Cooper Discoverer Trip Report Zion National Park and area

My awesome wife decided to surprise me and take me on a trip to Zion National park for the weekend. So I figured I would post up a trip report from Diego to Zion which is near Springdale, Utah. We left around 11am on Friday 4/1/16 from San Diego. The drive took us up the 15 to the 215 and back over to the 15 (figured I would just follow the GPS on that one, as it routed us through San Bernardino rather than the usual Riverside. Stopped off for lunch at In N Out in San Bernardino and had the chance to observe some of the local customs. Such Ingenuity!

Then we continued on passing by Sin City. The jeep started to hate the section after Vegas because it mainly a very slight uphill grade and I have some 285/70/17s with the factory gearing and a 3.8 auto, so Jeep owners can feel my pain here. The drive took about another 2 and a half to 3 hours past vegas. The main towns you pass through are Mesquite, NV with a bunch of casinos on the AZ border (shocker), basically rural northwest AZ in a blink and into St. George, UT where they decide gas octanes should look like this:

Then you cruise through side roads by Hurricane, Virgin and into Springfield, UT before you reach the park. The first night we stayed at the driftwood lodge, and we were treated to awesome views right when we got there around 8pm (there is a +1 hour time change from CA):

The next morning, we left the dog in our hotel room (dont worry, we did some hardcore EXPO off the grid camping later in the trip, I promise) and my wife planned out a canyoneering trip. for those not in the know, apparently canyoneering means hiring a total stranger, strapping on the worlds most uncomfortable harness, ropes, and letting the stranger talk you into dropping into this sketchy looking canyon:

like this:

we got back, and decided to grab some of that awesome overpriced underalcohol'ed Utah beer we'd heard so much about:

what. no. get the hell out of here.

At least someone had a sense of humor about it. Note the 4% abv rating. Coming from Beer city USA (San Diego, not Denver, Not Portland, no, its San Diego, sorry other beer places) the laws seemed completely hillarious. Our canyoneering guide explained that beer served from a tap in Utah must be served at 4% ABV or less, and must be ordered with food, or at least the INTENT of ordering food, some say reading the menu counts as intent. BUT if the beer is brewed in Utah, it can be brewed at a higher ABV as long as its bottled first. Beer sold in a store can be refrigerated, as long as its below 4%, if its over, it must be sold warm off a shelf, WTF? So many more laws, but all of them are ridiculous. Case in point, we ordered a flight of tasters from the brewery right outside Zion NP, they only allow 2 per person, and we were forced to order food, so they offer the obligatory pretzel sticks at $3 to satisfy the law, crazy.

ANYWAYS, the next day we decided to do a short hike inside Zion

it was beautiful, but crawling with people. As promised, we decided to get away from everyone and set up camp at the most remote spot in the history of spots, away from crowds, RVs, and people playing beer pong. The watchman campground inside Zion NP:

The following day, we decided the Jeep looked way too clean, and we had enough of people using two walking sticks to hike on a paved trail with zero elevation, so we took the advice of our canyoneering guide and hit up one of the most scenic jeep trails just outside the park. Smithsonian Butte Rd

the road to the trail head has a cool, one way single lane bridge, so it looked promising:

the trail had some easy sections and some fairly technical 4wd sections, so we were very happy with it (the bugs on the windshield were so thick from driving through san bernardino, that the focus sometimes gets screwy.

View from a potential future campsite i found along the road, amazing scenery

obligatory panorama pic with the jeep

the technical sections on the trail are all very do able, and the main road itself is short with a few offshoots. I wouldnt miss this trail if I was in the area.

The next day, still tired of people, we took a hike on an unmarked trail called many pools, which is away from the main canyon, but still inside the park on the east side.

We camped again that night, in the remoteness that is the watchman campground. I know its not an off the grid style camping, but i can say, the campground is amazing, very nice facilities, and coin showers are available just outside the park. not a bad place to stay if you dont feel like roughing it. We hit the road at 8am the next day (7am San Diego Time) and powered through, stopping only in St George, UT for breakfast/fuel and Barstow, CA, for lunch/fuel. We made it home about 230-245 in San Diego with plenty of daylight to spare.

Thank you to my awesome wife for this great birthday surprise trip, it was amazing and I couldnt believe how easy it was to get to from southern California. just an 8 or so hour drive from San Diego is this amazing area with tons of hiking, camping and off road opportunities. Looking back, I would have planned it out better to hit the narrows hiking trail, but it was closed because of heavy snowmelt (you hike in slot canyons through the river, so high waterflow closes the trail). We found boarding for our dog during the day in Springfield, so we were able to hike trails in the NP with no issues. This is a must do park for those in driving distance.
looks like the videos may be a bit tricky, I didnt host them on youtube or anything, so if they dont wory, I am sorry. They are cellphone quality anyway.
Well dogs are only allowed on one trail inside the park, so during the day, we boarded him at the doggy dude ranch in Springdale which worked out great. Then we picked him up and brought him back to camp with us
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