We had a fabulous time in Arizona, but we were more than ready to enter Utah. Believe it or not, Utah was the first state we added to our travel map since Montana in mid-2016. ?
Our two-fold mission in Utah: visit all five national parks and do tons of off-roading with our Jeep. Will we succeed?
We stayed in the Zion National Park area from April 14-28, 2018.
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First Time Moochdocking
A friend we made at the 2018 RV Entrepreneur Summit e-introduced us to Brian “Woody” Swearingen of IH8MUD.com. Brian lives in Toquerville, a town less than half an hour from Zion National Park. Though he didn’t know us, he was incredibly kind to invite us to park our RV next to his house for two weeks!
We’ve been traveling fulltime for almost four and a half years, but this was our first time moochdocking. We were beyond spoiled. A view of the mountains everywhere we looked, 50 amp electric, water, and sewer. Staying two weeks sounded like a little much, but our stay sped by. We reveled in the area, and loved getting to know Brian and his wife Heather. If you two are reading this, we can’t thank you enough for your hospitality and generosity. ?
Things to Eat in La Verkin, Utah
Toquerville runs right into another small town, La Verkin, which connects to the slightly larger town of Hurricane (pronounced “HER-kin” by locals). While there weren’t a lot of local dining options in the area, we found two favorites.
River Rock Roasting Co. was a regular haunt for me. We went as a family twice after church on Sunday for incredible pizza. Yes, Eric is still on keto. He scraped the toppings onto a low-carb tortilla (La Tortilla Factory and Mission Low Carb are two of our favorites)!
I visited regularly with Caspian for coffee and scones first thing in the morning. I adore the covered patio out back, which has tons of seating, is dog-friendly, and has an authentic Utah view.
394 S. State St. – Website
Stage Coach Grille is less casual, with amazing food. The owners Cindy and George are wonderful people and we value the time we spent getting to know them.
This was our first and last meal in the area. The standouts: pork chops and shrimp linguini Alfredo. But wait until you see the size of the tomahawk steaks.
99 N. State St. – Website
Things to Do in Toquerville, Utah
We mostly used Toquerville as a launching off point to explore the nearby national parks. For activities nearby, we loved our drive down the 4×4 trail to Toquerville Falls. The road is for high-clearance vehicles with sturdy tires. But if you don’t have one, there’s also a hiking trail to the falls.
We brought our swim suits and relaxed in the shallow water for a while. It was one of the first hot days of the season.
Day Trips to Zion National Park
I made three trips to Zion National Park–two with Eric and Caspian, and one by myself.
Our first visit was on a Tuesday right after lunch, and we barely found a parking spot by the visitor’s center. We took the easy-to-use shuttle to the Court of the Patriarchs overlook.
We hiked the Lower Emerald Pools Trail, which was partially shaded at that time of day. The end of the trail was a bit underwhelming, since there hadn’t been rain recently. On the plus side, it was our first Zion hike and we didn’t have anything to compare it to. So we weren’t complaining!
Then we took the shuttle to its farthest point, Riverside Walk along the Virgin River. This can’t really be called hiking, since the trail is smooth and almost completely level. But the beauty of the surrounding area was stunning, and we took some of my favorite Zion photos in the failing light.
We walked to where Riverside Walk ends and The Narrows trail begins, and I dreamed of adventuring on when Caspian is bigger.
Our second day at Zion was a Friday, but we didn’t have to worry about parking because we were exploring the east side of the park. We climbed the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway through the historic Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel.
For your sanity, I don’t recommend taking an RV through the tunnel, even if it fits the dimensions (and many RVs don’t). There’s an extra fee and traffic from the opposite side has to be stopped. In my opinion, the highway is best enjoyed by car, so you can actually take in your surroundings instead of frantically gripping the wheel and pounding the brake pedal on the hairpin turns.
Once you’re through the tunnel, pull over for Checkerboard Mesa. I’d never seen anything like it.
You can turn around at the exit of the park. On your way back down the scenic highway, stop to hike Canyon Overlook Trail. Our favorite hike we did together. It’s interesting all the way through, with an incredible vista at the end. We saw a small herd of mountain goats right beside the trail, including a precious baby. Fair warning: you have to cross a wooden bridge over thin air. Those with a fear of heights might take pause.
If you’re driving west, the trail comes right before the tunnel, on the right hand side. If you’re there during a busier time, you may need to park on the shoulder of the road. We had to on a Friday afternoon in April.
My solo trip to Zion was on a Wednesday, to hike Angel’s Landing. I could share a lot as far as tips go, so drop any questions in a comment. Takeaways:
- I loved it.
- I’ll never forget it.
- It’s a bucket list hike I won’t top for a while.
- I’m not even remotely afraid of heights.
- If you are…
We’ve packed a lot into the past few weeks, so I’ve actually been to all five Utah national parks as of this writing. Zion is my favorite. There’s something magical about the canyon, rocks, heights, trees, fresh air, baby mountain goat. I can’t get it all out of my mind.
For food in Springdale, the charming town right outside the gate of Zion, we tried three different places. Skip Whiptail Grill. We liked the burgers at Oscar’s Cafe, which has a nice outdoor patio (with heat lamps for cooler days).
The standout was MeMe’s Cafe, which I went to twice including right after Angel’s Landing. The MeMosa with fresh-squeezed orange juice is out of this world. And I loved the Hawaiian Sandwich with slow-roasted pork, grilled pineapple slice, teriyaki sauce, and cheddar. With perfectly seasoned sautéed vegetables on the side, it was an amazing meal. Where’s my teleportation machine?
Day Trip to Bryce Canyon National Park
We used our non-moving-day Saturday to visit Bryce Canyon National Park. It was a beautiful two-hour drive to get there. But you have to be going on purpose because it’s out of the way of everything.
We parked at Sunset Point, which had a packed parking lot when we got there mid-morning. Sunset Point is where we got our first glimpse at the otherworldly hoodoos–a scene you won’t see anywhere else.
After Caspian had a snack and diaper change, we stuck him in the carrier and wandered to Sunrise Point. That’s where we caught the Queens Garden trailhead down into Bryce Canyon.
Near the end of Queens Garden, we continued onto Navajo Loop Trail, which weaves along the underbelly of the canyon. At some points, I felt like I was about to be ambushed in an old western film.
The climb back to the rim kicked my butt. The switchbacks are really steep. And when you think you’re almost there, you actually have another stretch to climb. But I’m glad we experienced the hoodoos first-hand, rather than only observing them from the distance of the rim.
And on the plus side, Navajo Loop Trail took us right back to our Jeep in the parking lot at Sunset Point.
We finished our visit with stops at Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. Each observation point is higher above the canyon, offering a different perspective.
A ranger recommended Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant which is slightly outside town. I had a mouth-watering slice of blueberry banana pie and seriously contemplated taking another piece to go.