Category Archives: Families

ZAC Makes the Cover of St. George Magazine

St. George Magazine did a story on “adventure in Southern Utah” for their May issue, and we made the cover! Well, one of our clients made the cover, and one of our guides was on the other side of the lens (we still aren’t sure who). Writer Lisa Larson interviewed Shelley Buckingham, our outfitting manager, for the piece, and they have a slimmed-down version of the article online. It’s much better to see all the great pictures though, so check out the virtual magazine for the best viewing experience. 5 Local Tours to Enjoy in Our Backyard By Lisa Larson Living in the red rock beauty of Southern Utah, it’s easy to take the nearness of these natural wonders for granted. While there are countless tourists from around the world that descend on national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon, recreation spots such as Lake Powell and a variety of slot canyons, it’s remarkable the number of locals who have yet to experience all that Southern Utah has to offer.   For those who are unsure where to begin, there are a variety of guided and self-guided tours available, whether you’re looking for adventure, history or serenity. Living … Continue reading

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Spring Break Ranger Programs for Kids Visiting Zion

Though Zion National Park staff is still at low-season numbers, the Park has put together a series of programs specifically tailored to kids for Spring Break. If you’re in Zion this week with your kids, check out any (or all) of the three special programs. Canvas of Cliffs Monday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 14 9:30 – 11:30 AM Meet at Big Bend Shuttle Stop Search for peregrine falcons, condors, and climbers and discover their stories Pool Pondering Tuesday, March 13, Thursday, March 15, and Friday, March 16 9:30 -11:30 AM Meet at Emerald Pools Trailhead Uncover unique plant and animal secrets. Stellar Storytellers Monday, March 12 and Thursday, March 15 3:00 – 3:30 PM Meet at the Zion Human History Museum Listen to fun and adventurous stories.

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Author Says Canyoneering Helps Teens (and Parents) Grow

Parent/teen relationships are amongst my favorite to experience on guided trips because novel outdoor activities can create such level playing fields between generations. Unlike all the things parents and their kids do at home, canyoneering (or climbing or mountain biking) is generally not something the parents have a depth of experience with. And so, when learning a completely new activity, parents and teens find themselves on common ground, both having little to no idea that they are doing. In fact, teens usually have the edge. Since most teens are in school, they are typically more practiced with learning and critical thinking, so they often consume and process information more easily. In addition, older teens are near their athletic prime, whereas their parents are typically falling into various states of disrepair… another advantageous element for the teens. Last, teens often benefit from a more eager, risk-perverse nature, so they can be much less hesitant and seldom suffer from “analysis paralysis” like adults can. All this adds up to giving the teens a good chance of out-doing their folks, and the effect this can have on parents is incredible. All this to say, it’s rare for parents to create opportunities for equal standing with … Continue reading

Posted in Canyoneering, Families, Reflections | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

ZAC Memories from Ellen Comiskey

Hi Jonathan, Our family spent a good part of one of our greatest vacations with you. In April 2004 (when your wife was pregnant with your first child), our kids were age 10, 13, 14. We came out to Utah (from Wisconsin) in early April for a week. We climbed in St. George, and went canyoneering with you and Dwayne. Today the youngest, now 18, left to go to Peru for a year, and as I think back to the wonderful times we had together, I am glad we had the opportunity to spend time doing great, fun things in the natural world under the guidance of fun and knowledgeable people like yourselves. We never could have done that on our own. The whole family remembers the great time we were able to have because you were able to take us there. Thanks. We will be back, eventually… I hope you are well. Congrats on your 15th anniversary! Love, Ellen Comiskey

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Alternatives to Hiking the Zion Narrows During Spring Flood

Extraordinary precipitation this winter/spring has resulted in high water levels in The Narrows this spring, closing the world-famous hike for the last two months. Since the snow pack remains significant in the watershed’s higher reaches, we expect The Narrows will remain closed another 2 to 4 weeks. So many Zion visitors plan to hike The Narrows, and we have the ugly job of telling all these folks, day after day, they can’t explore this place they’ve heard so much about and have travelled so far to see. Visitor reactions fall across the board: mad, sad, frustrated, crestfallen… a few hesitant hikers are even glad to have an convenient excuse to miss The Narrows. But the upside of this whole situation, the thing we try to help everyone see, is there are TONS of world-class activities in Zion that can be just as rewarding as The Narrows hike. If you are bummed to miss The Narrow on your current or upcoming trip, please peruse the following ideas for ways to turn that frown upside down and make the most of your visit. Fabulous Day Hikes 2- to 4-hour hikes like Angels Landing, Observation Point, Emerald Pools, and Hidden Canyon offer breathtaking views, great … Continue reading

Posted in Canyoneering, Families, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Seasonal, Spring, The Narrows, Weather & Climate, Zion, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Zion on a Core Strand – The Frugal Traveler’s Guide

Climbing season is here, and I just hosted my first carload of weekend warriors, showing them around, getting out to some amazing multi-pitch climbs, and, of course, filling my living room with dirty but grateful climbing friends. I LOVE that more and more people are exploring Zion, but I only have so much couch space, so I feel obliged to pass on a few tips toward pulling off the dirtbag lifestyle here in Zion. LEAVE NO TRACE First, let’s discuss impact. There is a lot of room to be carefree, to find your own way, to get out into wilderness, but in order to maintain and protect such freedoms, we must act as stewards to our Parks and public lands. I have always liked the Leave No Trace motto, “Making your mark is overrated.” The reality is that to continue enjoying places like Zion, we need to recognize our potential impact, and respect the environment and others who are here to enjoy pristine wilderness. A minimum-impact guidelines to keep in mind: • Sleep only in established campsites, unless you are at least ½ mile away from any road • Walking only on established trails or drainage bottoms is key to … Continue reading

Posted in Camping, Canyoneering, Families, Restaurants, Rock Climbing, Showers, Springdale, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Food Recommendations for the Trails or the Canyons

Every week, Zion visitors bound for adventure on the trails and in the canyons ask me the same question: “What should I take with me to eat?” It seems these visitors are trying to sort through the matrix of what friends, outdoor enthusiasts, the media, and mom have told them about trail food, and how any of it applies to what they are about to do in Zion. They ask: “Do I need bars? Can I take a sandwich? Can I bring fresh fruit, or does it need to be dehydrated?” This is what I tell them… I like eating. And because I like eating, I like to enjoy the food I eat. The degree to which I enjoy food enhances the entirety of my day, in this specific case, my day in the outdoors. For this reason, my advice to departing adventurers is simple, but important: Bring food you will enjoy eating. If you are not enthused with the PB&J your mom would have insisted upon, I say save yourself the disappointment and leave it at home. The same holds true for food bars or energy bars; if you don’t like ‘em, leave ‘em. So what do I bring on my own … Continue reading

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Canyoneering in Cave Creek

One of the our favorite summertime treats is the chance to get up on the high plateau and descend the gorgeous, deeply plunging, wet and wild canyons there. Cave Creek is a seldom visited but much-loved canyon, our typical descent for an Extreme Adventure Day. Cave Creek is a world of myriad waterfalls: short, tall, chaotic, elegant, simple, and complex. Behind and alongside the taller falls, beautiful green moss grows, dressing the canyon in fabulous emerald green. The sandstone ranges from light browns to deep reds, studded in places with curtains of huecos, small arches, and “drippings” of rock iron-stained rock. In this raw and raucous landscape, it’s always a treat to find a piece of improbable subtlety: a delicate fern or a lone red flower clinging to a sandstone crevice. Adding to the visual beauty, the sound of rushing, pounding, flowing water constantly accompanies us in Cave Creek. The noise raises everyone’s adrenaline a notch, making it very evident we are in a living, breathing, changing canyon. Sometimes you have to yell to the person next to you, just to be heard. If you’re more than 20 feet from them, it’s usually best to use hand signals or a … Continue reading

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Kids Take on the Zion Backcountry

Michael Lanza, the Northwest Editor from Backpacker Magazine, recently gave us the heads-up on his website,, and his family’s recent attempt at the Trans-Zion Trek. You can find the trip report, complete with photos and video, here. The video is especially endearing, as it features the Lanza kids having a blast in the Zion backcountry, working on a makeshift sandstone “workbench”, playing in the river, trucking up the West Rim switchbacks, and finding the infamous Cave of Horrors along the Angel’s Landing section. The Lanza’s Trans-Zion plan doesn’t work out due to unexpected controlled burns, but they still have a great time hiking and camping along the Hop Valley and West Rim trails. I don’t know how old the Lanza kids are, but I’d guess in the 8 – 10 neighborhood. How many parents would take their grade-school age kids backpacking miles from roads and civilization? I’m not sure, but THANK YOU to the Lanza family for reminding us that well-prepared kids can thrive in the backcountry, taking on 2 to 5-day trips with great enthusiasm and success.

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