I received some complimentary services mentioned in this post in exchange for my honest review. I loved this place for real.
A couple weekends ago, I headed south to one of my favorite places on this earth: Zion National Park! And not only that, but I was invited to stay at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, one of the most fun, unique resorts I have ever been to.
There’s so much to do at Zion Ponderosa, you might even just forget about the park and spend all day at the resort, and that would be totally fine! I was there on specific business (that I’ll be announcing soon), but I’m so glad I had an extra day to play at the resort and experience some of the rad things they have to offer. So without further ado, here are 10 things to do during your stay at Zion Ponderosa!
1. Stay In Your Own Mini Cabin
Zion Ponderosa has something for everyone when it comes to their amenities, and you’ll definitely want to stay here so you can have a home base close to the park. We (Melissa and I) stayed in a cabin suite, which was our own little mini cabin with 3 beds, a kitchenette, full bathroom, and living area with a TV.
If you want more of a camping vibe, there are tons of options: a traditional campsite with around 60 sites, glamping tents, cowboy cabins (just a bed inside – no kitchen or bathroom), and western wagons. My personal favorite, though, were the Conestoga wagons, which are covered wagons like the western ones, but have full electricity, heating and air conditioning inside. They sleep 6 people and each one has its own fire pit and picnic table under the stars. So dreamy.
Entire vacation homes are also available if you have a huge group or family reunion, and they looked incredible.
2. Take an ATV Tour
I’m not going to lie, I had never been on an ATV before this and I was pretty nervous. The staff at Zion Ponderosa is amazing and always make you feel comfortable and welcome. The guide, Chelsea, showed us how to work the ATVs, explained exactly what gears we would stay in, and paid close attention the whole time. When I almost crashed, she was immediately there to help and laugh it off.
We did the one hour tour and it was so beautiful. There were still autumn leaves on the trees and we zipped beneath them, revving our engines and bumping over rocks. Zion Ponderosa is filled with acres and acres of trails, and I was sad we only got to explore a tiny portion of them.
3. Visit the Haunted Jolley Gulch and Cabin
We drove our ATVs to the end of the road, got off, and walked through the brush to emerge at the edge of a cliff at the top of Jolley Gulch, a deep canyon. Chelsea explained that during some parts of the year, a stream runs over the top of the cliff.
The legend goes that in the early 20th century, a man named Jolley and his family were on the run and needed a place to stay. They found this gulch, the stream, and an empty cabin, and thought they would have everything they would need. But in the fall when the stream dried up, Jolley was frantic. Dehydration began to set in and out of desperation, Jolley decided to push his family off the cliff to their deaths before jumping off himself. They say that if you stand at the edge of the cliff and the wind is blowing up from below, Jolley’s family is trying to save you – but if you feel the wind at your back, he’s trying to make you his next victim.
We stopped at the cabin on the way back and it was definitely creepy. It was still all decorated for Halloween with fake rats and spiderwebs that kept scaring me, but even without that, there’s no way I would have gone into the dark basement or spent longer than a few minutes inside. Good thing the wind was blowing up from below that day.
4. Slide Down the Waterslide at the Pool
Normally, when I go on vacation, I don’t spend a lot of time at the pool because I have so many things I want to experience and do – but I was obsessed with the pool at Zion Ponderosa. It was heated to the perfect temperature for the time of year, making the water feel like a second skin, and the waterslide was so fun.
We spent most of an afternoon and another night at the pool, and I went down the waterslide probably at least 15 times – I could not get enough of it. When I wasn’t on the slide, I was diving deep into the heavenly water or warming up in the jacuzzi. I could have spent all day every day there, and I’m not just saying that.
5. Go For a Horseback Ride
Horseback riding is another thing I would definitely not claim to be an expert at. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was around 10 years old, and most of the time I don’t love being around horses, but this ride completely changed all of that. My horse, Mouse, was so sweet, and our guides were once again incredible and patient.
We went on an hour and a half long ride and Mouse listened perfectly to every command I gave him. He didn’t even take a second glance at the deer we passed on the trail, and I was able to enjoy the ride and more of the gorgeous fall scenery. (Fall is one of my favorite times to visit Zion, if you can’t tell.)
6. Take In the View of Checkerboard Mesa
Since Zion Ponderosa is on the east side of Zion, the edge of the property has gorgeous view of that side of the park, including the Checkerboard Mesa, which is named for its unusual crack pattern that resembles a grid. We rode the horses to a this pretty awesome viewpoint that you can’t get anywhere else.
7. Zip Down the Zipline
If you know me, you know I love a good zipline, and this one is no exception. The best kind of ziplines are the hands-free ones, so you can lay back and enjoy the breeze and the adrenaline rush. Also, at Zion Ponderosa, you get to jump from a platform on top of a barn, which just adds to the excitement. I could do this all day.
8. Watch the Sunset from the top of Zion
From the highest point at the resort, you can take in a 360º view that includes Zion Canyon, Cedar Mountain, Strawberry Ridge, and even a small part of the Grand Canyon! There is a sunset horseback ride that can take you to this spot, or you can take an ATV or get an awesome member of the staff to drive up with you, which is what we did.
The sun sets right over the distant rocks of the main canyon of Zion, and I’ve never seen a sunset or a view more magnificent. Pictures really don’t do it justice, so make sure you head up and see it for yourself.
9. Eat at Ray’s
You know I can’t go anywhere without trying out all the food. We ate at Ray’s, Zion Ponderosa’s onsite restaurant one night during our stay and everything was so delicious. Our starter was the dynamite sticks: chicken, jalapeño aioli, and parmesan all stuffed into a fried tortilla and served with a spicy ranch dip. I’m salivating just thinking about them.
For our entrees, I got the Birch Creek Bacon Burger and Melissa got the Signature Jolley’s Mac & Cheese (named after our creepy friend Jolley from number 3). My burger was piled with avocado, bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato and every bite was juicy and delicious. The accompanying fries were crispy and salty, just the way I like them.
The creamy mac & cheese was topped with smoked bacon and made from scratch with fresh gouda and shell pasta. We got it with a side of cinnamon apples and it was so hard to decide what to eat last – because you always want to end with the best thing, right? We were stuffed with so much amazing food that we spent a few minutes by the fire in the lodge before waddling back to our cabin.
10. Hike to Observation Point
One of the coolest things about staying at Zion Ponderosa is that they have their own secret trail to Observation Point, one of my favorite places in the whole park. The official trail in Zion Canyon is a strenuous 8-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of over 2,100 feet and it takes around 6 hours. From Zion Ponderosa, the trail is still 3 miles each way, but it’s almost completely flat and only took us around 3 hours of hiking.
After we spent a full day hiking Angels Landing and Hidden Canyon, we were excited to take an easy walk the next morning to get to Observation Point. The viewpoint is the tallest in the park – even above Angels – and gives you a glimpse of the whole entire canyon in all its glory. If you’ve never done this hike, put it on your bucket list, baby. And you definitely won’t regret starting it from Zion Ponderosa.
Have you ever stayed at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort? Which one of these things will you do first when you visit? In my opinion, the very best time to visit Zion is in the off-season, so take advantage of all the deals at Zion Ponderosa during the colder months!
PS. Shoutout to It’s Melissa K Photo for helping me capture our experience at this amazing place!