Destination: Zion National Park and Antelope Canyon
Zion National Park and Antelope Canyon are bucket list destinations for most people due to their majestic natural splendor. And for good reason, both destinations showcase desert beauty at its finest and is not to be missed! There’s nothing quite like an Airstream road trip to visit
How to Get There
Zion National Park is a total of over 11 hours from our Airstream rental garage in San Jose, so we recommend breaking up your drive over two days. When we took this trip, we stopped off at Barstow, CA, which is a 6 hour drive from San Jose. We stayed at Shady Lane RV Camp, which was nothing more than a gravel parking lot but was suitable for a quick overnighter. If you are an experienced tower and don’t mind the 8 hour haul, Las Vegas is another option. One of our favorite repeat customers Jason and Grace (who’s picture appears at the top) made the trek to Zion National Park last year and they stopped off at Las Vegas Oasis RV Resort. From Barstow it is another 5 hours to Zion, while it is another 2.5 hours of driving from Las Vegas to Zion.
Glamping at Zion National Park
There are only two campgrounds within Zion that can accommodate RVs: South Campground and Watchman Campground. Of the two,only Watchman Campground has electrical hook-ups, which we highly recommend if visiting the desert in the summer. You can make a reservation for either campground here. Since both are campgrounds, neither have water or sewer hook-ups. Thus you’ll be dry-camping and will need to monitor water usage while there. If you prefer to have the full glamping experience or if you are unable to make reservations at the campsite of your choice, Zion River Resort is another option. This is where we stayed while visiting Zion (and Jason and Grace stayed there as well). This RV resort is located about 20 minutes outside of the park, but comes with full hook-ups and is one of the nicest parks we’ve stayed at.
What to do there
Hiking hiking hiking. Zion National Park has some of the most breathtaking hiking trails we’ve ever done. We went hiking everyday and each trail had its own gorgeous scenery. Most hikes can be accessed by the Zion shuttle, which we highly recommend using. Not only do you get a bit of history on the free shuttle, but it also means you don’t have to search for parking. Plus it keeps car pollution within the park to a minimum.
The easiest hike, and the only one that dogs are allowed on, is the Pa’rus Trail that starts from the Zion Canyon Visitor’s Center (pictured above). This is the easiest hike they have and is paved the whole way, but there are still some spectacular views of the mountains. During sunset, the mountains are especially orange and make for some gorgeous landscape photography.
Another easy hike is the Lower Emerald Pool Trail that leaves from the Zion Lodge. The picture above doesn’t do it justice, but the small pools of water reflect the orange mountains beautifully.
For a little more effort, the Canyon Overlook trail was easily one of our favorite hikes. You can’t take a shuttle to this trailhead but parking wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t as crowded as some of the more popular hikes and there were some cave-like overhangs that was fun to walk through. It wasn’t particularly difficult though there are some drop-offs (but the paths were nice and wide) and so maybe not suitable for young kids.
One of the more popular hikes in the park is The Narrows, which requires walking on a riverbed and depending on the level of the river may or may not be suitable for kids. Jason and Grace were able to take their kids on this hike so it is doable with children. When we went, we wanted to go as far as possible so we started out early but we also rented gear from a place in town. The gear included shoes, wading trousers and hiking sticks. If you’re going in the spring or fall (like we did) I would highly recommend the gear if you plan to be walking through the cold river all day. However in the summer you could probably get away with a walking stick and shoes (like Jason and Grace). If you’re planning just a short trip down and back you might be able to get away with gear that you already have. Since the river stones are quite slippery, we recommend this hike for those who are partially in shape with no problems walking.
Another popular hike is called Angel’s Landing, which is a moderate trail up until you have to climb the peak. If you’re with children I recommend not doing the last bit since it’s quite dangerous and there have been people who have fallen off in the past. There are chains to grab onto, but the pathways are narrow and especially nerve-racking when there are a lot of hikers on the same path. I did it once, but I’m not sure I would do it again (I would probably do the Canyon Overlook hike for the similar views without the anxiety).
And finally for those wondering where Antelope Canyon fits into all this, we decided to take a day trip to Antelope Canyon (located in Arizona) while keeping our Airstream parked at Zion. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive each way, but since Antelope Canyon was out of our way (we were heading north), we decided not to take the time to drive the trailer down for a day and then go back up. If you do want to take some time out near Page, Arizona, there are several RV parks there where you can park your Airstream (consult our favorite RV park/campsite app AllStays). There is an upper and lower Antelope Canyon. Both will give you similar views so we chose lower Antelope Canyon. During peak season I highly recommend making a reservation for the tour and getting there as early as possible (we left Zion at 8 to get there around 10:30; we had a reservation for 11 but was able to take the 10:30 tour since it was off peak season). Though it was a 5 hour round trip, the drive was definitely worth it because these slot canyons feel like another world!
Where to go next
If you’ve driven your trailer down to Antelope Canyon, then you’re about 2 hours away from Grand Canyon National Park. Or if you’re still parked at Zion, then Bryce Canyon National Park is 1.5 hours away. We also did Bryce Canyon as a day trip but Jason and Grace stayed at Ruby’s Inn RV Park. When at Bryce Canyon, we signed up for a horseback tour of the canyon and it was a lot of fun. I’ve only ridden on horseback twice in my life and so you don’t need any experience. These horses have done the trail so many times, they could probably do it blindfolded.
If you want to head back towards California, Joshua Tree National Park (our post about it here) is 6 hours away while Death Valley National Park (our post about it here) is about 4.5 hours away. Or you can head back to San Jose through Las Vegas or Bakersfield.
And finally I wanted to leave you with this very amateur video (I’m no videographer/video editor) of some GoPro footage from our trip to Zion, Bryce Canyon, as well as Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and Glacier National Park.