History is filled with stories of dreamers who envision creating something significant, but it’s rare for most of these visions to ever be realized. Zion Ponderosa was once just a dream…fast forward to 2020 and here we are, as Zion Ponderosa celebrates 25 years serving valued guests from around the world.
Our Humble Beginnings
For years Ray Lewis dreamed of owning a ranch similar to the one he called home as a child. In 1962, Ray’s daughter, Rose, and her husband Gary Neeleman, were visiting the Lewis family in Los Angeles when Gary spotted an L.A. Times classified ad for “high desert land, covered with Ponderosa Pines.” That very day the entire family piled into their station wagon and headed to Utah to visit Zion National Park.
Within 24 hours, Ray had traded his L.A. home for a down payment on the land, becoming the proud owner of 8,000 forested acres on the eastern boundary of Utah’s Zion National Park. As Ray stood on the highest point of this property, he envisioned a natural sanctuary, a place where people could gather together as family and friends to enjoy a mountain cabin, inhale the scent of juniper and ponderosa pine, explore the backcountry, and view wildlife.
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort – A Dream Realized
The growth of the ranch was facilitated over the early years by Ray selling approximately 200 one-acre lots to hunting enthusiasts. At the time, Zion Ponderosa was a dry ranch, meaning there was no water source and no electricity. The Lewis family came every summer to enjoy the land and to work on ranch development, but due to the sometimes overwhelming costs of operating the ranch, they considered putting it up for sale.
In the early 1990s, two of Gary’s children decided to expand Grandpa Ray’s dream to a new level, thanks to a hiking experience in one of Zion National Park’s slot canyons. These men, now with families of their own, had such a grand adventure in this slot canyon that they more fully realized just how much the Zion Ponderosa location had to offer.
The dream of Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort began to truly take shape in 1994 with the construction of the original 16 guest cabins, showers, dining and recreation facilities, a showerhouse and a pool. Zion Ponderosa officially opened on Memorial Day 1995.
Inspiring the love of Zion National Park in every valued guest
“The Lewis and Neeleman families have worked hard to make Ray’s dream what it is today,” says Julie Millard, Zion Ponderosa’s General Manager. “Today we employ many people from neighboring communities.”
Guests come to Zion Ponderosa for what is found here: adventure, scenery and serenity – a magical combination that is enhanced by a family that has owned and loved this land for nearly 70 years. Through the decades, it’s been the passion of the Lewis and Neeleman families that have made Zion Ponderosa what it is today. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is still family-owned and operated, and our mission is to carry on the family legacy.
With the addition of luxury vacation homes and glamping tents, a new campground, tennis courts, a pond, resort-style swimming pool, and a full-service restaurant named for Grandpa Ray, Zion Ponderosa now accommodates guests year-round from around the world in seven different types of lodging for all budgets and group sizes. “There are many stories yet to be told,” Julie smiles, “and when you are here, you become part of our story.”
25th Anniversary Celebration: June 25-27, 2020
We invite all of our guests to join us all weekend long as Zion Ponderosa celebrates 25 years as a top adventure resort destination. Enjoy Jeep tours and recreation specials, night zip line adventures, yard games, bonfire and S’mores, a movie under the stars, a Friday night barn dance and more! Book your getaway here and be part of the celebration. Learn more about our Silver Anniversary package here.