Zion National Park – Heaven on Earth
Last summer I took my first trip out West and the very first place I decided to visit was Zion National Park. I had seen a lot of pictures of Zion on the Yonder App and was eager to see it’s remarkable beauty for myself. There are so many amazing sights to see in Zion, but unfortunately, I only had two short days to spend here before having to continue on my journey. It was also the end of June, which meant the height of tourist season and daytime high temperatures averaging around 105°F. So I needed to pick a couple of trails to hike and I wanted to time them so as to avoid the worst of the crowds. There really wasn’t any way for me to get to see all that I wanted to see if I was going to try to avoid the worst of the heat. So I picked an easy one to start with, the Emerald Pools trail, and left my main goal for the day, the Angel’s Landing Trail, for later on in the afternoon when it would be hot, but not as crowded.
I had made the 3 hour drive from Las Vegas that morning and had to park out on the street in Springdale. The parking lot at the Zion National Park Visitor’s Center was full and it was too early to check into the Zion Canyon Campground. Parking was easy to find just off of the main road and it was a quick walk down to the main entrance. There are plenty of shuttle stops in Springdale as well, although you have to change shuttles after entering the park. At the entrance, I purchased my National Park Annual Pass, which was a great $80 investment, and one that I will be sure to renew every year.
I took the shuttle up to the Zion Lodge stop, and eager to get started, headed right across to the Emerald Pools Trailhead. The Emerald Pools Trail is the perfect intro to Zion National Park. It is a short and easy hike to some secluded pools with shimmering waterfalls further up in a side canyon. It’s probably the most hiked (walked) trail in Zion National Park, as it is family friendly and the most accessible trail in the park to those with disabilities. This is definitely not along the lines of the more adventurous trails that I normally choose, and I usually tend to avoid the tourist traps, but I’m glad that I went on this one. It’s quite a beautiful little trail with plenty of shade, and if you can make it to the upper pools, a really nice place to break for a snack or lunch. Be sure to check out my detailed Emerald Pools Trail Guide.
After a quick snack at the upper pools I headed back down the Kayenta Trail towards the Grotto. This trail is not as crowded and more exposed to the sun, and the 105°F heat. While I was stopped taking some pictures a family of 5 passed me by with some elementary to middle school-aged children. From what I could tell, they had 1 half empty bottle of water between them and were only a half mile into the trail and what could be at least another 1-2 hours out in the heat. I called out to the oldest child and tossed him a spare bottle that I had with me and made a point of telling them to carry more with them next time. This level of unpreparedness was unfortunately something that I would see all too often over the coming week.
When I got to the Grotto, I hopped the shuttle back to the Zion Lodge for a quick lunch at the Castle Dome Café. The food was decent and the prices were not as bad as I would have expected. You can even get soft serve ice cream and a cold beer here. After refilling my remaining water bottle and hydration bladder I took the shuttle back up to the Grotto and the West Rim trailhead that would lead me to Angel’s Landing. The shuttle system here is excellent, with wait times that average about 15 minutes or less during the peak season.
I started the hike up to Angel’s Landing around 2:45 in the afternoon. It was really hot, but I was feeling good and was on a pretty good adrenaline rush from finally getting to go hike there. I made incredible time on the first stretch then through Refrigerator Canyon and up Walter’s Wiggles to Scout’s Lookout. I had read about the last portion of the ascent to Angel’s Landing, with the narrow path and chain railings, but was definitely awestruck when I saw it for myself. Several times, over wobbly knees, I had to ask myself what the heck were they thinking when they built this trail!?!
My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth’s loveliness. ~ Michelangelo
But when you get to the top the answer to that becomes quite obvious. Angel’s Landing may be the most aptly named place I’ve ever seen. The view of the main Zion Canyon from Angel’s Landing is unbelievable and absolutely takes your breath away. This trail is not for the faint of heart, but well worth the knee-shaking ascent to the top. Be sure to check out my detailed Angel’s Landing Trail Guide for a full description of this amazing little piece of heaven on earth.
On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it. ~ Jules Renard
On the way back down I ended up jogging the last mile or so of the trail next to a young woman from Iowa. When we got onto the shuttle we started talking and I introduced her to the Yonder app. She is definitely a kindred spirit and I love seeing all of the adventures that she shares. It was great to make a new friend out on the trail.
That night I camped out along the river at the Zion Canyon Campground. It’s a nice little RV Campground just up the road from Zion National Park. The price is a little high, there was no electric at my site, the showers weren’t very good, and the WiFi was spotty at best. But the location was perfect and overall it was a decent place to crash for the two nights that I was here, and I was fortunate enough to get a site on this last minute trip, as most everything in this area books up months in advance.
The next morning I was up early to try and catch one of the first shuttles up to the Temple of Sinawava. I wanted to beat the crowds into The Narrows and be able to experience some of its beauty before the flocks of tourists made there way up there. It was a little after 8am by the time I got up there and there were only a handful of people that had gotten out a head of me. This made for some great photo opportunities without anyone in the frame and was well worth the early wake up.
The Narrows were absolutely amazing! Hiking through the river and seeing the canyon walls towering above you is an unbelievable experience. Around every bend in the river was another incredible sight to see. The pictures that I had seen of The Narrows in no way did it any justice. The canyon walls are just too immense for you to appreciate their magnitude without standing beneath them. This is truly something that you need to experience for yourself. If you’ve only got a day to spend in Zion, make sure you spend it in the Narrows. Don’t forget to check out my detailed Zion Narrows Trail Guide before you go.
I only had a half a day to spend here and although I made the most of it by hiking about 3.5 miles in, it definitely wasn’t enough time. I would have stayed a full day here, but there was another gorgeous slot canyon outside the park that I was dying to check out as well. By the time I started to head back down the river The Narrows were congested with people, and while still a fun experience, it had definitely lost the feeling of peace and tranquility that I enjoyed on the hike up.
I caught the shuttle and headed back out of the park to stop by the Zion Adventure Company where I had the opportunity to meet a fellow Yonderer who had recently moved to the area and was loving all that it had to offer. It was really cool to be able to meet someone that I had been interacting with on the Yonder app! After a quick hello and chat I headed back to the campground for lunch, took a mid afternoon siesta, and resupplied before heading back out to Kanarra Falls. You can read all about that adventure in my next post…
My only regret in visiting Zion National Park was that I didn’t have more time to spend there. Zion National Park is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world and will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to go back and explore it some more! Until next time. Namaste!
Here’s some albums with more pictures from my adventures in Zion National Park