Since we were getting hardwood floor back in September, Matt and I decided to skip our road trip that month and take a second to breathe. But for October, we opted to get out of state for a southern Utah road trip for some major R&R. I’m recapping the entire thing including where we stayed, what we did, and how we navigated our travel during COVID-19.
Traveling During COVID-19
Let me be the first to say that the reason why I started this road trip series is because I wanted a way to take vacations without hopping on a plane. (You can read more about The Road Trip Series here.)
Matt and I have been carefully researching where to go, and it’s important that we find places that aren’t just doing the bare minimum when it comes to regulations but doing a little bit extra.
Having said that, traveling to a state (Utah) that has looser restrictions than home (California) felt a bit jarring to me at first. I’ll get into the details later in this post but be sure you know the regulations wherever you’re going, and if you feel comfortable with them.
The trek from Los Angeles to St. George, Utah is about 7 hours. Although long and kind of boring (it’s all desert!), there were a couple of fun pit stops. As long as you have a road trip buddy and good music, it’s not too bad.
We drove from California to Nevada, Arizona, and finally Utah. In Nevada we decided to drive through Las Vegas just for a change of scenery (and a bathroom break). Further along, we made a stop at the most random place on earth: Alien Fresh Jerky. I mostly wanted to stop because it sounded insane, but I must admit the beef jerky was actually really good. Yes, I bought some.
Be sure you pack plenty of snacks and water for this drive, as pit stops are few and far in between. We filled up on gas when we could, since those as sparse as well. Better safe than sorry!
Where We Stayed During our Southern Utah Road Trip
Our home base during our southern Utah road trip was Red Mountain Resort. It’s about 1-2 hours away from Zion and Bryce National Parks and served as a great little spot away from the tourists. My favorite part about staying here was honestly coming home each evening and enjoying the sunset on the super quiet property.
Red Mountain Resort is a wellness focused property that provides accommodations along with fitness classes, guided hikes, and meals. If you don’t want to take the drive to one of the national parks, Snow Canyon State Park is about a 10-minute drive from the resort. They generously provided us with accommodations for this trip, but the opinions you see here are my own.
Fitness and Wellness at Red Mountain Resort
Red Mountain Resort offers everything from yoga to personal training. Some of the classes were a small extra charge, but Matt and I took two of the “free” classes included in the all-inclusive package and loved them. We took candlelit yoga and a morning stretch class, both which were great after long drives and hikes.
They also provide guided hikes at Red Mountain Resort. We didn’t get to hike much at Zion or Bryce Canyon (more on that later) so this was a nice way to experience the surrounding area. I love guided hikes and tours because you always learn so much more about the area you’re exploring with someone who knows the land. No matter where I travel, if time allows, I always love a guided tour.
The resort offers two levels of hiking: explorer and challenge. I’m more of a “flat hike” kind of gal and the explorer level was perfect for me. We had a small group that safely split up into two vans with plenty of space, and everyone was required to wear a mask while driving. During the hike, everyone was super respectful and social distanced.
With multiple pools, a spa, a labyrinth garden, bikes, classes, and gorgeous views, Red Mountain Resort makes for a perfect, relaxing getaway. We’re major adventure seekers, so staying here was a nice way to enjoy the scenes of southern Utah without going on some crazy all day hike.
Food at Red Mountain Resort
I’ll just say it, food in St. George, Utah is limited and there’s never really anything too phenomenal near national parks. Ever. Having delicious food options right on site at Red Mountain Resort was amazing.
The menu at the on-site restaurant Canyon Breeze is small, but yummy. Matt and I had everything from burgers to pasta and tacos. As a wellness property, they served real food (AKA not rabbit food) in perfectly portioned sizes. I liked this because I never felt overly stuffed, but also never felt deprived.
What We Did
Zion National Park requires shuttle reservations to get to nearly every trailhead. With COVID-19, you have to plan ahead to get these. You can also sometimes snag a last-minute ticket the day before (check their website). We didn’t get that lucky and were therefore unable to do any big Zion hikes.
However, there is a road through the park that’s open, so you can still see the beauty of Zion. We drove this a few times, and it never got old.
Since we didn’t have luck with shuttles at Zion, we drove about 1.5 hours east to Bryce Canyon National Park. Both parks have red rock but the hoodoos at Bryce are definitely something to see. They’re basically naturally occurring skinny rock towers that stick out from the ground.
You do not need a shuttle to get to the hikes here, so the plan was to hike Bryce Canyon. We are all set to go into the canyon, but truthfully, mask-wearing was an exception here despite the state mandate in Utah to wear them. I have to say, I felt like that really ruined this part of the trip for me. I was hoping to experience some nature and hiking here, but in a global pandemic really didn’t appreciate others winded from their hike and low oxygen, breathing in my face. You may feel comfortable, but for me it was too many people not wearing masks and not worth the risk.
Despite this, we were still able to enjoy a walk around the rim of the canyon and still experience the magic of Bryce Canyon.
When in Rome, am I right? We booked an easy, one-hour ride through East Zion Adventures. I can’t recommend this enough. For one, horseback riding is a naturally socially distanced activity. Second, you get an hour of calmness riding your horse through a nature trail. Our group was small, our guide was great, and the ride is easy enough for even the most beginner rider. I loved this, and wished we booked the two-hour sunset tour.
One final thing to note is that there is no cell service in Zion National Park or anywhere near East Zion Adventures. I didn’t mind this and it gave me a nice break from my phone, but screen shot or print directions in advance if you need them.
Have you been to Southern Utah or ones of these parks? Where should we go next?