Zion National Park

We covered Zion National Park several years ago. This is a new post with enhanced content and updated information.

Zion National Park is approximately:

308 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah427 miles from Los Angeles, California377 miles from Phoenix, Arizona — 159 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada

The closest city with a major airport is obvious. So, pack your bag, stash some cash in your pocket, and get ready for a ride because our first stop is Las Vegas!

Iconic Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign – Photo by Pixabay

Las Vegas

For first time visitors to Las Vegas, we recommend checking out the hotels/casinos on the Strip (officially Las Vegas Avenue). Each hotel has something different to see and do, and each one is worthy of a visit. Less expensive accommodations can be found off the Strip as well as downtown, and there are many RV campgrounds in and around the city.

Restaurant recommendations are difficult because we’ve never had a bad meal in Las Vegas. However, we think Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand and the buffet at the Wynn Las Vegas are definitely worth mentioning. As far as attractions go, there are too many to list here, but here’s a great link for things to do in Las Vegas.

Now, on to Zion National Park…

Leaving Las Vegas

Getting There

Take I-15 North toward Mesquite, Nevada and the Arizona state line.

Bonus stop: Valley of Fire State Park. Exit I-15 at Crystal, Nevada then take the Valley of Fire Highway to the park’s entrance. The park road is a Nevada Scenic Byway, and the park features hiking trails, spectacular red rock formations, and petroglyphs. RV and tent camping are available. Drive time between Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park: 47 minutes.

Continue on I-15 to St. George, Utah. Drive time between Las Vegas, Nevada and St. George, Utah: 2 hours.

Interstate 15 traverses the scenic Virgin River Gorge through northwestern Arizona into southwestern Utah.

Numerous hotel, dining, and camping options are available in St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale, Utah. Drive times to the park:

  • From St. George: 1 hour
  • From Hurricane: 32 minutes
  • From Springdale: 3 minutes. The park provides free shuttles around the town of Springdale and to the park for visitors who wish to use them.

Travel tip: the closer the hotel is to the park, the higher the rates.

From I-15, take Highway 9 east toward Springdale, Utah and Zion National Park.

The Watchman, Zion National Park

Destination: Zion National Park

Ahh…Zion! From finding peaceful solitude, to hiking, climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, Zion has an adventure for every visitor. It is also one of five national parks in Utah. So, depending on how much time you have, a visit to Zion could lead to visits to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks.

  • Website link: Zion National Park.
  • Accommodation in the park: Zion Lodge.
  • Restaurant and seasonal cafe at Zion Lodge.
  • Three campgrounds in the park.
  • Free shuttle. (Mandatory in Zion Canyon from spring through fall.)
  • When to go? Anytime. We like September.
  • Advance permits by lottery are required for hiking to Angels Landing. Check website for details.
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No filters…the color is real!

Zion Canyon

 We highly recommend getting to the park early in the morning. Parking can be difficult during peak tourist seasons and the parking lots fill quickly. Overflow parking is available in Springdale, and the Springdale shuttle runs to and from the park. Hop-on hop-off shuttles inside the park run the length of Zion Canyon with nine different stops. We never waited longer than ten minutes for a shuttle in the park, however, we waited in line for almost an hour to get on one of the first shuttles of the day. Did we let that bother us? Absolutely not! The park was definitely worth the wait.

Travel tip: carry a backpack with everything you will need for a full day in the park, including lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Now get ready to say “Wow” about a million times!

View from the canyon floor
Riverside Walk

From the visitor center, take the shuttle all the way up the canyon to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. This is where the Riverside Walk trail begins. The paved trail, which follows the Virgin River, is easy, and it is the gateway to the Narrows. The Narrows is a ten to sixteen-mile hike in the river, and it is strenuous, but it is one of the most popular hikes at Zion. Check with the visitor center regarding river conditions before attempting the Narrows. After Riverside Walk, work your way back down the canyon by hiking other trails (check out Weeping Rock Trail) or by taking the shuttle to another stop.

View of the river from Riverside Walk
Entering the Narrows
The Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge

This is an easy, one mile hike, and the scenery is so much more spectacular from a trail than from a vehicle. The shuttle stop at The Grotto is also the trailhead for Angels Landing, which is another one of the most popular trails at Zion. Angels Landing trail is long, strenuous, and not for everyone, but we hear the views are incredible. Advance permits are required for Angels Landing.

Zion Lodge
Angels Landing
View from the Grotto Trail
Lower Emerald Pool Trail

From the Grotto trail, take the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This trail is just a little over a mile long, and it’s easy, though there are some inclines along the way.

Lower Emerald Pool trail
Waterfall view, Lower Emerald Pool trail
Another view from Lower Emerald Pool trail
Kayenta Trail

Return to the Grotto shuttle stop via the Kayenta trail (moderate, 1.5 miles) for great views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon.

Kayenta trail passes through a slot between the rocks
Tiny waterfall on Kayenta trail
Zion Canyon from Kayenta trail
Kolob Canyons

Drive time between the park’s Springdale/South Entrance to Kolob Canyons: 47 minutes via Hurricane, Utah and I-15.

This underrated section of the park, which is much less crowded than Zion Canyon, features:

  • Visitor Center with restrooms and a water filling station.
  • Breathtaking scenery in a designated wilderness.
  • 20 miles of hiking trails for all levels of hikers.
  • Kolob Fingers Road Scenic Byway – scenic drive. The road is five miles long with viewpoints and trailheads.
  • Kolob Terrace Road – another scenic road that begins in Virgin, Utah and runs for 21 miles in and out of the park. There are no services along this road.
Beautiful scenery awaits at Kolob Canyons

Adventurous hikers may want to venture into Kolob Canyons’ backcountry to view Kolob Arch. The arch, which pans 287 feet, is one of the longest natural arches in the world. The 14-mile roundtrip hike is rated strenuous. Check with the visitor center for recommendations on other hikes in Kolob Canyons.

Stunning Kolob Canyons view

Obviously, we have barely scratched Zion’s surface. There are many additional hikes, short trails, a museum, ranger led programs, and much more available in the park. Zion is a place where you can find your own level of adventure. We hope you have a fantastic trip! Leave us a comment below and let us know what made you fall in love with Zion. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye  


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.


Fort Union National Monument

Where is Fort Union National Monument Located?

Fort Union is located approximately 30 miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico.


  • Website link: Fort Union
  • Cost: free
  • Hours vary seasonally
  • Short film in the visitor center about the history of the fort
  • Self-guided or ranger-led tours of the grounds
  • Night sky programs
  • When to go? Anytime

Fort Union National Monument is 150 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and since Albuquerque has a major airport, we will start our adventure from there.

Prairie near Fort Union. Imagine a wagon train ambling along the Santa Fe Trail here. Aside from the barbed wire fences, this scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.

Getting There

From Albuquerque take I-25 north toward Santa Fe. At Santa Fe continue on I-25/US 84 east toward Glorietta and Pecos, New Mexico.

Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Plan to spend a couple of hours taking the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. The visitor center museum is also very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link to the park’s website: Pecos National Historical Park.

Pecos Mission Church – built in 1717. Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Watrous. Follow the signs from Watrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping are available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Destination: Fort Union National Monument

Fort Union’s Officer’s Row
Establishment of the Fort

The “first” Fort Union was established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the Santa Fe Trail. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, better living conditions were needed, and the fort’s original wooden buildings were refurbished or rebuilt with adobe and brick. Larger supply warehouses were added at that time, and Fort Union began providing supplies to all the forts in the region. This version, the remains of which we see today, is referred to as the “third” Fort Union.

Mechanic’s Corral. This is where they stored and worked on the vehicles of the day and took care of the horses that pulled them.
Outside view of the Mechanic’s Corral

Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. After the Civil War, the post continued to operate with soldiers in place to protect the Santa Fe Trail. The hospital continued to operate during this time too. However, with the advent of the railroad, the Santa Fe Trail became less traveled, and the fort was abandoned in 1891. Some wheel ruts on the trail can still be seen at Fort Union.

Fort Union’s Post Commander’s Quarters


Visiting the Park

The visitor center is the first stop, along with the new museum that opened in August 2022. The trailway through the fort is approximately a mile long, the walking paths are level, and benches can be found along the way. We recommend bringing plenty of water. There is little to no shade, so if you’re visiting during the hot summer months plan to visit early in the day. Pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables outside of the visitor center.

During certain times of the year visitors may find living historians reenacting life at the fort. Check the website’s events calendar for dates. While there, look for the pronghorns and other wildlife that live in and around the park.

For those wanting a little more history, visit the town of Watrous, New Mexico which is just 12 minutes from Fort Union. Watrous (La Junta) is a national historic landmark district located on the Santa Fe Trail. Here is a link to the national park service’s webpage: Watrous (La Junta) National Historic Landmark.

Information about the Santa Fe Trail can be found here: Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

Old aerial photo of Fort Union taken from a wayside sign in the park. Shown prominently in this photo is the “second” Fort Union designed in a traditional star shape of dirt and ditches as an effort to keep the Confederates at bay during the Civil War.

Thank you for joining us on our Fort Union National Monument road trip! Have you been to Fort Union or other historic forts? If so, we would love to hear about your visit. Comments can be left below.

Would you like to visit more national monuments? Click to view these interesting sites:

Scotts Bluff National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine


Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.




Death Valley National Park


  • Website: Death Valley National Park
  • Hotels/resorts and campgrounds in the park
  • Restaurants and concessions in the park
  • Scenic drives
  • Historic sites
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Backcountry camping
  • When to go? Winter, early spring, late fall are the best times to visit. Visitors should be extremely cautious in the summer months when temperatures rise dramatically.
Devil’s Golf Course – these “rocks” are actually salt crystals. The Panamint Mountains made a nice backdrop for this shot.

Getting There

Our trip is going to start in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has a major airport and is only 123 miles from Death Valley. Ice down a cooler full of water, grab your favorite road snacks, and let’s go to Death Valley!

From Las Vegas, take I-15 south to Highway 160 west to Pahrump, Nevada.

Travel tip: make a restroom stop and top off your gas tank in Pahrump.

From Pahrump, continue northwest on Highway 160 to Bell Vista Avenue. Take Bell Vista (which changes to Bell Vista Road) west across the California state line to Death Valley Junction and Highway 190. Continue into the park on Highway 190. Drive time between Las Vegas and Death Valley: 2 hours.

Travel tip: Look for wild burros and horses along Highway 190.

Destination: Death Valley National Park

IMG_2601Arguably, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth – 134º F in July of 1913. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, sitting at 282 feet below sea level. With an average of 1.5 inches of rain per year, Death Valley also holds the honor of being the driest place in North America. We are used to hot, dry weather where we live, but the 111º F (before noon) temperature when we visited Death Valley felt like a different type of oppressive heat that seemed heavier to us for some reason. With that said, we caution you to be conscious of the weather and prepare for harsh conditions when visiting this park, especially in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Also, make sure your car is in tip-top condition before starting a road trip through Death Valley.

This is a spring in the salt flats at Badwater Basin, but the water is too salty to drink.

Death Valley is hot, dry, and its spring water is too salty for humans or animals to drink. So why would anyone want to go there? Well, see below…

Breathtaking Beauty
Vibrant Colors at Artist’s Palette
Magnificent Mountain Vistas

When thinking of a desert, one usually thinks of sand dunes and scrubby cactus. At least that is what we envision when we imagine desert scenery. Death Valley is different from other deserts because of its diversity. The park features 11,000 foot mountains, wildflower super blooms after rare rains, as well as sand dunes. Badlands, salt flats, and dry lake beds where rocks race across the parched ground on their own, can also be seen here. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see the many facets of this unique landscape. And speaking of lake beds, all of Death Valley was once a lake. A trip here is definitely worth the time, and it’s not just about the scenery. This park also features oases, historic ghost towns, abandoned mines, and even a castle!

Badlands of Zabriskie Point
Salt Flats of Badwater Basin
Multi-faceted Beauty

Did you know that borax was once mined in Death Valley? The mine was called Harmony Borax Works, and they hauled the borax 165 miles to Mojave, California, using huge wagons pulled by teams of twenty mules. One of the wagons can still be seen at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The trip from Death Valley to Mojave took ten days and had to have been grueling. Today at Death Valley, there is a park road through scenic Twenty Mule Team Canyon. While the wagons probably didn’t travel this exact area, it is a wonder how they managed to get their animals and wagons through the rugged terrain of what is now Death Valley National Park.

In Twenty Mule Team Canyon
View of the terrain and park road through Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Thank you for joining us on our trip to Death Valley National Park! We hope that we have given you some insight and inspiration for planning your own trip to see this wondrous place. That is our goal in sharing our information, after all. We will leave you with one last look at beautiful, otherworldly Zabriskie Point.


Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye


As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.