If there's one word I would use to describe how I felt while visiting Zion National Park it would be 'small'. Actually 'small' might not even be the right word. A tiny speck on the earth might be a better way to describe how I felt while visiting these massive canyons in the park. On Wednesday, May 11th we left Las Vegas and headed north. From Las Vegas it's about a two and half hour drive to Zion. We headed north on Interstate 15 and drove through an amazing part of Arizona!
When we arrived we parked in Springdale, The town of Springdale is right next to Zion National Park. It's a beautiful town with a few hotels, shops and restaurants. If we ever get to return to Zion I would love to spend a few days here. We found parking along the street and there is a shuttle that will take you to the park entrance since the parking lot was already full when we arrived.
We thought this shuttle would take us into the park but instead it dropped us off at a bridge where we walked to the pedestrian entrance of the park. We paid our admission and then headed to another shuttle stop that would take us into the park. There are nine shuttle stops in Zion and we decided to get off the last stop to hike along the river. Part of the hike can actually be completed in the Virgin River. The day we visited, there was a warning for a flash flood so hiking in the river was not permitted,
This hike was pretty easy and there wasn't much elevation change along the way. It was a bit crowded at times. The canyons on this trail are so tall that you feel like you're standing next to a sky scraper.
Once we reached the end of the trail we turned around and headed back to the shuttle stop. The shuttles in Zion arrive every 15 minutes and they are really efficient! We never had to wait very long. Our next stop was the hike to Angel's Landing. Before even starting this hike I was nervous about it because I could see the cutout in the canyon from the road. Could I really hike up there?
We figured we would hike a far as we could and then turn around when we felt like it. As we hiked upwards the narrow path and heights didn't seem to bother me much, but the elevation did! I was huffing and puffing the whole way as we made the climb! Only being a week and a half removed from running the Pittsburgh half marathon this kind of surprised me but we really don't have elevation changes like this in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
After climbing the steep front face of the canyon, the trail leveled off and went back into a wooded area. This was a nice flat walk compared to the steep trail we just climbed. I was also glad that we did this hike in late afternoon. The entire trail was shaded, which was really nice. If the sun would have been shining on us, I think it would have made things much more difficult. Bringing water and a little bit of food is a must for this hike, as well as being in decent shape. It was a pretty strenuous hike.
After making it up the front portion of the canyon I thought the steep climbs were over. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. After this nice long path in a 'wooded' area we found another steep climb of switchbacks. At this point I felt really annoyed with this hike and the climb in elevation. I was starting to think that I really wasn't cut out for hiking but figured I had made it this far and I didn't want to turn around now.
Eventually we made it to the top of the switchback's to a portion of the trail called 'Scout's Lookout'. It was here that I started to realize just how far we had climbed. I also looked in front of me at the remaining portion of the trail where I saw people climbing down rocks or scooting on their butts down the rocks, while holding a chain.
There was also a sign posted on this portion of the trail that said six people had died from falling while trying to climb it since 2004.
Um. No, thanks,
The heights were already starting to bother me just being at Scout's Lookout. I was afraid I would 'freeze' going up the Angel's Landing. Plus I really wanted to go home from vacation and I can always just look at photos of Angel's Landing on Instagram.
We decided to head back down and call it a day for hiking. Going down was certainly easier than going up. We found that it was actually easier to run down the switchbacks than to walk. When we walked we had to hold ourselves back and it just made things harder. Running back down was actually kind of fun!
As soon as we got back to the shuttle stop a bus showed up to pick us up. My feet felt like they were on fire, my calves were super tight and my knees ached, but I felt very accomplished after that hike. After these two hikes we were super hungry! When we made it back to Springdale we immediately starting looking for food. Fortunately there is a grocery store right outside of the park. We bought some turkey wraps and had an impromptu picnic outside. Even just having a picnic in Zion is extraordinary!
After our picnic, we took the Springdale Shuttle back to our rental car and headed to Cedar City where we were staying for the night. The next day, we came back to Zion after visiting Bryce and drove the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway on our way back to Las Vegas. I will include that ride in another blog post. Zion is just too big for one post!
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.