When you live in Los Angeles, the last thing you want to do is spend more time driving. So when Angelinos go on vacation, they fly to get there as fast as they can. The idea of a road trip has become as old school as Route 66, an unfair conclusion, really, because a well-planned road trip is the kind of experience where getting there is the best part.
I rediscovered the joys of road tripping this summer on a scenic highway adventure through the state of Utah. Why Utah? It’s only about a six-hour drive from Los Angeles and it has an abundance of state and national parks to explore, each showcasing a unique, soul-healing beauty.
I only had six days for my round trip from Los Angeles, so I focused on the national parks that Utah calls the Mighty Five — Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches — geological treasures that line up conveniently along a fascinating network of scenic byways, two-lane highways that provide panoramas you won’t find when you travel on the interstate.
All five parks provide ample opportunities for intimacy with nature. In fact, Utah is so blessed with natural wonders that not only the parks, but also the views as you drive from one to the other, will leave you gasping in wonder, incredulous that millions of years of wind and water could be solely responsible for creating such a glorious masterpiece.
Sound intriguing? No time to plan your own Utah road trip? No worries. I’ve got it all mapped out for you. Get your GPS, a paper map (you won’t always be able to get a satellite signal), gas up the car, pack up your comfortable clothes, your iPod, your camera, your hiking shoes and go!
First Night – Kanab, Utah
The hardest part of the drive to Utah is the flat, boring four- to five-hour stretch between L.A. and Las Vegas. But good things come to those who wait, so jump on Interstate 15, turn on some tunes, dip into a cooler packed with cold drinks and snacks and resolve to carry on, knowing that by early afternoon you’ll have reached St. George, Utah, where you can ditch the interstate and begin your real road trip.
I spent the first night in Kanab, a little town of 4,300 that’s about a 90-minute drive from St. George on Highway 389, a road that dips down into Arizona past the infamous polygamous compounds near Colorado City that were home to a fundamentalist sect that broke off from the Mormon Church a hundred years ago. The road then meanders through the Kaibab-Paiute Indian Reservation and back up into Utah to Kanab, about 5 miles from the state border.
The landscape surrounding the town made Kanab County a perfect backdrop for Hollywood Westerns and generated lots of motels because of the influx of film crews over the years. Of the many places still operating, I picked the Quail Park Lodge, a mid-century modern motel that has been lovingly restored by the owners. It’s a popular place, evidenced by a full parking lot.
If you follow my schedule you’ll arrive with plenty of time to stroll through town to find a restaurant for dinner, visit the Little Hollywood Museum and, for some exercise, take one of the complimentary bicycles that lean—unchained — against the lobby wall at the Quail Park for a sunset ride. The townspeople wave and smile when you pedal by and you’ll begin to wonder why you wanted to live in L.A. in the first place.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Zion National Park
My day started with a morning tour of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, just five miles north of Kanab on Highway 89. The sanctuary provides shelter for 1,700 companion animals — primarily dogs and cats, but not only — awaiting their forever home.
Located on 3,700 acres of green grass meadows framed with red rock cliffs, the sanctuary offers free guided tours, volunteer opportunities and animal-care classes. You can also stay overnight at one of their guest cabins. I completed my tour with lunch at their dining room, where I had the pleasure of dining with Best Friends leadership and other animal lovers while enjoying a stunning view of Angel Canyon.
Then it was time to get back on the road for Zion National Park, 20 minutes east of Best Friends. To get there, take Highway 89 to Highway 9 and enter the park at the East Entrance. The admission fee is $25 per car and is valid for seven days.
Zion was the first of my Mighty Five and mighty indeed it is with sheer vertical rock cliffs in a kaleidoscope of reds, browns and white, dizzying perspectives and a new wonder to behold everywhere you look. Much of the park is accessible only by shuttle bus, so I drove through the park and into the little town of Springdale, which lies on its edge, and checked into the Hampton Inn & Suites before exploring further.
The shuttle bus that takes you deep into the park leaves from the Visitor Center. Hop on and go to the end point at Temple of Sinawava — or get out anywhere along the way to admire the majesty of the view or enjoy one of the many hiking trails like the one I took to the Emerald Pools.
All that hiking sparks an appetite that can be assuaged with fajitas and a mango margarita on the front patio of Casas De Amigos, just outside the park in Springdale where you can marvel at your day’s adventures and feel the magic of Zion seep into your city-worn soul.
QUAIL PARK LODGE EARNS 2012 TRIPADVISOR CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE
Honored as a Highly Rated Hotel as Reviewed by Travelers on the World’s Largest Travel Site
Kanab, UT – June 14th, 2012 – QUAIL PARK LODGE today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award and is rated as one of the Top 5 rated properties in the state of Utah. The accolade, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Approximately 10 percent of accommodations listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.
To qualify for the Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.
“TripAdvisor is pleased to honor exceptional businesses for consistent excellence, as reviewed by travelers on the site,” said Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award gives highly rated establishments around the world the recognition they deserve. From exceptional accommodations in Beijing to remarkable restaurants in Boston, we want to applaud these businesses for offering TripAdvisor travelers a great customer experience.”
The 13-room, boutique-style Quail Park Lodge offers guests and their four-pawed pals a complete vacation experience with:
- A perfect, central location between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks
- Classic cruiser bicycles for touring downtown Kanab
- An outdoor swimming pool and outdoor sunset deck for lounging and gathering with other guests
- Fresh fruit, pastries and coffee each morning in the lobby
- Complimentary computer, printer and internet access
- Plush beds, hypoallergenic comforters, 300-thread count, triple-sheeted linens, and four pillows
- In-room IPod/MP3 player docking stations, DVD/CD players, wireless internet connection, a refrigerator and a microwave
- Spa-quality personal-care amenities and bathrobes
- A dog-friendly policy
Quail Park Lodge, a member of Grape Leaf Hospitality, originally opened in 1963. Owner Matt Walters purchased this charming, roadside property in 2008 and oversaw a full remodel, which was completed in April of 2012. The remodel embraces Quail Park Lodge’s retro Americana, roadside-Lodge aesthetic while adding a full range of modern amenities.
Centrally located between the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, Quail Park Lodge is the ideal getaway in picturesque southern Utah.
The Lodge is located at 125 North 300 West in Kanab, Utah.
For more information on Quail Park Lodge, visit quailparklodge.com or call (435) 215-1447.
TripAdvisor® is the world's largest travel site, enabling travelers to plan and have the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools. TripAdvisor-branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, with more than 50 million unique monthly visitors*, and over 60 million reviews and opinions. The sites operate in 30 countries worldwide, including China under daodao.com. TripAdvisor also includes TripAdvisor for Business, a dedicated division that provides the tourism industry access to TripAdvisor's millions of monthly visitors.
*Source: comScore Media Metrix for TripAdvisor Sites, Worldwide, January 2012
AOL Travel names Quail Park Lodge one of their Best Budget Hotels In the U.S. for 2009!
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An interview with LODGING magazine - March 2010