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Trip Report The Sun Also Rises: 3½ Days in Zion NP & Salt Lake City

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Although our family has taken an number of great trips together, we've never made it as a group to Zion National Park -- one of my favorite places on earth. I became absolutely obsessed with Zion on my first trip there about 12 years ago and haven't been able to get enough of it since then. Although massive, its scale seems more real and easier to grasp than, say, the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. That first trip included, I've hiked in Zion three times over the last twelve or so years, the first two times with business colleagues and the third time with my daughter, one of her closest friends, and her friend's dad -- a college graduation present for the two daughters that I recounted here:

www.fodors.com/community/united-states/trip-report-fantastic-father-daughter-zion-bryce-canyon-graduation-trip.cfm

My goal has been to have all my family members hike there sooner or later, so when my recently graduated (and -- whew -- newly employed) son recently attended a business conference in Salt Lake City, I decided to tag along and expand his trip into a hiking trip for the two of us to Zion -- his first and my fourth time there. What follows is a brief description:

Tues. Sept. 25
Evening

Late evening flight into Las Vegas McCarran airport to pick up our Thrifty rental car that we will drop off in Salt Lake City. This one-way rental is expensive, but the cheapest I could find on Expedia or Kayak. My plan after Zion is to drive straight to the Salt Lake airport, turn this car in, and rent another one for a much more reasonable daily rate that we will drop off at the airport when returning home.

I'd made a hotel reservation at the Best Western Travel Inn (316 E St. George Blvd.) in St. George, Utah, thinking we'd try to get at least halfway to Zion that night. That may have been a bit of poor planning on my part. This son has not only never been to Zion, but he's never been to Las Vegas either. Vegas isn't my cup of tea, but he at least wants to take a cruise down The Strip, so I'm happy to oblige even though I know the traffic will be bumper-to-bumper, even at 10 p.m. local time. I really don't think this son would be too interested in what LV has to offer either, but not surprisingly he's dazzled by the sheer glitzy monumentality driving through that man made "canyon of casinos." It's after 11 p.m. by the time we get out of town headed to St. George, which I'd forgotten was well over half way to Zion -- and back in the Mountain Time zone too -- so we arrive there after 1:00 a.m. local time. The Best Western, however, turns out to be an above average example of that species -- clean, comfortable, and exuding a 1960s-sort of retro charm for our brief stopover.

Wed. Sept. 26
Morning

We sleep in a little the next morning, grab a quick breakfast, then take a short drive around St. George. The town seems to be a pleasant, bustling place in a dramatic Western setting framed by red rock hills and the beautiful Pine Valley Mountains to the north-northwest. My son's a photography buff, so this trip should be ideal for his hobby. We stop briefly at the large St. George Utah Mormon Temple, dazzlingly white in the morning sunlight and visible from all over the town, to snap some pictures. Near the temple, we drive past "Dixie High School." We're interested in the ubiquitous "Dixie" and "Dixieland" references that appear all over town. Apparently, the first Mormon settlers were sent here to southern Utah in the 1800s to raise cotton, so they adopted the sobriquet of that other, larger southern cotton producing region.

Now we're off to Zion and its gateway of Springdale. Our goals for the day and half we plan to be in the park are to tackle Angel's Landing this afternoon and The Narrows tomorrow. The deep blue south Utah skies herald spectacular late September weather. Knowing we'll arrive after noon and it will take some time to stock up on snacks and water for the hike and ride on the National Park Service shuttle into the heart of Zion Canyon, we decide to skip both lunch and checking in at our hotel and get right down to business.

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