Travel Tuesday: Zion National Park

by - 1:43 PM

This weeks post for my "Travel Tuesday" series goes back to what used to be my favorite park before we visited Yellowstone. Zion National Park in southwest Utah still holds a place in my heart. It's the first park I took my husband camping in. It's the first park we visited for our honeymoon. It's one of the reasons I fell in love with the great outdoors. There are so many great things to see and do in Zion and while I can't write about them all, I'll touch on some of my favorite areas of the park so you can see why I love this park so much. From hiking to camping, you'll never run out of things to do when you visit Zion.
When I first went to Zion back in 2009, I was in shock at how beautiful the park was. I was alone for the trip so I decided to do the most popular hikes at the parks I visited. Angel's Landing seemed to be the stop on the tram in which everyone departed, so I had found my hike. I was on a time crunch so I did the hike, made it to the top (not the summit) and called it a day. Even though the hike was pretty strenuous, the views were stunning. This was one of the reasons I had fallen in love with the park. The Virgin River below and blue skies above. There was just a feeling of peace up on that rock. Fast forward 3 years and we found ourselves traveling to Vegas to get married. The following morning we left for Zion after I had convinced my husband that he would LOVE Angel's Landing. We hopped on the tram and started hiking shortly before 9am. I remembered the trail so well, especially knowing that going down is harder than going up, so we went at a leisurely pace. Every corner was just as beautiful as I could recall. Not too long into the hike we made it to the top. This is the false summit in a way. Many people stop there (as I did my first time) whether it is because they are scared of heights, short on time, or not physically fit. We weren't stopping though.
The thing about Angel's Landing isn't the hike up; it's the chains. Most people know about Walter's Wiggle (a series of switchbacks in which you have to take a break when you reach the top) but not many people know about those chains. Picture this: You are hiking up to the summit. The trail you are on is about a foot wide with sudden drop offs on each side of you. You are holding on to these metal chains going up, while those that have already made it to the top are going down. One person holds on to one part while you step over or under the other person going down. The sandstone also makes it very slick. Throw in rain or ice and you really are pushing your luck. A few people have actually died from falling off of the trail. It's not a hike for someone who doesn't like heights that's for sure. But we grabbed the chains, hobbled over and under people, and finally made it to the top. The view is one that you will never forget. Of course, the afternoon thunderstorms were rolling in so we had to rush down and not enjoy the view as much as we could have thanks to lightning. But it still was just as great as I remember and will always be one of my favorite strenuous hikes of all parks.
One of my other favorite hikes requires more planning due to weather and visitation, but if you can fit it into your schedule, the Narrows is a must. The Narrows is a slot canyon in which you are hiking in the Virgin River. During the summer, you might not be able to hike at all because of flash floods. Many people have actually died on this hike as well all because they didn't check the weather before they left. Any chance of rain and you don't want to go hiking. We planned a little differently and went in the winter (the weekend of MLK day) so we needed more preparation. We rented dry suits, walking sticks, and dry boots. It was a process getting it on and off, especially if you had to go to the bathroom. But once we were suited up we headed down towards the furthest part of the valley and made our way into the river. There are some points where you can hike on the rocks but most of the hike is in the actual river. The walls get smaller and smaller and you can take it all the way to the Subway, which is simply gorgeous. For that, you must have a permit though. The water is freezing cold in the winter so the dry suits came in handy for keeping warm. I want to say we saw maybe 20 people the entire 4 hours we were hiking around in the Narrows. During the summer, it can be extremely busy. 

There are parts of the river that get pretty deep. I went well over waist deep at times. But that's what made it fun was not knowing what was around the corner. We packed a lunch and ate on some rocks while we enjoyed the view. The water is crystal clear at points and the sun hits the rocks to give off different colors. While the process of getting everything ready is time consuming, it's so worth it.

The next hike is a pretty easy one. It does have some sections that aren't good for those weight a fear of heights but as far as the trail itself goes, it's an easy one. The Canyon Overlook Trail is also notoriously known for spotting bighorn sheep. While I have always been excited over seeing sheep, now that we see them practically everyday they are nothing special. But, if you have never seen any in the wild before this is your best spot. It's a pretty short hike that leads to a gorgeous view of the canyon. It's on the opposite side of the tunnel so you'll have to drive through it to get to the trailhead. It also gets VERY crowded because there isn't much parking so plan ahead. You cross a couple bridges and walk alongside the slot canyons where you can hear those hiking very clearly. They echo and you wonder where it is coming from until you realize you are above those canyons.

When you get to the end of the trail, you can choose to climb around on the rocks, sit and enjoy lunch, take some photos, or simply turn back. There are plenty of places to just jump around and climb. It's like a playground for adults. The sheep we came upon were really used to people so they didn't scare easily. This made for great photo opportunities. We have done this trail a number of times and we always see sheep. Overall, it's a great hike for anyone looking to get a short hike in.  

There are a few other hikes that should be acknowledged. Weeping Rock is a little more strenuous than the Canyon Overlook Trail only because it's uphill. But the trail is very short and leads to this rock that is continuously dripping with water. It's nothing fancy but a nice hike regardless. There is also the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools. These hikes are more strenuous but not Angel's Landing strenuous. You can take different routes to get there, each of them having different views.

The other great thing about Zion is that you don't have to hike when you go there. You can camp, bike, walk, or just drive around. You can even play in the river if it's a nice hot day. The water is cold but clear! I prefer to camp as Watchman Campground is one of my favorite campgrounds that we have ever stayed at. The views you have from your tent are gorgeous. Waking up to a bright sunrise or relaxing by the fire with oranges and pinks in the sunset; what could be better? The photo below shows our tent and the mountains behind it. What a view! But if you aren't into camping there are a couple other options available. Springdale has a small number of hotels, including a Hampton Inn. There are bed and breakfasts as well. If those prices are too high or sold out, you also have St. George or Cedar City which isn't very far of a drive. We've even drive as far as Las Vegas, NV and Grand Junction, CO to get to the park. The options are endless.

The other thing I love about Zion is the wildlife. There are always animals out everywhere. You've got the typical mule deer and white tail deer but you also have bighorn sheep, tarantulas, coyotes, lizards, and a variety of snakes. I can guarantee that no matter when you visit, you'll find something walking, slithering, or climbing. As always, remember to not get close to the animals as they are wild. And please, please, please don't pet them!

There are far more trails that you should get out and see but this is just an overview for those that like to see the most popular trails. The fall is simply gorgeous to visit in but know that there are always going to be tons of people. But even if it's crowded, it's worth it. Utah has some beautiful parks!
Next weeks Travel Tuesday: Joshua Tree National Park or Blue Ridge Parkway?
Comment below with your vote or tell me what your favorite part of Zion is if you have been!

You May Also Like