OUR BIG TRIP, PT. I
We spent the first four days of our trip in Zion National Park, and to be honest this was what started the whole thing! We knew we wanted to experience the park and the hikes and adventures it had to offer, and then from there we started planning the rest of our trip (more details to come in the next blog post). Now, a disclaimer before I go on, my husband planned the entire thing! I let him take the lead and I am pleasantly surprised with his planning skills. Below I have detailed the hikes that we did but before that, a few overall details about the park and how we got there.
We flew into Las Vegas and rented a car and drove to the park from there. It was only about 2.5 hours and we were able to load up with some groceries at the Whole Foods that is quite literally right next to the Vegas airport. We knew that we would need snacks and I knew that I would need to do anything to keep Jon from getting hangry. To be honest on this part of the trip we didn’t go through as much as I thought we would! A few of our hikes we finished a bit earlier than we thought that we would and the town of Springdale is much more developed than I thought it would be.
WHERE WE STAYED
Jon booked the hotel closest to the entrance to the park, the Cliffrose. There are several options within a mile from each other, and to be honest the proximity to the actual gates to the park doesn’t really matter because you have to take a shuttle into the park. Cars are not allowed into the part that gets you to some of the biggest hikes, so there are several sources and shuttles offered for you to book. If you go to recreation.gov you can get tickets with bigger windows of time, but unfortunately they only release those tickets at 5 PM the night before. We tried one night at 5:07 PM and they were all sold out already!! So we booked through Zion Guru’s and it was great. We did have to pick a more exact time or pick ups but we had no problem hopping on one when we finished early.
Note: DO NOT be late for your pick up time!! While it’s easier to hop on a shuttle early, later is a different story and there was one driver that was none too happy when recounting a few stories. But this is why people likely prefer the other shuttles because you have a bigger window of time.
Between our hotel and the entrance to the park there’s this whole strip of markets so if you’re in need of supplies don’t feel like you won’t be able to get them in the park. There are several markets and restaurants as well and we were pleasantly surprised with how great the restaurants were! We loved Feel Love in particular for their vegan tofu breakfast scramble and I loved their Goddess Latte. And yes, be prepared to see a lot of vegan items… I guess they assume that if you’re hiking you’re a vegan.
IN THE PARK
You will need a park pass to get in and when you’re on the shuttle you just pass them up to the driver and they show them to the gate agent. Now, there was one sweet man who drove us that there was a couple who didn’t have a pass and he said, “well, maybe you’ll be one big family today”. It isn’t one pass per person but I believe one pass per car. But do not assume you’ll get a sweetheart like him as your driver. We panicked a bit on our first trip in because the driver looked shocked when we said we didn’t have a pass! But I don’t think you can get a pass anywhere but at the gate, which, every time we were on a shuttle they got one for someone in the shuttle who hadn’t been yet. So, no fear, you’ll be fine getting it the day-of.
Be prepared for crowds. I was actually shocked at how busy it was!! Felt more like Disney Land than a majestic and peaceful hiking venue. Apparently we went during a slow time of year, which I would recommend. There are also bathrooms throughout the park which was a pleasant surprise! When you do Angel’s Landing and/or Emerald Pools hike you’ll get dropped off at the Grotto and there is a building with restrooms at the beginning and there are even ports potties at the top of Scout’s Landing when you do the Angel’s Landing hike. There are also restrooms at the beginning of the Narrows hike, a different drop-off point, so don’t feel like you’ll be squatting every time you head out.
ANGEL’S LANDING: This was at the top of Jon’s list, and to be honest I didn’t know what I was getting into until a few days before we left. He was determined and I was, well, less than enthused. I read a ton of different blog posts as well as used the app All Trails (which was amazingly helpful, by the way), of people saying that it was too dangerous or too scary. So, obviously I started freaking out. But I read that you could still get up to Scout’s Lookout (where I took these pictures) and not do the scary part! To actually get to “Angel’s Landing”, you proceed from the landing using chains and some actual climbing to get to the summit. And to be honest, it wasn’t so much the “danger” part of it that made me stop and wait for Jon at the landing. It was the crowd! There were so many people!! So just at the beginning there were constant bottlenecks of people trying to get up and coming down as well. So for me the idea of having someone right behind me would make me feel rushed and I hated that feeling. Jon was even nervous and said that there were definitely times I would have been scared, but obviously hundreds of people do it every day and are fine. I actually read a post of a couple that went in October at 3 PM and basically had the place to themselves! That’s something to consider.
When: our shuttle pick-up was at 8 AM and we made it up to the lookout by 9:30 AM. It took Jon another hour to get to the summit and back and we were back down at the base around 11:30 AM.
Distance: without the summit it was 4 miles round-trip. I believe that including the summit it is closer to 5 miles round-trip.
Difficulty: just up to the outlook is what most people do and it’ll have you huffing and puffing. There are two sets of switchbacks that will test your fitness as well as your glutes! They get pretty steep seeing as you get all the way up to the landing just by walking. If you have bad knees I would be careful on the way down. It can wear on your knees going down that decline several miles.
WHAT I WORE
CANYON OVERLOOK TRAIL: This was a pleasant surprise!! And to be honest, this remains my favorite of the trip. This one you do have to drive to and that part can be fairly tricky because there is only one parking lot with about 8 spots. We went early in the morning and there wasn’t even anyone in the gate entrance! So we didn’t even have to show our pass, and were confused and concerned as we were driving up the canyon like we were doing something wrong haha. But we realized that the part you aren’t allowed to drive on is juts the part that turns toward the Grotto (Angel’s Landing, etc.). But you don’t turn into there and you just keep going straight for over 6 miles, and the parking lot is on the right immediately after the tunnel. Yes, there is a mile long tunnel that was built into the mountain that is (for me) stressful to drive through. But this quick hike was one of my absolute favorites and kinda the most fun! We got to see a mountain goat with its baby and since we went early there were only a few other people on the trail, which felt much better!
When: we left our hotel about 6:30 AM and made it to the end (the pictures you see below) about 7:15. And we went pretty slowly and took lots of pictures and videos. We made it for the sunrise which was amazing to watch the sun come up behind you and start reaching into the canyon. It was very chilly when we went and we kept saying it would have been perfect to have brought a thermos of coffee and hung out and watched the sunrise for a while.
Distance: Only a mile round-trip! Seriously.
Difficulty: Fairly easy. There are some parts that you’ll have a bit of an incline and there is a rickety bridge you have to go over but all in all it is more of a walk, and again, not very far at all.
WHAT I WORE
EMERALD POOLS: This one was a bit of a disappointment. It is the same start as Angel’s landing; get dropped off at the Grotto, then cross a small footbridge just to turn left instead of right. We saw these beautiful pictures of these actual emerald colored pools and thought how pretty that would be! Luckily we had this one planned for after Canyon Overlook which was a fairly short and easy one, but we had no idea the whole thing was that long. Needless to say we were quite disappointed when we got to the upper just to see a kind of light brown puddle. Now, we had been forewarned that since the water levels had been low lately that they wouldn’t be all that great, so, joke’s on us. After the lower pools (which was more a few cool waterfalls you can walk under) the views are really pretty! It takes you down toward the lodge and gives you a slightly different perspective from Angel’s Landing (obviously nowhere near as high). But if you are short on time and have to choose between this hike and another one? I’d skip this one.
Distance: 4 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Medium? If you just go to the lower pools it is fairly easy, but from the lower to the middle it not only takes quite a while but there are a few aggressive inclines. Then from the middle to the upper it is mostly “step-like” hiking. The reason this one was so tricky was because the trail was fairly busy which means you have to wait for people to pass and vise versa.
THE NARROWS: This one was so cool and such an amazing experience! So different from plain hiking and obviously for that had its difficulty, but such a cool experience. We rented the equipment from Zion Guru’s where you can go after 4 PM the day before to grab it. I highly recommend spending the money on this, the boots and waiters were amazing!! I literally was bone dry and luckily didn’t fall! While I had fully mentally prepared myself to do so. The trail walk just to get to the head of the river where you get in the water is a mile, so, that’s great. But from there you can obviously go as far as you’d like! The biggest draw for most people is Wall Street, which is basically a fork in the canyon where the slots really start to narrow and the views start to get even more amazing if you go left. We tried right for a bit and it wasn’t really much.
Now, keep in mind that it took us 2 hours and 3 miles (from the start) to get to Wall Street, and yes, you do have to turn around and go back the same way. We went another hour or so down Wall Street and honestly just got so tired that we knew the almost 4 mile return was enough. We did however snag a bite of lunch before we turned around which helped. ALONG with the fact that we went with the current on the way back. Between that and not stopping to take any pictures I think it took us half the time to get back.
When: Our shuttle left at 8 AM and we got onto a shuttle to return a bit before 2 PM. On the way out it wasn’t nearly as busy as it was on the return. Which can make things less enjoyable and take longer because certain passes you have to go single file.
Distance: 8 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult. If you are prone to spraining your ankle at the very slightest turn, I would not recommend this one. 98% of the walk in the water is on unstable and slick large rocks.
WHAT I WORE