Southwest Trip Part 1 Zion National Park

Our little family opted out of the holiday madness once our children's school let out for winter break and instead headed out for a family 'road trip' across Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

We departed in the wee hours of Christmas Eve day to make the long trek across our native Oregon, then across Idaho and end the long day in Salt Lake City, Utah. A winter storm was at our backs as we hurried to cross mountain passes before the heavy snow made road conditions unsafe.

At the edge of Oregon with a winter storm closing in
Traveling down the state of Utah on Christmas Day in a winter storm
It was a wild drive for two days as we covered over 1000 miles to Zion National Park. We arrived on Christmas Day to this amazing view:

Early Views of Zion National Park
Snow had touched this awe inspiring place and we were lucking enough to see the park in its snow dusted magic.

Two of the 'Patriarchs' in the 'Court of the Patriarchs'
We stayed in one of the original rustic 'cottage' guest houses. We loved the cozy simplicity. For a family treat, we enjoyed Christmas dinner at the park lodge.

The first little hike we undertook was along the Virgin River to The Narrows where in warmer conditions you can walk along the river bank for up to 16 miles to the rivers origin. Here are some Virgin river pictures I took:

Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah

Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah
An emerald pool, Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah
The Virgin river can have flash floods, especially in the summer months where a thunder storm miles away can create a violent flood downstream. Now, we didn't experience anything like that, but I can say that my kids got stuck in quicksand. Ugh!! My husband took the kids to burn off some extra energy so they were playing along the river bank when my husband noticed the river appearing to rise an inch or so..and it caused the sandy bank the kids were playing on to liquefy. Thus, the kids began to sink in the sand. Hubby quickly pulled them out and all was well, but it was a lesson to remember to always be watchful and aware of your surroundings and to play attention to the river. It's probable that the rise in river water was due to melting snow.

I swear, only my kids would get caught in quicksand. Good grief. Thank goodness for rubber boots!

Here is a shot of the Fremont Cottonwood Trees that grow along the banks of the Virgin River.

Fremont Cottonwood Trees along the banks of the Virgin River, Zion National Park, Utah
I found the colors and silhouettes of the cottonwoods in winter to be mesmerizing. They were silver, they were gold. It just depended upon the light.

Another feature along the river that was so beautiful were the 'hanging gardens'. Here ferns and shade loving plants, hang along the rocky canyon walls of the Virgin river and create a contrast of cascading, soft color, against the stark lines of the reddish rock.

Southern Maidenhair Fern  Adiantum capillus-veneris
I was happy that I recognized so many different types of plants while hiking throughout the canyon. I thought of my spiky plant loving friends back in Portland as I enjoyed seeing the cactus grow in sunny spots.

Our little cabin was charming and cozy. The food was great at the lodge dining hall and we were sad to leave. Zion National Park in winter is majestic. I think seeing the park in 'winter hues' was a true gift. Nature provides the most wonderful palette.

Come back and visit again for Part 2 of our winter, family adventure. We'll travel across the mighty Colorado river and into Arizona for the second half of our road trip.

Cheers, Jenni


  1. Sounds like a much nicer - and more ambitious - way of spending the Christmas holiday. I wonder if you'll be trying to grow some Cottonwood trees in your garden at home?? I don't envy you the driving in those poor conditions!

  2. It was the bad weather drive more than worth, what a wonderful early morning view of the Zion National Park. I enjoyed your amazing pictures of this beautiful place on earth very much and are really looking forward to part 2.
    Regards from Holland,

  3. What a lovely way to spend Christmas away from the hype.

  4. Beautiful Jenni! And thanks for the mental image you painted of the kids sinking slowly. I'm sure they thought it was great fun, at least after they were safe.

  5. Daar Jenni, what a wonderful post. I like the colours of Nature overthere. An exiting adventure whit the kids. Happy they were safe. Groetjes, Hetty

  6. You were brave to make such a long drive in miserable weather. I would have flown! But Zion is gorgeous! What an incredibly memorable way to spend the holidays. :o) We escaped the holiday fuss, too.

  7. Wow, you captured amazing images of the beautiful landscape, Jenni! So glad you & your family were safe through the snow & quicksand!


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