Outdoor fun just outside of Las Vegas.

Affordable Adventure in Springdale, UT
Credit: Angie Smith

It’s just a 2 1/2-hour drive from Las Vegas to this small town on the Virgin River, but the desert gets empty and wild surprisingly fast. Springdale is the anti-Vegas: serious canyoneers mingle with fine-art photographers at weekly gallery openings, the Springdale Fruit Company sells organic fruit smoothies, and en plein air painters head to workshops at the Zion Canyon Field Institute. The biggest draw is nearby Zion Canyon, a narrow funnel of 2,000-foot-high sandstone walls glossy with a crimson patina and top-heavy buttes that appear to shoot straight up from earth to sky.

Oscar’s Café

This laid-back spot has been around for more than 20 years. Don’t miss the slow-cooked-pork burritos—and make sure to eat them on the patio, which has views of the red rocks and mountain peaks.

Desert Pearl Inn

This understated hotel, like the rest of Springdale, is authentic without trying too hard: reclaimed old-growth Douglas fir floors and a tawny palette of neutrals provide a soothing retreat from the blazing red rock outside.

Zion Adventure Company

During late spring and summer, crowds are a fact of life here, but these guides can steer you through the lesser-known hikes. If you absolutely must trek the popular, precipitous, and occasionally terrifying 5.4-mile-long Angels Landing Trail, do as the locals do and set out at dawn when it’s cooler and quieter.

Bit & Spur Restaurant & Saloon

Springdale comes alive in the evenings when residents gather here for sweet-potato tamales and fresh tilapia. The restaurant, located at the entrance to Zion National Park, also hosts rotating art exhibits and live music from the likes of Willie Waldman Project, a local favorite.

O.C. Tanner Amphitheater

Pack a picnic (sans alcohol) for an alfresco concert at this 2,000-seat amphitheater, surrounded by the cliffs of Zion National Park. The summer music series typically showcases everything from honky-tonk and folk to classic rock; tickets are only $10 for adults ($5 for children 18 and younger).