences.

Ready to plan your route? Here are 10 ideas for road trip destinations from Las Vegas that are less than 300 miles in distance.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Lake Mead

Distance from Las Vegas: 30 miles

Estimated time: 45 minutes

The Nevada desert isn’t known for its large bodies of water but believe it or not Las Vegas is home to one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. So if you’re looking for some waterfront fun, Lake Mead has got you covered. Take the boat out for some high-speed adventures or bike around the trails before cooling off in one of the swimming areas.

If you want someone to show you around, there are numerous guided tours on the lake. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning views of this desert oasis.

Not enough for you? They also have kayaking, camping, hiking trails, fishing, horseback riding, scuba diving, and so much more.

>> Get more tips for visiting Lake Mead

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hoover Dam

Distance from Las Vegas: 37 miles

Estimated time: 45 minutes

The Hoover Dam is one of mankind’s most ambitious projects. It stands at a whopping 726 feet tall and crosses the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona. Bonus, it’s just a hop, skip, and jump away from the dazzling lights of Las Vegas.

Choose from either the 30-minute or 1-hour guided tour that takes you into the bowels of the dam to learn about the power it generates and what it does for the surrounding desert. Don’t want a tour? It’s free to walk along the top and take in the scenery, plus you can still learn a thing or two with the many informative plaques lining the walkway.

>> Get more tips for visiting Hoover Dam

Laughlin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Laughlin

Distance from Las Vegas: 100 miles

Estimated time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Laughlin is more relaxed than Vegas, a natural choice for a quick getaway. The town has created a niche with Nevada-style gaming but without the high-speed lifestyle of the Las Vegas Strip. Stretch your legs while exploring Laughlin on foot at the Riverwalk. Well-maintained and offering fantastic views of the city and the Colorado River, the Laughlin Riverwalk is a great way to get from one casino to the other while soaking up sights like Don Laughlin’s Riverside to the boats sailing by.

The coolest way to get around town is by water taxi. These small boats, piloted by certified captains, zip around on the river from one property to another. Most casinos have their own dock and if you stand around on one, a water taxi will show up fairly quick.

>> Get more tips for visiting Laughlin

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. St. George

Distance from Las Vegas: 120 miles

Estimated time: 2 hours

St. George is the first place you’ll run into after cutting through the northwest corner of Arizona and crossing the border into Utah. The city combines a charming downtown area with a thriving art scene and proximity to four state parks including the bright red sandy beaches of the Sand Hollow reservoir. Outdoor explorers will be most excited to know St. George is the largest city outside Zion National Park, one of the most colorful examples of rock formations, sweeping cliffs, and waterfalls.

There’s plenty to enjoy in Southern Utah and visitors can arrive in St. George in two hours. The destination is great for those who enjoy the outdoors as it’s near Zion National Park, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, and Dixie National Forest. Or, travel a little further for a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Zion National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 165 miles

Estimated time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

With over 229 square miles, more than 35 hiking trails, cliffs towering more than 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, and more species of plants than the Hawaiian Islands, Zion National Park is a pretty incredible place. Zion Canyon is accessed from Highway 9 heading east from St. George. Because of this area’s popularity, the park runs a shuttle to accommodate more visitors at once. Two of the park’s most popular hikes (Angels Landing and The Narrows) can be found in the main canyon along with many other incredible trails.

Driving the 6-mile Mt. Carmel Highway through the park provides visitors easy access to viewpoints while offering that winding-road experience. It is easily accessible throughout the park’s most popular area and the richly brick-colored highway with canary-yellow stripes plays well visually against the soft color of the canyons.  

>> Get more tips for visiting Zion National Park

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Cedar Breaks National Monument

Distance from Las Vegas: 226 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

Cedar Breaks’ majestic amphitheater is a three-mile-long cirque made up of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah between Interstate 15 and Highway 89, the monument sits entirely above 10,000 feet. The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below taking your eyes for a colorful ride through arches, towers, hoodoos, and canyons.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument

El Paseo Shopping District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Palm Springs

Distance from Las Vegas: 230 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

If you want to vacation at the spot that was popular with old-school Hollywood film stars and the Rat Pack, consider visiting Palm Springs. Visitors can browse vintage shops, art galleries, or boutiques at the El Paseo Shopping District. A ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can also provide a view over the valley at an elevation of more than 8,500 feet. There are also many options to sit poolside at resorts or visit spas in the city.

>> Get more tips for visiting Palm Springs

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 250 miles

Estimated time: 4 hours

See a different kind of desert landscape with a road trip to Joshua Tree on I-15 from Las Vegas. Many people head to the park for hiking through the rugged rock formations and distinctive Joshua trees. It’s also an excellent spot for stargazing, rock climbing, and camping. Just be sure to be prepared for the weather which can be very hot or cold depending on the time of year and day.

Make sure to come prepared for your visit to Joshua Tree. There is no drinkable water available in the park, so bring plenty with you. This is the desert after all!

>> Get more tips for visiting Joshua Tree National Park

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Grand Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 280 miles

Estimated time: 5 hours

You’ll go through a few playlists getting to the Grand Canyon but I promise it lives up to the hype. Grand Canyon National Park is a hugely popular destination for hiking, mule rides, whitewater rafting, and other outdoor activities and is well worth the tank of gas to get there and back.

A deep gorge carved by the Colorado River about seventeen million years ago, the Grand Canyon stretches for more than 250 miles and is up to 18 miles in width and more than a mile deep in some areas. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming. One looks over the edge and it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

>> Get more tips for visiting Grand Canyon National Park

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Sedona

Distance from Las Vegas: 280 miles

Estimated time: 5 hours

With a population just north of 10,000, Sedona has a reputation that far outweighs its size. It is, after all, one of the most beautiful small towns in America. The town’s innumerable hiking trails bring you to stunning vistas and iconic destinations like Cathedral Rock.

Forget traditional museums; those visiting Sedona will have museums without walls with Mother Nature leading the exhibition. The town is surrounded by incredible scenery punctuated by vortex sites and rock formations that will have you scratching your head. Plus, after a big day of exploring, you can kick back at the many local wineries before enjoying the iconic desert sunset.

>> Get more tips for visiting Sedona

Worth Pondering…

Las Vegas is a 24-hour city. It never stops.

—Eli Roth

Winter Isn’t For These Birds

Are you dreaming of a snowless destination for the winter?

Winter is for the birds. Do you find yourself repeating this throughout the snow-filled colder months? Or perhaps, some other version of this sentiment that isn’t exactly appropriate for publication?

Winter is a wonderful and beautiful time of year in Canada and the northern states but this season’s charms aren’t for everybody. Freezing temperatures, an abundance of snow, and icy conditions soon have many people dreaming of warmer climes. Many northerners like to temporarily trade in their winter gear for shorts and sandals with a winter getaway to a sunny destination. But this plan only provides some temporary relief until one needs to come back home to frigid reality.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One popular solution is to skip winter altogether by RVing to a warmer location until spring. People who follow this plan are often referred to as snowbirds. Many snowbirds migrate from the northern United States but numerous Canadian snowbirds also make the move. The word has been used in its popular context since the 1980s to mark the trend of retirees flocking south for the winter.

While this lifestyle has long been most suited to seniors, the increasing popularity of remote work options has opened up opportunities for people from all demographics to become snowbirds. They can be found all across the southern states but their most popular destinations are Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California.

Amelia Island, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beyond these popular destinations, more and more snowbirds have been choosing other states such as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada. Generally, these states offer much milder winters than a snowbird’s home state allowing migrating active adults to avoid frigid temperatures and precipitation.

There are many reasons that people choose to travel to warmer locations for the winter. Personal preference is often a big factor but choosing to be snowbirds can significantly improve the quality of life for those with health conditions or mobility issues.

Corpus Christi sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For many of us, things like shovelling snow, dealing with icy conditions, and freezing temperatures are simply some of the less enjoyable aspects of winter. These facets of winter living can keep a person housebound and isolated for those dealing with certain health conditions and/or mobility issues.

We know what snowbirds do best: RV south. There are tons of incredible destinations all over the U.S. that are sunny, beautiful, and certainly not frozen over in the winter. Here are some great destinations for northern snowbirds and why they’re so appealing.

Phoenix as seen from the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Phoenix, Arizona

Some reasons you’ll love Pheonix in the winter include the incredible hiking and biking, shopping and live music, time spent in the mountains, excellent opportunities to golf on beautiful courses, the gorgeous desert with blooming wildflowers, warm weather all year, and tons of fantastic RV parks. Phoenix has more than 300 days of sunshine each year and you will instantly forget that winter is ever a thing.

>> Get more tips for visiting Phoenix

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs, California

Visiting the desert in winter means idyllic weather. You can expect temperatures over 70 degrees so pack your warm-weather clothing. With its abundance of golf courses, spas, shopping, and upscale dining, Palm Springs is a fantastic option to wait out the colder months. The warm, desert heat is perfect for those looking to escape the snow and there are many luxury RV resorts full of amenities. If you’re looking for the perfect place to park your RV this winter, Palm Springs might be it.

>> Get more tips for visiting Palm Springs

Near Fort Myers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Myers, Florida

A snowbird’s destination list wouldn’t be complete without the Sunshine State. Just about anywhere in Florida could be considered a good destination for snowbirds, but some areas are more popular than others.

Fort Myers has various activities and experiences for all different interests. You can take a fishing charter out before sunrise and make it back in time to soak up the last of the afternoon rays on Estero Island. Spend your days traversing the shops and avenues or stay beachside with clear water views and seaside restaurants. There are plenty of museums for history buffs and national baseball tournaments for athletes and fans.

Texas State Aquarium at Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Gulf Coast of Texas

If you have yet to consider the Texas Gulf Coast the ideal snowbird destination, you need to add it to your list. There is a 350-mile-long stretch of sandy beaches and unique places to visit along the whole thing. Kick your feet up and relax on South Padre Island, stroll along Galveston‘s seawall to its one-of-a-kind Pleasure Pier, or explore Corpus Christi‘s fascinating museums.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Texas Gulf Coast

Lesser know snowbird destinations

Increasingly, more and more RV travelers are seeking alternative snowbird destinations in their quest to escape the winter cold. If you’d love to spend some time in a milder climate or are just dreaming of new experiences and the usual hot spots don’t entice you, you might be intrigued by one of these six unexpected snowbird destinations.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah, Georgia

Full of history, architecture, gardens, and art, Savannah, Georgia, is a fantastic place to spend the winter. Wander the historic squares and see the preserved buildings and cultivated gardens or explore the local restaurants and shops. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Savannah

Signage near Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Vegas, Nevada

For those who love dining and nightlife, Las Vegas can’t be beaten. The temperature stays warm throughout winter and with endless restaurants, shows, and shopping options, there’s always plenty to do. Nearby Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area provide hiking for outdoor enthusiasts. 

Golfing at Hurricane near St. George © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. George, Utah

Think Utah winters are all about cold weather and snow-capped mountain peaks? Think again. The desert city of St. George in the southwestern corner of the state (aka Utah Dixie), is closer in climate (and distance) to Las Vegas than to the ski resorts in northern Utah. St. George has been a snowbird destination for decades but it’s becoming more popular as the city grows. And it’s not hard to see why: Sunny over 300 days a year on average with winter temperatures in the 50s and 60s and relatively little precipitation. Plus it’s close proximity to Zion National Park!

Main Street Downtown La Cruces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Las Cruces, New Mexico

While New Mexico might not immediately come to mind when you’re deciding where to spend the winter months, the southern part of the state has a lot to offer. With sweeping views of both the desert and rugged mountains and mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s, Las Cruces is an up-and-coming destination for snowbirds. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Las Cruces

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Florida isn’t the only state where snowbirds can relax on the beach. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, gives visitors easy access to the ocean with fewer crowds. There are plenty of options for shopping, fishing, golf, and, of course, a sandy beach. Myrtle Beach is a fantastic place to spend the winter months on the East Coast. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island lies in southern Georgia on the Atlantic. With its mild weather, you can golf year-round here. It’s also a sought-after location for snowbirds who like to explore nature, birdwatch, and beachcomb. In addition, there’s a sea turtle rehabilitation center on the island.

>> Get more tips for visiting Jekyll Island

Worth Pondering…

One of the things I had a hard time getting used to when I came to California in ’78 was Santa Claus in shorts.

—Dennis Franz

A Winter’s Desert: Visiting Southern Utah in the Slow Months

Experiencing the peace of canyon country in the winter is an attraction of its own

Winter in Utah is usually thought of as a ski haven (and rightly so) but the Southern Utah landscapes are an underappreciated delight.

Many people are drawn to Southern Utah in the winter as they also seek out peace among the sparse vegetation and sprawl of open spaces. Looking across the different formations of land is a way to look into Earth’s distant past and to grow a connection to how the land operates free from human interaction. Adding the brisk stillness of winter to the formula makes it a rejuvenating retreat.

Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While hiking and scenic spots can be shoulder-to-shoulder from April to October in the red rocks of Utah, the off-season carries a special silence to offer a welcome respite from the daily grind. A word of caution: preparation is the key as many roads or ranger stations may be closed during the winter months. And though the daytime temperatures will be warmer than higher up in the mountains, the desert climate is still cool and nights can be especially chilling.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and skiing can be enjoyed in the Southern region of Utah but you can also enjoy scenic drives or hike at one of the more popular destinations with a smaller crowd. Read on to find out more about must-visit places in Southern and Central Utah in the winter and remember throughout your travels to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos. This way we can protect the landscape and everyone can enjoy the sought-after stillness that Utah deserts bring.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near Torrey: Capitol Reef National Park and Scenic Byway 12

Located 11 miles east of Torrey, Capitol Reef National Park is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets. It is home to Cassidy Arch (named for Butch Cassidy), one of the few arches that you can walk on (conditions permitting). To reach the arch from the Visitor Center, take Scenic Drive south about 3.5 miles and turn left at the sign for the Grand Wash Trailhead. You’ll drive down a dirt road that sometimes requires 4WD or high-clearance vehicles (check with the Visitor Center for road conditions). After you travel 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the Grand Wash parking area. From there, walk up Grand Wash for less than a mile to reach the well-marked junction with a path that leads to Cassidy Arch.

Grand Wash, Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The hike is rated strenuous, so be sure to wear shoes with good grip and watch out for ice patches. The trail is generally well-traveled and marked with cairns. When you reach the arch, take in views of Grand Wash’s red rock walls and the snow-capped arch, which sits at an elevation of 6,450 feet.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the same trailhead, the Grand Wash Trail offers a less strenuous walk that’s about four miles out and back. You’ll walk through a dry creek bed with towering sandstone walls. Keep an eye out for the enormous dome-shaped rock formation known as Fern’s Nipple. Grand Wash can be accessed from either the Scenic Drive side or Highway 24.

Escalante Petrified State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also known as “A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway,” Highway 12 offers a fantastic stretch of views and winding roads through Escalante and Boulder. This All American Road connects U.S. 89 near Panguitch on the west with S.R. 24 near Torrey on the northeast and while it isn’t the quickest route between these two points, the journey becomes part of the destination. You can take your time on this highway and break up the trip into a multi-day journey with some stops along the route to enjoy the distinct geology of Bryce Canyon National Park, Escalante Petrified State Park, and Grand-Staircase National Monument.

Near Moab: Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Traveling to Arches National Park during the winter is a great way to visit the hot spots without dealing with the hassle of long lines of cars or hikers. You can check out the classic Delicate Arch through a short hike or from the viewpoint. A more moderate hike with assorted arches and rock formations wanders through the Devil’s Garden. (Read: The 5 Best Hikes in Arches National Park)

Dead Horse Point State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Colorado River Plateau surrounding Moab also includes must-visit spots like the La Sal Mountain range, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and stretches of BLM land between that carry hidden gems. World-renowned mountain biking can still be enjoyed in winter given the right gear or you can drive through many scenic roads with viewpoints and easy hikes. (Read: Moab’s Scenic Byways)

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand View Point is one such drive and provides an excellent view of the mountains and gorges of Canyonlands. If you’re up for a short walk, take the half-mile loop trail to visit the impressive Mesa Arch which sits at the edge of a 500-foot cliff. The arch frames a picture-perfect view of the White Rim country plus you can see the La Sal Mountains towering in the distance.

La Sal Mountains as seen from Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To extend the scenic drive add the spur trip to Dead Horse Point State Park. You’ll find overlooks in the park that offer dramatic views of the Colorado River and the White Rim country of Canyonlands. For an added treat, bring blankets and hot drinks and stay for the sunset.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near St. George: Zion National Park and Quail Creek State Park

The famed Zion Canyon in Zion National Park takes on a much quieter persona during the winter months so accessing popular trails and finding parking when the temperature drops are much easier. While one of the more popular destinations in the summer is The Narrows in Zion Canyon, it’s unlikely to be heavily used in the winter. This deep section of the canyon is a narrow corridor with towering sandstone walls with a gentle water flow through this section of the Virgin River. In the colder weather, it is best to use a dry suit for this hike.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boasting some of the warmest waters in the state and a mild winter climate, Quail Creek lures boaters and anglers, campers and hikers year-round. Quail Creek reservoir was completed in 1985 to provide irrigation and culinary water to the St. George area. Most of the water in the reservoir does not come from Quail Creek but is diverted from the Virgin River and transported through a buried pipeline.

Monument Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near Monticello: Monument Valley, Four Corners, and Bears Ears

Learn more about the Indigenous roots of Utah by spending time respectfully on Ancestral Puebloan land. Set aside by the Navajo Tribal Council in 1958, Monument Valley Park covers almost 92,000 acres in northern Arizona and southern Utah and lies within the Navajo Nation reservation.

Bears Ears National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Like Arches and Canyonlands national park to the north, Monument Valley showcases eons of nature’s erosive power, yet has distinctive formations unlike anywhere else in the world. For millions of years, layers upon layers of sediments settled and cemented in the basin. The basin lifted up and became a plateau; then the natural forces of water and wind slowly removed the softer materials and exposed the spires, buttes, and other formations we see today—some of which you may recognize from many Western films.

Goulding’s Trading Post © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Goulding’s Resort and Tours offers guided trips to the surrounding areas such as Tear Drop Arch, as well as access to their lodging, restaurant, grocery store, convenience store, museum, and theater.

Moki Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can also take another trip by car through the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway which connects Monument Valley to Bears Ears National Monument to round out your journey and catch some of the most iconic mesas and views the state has to offer. You’ll enjoy the breath-taking vistas as you wind through the iconic Moki Dugway and pass through other noteworthy attractions such as the Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum, Natural Bridges National Monument, Valley of the Gods, and Hovenweep National Monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near Cedar City: Cedar Breaks National Monument

Hidden within the mountains above Cedar City is the brilliant geology and vibrant environment of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The natural formation made of eroding limestone, shale, and sandstone is home to hiking trails, ancient trees, high elevation camping, and over-the-top views along the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.” The Amphitheater is like a naturally formed coliseum that plunges 2,000 feet below.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a plowed parking area at the junction of Highway 143 and Highway 148. From the parking lot, it’s an easy 5-minute snowshoe to the rim of the amphitheater. Approach the rim with caution, because it’s not maintained during the winter and there can be sheer cliffs. The National Park Service recommends staying at least 200 feet from the rim.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From the edge, you’ll see a beautiful landscape of spires, hoodoos, and cliffs tinted with shades of red and orange. During winter, brilliant snow caps the rust-colored spires creating a striking contrast in colors. Situated on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, the raised area of earth located in Southern Utah sits entirely above 10,000 feet.

Brian Head Resort area near Cedar Breaks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To explore the area further, don your skis or snowshoes and make your way down Scenic Byway 148. In the winter, it’s closed to vehicle traffic and becomes a groomed snow trail that runs for several miles along the rim of the park. From January through March, volunteers lead guided snowshoe hikes, and you can check online or contact the park for specific dates. The area is also popular for snowmobiling, and Cedar Breaks is one of the few national monuments that allows people to ride unguided.

Worth Pondering…

A strange world of colossal shafts and buttes of rock, magnificently sculptured, standing isolated and aloof, dark, weird, lonely.

—Zane Grey

Red Sand Meets Blue Waters at Sand Hollow State Park

Red rock and red sand meet warm, blue waters at Sand Hollow, one of the most visited locations in the Utah State Park system

Sand Hollow Reservoir is the closest you will come to feeling like you are at Lake Powell, just on a smaller scale. Located near Saint George, Utah in Hurricane with the red sandstone rocks and amazing clear blue waters, Sand Hollow reservoir is a can’t-miss getaway. Sand Hollow offers activities for everyone including camping, fishing, boating, lake tours, and water sport lessons.  Enjoy Sand Hollow reservoir year-round.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just 15 miles east of St. George, Sand Hollow State Park offers a wide range of recreation opportunities. With its warm, blue waters and red sandstone landscape, it is one of the most popular parks because it has so much to offer. Boat and fish on Sand Hollow Reservoir, explore and ride the dunes of Sand Mountain Recreation Area on an off-highway vehicle, RV, or tent camp in the modern campground.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This park is perfect for having a picnic and spending the day in the water. A favorite for swimming, the 1,322-acre reservoir is warm and offers rentals for water activities including boating, standup paddleboarding, water sports, fishing, and more. Enjoy the surrounding sand dune areas for ATV riding, hiking, and biking.

A popular destination for nearly every recreational activity—from boaters to bikers and from off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders to equestrians—Sand Hollow State Park sprawls across 20,000-acres. Sand Mountain provides 15,000 acres of perfectly sculpted dunes. The red sand is an incredible backdrop for Sand Hollow reservoir.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At nearly twice the size of the nearby Quail Creek Reservoir, Sand Hollow State Park offers boating, fishing, kayaking, sailboat racing, and other water recreation in a spectacular desert setting. Anglers let their lines out into the water in the search for bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One popular event seeing increased growth and interest has been the annual Winter 4×4 Jamboree hosted by the DesertRATS (Desert Roads and Trails Society). A premier off-road event that attracts close to 400 vehicles, the jamboree encourages all who enjoy the OHV lifestyle to join in taking advantage of the unique and stellar Utah landscape. The Winter 4×4 Jamboree is a non-competitive trail run event for high clearance 4×4 vehicles. Drivers can choose between over 20 trails, featuring rock climbing obstacles, petroglyph sites, and sand dunes.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Groups of participants are led on rated trails by experienced trail leaders and helpers. Trails are rated on a 10-point scale where a rating of 1 would be for graded roads that may be easily traveled by most cars and a rating of 10 is for purpose-built vehicles (buggies) with sophisticated suspensions and drivetrains operated by expert drivers. The number of vehicles on each trail is limited to ensure participants have an enjoyable experience.

An upcoming Winter 4×4 Jamboree is scheduled for Wednesday, January 12 to Saturday, January 15, 2022. On-line registration begins November 7, 2021 at 10:00 am.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two campgrounds suit everyone from those who want only a basic campsite to those who want it all. Both campgrounds have restrooms with showers. The West Campground offers 50 spacious sites with full hookups, covered picnic tables, and fire rings. Some sites have views of the reservoir. ATVs are not allowed in this campground except on a trailer.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

ATVs are allowed at the Sandpit Campground which is near the OHV staging area at the dunes. This campground offers 19 basic dry camping sites, six sites with electricity, and five group sites. All sites have a fire ring and picnic table. If you really like to get away from it all, Sand Hollow also offers primitive beach camping. Although there is no camping charge, you pay a day-use fee. Please note that the state park will not tow you out if you get stuck in the sand, so beware. Enter only where there are signs beckoning you to try beach camping. Be aware that some side roads can be very sandy.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sand Hollow State Park is located approximately 15 miles east of St. George and seven miles east of the Interstate 15 Hurricane exit. Visitors should take exit 16 (Utah State Route 9), travel east for about four miles and turn right on Sand Hollow Road, travel south for about three miles, and turn left at the park entrance.

Tucked up against red sandstone cliffs and straddling Quail Creek, the Red Cliffs Recreation Area is a pleasant surprise for most visitors. The backdrop of the looming cliffs and the riparian habitat is an unexpected and welcome relief in the desert. 

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fact Box

Size: 20,000 acres

Date Established: 2003

Location: Southwest Utah

Park Elevation: 3,000 feet

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Surface Water: 1,322 acres

Sand Mountain OHV: 6,000 acres

Park Entrance Fee: $10-$20

Campsite Rates: $25-$35

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Recreational visits in 2020: 393,907

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

The Absolute Best Places to RV This March

It is almost spring and you can just feel it…kind of

If winter weather has officially got you down for the third consecutive month in a row, that means it’s time to get out of town.

March is when the cold starts to let up and much of the country finally gets signs of warm weather. But if you start planning a trip for the summer months, you’ll hit high season for most destinations. Traveling during the spring certainly has its perks. If you can brave mediocre temperatures and weather, you’ll likely be rewarded with fewer crowds in many popular destinations, ranging from outdoor hot spots to cities big and small.

We’ve scoped out the best opportunities to ditch the purgatory that is March and eat, drink, and soak up some sun—or some culture—which should have you in better spirits in no time. No matter where your RV travels take you—and whether you want to avoid spring Break destinations or embrace them—there are plenty of places to go that are warm.

Here are our five favorite places to travel to put on your radar for March. What are you waiting for?

Looking to make plans for RV travel in April, May, June, or the rest of the year? We’ve got you covered with those recommendations, too. And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in January and February. Also check out our recommendations from March 2018.

Lexington, Kentucky

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This time of year, the only thing people know about Lexington is that there seem to be a disproportionate amount of die-hard college basketball fans who claim to have been there.

Bluegrass Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Of course, there are also the scenic tours of nearby horse country—Keeneland is Lexington’s cozier, comfier answer to Louisville’s Churchill Downs. Stop by some of the city’s eight craft breweries and you, too, will swear you can see the glint of blue in the grass that makes the rolling countrysides here some of most gorgeous in America.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers will be coming into bloom in Texas Hill Country this month, which is home to the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. With the season extending from March all the way through April, it’s a great opportunity to spend a weekend exploring country roads and hiking.

For a well-deserved picnic break, stop in at the Wedding Oak Winery at Wildseed, where you can sample Texas-made wine while overlooking fields of cosmos and zinnia.

Wildseed Farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wildflowers will be coming into bloom in Texas Hill Country this month, which is home to the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. With the season extending from March all the way through April, it’s a great opportunity to spend a weekend exploring country roads and hiking.

St. George, Utah

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Affectionately known as “The Palm Springs of Utah,” this desert town a couple of hours from Las Vegas, offers year-round golf, and serves as a gateway city to Zion National Park.

Quail Gate State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s also only about 20 minutes from Snow Canyon State Park, an underrated destination unto itself that rocks a red-orange blend of Navajo sandstone cliffs, petrified sand dunes, and lava fields (seriously, you gotta go). If you want a natural resort town with not a lot of people, St. George is your play.

Charleston, South Carolina

Historic Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

This seaport city on South Carolina’s coast oozes Southern charm. Its palmetto-lined streets, waterfront promenades, historic mansions, and cobblestone streets will draw you in, but it’s exciting art and culinary scene and its Southern hospitality will make it one hell of a break.

Why you should go in March: Mild temps make Chuck Town pleasant this time of year. And it’s the start for springtime blooms with colorful camellias, pink tulip trees, and wisteria vines blossoming throughout downtown and inside city parks. Plus, the Charleston Wine+Food Festival takes place in March (6-10, in 2019).

Magnolia Plantation © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With a whopping 97 properties listed on the National Register for Historic Places, history is ingrained in every aspect of Downtown Charleston—right down to the horse-drawn carriages. From the historic mansions that line the Battery promenade near the waterside, Fort Sumter-facing White Point Garden to the cobblestone streets and gas-lit alleys of the French Quarter (yes, Charleston has its own French Quarter), you can’t escape all the history that’s packed into the heart of this city. And when history is this beautiful, why the hell would you want to?

Scottsdale, Arizona 

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scottsdale, known for its blissful desert sunshine and high-end resorts, is also home to the annual Major League Baseball spring training. Nearly two million fans show up at the end of February to watch 15 Major League Baseball teams prepare for the upcoming season under the warm Arizona sun.

Games taking place in 10 different stadiums in Scottsdale, Mesa, and other cities in the Valley of the Sun. Consider making the most of your surroundings with an exhilarating hot air balloon ride, or a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Desert Botanical Garden

Scottsdale also has wonderful hikes and a booming art scene, so there’s no lack of entertainment even if you’re not a baseball buff. Case in point: the Celebration of Fine Art, which runs until March 24.

Worth Pondering…

Happiness is like a butterfly—the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.

—Henry David Thoreau