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I love a good “nature/nosh combo,” a destination where you can meld the yin of the great outdoors with the yang of civilization — food, drink, golf, shopping and more.
I found just such a spot: the Greater Zion region of southern Utah.
Greater Zion (aka Washington County) is famous for the incredible Zion National Park, where you can immerse yourself in nature, take bucket list hikes (like Angels Landing) and meander along some incredible streams and paths. The Greater Zion region has grown to be an “all you love to do” destination.
With enough creature comforts, it may just be the ideal base camp for nature/nosh lovers like me.
Greater Zion (greaterzion.com) is 2,400 square miles tucked into the southwest corner of Utah. Your best bet for air travel is to land at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, where you can either rent a car and make the 160-mile or so drive, or hop a connector flight right into St. George, just about 50 miles from the park proper.
There are lots of choices for accommodations. I’m a huge fan of the Red Mountain Resort (redmountainresort.com) in St. George. They have plenty to do on site (and you’re served three meals a day), and offer outings all around the region.
For a more urban feel but still with the amazing views (you can see those red rocks and walk to dinner too!) there’s The Advenire (marriott.com/en-us/hotels/sguak-the-advenire-autograph-collection/overview/), a Marriott Autograph Collection property located in the heart of St. George.
To amp up your adventure with your basecamp stay, there’s Open Sky (stayopensky.com), a spot that takes glamping to the next level.
And those are just a few.
Once you’ve chosen your base camp, it’s time to plan your adventures.
Of course, a day in Zion is a must. You do not need reservations to ride the shuttles and meander around Zion, but should you want to do the famed Angels Landing hike, you do need a reservation. (nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm)
You’ll find endless choices of activities in St. George, Springdale, Hurricane, Ivins and towns in between.
The food scene is hot. In St. George, spots like the Painted Pony (where you must try for an outside patio reservation) and Viva Chicken, where casual/fast food is taken to a new level via their Peruvian chicken, are just two of many choices.
In Springdale, you’ll find another amazing fast casual place at Camp Outpost and plenty of great craft beer choices at Bit & Spur Restaurant and Saloon.
In Hurricane, Lonny Boy’s BBQ serves up great barbecue in a rustic setting, and the Muddy Bee’s Bakery has both great baked goods and healthy options to fuel your fun.
And there’s plenty of fun to fuel up for.
Mountain biking is huge in the region: Greater Zion offers more than 40 mountain biking trails across desert, urban, mesa and alpine landscapes, as well as the only year-round bike park in Utah. Those include the famed Gooseberry Mesa, where you can even stay in lodges and yurts designed with cyclists in mind.
There’s golf, of course: Greater Zion features 13 world-class golf courses within a 40-mile radius. There’s stand-up paddle boarding, fishing and even diving into a water source in the middle of the Sand Hollow desert.
There’s culture too, thanks to the more than 40 galleries and museums in the region.
It’s also a spot to take in a big event, like the annual Red Bull Rampage mountain bike competition and now, the Ironman World Championship followed by the Ironman 70.3 World Championship are set there as well.
Zion is known for its natural beauty — and now you know there’s so much more.