The combination of jetlag and our early rise Grand Canyon schedule allowed us to get up bright and early to set off to our next destination–Zion National Park. We couldn’t resist stopping one (or three) more times for final views of the ginormous canyon we had just conquered. The views are different around every corner and definitely don’t get old.
The drive through Northern Arizona and Southern Utah was 4.5 hours of stunning views. The entrance into the heart of Zion National Park is no exception; it takes about 20 minutes to navigate through postcard-worthy landscapes into the heart of the park. We arrived in Zion National Park around 3PM and headed to the Visitor Centre to scope out our best hiking option. All four of us were having some trouble walking post-GC as you can imagine, so we opted for a light route suggested by the ranger. Zion was definitely the busiest/most popular park we visited other than the GC; however, the majority of GC visitors don’t hike the Canyon so Zion actually felt the busiest. This is due, in part, to its proximity to Vegas, spectacular beauty, and also accessibility. The entire park is easy for people of all ages and fitness levels to explore with a wide range of walks and activities, as well as a free shuttle that transports visitors from end-to-end of the park.
The first stop in the park we made was Riverside Walk–a short trail that leads to what is known as “The Narrows.” We had heard from the rim-to-rim GC hikers that The Narrows was a very famous “bucket list hike” that took 8 hours to complete fully–and wasn’t the best place to be in a flash flood. Essentially hiking through The Narrows entails wading through 2-3 ft. of water in the narrowest section of the 1000ft walls of Zion Canyon. We definitely did not have 8 hours to spare and the moderate risk of flash flood (combined with our lack of watershoes) meant we couldn’t tread too far but we spent about an hour getting our feet wet *pun intended*. Pictures don’t do this place justice and I will definitely be returning to complete this hike!
By the end of our short afternoon exploring Zion we were completely in awe of the park and made the executive decision to extend our visit one day longer to complete a famous hike we couldn’t stop hearing about–Angels Landing. All we knew about Angel’s Landing was that a section of the hike involved chains; in hiking this means that the chained portion is either very steep or a very tall drop off. The informational sign about Angel’s Landing advises that children and those scared of heights should steer clear of the trail; it also mentions that 6 people have died on it since 2004. Needless to say we were a bit nervous about it, but were on the trail by 8AM the next morning nonetheless. The sheer volume of other people on the trail is comforting, as its hard not to think “if they can do it so can I.” It took about 1.5 hours of very steep switchbacks to reach the beginning of the dreaded chain.
Now I’m not going to sugarcoat this part–the entire 45 minutes of chain-lined cliff face to the peak of the hike was extremely beautiful and extremely TERRIFYING. 50% of the route consisted of hiking on a trail where one wrong step would send you flying off an 1000ft cliff. One section I remember all too vividly involved making your way across a section 10m long and 1m wide with 1000ft drops on either side–and some crazy person decided no chain was necessary. Despite this, I was floored by the amount of people completing the hike; I really thought a greater percentage of the population had a fear of heights. Additionally, Caiti and I added the trail to our own “List of Hikes to Not Take Your Children Under 10 On,” despite the number of kids we crossed (I think my mom would faint watching video of me doing this at 21).
After an adrenaline-filled hike to the summit, the 360 degree views at the top were absolutely incredible. We decided to spend an hour at the top enjoying our lunch to a) return to baseline, and b)muster the courage to go back down. Despite expecting that going down would be far worse than coming up, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the opposite was true. We still aren’t sure what gave us a sudden boost of confidence, but the return leg of the chain felt like a breeze comparatively.
All in all, will definitely be returning to Zion National Park and would highly recommend it to anyone! If you’re wanting to camp in the park, book in advance–this place is popular!