On rare occasion, in my travel writing career of 23 years and over 900 trips, a place really stands out to me as a hidden gem that is worthy of exceptional accolades. Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is just such a place.
We were immediately struck by how such a lovely tucked away oasis of family fun is located in such a wonderfully accessible area just minutes from Zion National Park, Kanab, Utah, Mt. Carmel Junction, and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, all favorites of mine for decades, and all well known for their fascinating geology and unparalleled recreational opportunities.
Then we checked in and were, again, thoroughly impressed by how friendly, professional, and knowledgeable the staff were about the area, the property, the activities, and the amenities. What a welcome reception for weary desert travelers.
After check in and settling into our vacation cabin in the desert, we meandered over to the recreation and adventure center to hear a run down on the countless activities offered guests of the resort. Again, we were completely pleased by the knowledge, friendliness, and skills of the recreation department. They were top notch and exceedingly patient in describing all the options we had to choose from which included Jeep Tours, ATV Tours, Canyoneering, Guided Hikes, Horseback Rides, Ziplining, Skeet Shooting, Cycling, Paintball, Miniature Golf, Climbing Wall, and much more.
We opted to make reservations for a Sunrise Jeep Tour and continued to enjoy our first night under the spectacular Milky Way in the desert, by reserving a table for two at the famous Ray’s Restaurant on site.
What a wonderful dining treat that turned out to be. Buffalo and bison burgers and steaks, delicious homemade dressings and sauces, tantalizing soups, outstanding and creatively designed appetizers, and large sumptuous homemade-from-scratch desserts left nothing missing during our lovely dining experience.
The rest of our visit only got better and better as we loved the Sunrise Jeep Tour over the backside of Zion National Park (you can even see the Checkerboard Mesa). We drove through old abandoned uranium mines and saw REI’s completely hidden wilderness camp in the high desert. Very few people have the ability to ever visit or see it, or even know it exists as it is so remote and requires a special type of off road vehicle to even access it.
If I hadn’t 4WD’d the Rubicon Trail before I would’ve been nervous. It was intense with adrenaline junkie, gnarley rock climbing as the Jeep climbed over boulders and crevices. We loved every minute of it.
In the evenings we would relax and unwind in the gigantic gorgeous pool under the bright desert sky and soak in the spa. Every night we enjoyed sharing adventure stories from people from around the world who were as blessed as we were to find such a gem in the National Park lands of the great Southwest.
Often, around sunset we would stroll the grounds and enjoyed seeing wildlife. Several people took a longer hike from the resort literally into the hidden back side of Zion National Park. We almost did but were so busy enjoying other activities that we will have to save that treat for next time.
Our vacation cabin was comfortable and peaceful with a kitchen, living room, ample bedrooms, and great views, yet there were many other types of accommodations for others as well which include, tent cabins, wagon cabins, RV park, camping and vacation homes. No matter what level of camping, glamping, or roughing it you prefer, there is a level of comfort for all.
Morning breakfasts started us out right each morning where we could choose from a hearty buffet of excellent egg and sausage offerings, yogurts, cereals, pastries and more.
Lots of extra amenities which fellow travelers clearly appreciated included wireless WiFi, shower house, laundry facilities, tennis courts, volleyball, pond, and gift shop.
We often saw locals visiting for the day or for a wonderful meal in the restaurant.
Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort could not be any better. It offers a tranquil oasis in the middle of the desert but is located within a short distance of many notable canyonland destinations. It has something for visitors of all ages and adventure levels, the food is superb, and the hospitality leaves nothing lacking.