The Zion Lodge

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion Lodge sign

Zion Lodge Virtual Tour

Your virtual tour guide: Jess Stryker

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The Zion Lodge Historical District:

Welcome to Zion National Park! There are 61 registered historic structures in the park. If you like old buildings, bridges, walls, trails, etc., there are plenty to see here at Zion! For this tour, we're going to focus on the concession buildings associated with the Zion Lodge complex. These buildings were all built by the Union Pacific Railroad to promote use of the railroad by tourists. Visitors rode the train to Cedar City, Utah. From there touring cars or buses took them to the Zion Lodge. (Note that some of the photos that follow were created by splicing together several photos. This is why there are shade changes and misaligned edges in some of the photos.)

Gilbert Stanley Underwood:

All the historic buildings in this virtual tour were designed by the architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, and represent some of his earliest work. Mr. Underwood is considered a master at taking the rustic architectural style used by the park service and translating it for use on the larger, more complex hotel buildings found in many of the National Parks. If you compare these buildings at Zion to his later work at Bryce Canyon and The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, you can see the progression of his skills as he refined them over the years. (He also had bigger budgets to work with on some of the later work, which allowed the use of more architectural detail!)

The original Zion Museum building is the oldest standing building in the park. It is typical of the rustic design the park service preferred for the lodge.

The Zion Lodge Design:

Underwood's first design for the Lodge was a typical large hotel building. The railroad wanted a large upscale hotel suited to the wealthy tourists that used the railroad. The Park service had the right to review and approve the building designs, since the facility was going to be in the National Park, and Stephen Mather, the Park Service Director, rejected this first design. Mr. Mather pushed Underwood to create something simpler, more in harmony with the site. He wanted to see something smaller, and more like the rustic architecture already used on the Park Service owned buildings within the Park.

A new plan was developed by Underwood, consisting of a compromise. A central lodge building would contain the guest lobby, rest rooms, a store, and a restaurant. Two groups of cabins provided for guest accommodations, a group of basic cabins without baths, and another group of upscale cabins with baths. A pool and pool house (now removed), bakery, barbershop, employee dorms, and a few miscellaneous buildings completed the Lodge Complex design. A separate support complex a short distance away at Birch Creek would house vehicles and horses.

The proposed architecture for the buildings was a cross between the rustic park service buildings, with lots of sandstone masonry, and the clean lines of the wood frame hotel desired by the railroad. The building designs were standard wood-frame construction, but to make them feel more rustic (and save lots of money!) they would not have exterior siding, the wood frame studs would be open and exposed. To add to the rustic look they would also have sandstone foundations, chimneys and columns. This new plan was approved by the Park Service, and the Zion Lodge and Birch Creek complexes were built and operated by a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad under the name Utah Parks Company (to make it look less like a railroad monopoly!)

The buildings we will look at on this virtual tour are:

Oops, almost forgot in my excitement over the buildings. There is a lot of beautiful scenery in Zion National Park also!

The Main Lodge Building

Original Zion Lodge building, photo by J. Reed Jones
This is a historic photo of the original Zion Lodge (built 1925) that burned down in 1966. Compare it to the recent photo of the new lodge below. Photo above is by J. Reed Jones, from National Park Service Collection.


New Zion Lodge Building
This is the new lodge building that was hastily constructed in 1966. Built at the same location as the original, it was a very plain box building, hastily erected in an effort to get the lodge back open as quickly as possible. Ugly was one of the kinder descriptions given to the replacement building. Recent renovations have added much of the original lodge's exterior features to the new building. The pitch of the roof on the new building is not as steep, but other than that the overall look is now very similar to the original lodge building. Notice how the sandstone rock on the building matches the canyon walls above the lodge.


Zion Lodge, Zion National Park
The Zion Lodge building contains a snack shop & gift shop on the left side, as viewed in the photo above. An outdoor patio for the snack shop is just out of the photo to the left side. The hotel lobby is in the middle of the building, an auditorium is on the right side. Upstairs above the lobby is The Red Rock Grill Dining Room & Lounge, with a large 2nd floor outdoor dining balcony (the 4 rock columns support the balcony.)


Zion Lodge Lobby
This is the recently remodeled lobby of the Zion Lodge. The rock facing is new, and adds to the rustic appearance. The stairs at the right rear lead up to the restaurant on the second floor. A gift shop and snack bar are to the left of the area shown in the photo.


original fireplace in Zion Lodge
To the right of the lobby is an auditorium (it was being remodeled when this photo was taken). This fireplace in the auditorium is all that remains from the original lodge building.


Zion Lodge lobby
The replacement lodge was a hastily-erected plain box of a building, without any of the architectural features of the original lodge. Fortunately recent modifications to the lodge have restored some of the classic look of the original building. In this photo Julie relaxes in one of three comfortable sitting areas in the lobby. The gift shop is behind her.


Zion Lodge patio
This outdoor eating area adjacent to the snack shop offers outstanding views. The snack shop is open during holidays and the spring and summer seasons. The Red Rock Grill is open year-round.


The Red Rock Grill
The Red Rock Grill on the second floor of the Zion Lodge.


View from Red Rock Grill window
View from the windows of the Red Rock Grill.


Breakfast buffet at Red Rock Grill
Julie looks over the breakfast buffet at the Red Rock Grill.


Salmon dinner
A salmon dinner served on a custom made Zion Lodge plate at the Red Rock Grill.


The back of the Zion Lodge building
This is the service area behind the lodge. Notice the boards on the exterior that simulate the open frame construction of the original lodge building.


Wild turkeys at Zion Lodge
Wild turkeys were can often be seen on the lawn in front of the Zion Lodge. This poor love-sick male's failed efforts to court the hen by the tree are simply an embarrassment to proud turkeys everywhere! (Identities masked to protect the innocent.)
Love-sick Turkey Video (with commentary by Julie):

If the video is not visible above this line, Turkey Mating Dance.


Some Zion National Park Scenery:

The canyon walls above the Zion Lodge
This is the view of the canyon walls above the Zion Lodge.


Heaps Canyon abd Mt Majestic
This is Mount Majestic, with Heaps Canyon to the left.


Next, the restored historic Western/Deluxe cabins.
More... next page of the tour!


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Unless noted, all photos above were taken on approximately April 16-18, 2007. Click on photo for a better quality image. Photos may have been digitally altered to enhance details and blur faces.


Historic Hotels & Lodges

All text and images by Jess Stryker, unless noted. Copyright © Jess Stryker, 2007-2011. Last updated June 30, 2011.. All rights reserved.




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