Zion – National Parks Road Trip – Day 12

Zion National Park is 300 miles south of Salt Lake City, so despite our early start we didn’t arrive until mid-day. The drive down I-15 was punctuated by intermittent rain showers which did give us a number of excellent rainbows, as well as strange sights along the way like the Providence Lighthouse, in the middle of the Utah desert nowhere close to any water.

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There are two main visitor centers for Zion, the first as you come down from Salt Lake City is directly off off the interstate at the entrance to Kolob Canyon. After a brief stop here with the realization we weren’t quite there, we continued on through the small town of Touquerville and up the initial mountain until we arrived in Springdale, the main service town for the park, and location of our very overpriced hotel for the night

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We arrived not long after some strong thunderstorms.

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Because the canyon that makes up most of Zion is so small, and the park is so popular, personal cars are not permitted into the park unless you have reservations at the lodge. As we didn’t, we left the car at the main visitor center and took the shuttle bus. At first I was not in favor of this, but in the end it was very nice, as there is no traffic to speak of in the park, so car free we literally walked down the middle of the road for a couple of miles, moving over only for the occasion shuttle bus.

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We decided to take the shuttle to the end of the line of the six mile canyon. There were five stations for shuttles and each station had trails to explore the natural beauty of the canyon. Furthest up the canyon is the Temple of Sinawava, where we walked the riverside trail that was mostly paved until it reached the Zion Narrows Hike river trail. The Zion Narrows is the most narrow part of the canyon with steep cliffs lining the river that takes you trekking through the river as the trail. This trail is dangerous if it rains and can quickly change a calm stream into a raging wall of water. Sadly the day before 7 hikers had gone up the canyon before heavy thunderstorms arrived, and they didn’t make it out.

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The day we were there showed much evidence of the heavy rain and flooding that had occurred the day before. The aforementioned showery weather of the day continued on and off as light rain fell as we made it to the narrows.  The Narrows River Trail normally has pockets of chest deep water for hikers to maneuver as they wade through slippery rock along a challenging hike but this day the river was rambling fast so the narrows hike was closed to all hikers.

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Coming back down the canyon we took the park shuttle to Big Bend, entry point to a short but steep trail to a very tall waterfall on the eastern wall. As noted, without traffic we could then walk down the road to the next shuttle station at Weeping Rock. This walk, essentially by ourselves in the middle of this canyon was spectacular, with canyon walls soaring 2000′ above us. One surprising feature of Zion is the vegetation was the amount of cacti present, reminding us that despite the rainy weather we were in the desert.

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After a brief lunch at the lodge we hiked the Emerald Pools Trail, which lead to a muddy trail that led behind an upper and lower stacked waterfall; hey we have panchos, what’s the worst that could happen? Getting us drenched, but well worth it, even though in hindsight it was likely a bit dangerous. It started to rain again so we took the shuttle back to the visitor center’s gift shop to buy some items. Hiking in the mud and rain was exhausting and we were still wet when we got back to our overpriced hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express.

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Dinner was at the Bit and Spur Restaurant. We had ribs and tilapia for dinner and Oreo ice cream pie for dessert. A good ending to a very tiring but great day.

Zion is highly recommended (which attests to the more than 3 million people a year that go). It is on my list to return some day in drier weather and hike the Narrows.

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