by Lissa Poirot
When traveling through the great Southwest to visit its national parks — including Zion National Park — hotel options become limited, mainly to chains providing little more than a comfortable place to sleep after a long drive. The Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is not that type of hotel. In fact, it is a full-blown resort and spending just one day here could bring cries from your children who do not want to leave the fun behind.
Zion Ponderosa Ranch is filled with so much fun, you’ll need time to enjoy all of its offerings, as well as the offerings within Zion National Park. One of only two properties within the park boundaries, the ranch resort provides activities for all ages. The resort feels like a sleep-away camp, and families can choose from private cabins, campsites, RV sites and traditional rooms. The resort’s general manager serves as your camp counselor and he is always around, day and night, asking how everyone is doing, cheering when a kid gets a hole-in-one at mini-golf, and giving advice on off-the-beaten path hikes that lead to swimming holes in Zion. His staff of camp counselors, mostly young college-aged kids, all work hard to make sure families have a great time at the resort.
Whether you are looking for a place to get away and enjoy the outdoors with the kids for a full week, or you’re just passing through, Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort is a great place to hang your hat.
Our Editor Loves
- Private cabins
- Kids' and family activities
- Oversized pool with waterslides
- Horse Back Riding
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Zion Ponderosa offers a number of accommodations, including camping areas and RV parking.
While guests camping can bring their own gear and book a tent site, some guests like to enjoy the resort's wagons. These traditional wagons sleep four people with one queen bed and two twin-sized beds (bedding is included). Guests who stay in the wagons have access to the shower house and restroom facilities, with towels provided.
One-room Cowboy Cabins sleep up to six people and provide a queen bunk bed and sofa beds. The cabins do not provide bathrooms or showers, but instead offer access to the shower house and community bathrooms. Cabins have covered front porches with picnic tables and grills.
For more traditional resort accommodations with private bathrooms and showers, choose the Cabin Suites, which can sleep up to six and feature small kitchenettes with mini-fridges, microwaves and sinks. Some cabins feature DVD players and fireplaces, too. The suites offer a bedroom with queen bunk beds and a living room with a sofa bed, as well as a covered porch and grill.
Vacation Home Rentals
Zion Ponderosa Ranch manages four vacation homes within the Zion Ponderosa and 18 homes in the Zion Ridge section with varying sizes available for families. The smallest properties offer two bedrooms and one bath and sleep eight, while the largest property is a seven-bedroom, eight-bath home of more than 6,000 square feet that can sleep up to 40. A minimum of two nights is required for all vacation home rentals. Guests can stay between Thanksgiving and mid-March, when the resort is closed and activities are not available and dining is extremely limited. Guests can request kitchens be stocked before arrival or during their stay, as well.
We stayed just one night here on a road trip
We slept in a wagon which was very comfortable
The showers and toilets were very clean and the food in Rays was good
I’d highly recommend this place to anyone wanting to experience something different
The food and service in the restaurant is very bad. Accommodations are fine but the shared bathrooms are not clean. This resort is so far from the town that getting an early start for hikes is impossible especially since their breakfast isn't served till 7:30 and drive to the park for shuttle is 40 minutes away. The girl at checkin is not very friendly either.
Activities at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort are priced in terms of vouchers. Ten vouchers can be purchased for $110 and can be used for a number of activities. Some activities have age, height or weight restrictions, as well, so be sure to ask beforehand.
Horseback Rides & Trail Rides
Horseback trail rides are provided from the resort through East Zion Adventures. Trail rides include the one-hour, easy Checkerboard Overlook Ride, the 1.5-hour Jolley Gulch Ride, the experienced Pine Knoll Ride, and a full-day ride with an overnight campout over Pine Knoll. Guests sleep in tents and enjoy a Dutch oven dinner and a chuck wagon breakfast. Kids ages 8 and under who are too young for trail rides can enjoy a chance to ride the resort's horses for 15-minute rides led by resort wranglers.
From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, the Zion Ponderosa Kids' Camp is open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., providing camp fun for children ages 4 to 11. The resort offers full- (five vouchers) and half-day (three vouchers) programs, with lunch included. Themes for the daily programs include paleontology, pioneers and desert animals.
After a day in the hot sun, the resort's two-tiered, gravity-edge swimming pool is a welcome retreat. The large pool features waterslides and Jacuzzis. While signs tell kids not to jump off of the wall separating the two tiers, kids (and adults) spend a lot of time jumping and flipping into the pool. No lifeguards are on duty, so be careful of those choosing to jump.
Jeep Tours of the property offer one-hour sunset tours (two vouchers) or 2.5-hour Brushy Cove tours (three vouchers).
Barn and Playground
Guests of the Zion Ponderosa can visit the barn for a climbing wall, rappelling lessons, trampoline bungee, paintball, pool, board games, and skeet shooting, all on offer for between one and three vouchers. Beside the barn is an outdoor playground with swings and slides.
ATV Ranger Tours
Guided tours with Zion National Park rangers are available through the resort on ATVs. The minimum age to drive an ATV is 18 and children cannot ride on adults' laps. ATVs can hold up to six people and are available to rent for full and half days, as well as one or two hours. The ranger tours are available in one- or two-hour segments. Prices range from $11 to $55 per person, depending on age and length of tour.
The resort's 18-hole mini-golf course is found at the front of the Ponderosa with waterfalls and rock formations resembling the environment of Zion. The course is open all day and into the evening. All ages can enjoy unlimited play for one voucher or $11.
During the resort's peak season, May 15 through September 15, a number of special dining events are offered to families, though there are other standard eateries at the resort, too.
Departing from the lobby every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45 p.m., guests take a wagon ride led by the resort's resident Clydesdales to a wooded spot for a Dutch Oven Dinner buffet. The dinner includes beverages and dessert, and families can enjoy the outdoors as a musician plays guitar. Reservations are limited and required.
Rodeo & Barn Dance
On Saturday nights, the resort puts on a rodeo. Led by the ranch's horse wrangler, families can watch cowboys in action before heading to the barn for an old-fashioned hoe down. Nighttime zip-lining is also offered during this event.
Blue Belly Grill
Open from March through November, this restaurant is the resort's main dining location, serving breakfast from 7 to 9:30 a.m., and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Enjoy burgers, pasta, sandwiches, wraps and other American fare. A children's menu is not offered, but kids will surely like something on the menu.
When the pool is open, June through August, guests can grab a quick bite from the grill, which is open from noon to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, snow cones and drinks are available.
When the Blue Belly Grill is closed during the day, snacks, lunch items and drinks are available in its dining area in what is referred to as the Narrows. Salads, soups, wraps, sandwiches, boxed lunches and ice cream are available. The Narrows also serves a continental breakfast daily. The breakfast is included in the rental of cabins or is $5 for guests.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The resort offers vouchers to participate in its activities. Horseback riding, for example, may require three vouchers for a one-hour ride while two rides on a zip-line are one voucher. Families can purchase 10 or more vouchers and receive one unlimited miniature golf pass. Unused vouchers are not refundable. Ten vouchers are available for $110.
Free Wi-Fi is available at the resort, but its park location most likely means you will not be able to access it from a cabin or tent. The router is located in the main lodge, and for those needing Internet service, you'll find it works better inside. Vacation rentals are outfitted with wireless routers.
Pets are not welcome at the resort, including campsites and RV sites.
The camp counselors on the property often receive tips from families at the end of their stay for the services provided throughout the week.
Depending on the room type booked, breakfast may be included with accommodations, and families can elect to purchase meal plans in advance.
Guests of the vacation home rentals have access to washers and dryers for onsite laundry.
The Art of Smart Timing
The resort operates fully in the summer months, offering the most in activities and dining options, but also booking quickly for families who are visiting Zion National Park. The resort is open from mid-March through Thanksgiving, and while spring and fall do not have as many onsite activities available, it's a great time to visit Zion; more temperate weather, more chances to see wildlife, and much less crowds in the park. Vacation home rentals are available year-round.
To visit Zion National Park, most guests fly into Salt Lake City or Las Vegas International Airports. The park and resort are three hours from Las Vegas, and five hours from Salt Lake City by car. The ranch is located off of North Fork Road, 5 miles from Mt. Carmel Junction and 2 miles from Zion National Park's East Gate entrance. For GPS, enter Twin Knolls Road, Orderville, UT, 84758.
For guests who do not wish to drive into Zion National Park, the resort provides shuttles with drop-off and pick-up spots to Observation Point, Cable Mountain, the Visitor's Center, Orderville and the Narrows. The shuttles are available for a fee.
Guests who do have a car rental are only 7 miles from Zion National Park's East Gate Entrance. The resort is 65 miles from Cedar Breaks National Monument and 75 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon's North Rim is two hours away. Also close to the resort are the Grand Staircase National Monument (20 minutes) and Pipe Springs National Monument (45 minutes).
For Mom and Dad
Even though this is cowboy land, parents can enjoy a little pampering at the resort's full-service spa. The spa provides massages, body scrubs and other treatments, and is open from 1 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, from March to November.