We haven’t blogged here in almost a year and for good reason. The coronavirus pandemic led to many changes in the world, including more difficulties with traveling. And…we had our hands full with a quickly growing puppy.
However, once our lil’ Forester was more well-behaved, we decided to take our first long vacation since getting him. We landed on southern Utah because it was within 5.5 hour driving distance from home which was somewhere new for us while still not being too far away (as we weren’t sure how Forester would do in the car that long).
Utah is a massive state with so many things to see and do, depending on the season. We chose 4 key areas to visit in Southern Utah for a dog-friendly road trip that included a good blend of adventure + relaxation.
If you’re looking for a road trip planned by the couple (ok mostly Steph) who over-researches everything, then keep on reading…
SOUTHERN UTAH TRIP OVERVIEW
Our 8 day road trip overview:
- Drive: Phoenix, AZ to Kanab, UT
- Kanab, UT
- Springdale, UT (Zion National Park)
- Springdale, UT (Zion National Park) to Hurricane, UT
- Hurricane, UT
- Bryce, UT (Bryce National Park)
- Mt. Carmel, UT
- Drive: Mt. Carmel, UT to Phoenix, AZ
Before we get into the itinerary, we thought it would be fun to share the high of our trip and the low of our trip.
The high of our trip was seeing Zion National Park. It’s glorious and there are so many facets to its beauty. The trails to choose from are plentiful, diverse, and vary widely in difficulty. We loved spending time there – with and without Forester.
The low of our trip was the food. Because most of the towns were smaller and many places were understaffed due to the pandemic, we struggled to find restaurants that were open and allowed dogs. Many restaurants stopped offering take-out food due to understaffing, so we ended up eating fast food and being underwhelmed by most of our dining experiences.
Details of our 8 Day Road Trip through Southern Utah:
Day 1 Drive: Phoenix, AZ to Kanab, UT
Our first day started off with over five hours of driving. We made a few stops along the way to let Forester out, walk him, grab lunch, and get gas.
Once we made it into Utah, we embarked on our first Utah hike!! Thank goodness it was a short and easy one, because Forester was super hot and out of breath.
It’s called the Toadstool Hoodoos and it’s a 1.8mi roundtrip out-and-back trail through a sandy terrain. It ends at these really cool toadstool-looking rock formations! Such a pretty treat for a short and easy hike. Stunning!
Then we finished driving to Kanab, Utah which would be our home for the next 2 nights. We checked into Best Friends Roadhouse which is a super pet-friendly hotel owned by a pet rescue that is down the street.
The rooms vary, but ours had a gate inside the regular door (to easily go in/out without the dog getting out), dog bowls, a pull-out dog bed under the regular bed, and it was super cute! Very current and hip decor and styling. The best part? A private dog park! Behind the hotel were 2 dog parks: small dogs and large dogs. This meant we had plenty of space to run and around and play. It was amazing to have this amenity as it’s rare these days. The hotel also has a shop and breakfast area for grab-and-go breakfast.
For dinner, we tried a few places but they were packed. With limited food options in Kanab, everyone was trying to go to the top few places. So we ended up grabbing food to-go from Wild Thyme since it had good reviews. They do have an outdoor patio, but the wait was too long. Anyways, the food was good!
PS- Book a room at Best Friends Roadhouse below!
Day 2 Kanab, UT
After a long day of driving, we slept in and then got all geared up for a day at the sand dunes…or so we thought. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is $10 to enter and it’s gorgeous! The sand there is a dark coral orange color with rolling dunes as far as the eye can see.
I thought we’d spend half a day there, but clearly I’ve never spent time on sand dunes before. It was toughhhhhh…
We had packed a $29 sled from Amazon so we traversed the sandy dunes to our first hill and down I went! It was fun! So we upgraded and climbed up an even bigger hill – slowly. I went down that one and it was exhilarating! Forester even watched me and then ran down to catch me once I had made it to the bottom. The only problem? We had to climb back up that huge hill again. By that point, we were both exhausted and it didn’t take much to convince Zach it was time to go.
Sand Dunes – 1.
Steph – 0.
It was fun and a pretty site to see, but too tiring. A few slides down was enough for us. They do offer ATV rentals there which would be super fun, but we opted out since we had Forester with us. Instead…we went drinking.
Right down the street from the hotel is the Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen which is a vegan restaurant, but they’ve got great pizza and drinks. They have a patio area out front, perfect for dogs. And if you’re not full after that meal, try out the Soda Fountain across the street for some ice cream or treats.
Day 3 Springdale, UT
We had a taste of Utah, but we were hungry for more – for Zion.
Zion National Park is one of the most popular parks in the U.S. so we couldn’t wait to visit! We set 2 days at Zion: one with Forester and one without. Why? Because there’s only one trail in Zion that allows dogs. So if you want to see more than that, you’ve got to leave the dog behind.
Day one in Zion we drove through the southern part of the park where the streets are open to the public. We proceeded to find parking near the visitor’s center which was a challenge requiring a lot of patience. But once we got one, we went hiking!! [Note: $35 entrance fee]
The only dog-friendly trail in Zion is called Pa’rus trail and it’s basically a paved path that is flat and easy. It’s 1.7mi each way or 3.4mi total round-trip. You can see views of some gorgeous mountain ranges, bridges, and the Virgin River.
We wanted Forester to get in the river so badly, but unfortunately it wasn’t safe to get in – still pretty though.
All-in-all, it was a nice day walking around the seeing a glimpse of the park with Forester. Being our first trip with him, it went surprisingly well despite it being warm out.
After the park, we went to eat at Oscar’s Cafe patio which is a Mexican restaurant in downtown Springdale. The food was incredible and this was probably our favorite meal of the trip. Great drinks and service also.
Then we stayed one night at La Quinta Inn and Suites which is dog-friendly. It’s a nice property with some grassy areas and nice views of the mountains! Book it below.
Day 4 Zion (again) & Hurricane, UT
This day was tough for us (especially Steph) because we were going to return to Zion without Forester. This meant leaving him at a doggy daycare for an entire day so we could explore more of the park that was off limits to cars and dogs. We left him at Doggy Dude Ranch with much hesitation, but the owner and staff put our worries at ease. They were very friendly and caring, which made leaving him easier.
Then we were off to the park! We parked at the visitor’s center again and then hopped on the day shuttle so we could explore the north side of the park (only accessible by shuttle). Note: you must book this shuttle pass far ahead of time. If it’s sold out, check the All Trails app as some people sell them on there.
There are many stops along the shuttle ride, but several were closed due to being dangerous. So ultimately we got off about 3-4 stops. The two hikes we did were the Lower Emerald Pool trail which was an easy 1.4mi hike and the Riverside trail which was an easy 1.9mi hike (that leads into Narrows). Both were really beautiful, shaded, and crowded. We also got to see weeping rock and Court of the Patriarchs. It was nice to get to explore this part of the park and experience more of what Zion was all about.
There are 2 other more popular hikes though. They’re called Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. We aren’t much for trails rated “moderate” or “hard” because we prefer to relax and take in the scenery vs. be put through a grueling workout haha. But check those out if you’re up for a challenge!! The Angel’s landing trail is supposed to be the most challenging in the park and we could see it from the shuttle – wow it looked so cool! Then the Narrows trail you would likely need to pack or rent water pants and shoes because you’re walking through knee to hip height water through small cracks in the mountains for it.
If we had more time that day, we would have wanted to do the Narrows trail. But remember, I (Steph) was a new dog mom who just left her lil’ pup alone all day…so I wanted to get back to him before my anxiety burst through the roof! Any other dog moms out there that can relate?
Anyways, all-in-all Zion National Park was the highlight of our trip and can be somewhere you spend 2-3 days at. We, however, were off to our next city – St. George.
We left Zion and drove south to the area Hurricane, Utah. We checked into our cabin for two nights at the Gooseberry Lodges.
This was our second FAV highlight from the trip – simply staying at this cabin. It was quaint and simple, but all we needed for a relaxing afternoon and evening. Zach grilled up some food, we sat on the patio in the hammock, and we stared at the mountains out yonder (with some quality whiskey + wine in hand). Sitting out on that patio with Forester all day was one of the most relaxing ways to unwind mid-trip and take in the surroundings. We had quality time together as a family, without the extra frills or fancy meals. Just us, the cabin, and stunning views. Yes, it was super dog-friendly and Forester met lots of other dogs while staying there.
Day 5 Hurricane, Utah
We went to the Sand Hollow State park which was a man-made, dog-friendly lake. Forester had been to a lake only once before as a little puppy. So this was his first full lake experience. The sand here is bright orange and so, so pretty! We packed a picnic and enjoyed frolicking in the water and playing fetch with him. He had a blast!! You can rent kayaks and such there, but we enjoyed just running around.
We had some laundry and grocery shopping to do, so we won’t bore you with that. We tend to do a laundromat day mid-trip when we travel for longer than a week since we pack light.
But our second evening here did not disappoint, once again.
Day 6 Bryce, UT
It was time to checkout of our beloved cabin and head to our second national park of the trip: Bryce Canyon National Park. On your way there, you may pass thru Red Canyon which is stunning in itself. Then for $35, you can enter this park and do a 36-mile scenic drive with lots of pull off points to check out. There are lots of stop, but the ones we enjoyed were Agua canyon, Inspiration point, Natural bridge, Sunrise point, and Rainbow point. All of these were dog-friendly in addition to the paved Rim Trail at the start of the drive.
We wish we could have hiked down into the canyon as it was absolutely gorgeous and so unique! But with the dog, you can only walk around the paved trail up top. The Rim trail is only half mile long, but you can see all the way down into the canyon and it’s well taken care of. Just half a day is all you need here, unless you’re going to do any of the hikes.
After that, we sought out food but failed miserably (for reason we previously mentioned above). So Subway it was before checking in at Best Western Plus. Honestly, this was our least favorite hotel as it was older, dark, and tiny. But your options are very limited in Bryce for a dog-friendly hotel. So one night here was plenty. The plus: they do have a general store on site.
Day 7 Mt. Carmel, UT
Our final full day in Utah was designated to a quick hike and then relaxing on a ranch.
We drove to the Kodachrome Basin State Park which was dog-friendly (most state parks are more dog-friendly than national parks). We hiked the Angel’s Palace trail which is an easy 1.5mi hike with gorgeous views at the end.
After we drove back south to the Zion Mountain Ranch. We got a cabin for the night there and it was a wonderful property. You’re surrounded by bison (apparently although we never got to see them), chickens, horses (momma horse just had a baby when we got there), and dogs!
The highlight of our stay here was meeting Rex, one of the owner’s dogs. He’s the farm dog protecting all the animals and roaming the property. He was super friendly and Forester loved hanging out with him. After meeting Rex, Zach now wants to get a Great Pyronese dog someday and I’m not complaining. He was a chill, loving doggy.
We got food to-go from the restaurant on-site here so we could eat in the cabin with Forester. The food was amazing!! The restaurant itself looked lovely inside, but wasn’t dog-friendly. The cabin was really nice and spacious with a bench on the patio that was calling our name. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying some libations on the patio and talking about our future together – and the future is bright, my friends!
Day 8 Mt. Carmel, UT to Phoenix, AZ
Our final day was spent driving back home to Arizona. But we do want to point out a great lunch spot in the Page, AZ area: Bird House. They have a dog-friendly patio and incredible fried chicken dishes!
To wrap up, Utah was the perfect first trip with our dog. It was a good balance of adventure and relaxation which is a must when you’re traveling with a dog. We learned a lot about what to pack and what not to pack when traveling with a dog. And we made some memories we’ll cherish forever.
Without a dog with us, we likely could have made it to more of southern Utah like the Moab area, but we didn’t want to rush things in case he didn’t do well in the car that much. He ended up doing great in the car though – it was the high elevation that got to him most. He was winded and more worn out than usual and we suspect it’s because of that.
First trip with Forester in the books. Cheers to many more!