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5 Hidden Gems in Zion National Park

Events, Food, Hotels, Nightlife, Things to Do, Travel Tips — By julietrevelyan on July 30, 2010 at 4:30 am
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Zion is home to many hidden gems. Hikes, food, places to stay the night, and other neat stuff to do; all these and more can be found just outside the crowds. Good thing about this? I’m about to spill the beans on them! Problem with this? You have to hike a long way to get to some of them. But hey, that’s what you’re here for, right? You say you need a wee break from tramping the trails? Never fear, Zion has that covered too.

A smattering of Zion’s less-visited but very cool things to do:

Kolob Arch

Awesomeness factor:

This amazing arch is one of the world’s largest free-standing, spanning about 287 feet. It gets its name from the Mormon faith, which holds that a planet named Kolob is the greatest to be found in the universe. Sounds pretty dramatic already, doesn’t it? Oh, and it’s found in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion, which many contend is prettier than the main Zion Canyon itself. How’s that for super cool and must-see?

Hiddenness factor:

Here’s the catch: Kolob Arch is found a pretty vigorous hike out in the boonies. At 14 miles roundtrip, this is not what most people would consider a day hike. Why is that a bonus? Because so few people see it, you have the trail (and the arch) practically to yourself! And wow, is the scenery along the way worth the hike almost as much as seeing the arch itself.

Who’s probably not going to be down with it:

If you have little kids, complaining joints, limited time, or a belief that national park trails should be short and paved, this hike most likely isn’t for you. You have to wear a backpack, carry plenty of heavy water, and be prepared to stave off blisters.

photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos

West Rim

Awesomeness factor:

Views that rival the already-stunning ones in the main Zion Canyon. Near-solitude most of the way due to its backcountry location. The opportunity to experience Zion’s best without being crushed by the more than two million people who visit annually. Can upload photos to your [inset social media platform of your choice] page to show friends and family how cool and footloose you really are.

Hiddenness factor:

Well, it’s in the backcountry. As in, way back there in that Kolob Canyons section again, if that’s where you start. (If you hike the whole 14-mile trail, starting in the Kolob section and going downhill is advised—there’s a 3300 foot elevation gain if you opt to start in Zion Canyon instead.) So once again, you lose those crowds. Aahhh…

Who’s probably not going to be down with it:

See same answer above in Kolob Arch.

photo courtesy of iseemike

Novel House Inn

Awesomeness factor:

Ten rooms themed after great authors, such as Austen, Dickens, Whitman, Tolstoy. Peaceful, due in no small part to its “no pets, no kids” request. Views on three sides of Zion’s red rock cliffs. The C.S. Lewis room boasts a wardrobe that just might open up into Narnia. After-hike bonus: their on-premises Luxury Hydro Mirage Spa Hot Tub. Need we say more?

Hiddenness factor:

Tucked away off the main drag. Not a huge, impersonal motel chain type of place. Self-contained. Peace and quiet in the middle of Springdale, the gateway town to Zion. Loving it!

Who’s probably not going to be down with it:

Families, dogged pet owners who take said pets on vacation, and budget-minded travelers. Oh, and partiers. This is a quiet pad.

photo courtesy of Novel House Inn

Mean Bean Coffeehouse

Awesomeness factor:

They have organic coffee. Fair trade. And it is seriously good fuel. You can sit inside or out and listen to live music when they have it.

Hiddenness factor:

This sweet little spot is run by longtime locals. Not only do they really know how to brew a cuppa, they’ll also give you insider tips on the best hikes, restaurant service, and all those cool tidbits that only locals really know.

Who’s probably not going to be down with it:

If coffee’s not your thing, this just won’t be your cup of tea.

photo courtesy of Lachlan Hardy

Shakespearean Festival

Awesomeness factor:

This ode to the Bard, located north of Zion in Cedar City, offers up his best plays every summer. Their Adams Shakespearean Theatre is considered to be one of the world’s few near-exact replicas of the Globe Theatre in which Shakespeare’s plays were originally produced. Take a well-deserved break from Zion’s breathtaking trails and relax for an evening at this Tony Award-winning venue.

Hiddenness factor:

Bet you never expected to find culture during your national park adventure, did you?

Who’s probably not going to be down with it:

Gung-ho outdoor enthusiasts who are trying to escape people rather than be entertained by them.

photo courtesy of twbuckner

Want more? See the rest of the top hidden gems in Zion National Park in this guide.

Tags: kolob arch, mean bean, novel house inn, shakespeare, Utah, west rim, Zion

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