travel

Hikes, Tips, and Pictures from Zion National Park

I recently wrote about my visit to Moab, Utah which included Arches and Canyonland’s.  I decided to dig up some old photos from my trip to Zion in September of 2016 to show you all of my Utah National Park adventures!  Out of all three parks, I think Zion was my favorite.  My friend asked me if this was because it was my first national park, but I really don’t think so.  Upon entering the park, you drive up these windy roads that take you right up the canyon and through a tunnel. It was like nothing I have ever seen before. It even made me forget that my boyfriend just rammed the back of our rental car into a pole in the visitor center’s parking lot (we have quite the driving record between the two of us).

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This is the moon!
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The deer near Zion Lodge let you get this close!

Angel’s Landing

Difficulty: Strenuous with steep switchbacks and long drop offs

To get there: Take the bus to The Grotto Trailhead

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip

This is the hike everyone talks about.  It’s very popular, and rightfully so – it is amazing.  The hike starts off on level ground and then takes you to a series of long switchbacks that are mostly covered by shade from the canyon, so the walk is pretty easy and scenic.  The switchbacks then start to get much shorter and steeper and are called Walters Wiggles; the name is much more entertaining than this part of the hike.

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Walter’s Wiggles takes you to the top of the ridge, Scout Lookout. From here you will see the last 1/2 mile of the hike.  I read so many things that made me believe I wasn’t going to be able to do this part, but it really wasn’t that bad. Make sure you hold the chains and don’t get too close to the edge. It is worth it!

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Last 1/2 mile of the hike

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Emerald Pools

Difficulty: Easy stroll. We did this after Angel’s Landing, so it was easy enough to do after that hike.

To get there: Take the shuttle to Zion Lodge. The Emerald Pool’s Trail will be across the street.

Distance: .6 miles to the lower pool, 1 mile to the middle pool, and 1.5 miles to the upper pool. These distances are all one way. When we went in the afternoon, it was shaded from the canyon.

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Middle Pool
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Upper Pool
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Upper Pool. They caution you to be weary of slick conditions, but I think it was pretty dry when we went there except for this little part.
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Spotted some deer on the return trip

The Narrows “Bottom Up” Day Hike

Difficulty: Moderate. It is only strenuous because you are walking through a river and need to be careful.

To get there: Take the shuttle all the way to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. Go up the Riverside Walk Trail and then just hike right up the river.

Distance: Up to 16 miles round-trip,but you can make it as long as you want to. It is 2.5 miles from Temple of Sinawava to Wall Street (most narrow part of the canyon walls) and Orderville Gulch (side hike).

This is another famous hike in Zion you have to do.  I recommend spending a day doing Angel’s Landing and dedicating an entire day for The Narrows. The best time for pictures if between 10am-3pm. The walls will look completely different from hour to hour as the light changes. Make sure to pack food -this is a pretty long hike if you want it to be. It’s completely shaded.

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Start of the Orderville Gulch hike. This hike requires a permit and is semi-technical; there are short rappels, scrambling, and wading.

Wall Street slideshow:

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East Rim

Difficulty: Strenuous with a lot of switchbacks, but we left around 5/5:30 pm so the sun was directly on the switchbacks. We also camped at the top of the canyon so had pretty heavy backpacks. It is also easy to get lost on the slickrock (marked by cairns), so we brought a compass and topographic map.

To get there: Take the shuttle to the Weeping Rock stop

Distance: You can go for up to 11 miles, but the camping area at the top of the canyon is much sooner. It feels like forever because of the elevation gain.

You can see Weeping Rock and Observation Point on this hike. We skipped both of these since it was getting late and we were going camping, but I really wish we had done Observation Point! I heard this is an even better view than Angel’s Landing. There isn’t a designated campsite, but you need a permit if you are going to camp. The landscape changes drastically on this hike; you go from switchbacks, to Echo Canyon, through slickrock, and then to ponderosa pines.

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Switchbacks
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Top of the switchbacks

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Start of Echo Canyon
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Ponderosa Pines

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Where We Stayed

Airbnb- The Yurt in Orderville

This was a compromise to camping with my boyfriend, but it really wasn’t anything like camping.  It was extremely secluded, but there were plenty of beds, a kitchen, running water, a grill, and a bathroom.  There is a cooler, but you need to bring ice to keep things cool.  From what I remember, it was pretty far from the park (maybe 30-60 minutes) and you had to take a dirt road to get there. I read that the dirt road can get pretty muddy and hard to drive on when it rains, but luckily we didn’t have any problems. This was one of the coolest Airbnb’s I’ve ever stayed in. I’d love to come back with a group of friends one day.

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Solar powered lights line the yurt

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Airbnb- Guest house in Toquerville

I loved this guest house. It was an easy 30 minute drive to the park and was clean, comfortable, and had an awesome deck that the host served us breakfast on. At night we could choose to get breakfast served to us the next morning or get a voucher to a local coffee shop.  We did both, but the breakfast at the Airbnb was my favorite. Unfortunately the only picture I took here was of my breakfast, which was delicious.

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Camping

Our yurt experience didn’t satisfy my boyfriend’s yearning to camp, so we ended up camping on the East Rim one of the nights. We got this tent from his Uncle in California a few days before our trip. As you can see, it was not a light tent that backpackers prefer. This is part of the reason the hike up to the plateau was so treacherous.

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Know Before You Go

Same tips from my Moab post:

  • Go to Arches and Canyonlands before you to go Zion
    • The hikes in these 2 parks are a warm-up for Zion. I found Arches and Canyonlands hikes to be much more easy and accessible than those at Zion.
  • Arches and Canyonlands are better for biking and off-roading.  Zion is better for hiking.
  • There is a lot more to the town in Moab than Zion. We liked walking around Moab at night to get ice cream and souvenirs.
  • We tried to bar hop, but forgot about the law in Utah that requires you to buy food any time you get a drink
    • Speaking of alcohol, there are no happy hour drink specials
    • All draft beers are 4% alcohol or less. Buy canned beer at restaurants if this bothers you.
  • There are new fees for national parks. It costs $25 per vehicle to enter, so if you know you’ll be going into the parks for at least 4 days or you will be going to another national park in the country at some point in the year, buy the $80 year-long pass for all parks

Tips specific to Zion:

  • Try to do your hikes in the morning when it’s not as hot.
  • Stay in Springdale if you want to do any sunrise hikes or you just want to get an early start. There’s plenty of hotels right along the shuttle line.
    • The campsites near the park entrance fill up quickly
  • If you’re camping, be prepared. It is hot during the day, but it gets cold at night. This makes for tough packing.
  • I can’t remember where we ate, but the food was surprisingly good (better than Moab).
    • If you aren’t staying in Springdale, bring other clothes that you can go to dinner in after your hikes. You will be starving after a long day and the last thing you’ll want to do it go back to your hotel/Airbnb to get clothes.
    • Make reservations. Again, you won’t want to wait and the good places get crowded.
  • The Narrows
    • We did the “bottom up” day hike, but you can also do the “top down” two-day hike that includes backpacking. You need to get a permit to do this.
    • The beginning of the hike is crowded, like hundred and hundreds of people, but as you keep going there will be less and less hikers . You have to go the 2.5 until the walls get more and more narrow (Wall Street). Most people don’t go to this point.
      • I got frustrated about people being in my picture, but looking back on these they provide great perspective
    • Check the flash flood warning before you do the hike. Check this in the beginning of the week so you don’t end up missing out on the hike.
    • You will be in knee-deep water most of the time, so you will want to have good footwear and hiking poles. We rented ours at an outfitter literally right outside of the park entrance, but you can get the same thing cheaper further down before you get on the shuttle. Along with the shoes and poles, they give you the option to get neoprene socks to keep your feet warm; I recommend these if you’re going to be serious about this hike.
    • Wear shorts (like I said, knee-deep water) and layer your tops. I was comfortable in a workout top with a hoody over it in September.
    • Don’t bring anything you don’t want to get wet.  You can get a drybag, but I’m not sure how much protection this gives to cameras. You’ll want to have your camera out the entire time anyway, so think about whether or not you want to take this risk.  I brought my sister’s mirrorless Sony a5100, which was very risky. I saw a few people slip and fall on rocks and go completely under. You can feel around with the hiking pole to make sure you have good footing and that you’re not stepping into a deep pool.

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