Zion National Park
We got a spot and got ready to start our day. Let me just start by saying that Zion is an incredibly well managed park. Of all the parks we’ve been to, Zion has its shit together. They have a free shuttle so there is no traffic and you can get on and off every 6-10 minutes at varying locations in the park. That being said, the park is very small. To give you an idea, to get from one end of Yellowstone to the other was upwards of 4 hours. To get from one end of Zion to the other is a 40 minute shuttle ride. So, while I know I’m not being fair, it’s a nice change.
We started by doing Angel’s Landing Trail. If I thought I had been on unique hikes in other parks, Zion outdid my expectations. Angel’s Landing is so named because the first people to arrive here believed it was so high that only angels would be able to land on its peak. This trail had “Walter’s Wiggles” which was basically Lombard Street on the side of a mountain. It then took us up the side of the rock face for one of the most technically challenging (and scariest) hikes I’ve ever done. I asked Greg at one point if we were rock climbing, not hiking. They had one row of chain handrails at some points because it was so steep. It was one lane traffic so there would be people waiting to get up or down wherever the trail widened enough for people to stand aside. The views from the top were unlike anything I had ever seen and totally worth the climb. Red rock of the canyon against the blue sky with the river flowing below. It was unreal. Every so often Greg or I would stop in our tracks, look up and just say, “Wow”.
Angel’s Landing then connects with another more moderate trail of the Emerald Pools. It was about 3 miles round trip and had some cool views of water seeping out of the canyon and pools where kids were playing but it was super crowded and had gotten very hot by that time of day.
We headed back to our campsite to change and wipe ourselves down (thanks Tina and my students who bought us very handy body wipes since we had no running water) and walked into town. Zion has a really cute little town, Springdale right outside of the park all accessible by the shuttle or a short walk. We went to the first place we saw with air conditioning which was the Zion Brew Pub. We went back to our camp after being up since 4am and crashed. It may have still been light out.
On day two we forced ourselves up early so we could hit the Narrows before it got crowded and hot. The Narrows is described in the trail guide by saying “There is no trail. The trail is the river.” It’s a short walk along Riverside trail to get to the Virgin River. From there, you walk through the river as far as you want/are able. We rented special walking sticks and water boots (I highly recommend if you decide to do this trail) the night before. We looked like goons but once we got started anyone without a walking stick or proper footwear were the ones looking like goons. (More on the general ignorance/stupidity of people we’ve seen on this trip in a later post.) This hike was, again, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. For 3.5 miles, Greg and I trudged upstream in an ever narrowing canyon. A lot of people will walk a mile or so in or stop and play in the water but Greg and I wanted the real deal. The farther you go, the more narrow the canyon gets leaving you no escape from the water. At some points, we had to put our packs on top of our heads to walk through because the water came to our chest. We finally decided to turn around when we reached a point where we didn’t know how deep it was and figured we were going to have to swim to get across it. Neither of us really wanted our packs to get all wet and we weren’t even really sure how much farther you could go or what was waiting for us if we ever arrived. At that point we began our walk back downstream which was relatively easier because we were finally going with the flow of the water. By the time we got to the wider section of the river, it was packed. SO many people and kids playing in the shallow water.
We were both so glad we got out early to experience the Narrows. For most of our journey, we were alone. Every so often we'd see a few hikers as we passed or coming back in the other direction. After days and days of hiking, running and walking up steep hills and mountains, the Narrows was so peaceful and fun. Oh and I can’t forget to mention that standing at the bottom of a narrow canyon may be one of the most incredible and mind blowing experiences of my life. We are so small and the world is so big.
We were pooped after the several days of hiking and by the time we finished the Narrows it was early afternoon and about 100 degrees in the desert sun. We decided to hang up our hiking boots and call it a day, favoring walking into town to soak up any air conditioning we could find.
A word on Utah. Utah state law prohibits the sale of alcohol in restaurants without a food sale to accompany that alcohol. There are no “bars” in Springdale/Zion due to their clientele often being families. We ordered chips and salsa a lot.
The next day we packed up camp, hit one more super short mile long hike, the Canyon Overlook, on the way out of the park and headed towards Bryce Canyon. Man, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!