It had been 14 years since my last trip to Zion National Park. At the time, I was 19 and a camp counselor in Arizona; at the end of the summer, we loaded up 60 kids in 15-passenger vans and carted them around Southern Utah. It was the best time of my life.
So when Travel Mindset called with just a week’s notice and asked if I could drop into St. George for a quick 48-hour Instameet, I canceled all plans and hopped a flight to Vegas. Raise your hand if you’re surprised.
Given that I’d only driven through Utah in the past, and never traveled there by plane, I was baffled (and thrilled) to find that it’s much easier to reach Zion than I anticipated: a four-hour flight direct flight from Nashville to Vegas on Southwest, followed by two hours by car through some of the prettiest land in the country.
Immediately after I landed, I hopped in my rental car and rushed to St. George (going the speed limit, of course), not wanting to miss a moment with my squad. It was tough forcing myself to stay on the road and not pull over at every turnout, but luckily I had the chance to snap some photos of the drive on the return.
Bonus: You cross through three states—Nevada, Arizona and, of course, Utah—on that quick drive, too!
When I arrived, I met my travel family, Jade, Bob and Augustine, at a Mexican restaurant for a quick bite, then we headed into Sand Hollow State Park for some much-needed sun, paired with outdoor fun.
There’s plenty to do at Sand Hollow, from boating to ATVs, and we were debating between standup paddleboarding and kayaking, but given that our youngest constituent can not yet stand, let alone balance on moving water, we opted for the latter.
We had just planned to do a quick little lap around the reservoir to take some photos when Bob coaxed us down the coast in hopes of photographing us from shore as the wind swept us further and further away from the dock.
An hour and some extremely sore biceps later, we found Bob once more and pulled our kayak out of the water, our arms burning from the effort. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones exhausted from our follies.
We had planned to go for a little swim, but a) the water was pretty freezing it still being May and all and b) the moment we entered the park, we were given a brochure that warned us of Swimmer’s Itch, caused by a free-swimming microscopic parasite in the water, and that immediately turned us off from even wanting to pop a big toe in.
Instead, we scampered around the rocks a bit and took plenty of photos, trying to capture the turquoise hue of the water but failing spectacularly.
We were traveling with the delightful Michael and Megan of Fresh Off the Grid, who were determined to brave the sea creatures despite the warnings and jump off some rocks for the sake of great video—but also very careful about where they chose to plummet into the icy water below.
We were thinking this wasn’t going to happen as all the outcroppings in our sight line seemed a wee bit too shallow when we set off on foot to go beyond the horizon and make sure we covered all our bases. As we rounded the corner in the northern quadrant of the park, we found just the spot.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones who knew about this place either.
I took one for the team and stayed back as the group photographer while Bob, Megan and Michael each took their turns flinging themselves carelessly into the reservoir. Bob, in particular, impressed me with his Spider-Man-like moves.
Augustine just laughed at her silly dad as he belly-flopped into the cold water below.
We left Sand Hollow and went into St. George for dinner, paying our bill just as the sun started to creep below the rocks. It’s hard to find a good vantage point for an epic sunset with such variable terrain, but we’d heard Dixie Rock would do the trick.
After parking in the lot, it wasn’t even a five-minute walk to get to the top of the rock and set up our gear for a pretty colorful sunset.
Our trip was already off to an excellent start—and we hadn’t even entered Zion yet.