Thursday, May 4, 2023

Zion with Kids: Under Canvas Location

 We just spent the 5 days in amazing Zion, Utah! I posted lots of clips on Instagram and the amount of messages that I got from y'all...I wanted to get this blog post out asap! 

Why Zion? 

Scarlett's birthday is this week and she has always been really into National Parks, nature and animals. I started looking for a place to go almost 5 months ago. There are a lot of National Parks that we are going to visit...but I fell upon a glamping site first, that caught my attention. First off, I love planning vacations. I love it ALMOST as much as the vacation itself. Ha ha. So I did some good research into all the state parks. I had my heart set on a National Park for Scarlett's 12th birthday because as mentioned, she has been really into them the last year or so. BUT. My ultimate decision came when I found Under Canvas, a glamping site that not only locations in Zion, but a bunch of other locations across the country.  I made my decision on Zion based on the locations from the website, HERE. Zion looked magical and my eyes lit up at the very thought of it. Mind you, Under Canvas is fairly new, so I didn't find a ton of YouTube videos on it or other blog posts. Which is what I do when I find a place I want to go. I start reading a lot of blog posts on it, social media posts, reviews and watch YouTube posts about the location I'm going. Since there wasn't a ton of info on it, I decided to still take a chance- reviews were great!  And we were NOT disappointed! Wow, is an understatement. It was an exceptionally cool place. So much info I want to share about Under Canvas and Zion! 
All of my recommendations and tips are coming from a family with young children, age 3-11. So keep that in mind. Had I taken this trip with adults, I would still have stayed at Under Canvas, but our itinerary would have looked different. 

Where We Stayed:
 Under Canvas Zion. They have many options for tents here. I was originally going to book the "Stargazer with Kids Tent". It has a main tent with king sized bed and then a teepee style tent next to it with 2 cots. I changed my mind the week before we left and switched to the "Suite" which is a bigger more luxurious tent. Why? Because the suite had a lounge area with a queen sleeper sofa and I could get a cot added in. The hardest part of the stay was knowing what the weather would be. (Which I talk about that below) but I knew it would be chilly nights and warm days. Each tent has a wood stove inside that keeps you warm- the teepees, did not. I knew my kids well enough to know if they got cold, they would come in our tent and we would have 3 kids in a King bed! So I changed to the "Suite" and I am glad I did. If it were summer when I went, I would have gone with the separate teepee tent for kiddos.

Under Canvas was amazing in so many ways. Staff was so helpful and friendly. Activities offered on and off site: Live music, yoga, fire pits and smores nightly, private hike guides, horseback riding, canyoneering etc. Luxury tents with posh West Elm decor, organic bath products, FULL bathrooms, fun kids activities and thee most comfortable beds! Even the kids said that the sofa sleeper was cozy and comfortable. I slept better here with the fresh air coming in the windows and the cozy linens than I do at home!  And let's talk about that VIEW!! I cannot tell you what this place did for my soul. I think just about every tent had an amazing view. This location is about 35ish min from Zion National Park Visitor Center (where all the hiking occurs). So it is further away than some of the closer hotels, but I think that view was WELL worth it. Keep this in mind when making your plans. 

When We Stayed:
 I picked the last week of April solely based on the kid's school schedule and Scarlett's birthday. They had a 3 day weekend so they would miss less school and it was close to Scarlett's May 4th birthday. BUT...the locals told me that we hit the jackpot for weather because 2 weeks earlier it was snowing and they told us that not far into May, it gets into the 100's! So I would say that picking the time of year to go is highly important and I would suggest end of April or May if you don't want super cold or super hot. The tents have NO electricity. That means no AC and no heat. But the first night we were there was in the 40's at night and the stove got that tent nice and toasty warm! We actually had to turn it off. The rest of our stay was perfect and we didn't' really even need the stove. 

There is NO wifi here and service is not good. Which, honestly, I LOVED. I took all the photos and video I wanted but was off the grid and it felt so good to do that. Life doesn't really allow for that. I will tell you that I picked my phone up about 30 times the first day to check emails, check in w/ staff,  etc...but by the end of that day, I learned that my phone is now just my camera! :)

Food & Drink: 
There is a chef/restaurant onsite with breakfast and dinner offered daily. Lunch is grab and go only since most people are out and about during this time. Their food surpassed my expectations! Lots of locally sourced and tasty options. Not a huge menu but it was all delicious. Kids options, too We ate here quite a few times and had something different each time.  Coffee, tea and hot cocoa were complementary and served all day. They also had a gift shop and lots of snacks/treats. Smore's were offered at night at no cost. 

Utah has the strangest alcohol laws. You can only order drinks WITH food and you cannot walk around too far with it. You must drink it at your eating area where you were served and the staff has to bring it to your table/chair. Wine was only sold by the bottle. Shucks. lol. But if you didn't finish it, they would cork it for you and magically, you could bring it back to your tent and drink it there. Not sure the logic but it is what it is! Just be aware if you think you may want drinks, that they have some really unique liquor laws in Utah. We couldn't just order a drink to sip on by the fire. We would have to order food with it. Even an appetizer will do. 
When you arrive, they give you free spring waters that you can refill throughout the stay at their water station. We had brought some since I'm a water snob and wasn't sure what they would provide. But ended up drinking theirs as well since it was spring fed and tasty! Food is NOT allowed in your tent due to animals and bugs, which I completely understand. If you bring food, they are kind enough to provide coolers and ice for you to keep it in your car. 
Also, if you drive to the neighboring areas: Hurricane or Springdale, which is closest to Zion National Park, there were a lot of cute restaurants and places to eat/drink. Some places that we were told were good or that we tried in Springdale were: Zion Brewery, Bit & Spur, Meme's Cafe, Spotted Dog Cafe, Park House Cafe, OutPost and for coffee: Feel Love Coffee. Staff will definitely give you recommendations as well. 

What to Pack: 
This was probably the most challenging part of planning. I had to keep checking the weather up until the day before but ultimately decided that layers were best. It could be brutal to not pack enough warm clothes or cool clothes here. Luckily we were only going to be lounging at camp or hiking so it was the lightest I've ever packed! I fit all 5 of us into 3 small suitcases. I was really proud of this as I'm a chronic overpacker in fear of not being prepared! Our musts: hiking shoes/sneakers, lightweight puffer jackets, sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, tees/tanks, short and lots of socks. The kids clothes came home red from all that red rock! haha. What you pack is going to depend on when you go. But know that if you do water hiking, they offer rental water shoes, hiking sticks etc for rent at the park. Here is the list of things we brought from my Amazon Storefront: HERE.  And I bought these amazing hiking sneakers for myself HERE. Love them!

CHECK THE CONDITIONS OF THE STATE PARK BEFORE YOU GO and before you hike each day. I had my heart set on hiking the Narrows IN the water. It looked like a truly amazing experience. However, I was heartbroken that this part of the Narrows was closed due to flooding. I guess this can happen at any time and can be dangerous with flash floods. Had we done this, we would have rented water shoes, sticks and brought waterproof or water resistant pants/shorts ...but we weren't able to do the water hiking part. Still, we got to hike a good part of the narrows that are not in the water (Riverside hike). And it was JUST as beautiful. The park gives you a great map with all of the easy, moderate and difficult hikes along with the locations/stops. The cool thing about hiking here is that you can park and take a shuttle up and down to ALL of the hiking areas. And there are about 9. Some need permits, but nothing you will do with young kids will need this. Here are some that we had planned although there are more than this! Looking back, I would probably split the hike up into 2 trips to get the most out of the hikes. This is a recommendation only for families with small children. My younger two were tired after 2 hikes but this was about 4 hours time so I would say they did good. If your kids are older, they might do better. 
The hikes that I would do with kids are:
The Narrows (if you get the chance to do the water part, do it!) if not, do the Riverside walk. You will walk alongside the river and also get to get close enough to touch it.  
Lower Emerald Pools Trail- I have photos of that below w/ us walking under the waterfall.
Weeping Wall
Canyon Overlook
Big Bend

We made the mistake of not getting to the park early enough. We took our time. We should have gotten up at the crack of dawn and got to the Visitor Center because the parking fills up and if it does, the overfill parking is far away and takes longer to get back to the visitor center just to get a shuttle to the hiking areas! Luckily we found a spot but it was not easy! Get there early! Once you park, you have to take a shuttle to any of the hiking areas. The shuttle runs most of the year but check park site for info on this as well as the conditions HERE. 
BRING SNACKS!! They do have 1 place to eat at stop 6 (which we did eat at for lunch) but I would highly suggest bringing protein or energy-providing snacks for the family. They will get hungry and of course, thirsty. So bring that water too. We brought this super cool recommendations that I got from another blogger. The PiggyBack HERE. 


Wednesday: We flew into Harry Read Airport in Las Vegas because there were no San Antonio flights into the closer, smaller airport. The time change was 2 hours from SA. We took a shuttle to the Car Rental place and then grabbed some lunch at Carson's Kitchen which was an A La Carte restaurant that we loved. Not super kid-friendly unless your kids are adventurous eaters, which 2 out of 3 of mine are. The other had a burger ;) Then we drove the 3 hours into Zion to check into Under Canvas which is another hour time difference. The drive is long but you won't mind because it's so beautiful!
We checked in and immediately the kids were greeted with activities! They painted rocks while we they ran us through all the camp information. Then we got settled into our tent. Scarlett found out that her surprise was going to be a private horseback ride through Zion!! They thoughtfully left us a card with a note for her on the bed. The kids wanted to stay at the tent and play but we went back to the headquarters to grab dinner. After, the kids had smore's around the campfire. We were pretty tired from the long travel and time change so we got into cozy clothes and hung out in the tent by lantern light before bedtime. 

Thursday: We got up early and ate breakfast on site. Then we made ur way to Zion National Park Visitor Center and parked. We took the shuttle all the way to stop 9 first: The Narrows/ Temple of Sinawava. This was the ONE place that I wanted to make sure we hiked and since I didn't know how long the kids would last, we went here first and made our way back down. This one was about an hour but it took us longer because we stopped to snack, drink, take pics or just admire. I'd say plan for 1.5 hours if going with little ones unless you are going to do the water part of this. Then you will likely be longer. After this, the kids were so we stopped at stop 6,  The Grotto and ate at the park restaurant, which was not too bad for a small place. It did the trick of feeding us so we didn't have to leave the park. AND....they had organic salad! ;)
 Then we continued on to Lower Emerald Pools which was conveniently at this stop as well. This walk had steep sides and little kids could easily fall off so be mindful of this. Parts of it made me nervous with Vera so I had her go on the piggyback. Easy hike but watch for those drop offs! The end hear the waterfall is spectacular! I'm glad we got to see this one and take some photos. You can go further here but we decided to turn around because the kids were getting tired. We came back to camp and everyone napped while I finished my bottle of wine from the night before. Scarlett and I went up to camp headquarters to play some games and eat some food together = mommy/daughter time. Live music was playing this night and so that added to our experience. Ty and kids joined us later and then the kids played cornhole, tetherball and of course, smore's again. We met lots of people this night since it seemed everyone was checking in on Thursday. The kids met some dog friends, too!  This place is also dog friendly. Then we went back to our tent, told scary stories and just relaxed together before falling asleep. Sometimes the smaller moments were the best! 

Friday: Scarlett woke up super early excited about the horse ride that was happening! Everyone else was sleeping so we decided to throw on our sweatshirts and go grab coffee/hot cocoas together. Then we sat and watched the sun come up. Scarlett really enjoyed our small one on one times during this trip. We looked for the cows that roamed the site every morning. We brought all the drinks back and got ready for the day. We had breakfast on site again since our ride was at 10am. The horse ride was so cool! Warning- it was expensive! Like really $$$$ but they did have horseback riding less expensive offered at the state as well.  For our ride, they came right to the site which was really convenient. We each had our own horse except for Vera who could ride with me either in front or behind me in a buddy seat. This was the highlight of the trip for the kids! They were so excited about this! Especially Maxwell, who was terrified at first but conquered his fear and didn't want to get off at the end. After that, we decided to head into Springdale to eat some lunch and explore. We gave the kids the option to hike one more hike but they opted for souvenirs and ice cream instead ;) Not surprised. Luckily it's all in the same area so we ate ice cream while we took in the view of the mountains and cliffs. Lunch, walked around, shopped and ice cream . Then we came back to camp, showered and the kids played with their new toys on the porch while Ty and I enjoyed some coffees/tea. We ate dinner onsite again because we truly wanted to relax and just take in the off-grid moments that we rarely get. The kids did their nightly games and smores. 

Saturday: We woke up late this day. Well, the family did. I got up early and did my morning walk and went a little off the track to a huge boulder. I got to see the most beautiful views from that rock and also got to scare myself to death by random large lizards scurrying by!  On my way back I grabbed hot beverages and woke up Ty wo we could sit on the front porch and watch that glorious sunrise one last time! It didn't get old. We turned on some music and had a slow morning as we packed up. 
The kids had to hug all of the staff good-bye. They were so sad to leave! That is how awesome all of the staff here were. You felt like family, honestly. One girl bonded with Scarlett and she had to hug her about 5 times before we left! :)
Then we headed up the mountain since we heard the road was closed from a snow avalanche. The ride up had SO many great spots to stop and take in the views or play in streams. The ride up was a tad scary with crazy drop-offs, but it was worth it! Don't do this in the winter!!! After we found the snow and played in it, put our feet in the river and took some pics, we grabbed lunch in Hurricane and then headed back to Las Vegas to swim at our hotel there and catch an early morning flight. 

Now are you ready for photo dump??? I apologize in advance because this was without a doubt one of our favorite trips to these are for the memory books!

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