2022 Summer Trip to Utah

This trip took place from July 24 to 31 2022. Utah turned out to be an amazing road trip destination with perhaps the best infrastructure in the US, friendly people and large selection of state and national parks. We spent the beginning and end of our trip in Salt Lake City (SLC) to both explore this wonderful city and to allow for some rest and room for the flight.

When in SLC, we used the Grand America Hotel as our base. The room was generously sized and the lobby/restaurant on the ground floor was beautifully appointed with a nice brunch buffet option on Sunday mornings. Since we came during the hottest time of the year, the pool was a bit crowded but definitely a hit for Nissik. When in SLC, we visited the Antelope Island and to borrow from the words from a friend who highly recommended this place, the view was “straight from a Dali painting.” The walk was moderate and not busy at all to allow one to enjoy the view (and the wonderful silence).

Sunset at the Antelope Island
SLC at dawn

We then took a 5 hour or so drive to the Zion Mountain Ranch and used that as our main base to explore Zion. We stayed at one of the bigger houses with a direct view of Zion and the vast grazing land from our living room and porch. Nissik especially enjoyed the large dining room and our friend Steph took great use of the gourmet kitchen. There was no view of the bisons on the property though, but it is an easy 1-2 minutes drive away. We were slightly disappointed that Nissik (close to 3 years old) was not old enough to take the riding sessions at the property. The restaurant onsite is good but there are more options in Springdale, on the other side of the Zion National Park (where most of the people stay).

We attempted one major hike with Nissik – the Narrows. It is one of the most popular hikes in the park and can get really crowded, especially for the first mile or two. Although it is 16 miles in total, most of the people (us included) did not finish the entire hike and just turned back whenever one felt like it. It was definitely a good investment to rent a “big Narrows” gear package from one of the shops in Springdale. We got ours from Zion Guru that included water compatible hiking boots, neoprene socks and walking pole. We also rented a baby carrier for Nissik. It was such a great idea! We came across hikers that painfully making their way back shivering non-stop, as the water could get quite cold (despite the heat in the air) and our feet could put up a protest very soon without the neoprene socks and water compatible socks to retain heat. The water could get deep in certain parts of the hike and I wish I had water resistant clothing (or rather anything that dries fast). Nissik enjoyed the hike too, although we only allowed him came down from the baby carrier at the entrance when the current was mild and gentle (and mostly just mud). After the hike, we returned the rental gear to the shop and were grateful that the shop took care of the cleaning and made it really hassle-free for us. We also hiked a handful of other routes in the park and most of them were doable with a toddler, but the most special one was definitely the Narrows (and enjoyable in the summer time thanks to the shade and the water, if you have the right gear, that is).

The other highlight of the trip is that Nissik tried rappelling for the first time. Most of the shops I spoke with would not take a toddler of that age, although I tried to reassure them with our outdoor experience. Through some research online, including a few helpful reviews and blogposts, I found All Ways Adventure (AWA) and spoke with its owner Nathan who quickly impressed me with a more sensible approach to including kids into the family outdoor adventures based on the kids’ own aptitude and interest. Our guide Brandon from AWA turned out to be the perfect private tour guide for our trip. He explained to us in great detail the safety measures for adults and kids for the activities we were undertaking and worked patiently with Nissik. He slowly guided him down the cliff at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Nissik kept asking for more. We also came across a gentleman who allowed us to hop on to his sandrail for a ride across the dunes, and it was so much fun! Close to the sand dunes state park as a dinosaur footprint site, and the landscape there looked Martian to me. It was a wonderful experience thanks to AWA and I would definitely recommend it if you are looking to include your toddler into your more active itinerary for a family road trip near Zion.

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