Archive for the ‘Outdoor Adventures’ Category

Fall Getaway

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Fall Getaway by Susan Strayer

Zion National Park in Autumn

Zion National Park in Autumn

 

My husband’s brithday is in October and this year we decided to celebrate with a two night stay at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort. We’d been there earlier in the summer, but I was excited to see Zion National Park with fall colors. James was excited to ride the trails on the Ranch’s UTV.

Staying in a Comfortable Cabin Suite.

Fall Getaway at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

When we arrived at our cabin suite, I could already feel my muscles relax in anticipation of our vacation. The rustic style of the cabin suites, combined with the kitchenette and separate seating area made me feel right at home. We could’ve stayed in any of Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort’s six lodging options, but the cabin suite was the perfect choice.

 

We started our stay with dinner at the Blue Belly Grill. James had “the tastiest Bleu Bacon Cheesburger he’s ever had” and I had delicious Spicy Vegetarian Pasta. We enjoyed the food so much, we made a point to eat there again the next night.

Dinner at the Blue Belly Grill was delicious.

Dinner at the Blue Belly Grill was delicious.

 

In the morning we played mini golf before heading out on the trail. The Utility Vehicle we rented could seat six and easily handled the bumps of the numerous off road trails surounding the Ranch. We made our way to Jolley Gulch and Pine Knoll Observation point where we could see Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and way in the distance the north rim of the Grand Canyon. James loved it so much, I’m sure owning a UTV will be in our future.

 

Riding the trails in a UTV at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

Riding the trails in a UTV at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

We loved the UTV ride, but could’ve also gone horseback riding, ATVing or Rock Climbing thanks to all the activities Zion Ponderosa ranch offers. The weather in October was perfect, unlike the sweltering heat of the summer, the air was warm with a cool breeze.

Zion National Park in Autumn

Zion National Park in Autumn

 

The rest of our time was spent exploring the area’s National parks. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is located on the eastern border of Zion National Park, so of course we went there to see the fall colors. In October, the summer crowds have all disappeared so the park was relaxing and beautiful. The next day we decided to drive just over an hour to Bryce Canyon National Park to see the hoo doos there. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort’s unique location between the two made it a great place to stay, and the beautiful fall weather made it the perfect time to visit.

 

Observation Point – Utah’s Best View!

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Many experts claim that Utah’s best scenic view is Observation Point at Zion National Park.  This overlook stands you on the edge of a 2,200 foot precipice and offers a view across a major portion of the main canyon within Zion National Park, and far into the distance beyond the park boundaries.  Zion National Park is 30 miles in length and 15 miles across at its widest point, and Observation Point, at an elevation of 6,521′ is likely the best place to capture the grandeur of this vast expanse.

Observation Point at Zion

A view from Observation Point at Zion National Park

Most visitors to Observation Point at Zion endure a challenging four mile climb and 2,148′ ascent, from the Weeping Rock area in the bottom of the canyon, but there is a better way.

Observation Point Hiking Trail

Walking the forest trail to Observation Point from Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

From Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort’s property there is a park boundary trail-head that follows a more gentle rolling course across the Zion National Park plateau and through the forest to Observation Point.  This 3.5 mile walk (each direction) winds through the forest bending slightly northwest and then back to the southwest toward the overlook.  Approximately two miles into the hike, you’ll encounter views into a side canyon that are quite spectacular, but only serve to whet the appetite for what lies ahead.

Zion National Park Canyon

Viewing the canyon on the west, just before arriving at Observation Point.

In the last half of a mile, the course descends south to the canyon rim and then bends west before turning south again toward Observation Point at Zion.   In the last 200 yards you’ll ride the edge of the rim and encounter views into the back of the main canyon toward the Narrows, but the real view then opens up at Observation Point as you exit the forest of scrub oak, pines, and high desert foliage.

Observation Point at Zion National Park

A view over the rim at Observation Point

Sandstone layers of white, grey, ochre, and various hues of red color the striations that break out before your view.  To the left the canyon sweeps open in horseshoe fashion.  To the south the Virgin River winds through the fins and buttresses that have been eroded over eons.   To your right the main canyon cycles north and toward the narrows section of Zion Park.

Observation Point Viewers

A couple from Canada sits on the rim taking in the views at Observation Point

Plan to spend some time on the rim just soaking in all the views, and unlike others that you may encounter, enjoy the fact that you didn’t have to hike from the valley to Observation Point.

Observation Point - Best View in Utah

A young woman enjoys the solitude of this majestic vista at Observation Point.

The length of this hike from Zion Ponderosa is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes (each direction) for adults moving at a reasonable hiking pace.  Adjust your expected time based on the ability of those in your hiking group.

Zion National Park

A hiker rests on the rim to take photographs at Observation Point.

Groups are limited to sizes of no more than 12 people on trails such as this within Zion National Park.  Bring water, snacks, and appropriate other hiking supplies, and don’t forget your still and  video cameras.  Early morning is a good time to start on this hike so you can enjoy the softer light on the formations when photography is also best.  Learn more about Zion National Park.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Monday, October 28th, 2013

At my recent family reunion at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, I knew I would spend time at Zion’s National Park. What I didn’t expect was to spend so much time away from it.

Big E on the Extreme Trampoline

Big E on the Extreme Trampoline

I love the natural beauty of the National Parks, but my feet and my young children can only handle so much hiking.

That’s what was great about Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort; it had a huge variety of activities right on site. Horseback riding, rock climbing, paint ball, miniature golf, UTVs, ATVs, skeet shooting, riding the zipline and extreme trampoline jumping for the kids were all available.

Mini Golf

Mini Golf

The forty two members of our family reunion group were occupied from morning until night for a full day.

My husband’s favorite activity was riding the trails on Zion Ponderosa’s UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) which has seating for six. We strapped our tots in the back and set off dodging scrub oak and pine boughs to find the most beautiful overlook areas.

UTV with the whole family

UTV with the whole family

It was so fun, we decided to take a guided tour from the recreation barn later the same day. Our guide led the way on his four wheeler to what felt like a secret access point to Zion National Park. There he told us the tragic story of how Jolley Gulch got its name from a settler man who jumped to his death after pushing his wife and kids over the edge. Although the story is quite sad, the views of Jolley Gulch were amazing.

Little g in the Swing

Little g in the Swing

At the end of the day, we relaxed in the pool, happy with the myriad of activities we had tried that day. We were so close to Zion and Bryce National Parks, but I was perfectly content staying where I was.

 

Susan Strayer is an outdoors woman with two kids, a garage full of gear and a house in the mountains. Read more at www.mountainmomandtots.com.