Since I was taking this trip in March, I knew my options for northern Utah were limited. It was still quite snowy in the mountains, and Salt Lake City even saw a snowstorm during my trip. By heading south, I avoided the snow, and had weather so perfect I didn't even turn on my windshield wipers.
I could have taken a scenic route, say, US 89 southbound, but I decided my best bet was to power down I-15 as quickly as possible, and get to a good starting point for Day Two. My flight arrived just before lunchtime, giving me plenty of time to stock up on supplies for the week ahead, then hit the road.
The drive down Interstate 15 is a mix of boredom and excellent scenery. It's about 300 miles from downtown Salt Lake City to the Arizona border, so you can count on a good four to five hours before reaching the turnoff for Zion. The entire way, you're traveling through a mostly-flat, wide valley (the boring part), but that valley is lined with mountains. In March most of the peaks to my left were snow-capped. I spent a lot of time staring at them as I sped by.
As I made my way south, and the sunset was approaching, I weighed my options. I could search for a good photo spot along Utah 14, which heads into those snow-capped mountains near Cedar City, or I could try to make it all the way into Zion Canyon. Instead, I detoured into the Kolob Canyons section of Zion -- the entrance is along I-15 at exit 40. A short scenic drive heads east, to a number of good viewpoints.
This was my first "WOW" moment of the trip. I had been here before, back in 2007, when I hiked up the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, but I had forgotten the majesty of Kolob, and of Zion, and for that matter, all of Utah. As towering red-rock mountains appeared out of nowhere, I started taking pictures, and I didn't quit until the sun had set.
Then, it was a dark drive on to Springdale, where I would spend the first two nights.