Southern Utah is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural scenery. The massive red rock towers of Zion National Park, the winding slot canyons of Escalante, the stark serenity of Lake Powell—they attract thousands of visitors each year. And while these tourists arrive fully ready for rugged outdoor adventure, they’re often not expecting the varied array of food, drink and luxury lodging that exists in this part of the world. Well, now the secret is out. Here’s how, and where, to take it all in as you cruise eastward across the region.
If you’re headed to Zion, chances are you’ll enter by way of Springdale—a quaint village of some 500 locals, just south of the park’s main entrance. Rent an e-bike from Zion Adventures, and you can easily explore the canyon at your own pace for just $95 a day. But when you return to town you’re going to have worked up quite the appetite. Wheel your way into the Bit & Spur for a spirited rejuvenation. Billed as a restaurant and saloon, the boisterous outpost offers a wide range of classic Southwestern specialties with a modern twist: Chile verde pot pie, tacos with blackened tofu, quesadillas with melted brie and roasted poblanos. And you can pair all of it with full-flavored microbrews from Squatters or Wasatch—two enduringly popular Utah-based producers.
Climb up out of the park on route 9 through the Instagram-famous Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel and you’ll eventually make your way to Kanab. It’s an ideal overnight along US-89. There are all kinds of activities to discover here, including a tour of one of the country’s largest animal sanctuaries. Plan your day to suit your interests, but when it comes time for dinner there should be no deliberating…Sego is where you want to be.
Just off the lobby of the Canyons Boutique Hotel, this unexpectedly cosmopolitan eatery is awash in Southeast Asian flavors. Char siu with barbecued pork and crispy rice noodles is served with butter lettuce, allowing you to roll it into a savory, handheld treat. The duck lo mein includes crisped skin under housemade sambal and jalapeño cream. But while the edible fare goes global, the drinks section of the menu focuses on spirits and ingredients pulled from local sources. The Beehive Bootlegger is a great way to start, featuring Utah gin, sage and honey sourced from right in town.
The hotel in which Sego sits affords an elegant Western charm. But if you’re craving more of a glamping sort of experience, head just north of town for a stay at Cave Lakes. The canvas-clad cabins are set directly beneath red rock canyons and afford instant access to outdoor experiences both modest and ambitious.
Before progressing eastward on 89, make sure to stock up on fresh pastries and espresso from Kanab Creek Bakery. Much of their menu changes with the seasons, but the vegetable quiche is a perennial all-star.
Speaking of all-stars, it’s impossible to mention luxury in this part of the world without a prolonged tipping of the cap to Amangiri. The stunning five-star property hugs a sandstone canyon overlooking 600 pristine acres of Southwestern wilderness. A four-course tasting menu here entitled, “Spirit of the Journey,” is paired with wines designed to evoke the native vernacular. Before you even get that far, however, you’ll want to spare time for golden hour, when you can indulge in the hotel’s signature prickly pair margarita while watching the adjacent canyons dim into ethereal shades of pink and purple.
All that opulence comes at a steep cost, of course. Suites at Amangiri typically start at $3500 per night. If you want to mimic the experience for far less, travel three hours further east to arrive at the Bluff Dwellings Resort & Spa. The drive alone is something you won’t ever forget. You’ll dip down into Arizona on route 98—past Horseshoe Bend—and back up through Monument Valley. Take US-163 as you head back northward into Utah for a view of the famed Forrest Gump Hill.
When you get to the town of Bluff, it’s impossible to miss its eponymous resort: the structure is built into the red rock cliffs. It boasts Navajo-inspired architecture, a heated pool and hot tub under the shadows of the canyon, and an elevated spa experience at HozHo. Meals from the Cedar Shack are meant to be enjoyed back in your room. Order traditional Navajo ash bread with artichoke dip or “Cowboy” pizza and wash it down with a Hazy IPA from nearby Moab Brewery. It’s a monumentally more informal experience than what you’ll find at Amangiri. And they’re fine with that. At $150 a night, you ought to be as well.