Zion National Park

 

By mid-June we were entering the height of summer and we arrived to what seemed like the Disney World of National Parks. Zion National Park’s splendor was only surpassed by its exorbitant number of visitors. Despite all of this we were able to find serenity along the park’s many remarkable trails. We marveled at the colossal size of Zion Canyon feeling infinitely small. We now understood why this impressive place was named Zion and is known as “the heavenly city of God.” This sacred and significant place really is something to see.

Entrance to Zion

Entrance to Zion

Entering Zion

We began our journey into Zion through the East entrance driving along the scenic Zion – Mt. Carmel highway. On this road you will pass a massively long tunnel that is a true engineering feat. The winding highway is literally breathtaking with numerous switchbacks and exhilarating drop-offs.

Tip

Restrictions and fees are associated with oversize vehicles passing through the tunnel. Check here for info.

 

Accommodations 

With huge crowds visiting during high season be sure to book accommodations well in advance. Because we weren’t sure of the exact days we would be in Zion we kind of just played it by ear and stumbled upon Flanigan’s Inn last-minute. They only had one room left on the day we arrived and although it was pricey ($190 per night) the room was lovely and only a couple shuttle stops away from the park (near the park’s South entrance in Springdale).

Tip

During high season (March-November) campgrounds are fully booked months in advance (sometimes up to 6 months before)

 

Zion Shuttle

From mid-March through October (weekends in November) the Zion shuttle operates from Springfield and through the Zion Canyon Scenic drive (no private cars allowed through this area). Parking is hard to come by inside the park unless you arrive extremely early. There are plenty of places to park in Springfield where you could easily catch the convenient shuttle. See park map here.

Zion Shuttle

Zion Shuttle

 

Hikes on Day 1

Riverside Walk

Manu and I took the shuttle all the way to stop # 9 Temple of Sinawava. We decided to start with the Riverside Walk hike (2.2 mi roundtrip). This easy hike takes you along the Virgin River and is a great introduction to the park and the gateway to The Narrows.

Riverside Walk trail

Riverside Walk trail

A deer along the trial

A deer along the trial

Furry and curious little friends along our path

Furry and curious little friends along our path

The Narrows

This is one of the quintessential hikes in Zion and considered a difficult trek (can be up to 16 miles RT). It provides a unique experience to hike through the Virgin River while cooling off in the water. There are different three ways to hike through the Narrows depending on where you start:

Bottom up

  • From Temple of Sinawava through the Narrows as far north as you’d like to go until you reach Big Springs
  • No permit required
  • Although still moderately difficult, this is the most leisurely way to hike the Narrows

Top Down in 1 day

  • Requires a permit
  • From Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead to Temple of Sinawava
  • Difficult 16-mile hike can be completed in 12-18 hours depending on your speed

Top Down in 2 days/overnight

  • Requires a permit
  • From Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead to Temple of Sinawava
  • Can visit Deep Creek and Kolob Creek
  • 16-mile hike broken down into 2 days. Plan to hike 6-8 hours each day (pack light)

I’ll admit that Manu and I were a little unprepared for the hike when we arrived. I had a swollen ankle from the day before and we forgot to bring proper shoes. We only hiked about 2 miles in from the bottom up but we had an amazing time throughout the whole experience.

Tips

  • Book required canyoneering permits at least 3 months in advance. Click here for info .
  • Bring proper closed toed shoes, you will be stepping on river rocks.
  • Bring a hiking stick/pole for balance. Rocks will be very slippery and the current could be rough at points.
  • Dress accordingly – Quick dry clothes are great in warm weather. A wet suit would work well in the colder seasons.
  • Bring a drybag to keep your valuables safe (you will get wet!)
  • Beware of flash floods! – Check the forecast before hiking into the narrows.
Entering The Narrows

Entering The Narrows

Manu loving the refreshing water

Manu loving the refreshing water

Hiking the Narrows

Me wishing we had prepared better and brought proper shoes…

Cool experience hiking The Narrows through water

Cool experience hiking The Narrows through water

Getting a little help along the way... Man helping me in The Narrows

Getting a little help along the way…

The Grotto Trail/ Lower Emerald Pools/ Upper Emerald Pools

Manu and I then took the shuttle down to stop # 6 The Grotto and planned to hike the Grotto Trail (1.0 mi RT) down to stop #5 Zion Lodge passing the Lower (1.2 mi RT) and Upper Emerald Pools (1.0 mi RT) trails along the way. Since the afternoon was upon us and not many people were left on the trails, the hike was very pleasant and quiet. As night fell we left the crowds far behind and enjoyed the sounds of nature including the numerous Canyon Tree frogs croaking their hearts out.

Gorgeous Scenery- Zion

Gorgeous Scenery

Finding some peace and quiet on the trails

Finding some peace and quiet on the trails

Hiking towards the Emerald Pools

Hiking towards the Emerald Pools

Incredibly huge rocks

In awe of the huge rocks

A day well spent admiring nature

A day well spent admiring nature

To cap off the night we stopped by the Zion Canyon Brewing Company near the park’s front entrance for a nice cold brew. The food was just ok so I would not recommend a meal here but their beer selection was very good and well deserved after a long day.

Stopping for a brew under the night's sky at Zion Canyon Brewing Company

Stopping for a brew under the night’s sky at Zion Canyon Brewing Company

 

Hikes on Day 2

Pa’rus Trail

The next day my ankle was still not doing too well so we decided we would take it easy. Because the park was so busy the day before we had skipped stop #2 Zion Human History Museum where they have cool exhibits and show the park’s movie. We hiked along the Pa’rus Trail from stop #1 Zion Canyon Visitor Center to get there. This trail was very easy and if you follow it to the end (total 3.5 mi RT) it will leave you at stop # 3 Canyon Junction.

Zion - Enjoying the beautiful Panorama near the Human History Museum

Zion – Enjoying the beautiful Panorama near the Human History Museum

Weeping Rock Trail

We made our way to stop # 7 Weeping Rock Trail (0.4 mi RT). This relatively easy short, steep trail leads you to an incredible site covered in surreal hanging gardens. The alcove above you “weeps” water over your head from Echo Canyon above.

Tip

  • Don’t drink the water – Although it may look very tempting and fun (especially to kids on the trail who were gobbling it up) there is the danger of Giardia lurking in the springs. There’s the public health message for this post…

 

Angels Landing

With a swollen ankle I was not about to try this strenuous hike but one cannot mention Zion without talking about Angels Landing. From stop # 6 The Grotto hike along the West Rim Trail to begin your trek. If you’re daring enough try out this 5.4 – mile hike with 1000 ft. drop-offs on either side, the trip up and back should average about 4-6 hours. Needless to say we did not try it out but will be back again to hike it sometime soon. I watch this video for inspiration and to freak myself out at the same time…

Weeping Rock

Weeping Rock

Outward views from inside Weeping Rock

Outward views from inside Weeping Rock

Leaving Zion

It was time for us to leave Zion and continue our adventure. We decided a nap on the grass beneath the magnificent Cottonwood tree at the lodge would be the perfect way to rest up before our drive. We enjoyed the views of the mountains as we rested. Relaxing among nature we reflected on all of the wonderful things we had seen so far and felt lucky to have had this experience.

Taking a break on the grass

Relaxing on the grass

Taking a much needed break... Not a bad view

Taking a much needed break… Not a bad view

More Quick Tips

  • Don’t forget to bring your NPS annual pass with you on the shuttle.
  • For a good meal in Springdale try Whiptail Grill. Their food is fresh and the views are spectacular.
  • Food can be pricey inside the park. Try the convenience store/ market right outside the South entrance and pack your own lunch.
Whiptail Grill near our hotel

Whiptail Grill near our hotel

Great lunch at Whiptail Grill with a great view!

Great lunch at Whiptail Grill with a great view!