May 06, 2012

Zion National Park

Of the major national parks we have been to so far (Yosemite and Grand Canyon), Zion struck us as having the most scenic beauty. Zion National Park offers gorgeous views no matter which direction you are looking at, and has a serene and quiet quality about it that just puts your mind to rest. The red cliffs, green canyons and blue skies make for a beautiful combination.

The Zion Valley

The Virgin River that flows through the park is surrounded by tall cottonwood trees that provide ample shade and a great place to hike along the river.

An easy way to get acquainted with the park is to take the roundtrip ride on the free shuttle from the Visitor’s Center to the very end of the park. The shuttle makes stops along the way at trailheads and picnic areas, and plays a recording that tells you all about what you see outside the shuttle bus windows.

While in the park, we hiked the Emerald Pools trails (the lower, middle and upper pools), the Riverwalk trail and the Angel’s Landing trail.

The waterfall at lower Emerald pool
Middle Emerald Pool
The hike through the Narrows
The most spectacular was the Angel’s Landing trail. You start at the bottom of the valley, quickly ascend by following paved sidewalks carved into the bluffs, then you hike through a narrow passageway in a canyon. After 2.5 miles you get to Scout’s Lookout. Here you can choose to hike back down or continue to Angel’s Landing.

The reason you get a choice is because the climb to Angel’s Landing is pretty perilous. You have to use chains in most places as you are either hiking up really steep portions of the mountain between huge boulders, or you are walking along a 3 foot wide path carved into the cliff wall, with sheer 1200 foot drop offs on the other side. At one point, you have to cross a 20 foot ridge, where you have the 1200 foot drop offs on both sides. You finally arrive at the tip top of the mountain that is actually the Angel’s Landing. This is a collection of slick rocks that slope down. Here you can sit on the rocks and enjoy your lunch while getting spectacular views of the park.

Sky, hiking up Angel's Landing
At the top of Angel's Landing
Views from the Angel's Landing hike
On the hike down from Angel's Falls, there is a stretch of trail that goes right along the bluff, and it was so windy there! After a hot hike, the chilly breeze was awesome:

We spent two full days exploring the park, and probably could have seen a lot more. Truthfully, I am little hiked out at the moment. We heard about an awesome Observation Point trail, that our fellow courchsurfers hiked, but chose to save it for next time. I am looking forward to taking a rest on the hiking and climbing for a bit, and relaxing on the beach!

To see more pictures of the park, click here.

Happy Zion exploring,


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