One of the best parts about my job is getting to travel all over the place and experience not only the natural and wild beauty of the world but also some of the most interested lodges and hotel properties. When putting together new trip itineraries I spend quite a bit of time exploring local accommodations to ensure a quality experience for my guests. Typically, Backcountry Journeys lodges are upscale-moderate but with a rustic style that is befitting to National Parks and wilderness areas.
Often we stay at historic lodges within park boundaries – such as Zion Canyon Lodge and Bryce Canyon Lodge both of which are the only lodges within their respective parks. The historic lodges at both Zion and Bryce Canyons are an integral part of the history of southern Utah’s National Parks and GREAT places from which to base a photography / hiking trip.
Bryce Canyon Lodge is situated in the cool, high-elevation pine forests at 7,956 feet above sea level right on the rim of Bryce Canyon. It was built between 1924 and 1925 using local materials. The lodge was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood and is the only remaining structure of the lodges that Underwood designed that is still standing and completely original.
The Zion Lodge on the other hand is situated deep within the walls of Zion Canyon. It was also built in 1924 by Underwood with input from the first U.S National Park superintendent Stephen Mather. The lodges were built originally by the Utah Parks Company (a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad) in order to develop tourist traffic to Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon by providing premier destination hotels at each park.
Both of these lodges were designed with the idea of ‘parkitechture’ using natural materials that blend into their surroundings to give the parks an authentic, rustic and natural feel. Don’t let that fool you into believing that their amenities are subpar. They both have been fully upgraded and are the premier lodges in the area. Both feature great restaurants, accommodations and the best locations for park access as they are both the only lodges actually within the boundaries of their respective parks.
The amenities for Bryce Canyon Lodge are plentiful. While there is Wi-Fi on the property it is only in the main lodge but within each cabin there are gas log fireplaces, a coffee maker, alarm clock, portable fan, and thermostat controlled heat in some rooms – which can be great on a chilly evening in the high desert! None of the rooms have televisions or air-conditioning and the entire lodge is smoke free. In addition, there is an excellent on-site restaurant in which I take my guests after hikes and photo sessions.
The Zion Lodge is in a stunning location as well – surrounded by towering walls of Navajo sandstone and situated right on the Virgin River. The lodge is surrounded by a lovely grove of Cottonwood Trees and is regularly visited by Mule Deer & Bighorn Sheep. It is updated on a regular basis to include just about every creature comfort that you could want from a National Park experience. Every room provides coffee makers, air conditioning, phones, alarm clocks with radio and MP3 capabilities, hair dryers and complimentary Wi-Fi in addition to an on-site restaurant (which…yes we eat at after photo sessions and hikes!)
They both are within easy walking distance to activities located either inside their respective parks so it’s better than having to travel from a gateway town – staying at one of these lodges you are already right there in the park.
We stay at both of these lodges on two different trips – both the Canyons of Utah (which also features the Slot Canyons Inn near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) and Canyons of Utah: Zion & Bryce take advantage of these interesting and historic properties. Obviously most people join a Backcountry Journeys trip for the Photography and Hiking – but you know what? The lodging and food are reason enough to come on one of these trips!
Russ Nordstrand is a professional landscape and wildlife photographer specializing in photography as fine artwork. His Fine Art Prints are hanging in homes, offices and private collections across the U.S and Canada and in many other countries throughout the world. Russ leads on average about 20 Photography Tours & Workshops each year to incredible destinations such as Yellowstone, Alaska, Glacier, Yosemite, Utah, Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains and more. He also frequently writes articles on this blog on various photographic techniques, the art of composition, environmental concerns, photography and travel news as well as documenting recent adventures. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Russ has lived in the greater Rocky Mountain West since 1999 and currently resides in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.