Lodging options near Zion National Park just got a lot more interesting
By Jared Blackley
Lodging near the east entrance of Zion National Park is quieter and sleepier than at the park’s western gateway in Springdale. Most lodging on the east side has tended to be standard motel fair—cheap rooms with two queen beds and a bathroom, neighbors on either side of the wall as well as above or below you. But that standard is starting to change for the better, and East Zion Resort is a prime example.
Located in the small town of Orderville—approximately 25 minutes from the east entrance to Zion and an hour from Bryce Canyon National Park—the resort consists of two properties. The first, known as the Escape, has six tiny homes and a treehouse built atop the stump of a 100-year old Cottonwood. All the tiny homes are connected to utilities, have two bedrooms, a kitchen and can accommodate up to five people. Four have a king-size bed and a loft with two twin beds. The other two, which are larger, have two king-size beds and furnished rooftop terraces. All have their own laundry facility. The owner, Micah Young, originally built these tiny homes on his property to supplement his income as a high school science teacher. The treehouse was built for his kids, but he soon realized there was a demand to rent it out, too.
Young’s friend Aaron Bonham knew the Escape was special. “It was a unique idea,” he says. “I believe it is the future of resort accommodations. It is luxury but [intended] for the average person, and it can accommodate a whole family.”
After driving past Young’s property daily for several months, he decided to stop in and discuss the idea of a partnership and, he says, “taking this concept to the next level.”
Bonham and Young bought a prime 10-acre property just down the street. Originally envisioned in the 1980s for a trailer court that was never built, the site climbs up the mountainside on three tiers that were excavated but then covered by overgrowth. It’s now home to 10 yurts, 10 treehouses and 10 rectangular canvas tents. All face west and have open views of the valley. “Our vision was for everyone to have a great view of the sunset,” Bonham says.
Eight of the yurts are 24 feet in diameter and have two king-size beds and a pull-out couch. Two of the yurts are 20 feet in diameter with a king-size bed and a pull-out couch. Wood for the tables and vanities was locally sourced and milled. All lodging options, including the canvas tents, have kitchenettes and bathrooms en suite. “Most canvas tent glamping options have bath houses or showers that are adjacent to the tent” Bonham says. “We wanted to provide something with more privacy, so we included full bathrooms in each tent.”
The most popular lodging options are the treehouses. Built on large stilts, they provide a sensation of being high above the ground. A king-size bed is in the loft. Windows on the west side of the treehouses are on the main level, where there’s a pull-out couch, and up by the loft, where they offer unobstructed views of the western horizon. Above the bed is a skylight. Light pollution in the small town of Orderville is minimal, and stargazing on a clear night is incredible, especially from the comfort of a king-size bed.
All accommodations are climate controlled—even the tents. Tents can be rented seasonally, from March through October. An on-site pool is open from mid-March through October, and two Jacuzzis operate year-round. There is also a guest laundry facility at the poolhouse. And every yurt, tent and treehouse have their own gas grill and firepit.
“We have a lot of people book for one night and then want to stay longer,” Bonham says. “They realize just how great it is here. You can explore the area for months and not even scratch the surface of possibilities. And then, in the evening, you can come back and stay at a unique place with a lot of luxuries.”
East Zion Resort
490 E. State, Orderville
East Zion Resort makes a great base camp to visit either Zion or Bryce national parks (NPS.gov). It’s a 20-minute drive to Zion and an hour’s drive to Bryce.
Red Hollow Slot Canyon is a short, kid-friendly hike that’s only a mile from East Zion Resort, and it’s only about mile round trip—so, it’s well worth the effort. To get there, head southwest on State Street and turn left onto 100 E. Drive to Red Shadow Drive, where you will turn left again. Continue up the dirt road for approximately half a mile to the trailhead.
At 3,700 acres (with an additional 33,000 acres leased from the BLM), Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, 435-644-2001, Bestfriends.org) is the largest animal shelter in the United States. Housing more than 1,600 animals—including horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs and birds—this no-kill refuge is worth stopping by, either as a visitor or a volunteer. Open every day except Christmas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., tours are popular and often book out months in advance, so plan ahead.
Located 20 minutes from East Zion Resort, the eroded dunes of pink-colored Navajo sandstone make Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (435-648-2800, StateParks.utah.gov/parks/coral-pink) a heaven for recreational vehicle enthusiasts. Most of the park—90% in fact—is open to ATVs, OHVs and motorcycles. The park is also ideal for boarding or sledding down the sand. There is a day use fee of $10 per vehicle and the park is only open during daylight hours.
Living History and Art Gallery
One of the most beloved desert landscape painters of the 20th century, Maynard Dixon and his third wife, Edith Hamlin, built a log-cabin in Mount Carmel in 1940 and the couple lived there off and on until his death in 1946. The property is now the Maynard Dixon Living History Museum (2200 S. State, Mount Carmel, 435-648-2653, ThunderbirdFoundation). Guided tours cost $40 and self-guided tours are $20.
In addition to co-owning East Zion Resort, Micah Young runs East Zion Experiences (125 S. Center St., Orderville, 435-668-0930, EastZionExperiences.com), a canyoneering company that offers access to two privately-owned slot canyons. One of the canyons has seven rappels between 10 and 60 feet and will get you into a slot canyon that towers hundreds of feet above your head. They also offer a shorter canyoneering option without any technical rappels.
Sammie’s Chuck Wagon restaurant and gift shop (115 E. State, Orderville, 435-383-8700, SammiesChuckWagonMenu.com) first opened its doors in 2017, but it has become a sort of institution in town. Known for pizza and espresso, the kitchen is flexible. Craving something that is not on the menu? Tell your server. If the ingredients are in the kitchen, they’ll cook the meal you want.