Saturday, November 24, 2012
Top 5 National Parks - #2 Zion
Zion National Park...you are truly amazing! This post felt a bit daunting to start, because I've visited this park twice and done nearly everything a person could do there. This post could end up being super long with details of each day hike and backpacking trip, but I don't really want to go that route. Instead I'll just give a brief description of the hikes we did, favorite part of the hike, and share some pictures. One disclaimer, my first $90 point and shoot camera was all I had with me on my first trip to Zion, so I could only find a couple pictures I felt comfortable sharing!
First, we went to the less visited Kolob Canyons area of Zion and I highly recommend this (if you are willing to backpack). This area also would be nice to just drive through, if you were up for a little scenic drive. We started a 3-day trip from Lee Pass Trailhead and saw very few people the entire time we were out on La Verkin Creek Trail. We camped very close to Kolob Arch (which was beautiful first thing in the morning with the sun shining on it) and then took a side trip down a slot canyon to a little waterfall (can't remember the name of the canyon and it isn't on the park map). This trip was most difficult at the end, coming back up from the canyon. Once in the canyon, it's pretty flat and gorgeous with the canyon walls all around you. Good spots for swimming too!
Our campsite along La Verkin Creek Trail. Great spot!
Off the beaten path....down the slot canyon to the little waterfall.
One of the scariest hikes I've ever been on has to be Angel's Landing at Zion. If you google it, you'll find out that 6 people have fallen to their deaths in the last 8 years on this hike. I really can't believe I did it, given my fear of heights. It's not like climbing a mountain. It's walking along a narrow (seriously....one wrong step and you could fall straight down) ridge with 1200 foot drop on one side and 800 foot drop on the other. On top of that, way too many people who are not careful or experienced go up there, so you have to worry about them too! It's a challenging and terrifying 5 mile round trip hike, but the views are incredible and it's just unlike anything else you'll ever do.
For people who want something a little easier and safer, check out the the 3 mile round trip Emerald Pools trail. Make sure you see the lower, middle, and upper pools. You don't get any views from high up on this hike, but it's still beautiful and (depending on the time of year) you'll encounter some waterfalls too.
Upper Emerald Pool Reflection
Probably the most well known hike at Zion National Park is The Narrows. I didn't do the Narrows on my first visit because I wanted to wait for Allyson to do it with me. I'm glad I did. It was an awesome day exploring the slot canyon. You have to do this if you go to Zion. You don't have to go very far to appreciate it, but you do have to go early in the morning and far out to escape the crowds. Thankfully, we went early in the morning and saw few people, but coming back in the afternoon we battled lots of families towards the beginning of the hike. You walk right through the river, so I recommend a pair of old running shoes that you don't mind ruining and a hiking pole/stick if you have one.
Another classic hike in Zion National Park is Observation Point. This is a fairly strenuous hike, especially on hot summer days. You are in the sun a lot of the hike so bring plenty of water and sunscreen for the hike. It's 8 miles round trip and you will experience hiking across awesome rocks and through slot canyons while ending up with probably the best view in the park. It's worth the view!
Echo Canyon on the way to Observation Point
View from the top
This park has a great shuttle that drives everyone from the visitor center all the way through the valley to The Narrows with stops along the way. For people who can't hike, it is still worth taking the shuttle through the park. For those that want to hike, there's a hike here for everyone!