Zion National Park‘s soaring red rock cliffs and canyons make it one of America’s most stunning (and popular) national parks. But there is a way to avoid the crowds in this visitor mecca: head to the eastern side. Home to Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, this quiet side of Zion offers plenty of adventure without the need for packed shuttle rides. Lodging is choose-your-own-adventure style, with everything from full homes to cabins to glamping tents available on the expansive property.
Choose from on-site activities like ziplining and horseback riding, or venture into the red rock cliffs and canyons on a canyoneering or Jeep tour with a seasoned guide. Canyoneering (AKA rappelling into a slot canyon) is the most iconic Zion experience but is too dangerous to experience without, well, experience. Book a guide to venture into winding sandstone slots and rappel into their depths. Bonus: some of the ranch’s canyoneering tours take place in a slot canyon not open to the public. So you can climb and explore without another soul in sight— just how Zion should be explored.
If you’re the fly solo type, hike from the ranch’s property into Zion National Park for the best panoramic canyon vista at Observation Point. The seven-mile roundtrip features little elevation gain, making it doable for most, and leads to a jaw-dropping overlook 2,200 feet above the canyon floor. The resort also offers a hiking shuttle for guests to other trailheads. Back at the resort, a climbing wall, mini-golf, skeet shooting, and ziplining fill up open afternoons.
Summer is the most popular time to visit and the ranch is bustling, but it’s the best time to enjoy the ranch’s pool and amenities like Western- style outdoor dinners. Winters are often mild, but snowstorms can occur, if rarely. Fewer dining options are available at the ranch and the place is a ghost town—ideal if you’re dodging crowds, but less great if you like more choices and warm temperatures.