The Springdale Surprise

Apr 7, 2014


Posted In: Springdale

New entrance at the Cliffrose Lodge at the mouth of Zion Canyon.

It should come as no surprise that Spring is a glorious time of year in Springdale. But there are many things about this resort town which many people don’t expect.

On the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, my wife and I spent the night in Springdale to celebrate our anniversary. While northern Utah was still covered in a blanket of snow and fog, we were delighted to see flowers beginning to bloom as we drove through the Hurricane Valley and along the Virgin River to the mouth of Zion Canyon.

Our first stop was in Rockville, where we dropped off our furriest family member at the Doggy Dude Ranch for a little getaway weekend of his own. Although he had never been there before, “Buddy” quickly made friends with the staff and was eager to meet several new playmates in the fenced-in playground. Satisfied that he was in great hands, we drove about 4 miles to our destination.

Having been to Springdale a few weeks earlier, it was obvious that we were getting closer to the peak tourist season. Several businesses were finishing restorations and upgrades and putting the shine on their “Welcome” signs. The campground was about half-full, the shops and restaurants were moderately busy, and the weather was beautiful.

We checked-in at the Cliffrose Lodge and were greeted by some of the happiest people we’d seen all day. They were just putting the finishing touches on their office renovation and facility expansion, and they looked genuinely excited to welcome us and get ready for another great tourist season. We went to our room and found that, rather than a simple motel suite, this was actually more of a home-away-from-home. We were a bit sad that our visit would only be for one evening since this looked like the kind of place we could live in comfortably for at least a week. Two large TV’s, a kitchen with full refrigerator and cooking appliances, a bedroom and luxurious bath were perfectly clean and well-decorated. Large, spectacular photos of Zion by renowned photographer David Pettit made us feel that we were immersed in the beauty of the area without even leaving our room.

After getting settled, we went for a walk to explore our new surroundings. The sandy banks of the Virgin River were less than 100 feet from our patio, and although we didn’t have our children with us, it looked like a great place to bring them on another visit. Beach toys for the kids were neatly stacked near the river, while lounge chairs looked especially inviting to the parents. What a beautifully peaceful place to read a book or enjoy the sounds of the gently flowing river! (We’ve heard that this spot is even more popular than the swimming pool on hot Summer afternoons since many visitors like to float down the river here on tubes and other inflatables).

Zion Tribal Arts Gallery features authentic Native American arts and crafts.

We walked past the swimming pool and noticed that several people were already out in bathing suits, enjoying the gorgeous afternoon and occasionally dipping into the heated pool. A short stroll down the road brought us to the Tribal Arts Gallery, with one of the nicest collections of authentic Native American rugs, pottery and jewelry we’d seen in the southwest. Just down the road was the Lafave Gallery, where we were able to view works by our favorite local artist, Kate Starling. Although this gallery is relatively small, the quality of work is top-notch and the price range and variety of art styles are exceptional. There truly seems to be something for everyone who has taste for the finer things in life.

It was almost dinner time, so we hurried over to the Spotted Dog, a popular restaurant we were anxious to try. Although we had heard of it before, we figured it must be some sort of cafe. With such rustic surroundings and its relatively isolated location at the mouth of Zion Canyon, we were shocked to find that it was some of the finest dining in Southern Utah. After a very nice meal, we took an evening walk along the Virgin River just as the sun was going down. Although we had planned on seeing a movie at the giant Zion Canyon Imax Theater, we decided to stay outside and enjoy the incredible views of the canyon. With the last rays of golden light drenching the two-thousand-foot towers just across the river, we didn’t regret our decision.

The next morning we asked the bright-eyed beauty at the Cliffrose welcome desk where she recommended we go for breakfast. Without hesitation, she smiled and said “Meme’s Cafe!” so we gave it a try. We chose from a wide selection of crepes and after eating wondered how soon we could return to try everything else on the menu.

We had to get back home, although we were tempted to stick around for the big St. Patrick’s Day celebration later that afternoon (it wasn’t easy to pass on the green jello sculpture contest!). As we drove home and reflected on our visit to Springdale, we concluded that our greatest surprise was that there was so much more to see and do here without even leaving town. Maybe next time we visit the Cliffrose, we’ll turn right (toward Zion) instead of left (toward town). We’ve heard that the scenery in that direction is pretty spectacular, and, after all, it’s only 100 yards to the entrance of the National Park! 😉

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