Hiking in Zion

To celebrate my college graduation, Scott and I took my first ever hiking trip.  Hiking is one of those activities I’ve always wanted to get into, but I had no idea how much equipment or preparation was required!  I had to buy a pair of hiking boots over the winter so I had enough time to break them in, and I invested in some good shirts with built in sun protection.  Luckily I got one at Goodwill and the other on sale at Midwest Mountaineering or I would have spent a lot more money!  Hiking equipment is crazy expensive!  Anyways, I was excited about another way to get active outside, and since Scott has been hiking with his dad for a long time he took me to Zion National Park as a graduation present.  And he was nice enough to put up with all my inexperience ;P We decided to road trip which allowed us to visit a couple of the other nearby parks. On our way to Zion, we drove through Arches National Park though we only had time to stop at some of the scenic overlooks.  The rock formations were amazing and it was fun reading about the names they’d been given.  It would have been nice to do some of the hikes to get closer to the more iconic formations, but for this trip we had to settle for pictures from afar.

This formation had my favorite name: The Three Gossips. It totally looks like three friends chatting together!

Balancing Rock. I wonder when it will fall over

Balancing Rock. I wonder when it will fall over

Sand Dune Arch was only a short walk from the parking lot.  It was well named; there was ankle deep sand everywhere!

Sand Dune Arch was only a short walk from the parking lot. It was well named; there was ankle deep sand everywhere!  One family was even burying their kids in the sand as if they were at the beach

We got a picture of Tunnel Arch from the road

We got a picture of Tunnel Arch from the road

Delicate Arch is one of the most popular sites in the park

Delicate Arch is one of the most popular sites in the park

Pretty flowers were in bloom even in the middle of the desert

Pretty flowers were in bloom even in the middle of the desert

The park was definitely aptly named.  It’s kind of crazy that so many of these sandstone arches were formed in the same area.  But then again, maybe it’s not.  I’m an engineer, not a geologist. So we pulled into Zion as the sun was setting and had to set up our tent in the dark.  We noticed the clear night sky and though “Oh this will be lovely, we’ll leave the rain fly off tonight and sleep under the stars!”  Well, this wasn’t as enjoyable as we would have hoped since as soon as the temperature dropped the wind came howling through the canyon and we got coooooold.  Needless to say, we put the rain fly on the rest of the week.  So.  Our first day in Zion.  My first real hike ever.  We decide it would be a brilliant idea to do the longest hike in the park.  14 miles round trip through Kolob Canyon to see the Kolob Arch, the second largest natural arch in the world.  And apparently the arch in the top spot is close to collapsing, so old Kolob is in prime shape to become arch numero uno.  So we got as early of a start as we could considering our exhaustion from two days of driving and hiked down into the canyon.

Little lizards were EVERYWHERE doing their cute little lizard pushups

Little lizards were EVERYWHERE doing their cute little lizard pushups

The view while we hiked into the canyon

The view while we hiked into the canyon

Daisies!

Daisies!

The cacti were in bloom with these awesome hot pink flowers

The cacti were in bloom with these awesome hot pink flowers

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Another lizard, look at his pretty blue throat!

Another lizard, look at his pretty blue throat!

Our first snake viewing!  Don't worry, it wasn't poisonous

Our first snake viewing! Don’t worry, it wasn’t poisonous

The end of the hike, the Kolob Arch

The end of the hike, the Kolob Arch

We dipped our feet in the stream on our way back out of the canyon.  The water was freezing but it felt so good!

We dipped our feet in the stream on our way back out of the canyon. The water was freezing but it felt so good!

So most of the hike was great.  The landscape was gorgeous and it was fun seeing a bit of wildlife.  The last stretch of the hike requires crossing the beginning of the stream and there were frogs all over the place.  Apparently it was mating season because each one we saw was *ahem* paired up.  And at one point when we stopped for a snack we’re sure we heard a mountain goat baaah.  Unfortunately we couldn’t see it :(  The problem with the hike was that since we went downhill to get into the canyon we had to go uphill at the end of the day.  We were absolutely dead by that point and I’m pretty sure we were the last people coming out of the canyon.  There might have been some panic that we didn’t have the energy to make it… This hike actually had back country campsites so you could make the hike a two day trek.  I would definitely recommend doing this unless you’re a super speedy hiker.  Hint: site number 6 looked like the best one. Obviously we were pretty tired and sore the second day so we decide on an easy morning hike.  The Emerald Pools were a relaxing hike and were really beautiful.  The hike was ruined a bit by a group of jack ass guys who were climbing all over rocks they shouldn’t.  I might have hoped that one of them would sprain an ankle…

A view of Zion Canyon

A view of Zion Canyon

The waterfall tumbling into the lower pool.  A large boulder fell off the cliff edge just before I got this shot

The waterfall tumbling into the lower pool. A large boulder fell off the cliff edge just before I got this shot

The middle pool and the view beyond

The middle pool and the view beyond

The upper pool

The upper pool

Since the Emerald Pools hike was a short one we spent the afternoon on a trip to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park.  Wow was that place cool.  The views of the spires of red sandstone were so beautiful.  We saw a line of horseback riders down in the canyon and I would definitely like to do that some day.

A view from one of the outlooks

A view from one of the outlooks

You can see the trail winding through the canyon

You can see the trail winding through the canyon

The drive to Bryce Canyon was enough to refresh us for a full day of hiking the next day.  We started with a hike through Hidden Canyon and then walked up The Narrows in the hot afternoon.  Hidden Canyon was a thin path between sheer cliffs where shade kept temperatures cool and the vegetation green.  It was a nice change of scenery from the dry red cliffs.

We loved starting our hikes early in the morning when it was still cool

We loved starting our hikes early in the morning when it was still cool

*major goof, do not attempt To get to Hidden Canyon we walked along a lip on the cliff face, holding onto chains to prevent a deadly fall in case our feet slipped

*major goof, do not attempt
To get to Hidden Canyon we walked along a lip on the cliff face, holding onto chains to prevent a deadly fall in case our feet slipped

Inside the canyon, me inserted for scale

Inside the canyon, me inserted for scale

The cliffs formed a smooth wall on one side of the canyon.  The floor was covered in fine sand from the eroding rocks

The cliffs formed a smooth wall on one side of the canyon. The floor was covered in fine sand from the eroding rocks

The end of the trail, the rest of the canyon is preserved for wildlife

The end of the trail, the rest of the canyon is preserved for wildlife

More pretty flowers

More pretty flowers

I was slightly paranoid that any minute either a rock would come tumbling onto our heads or a mountain lion was going to pounce on our back.  Thankfully neither happened and we set out for The Narrows.  We did stop to see the Weeping Rock, the face of a cliff where water leaks out of tiny cracks, growing a coat of moss and ferns.

Why so sad, rock?

Why so sad, rock?

The Narrows was the hike Scott was looking forward to most and it did not disappoint.  The trail for this hike is the river itself and the ice cold water felt great in the heat of the afternoon.  This was obviously a favorite among the more casual tourists, girls in bikinis and boys in bro tanks were all over the riverbanks.  The river is wide at the trail head with some rocky banks beneath the cliffs, but the further up the river you went the cliffs narrowed around you and the trail became more amazing.  There’s an option for serious hikers to start at the top of the river and hike downstream, a 14 hour hike.  There’s a spot to camp overnight if necessary.  Hopefully we’ll get back to do that some day, but this time we took the easy option and just hiked upstream for a little while.

Snake sighting number two

Snake sighting number two

Funny story about the snake.  When we came back out of the river there was a squirrel sitting dead still in the middle of the road, staring at some bushes to the side.  A bunch of people were taking it’s picture but Scott and I were thinking, “What’s the squirrel looking at?”  The crowd of people dispersed and the squirrel ran away but we heard something rustling to our right.  Out popped this guy, and then he slowly slithered across the path.  We chuckled at the other tourists who had missed out on the sighting because obviously they weren’t paying any real attention.  A picture of a squirrel? Boooring.  A picture of a snake?  Pretty darn cool.

Our last day in the park we caught the earliest shuttle (6 am! Ugh!) to hike Angel’s Landing.  While it’s not the longest hike in the park it is the most strenuous and dangerous.  The hike starts with a long series of switchbacks up the side of the cliff before heading into Refrigerator Canyon (named for the cooling properties of the cliff walls) and another set of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, named after the first ranger to run the park and the creator of this hike.  This brings you to Scout’s Lookout where we caught our breath and ate a snack before tackling the hog’s back, a thin ridge of rocks with sharply sloping sides.  The very end of this ridge is Angel’s Landing.

Angel's Landing is the top of this peak

Angel’s Landing is the top of this peak

The hog's back

The hog’s back

Scrambling was necessary in some places

Scrambling was necessary in some places

Climbing up

Climbing up

We made it!

We made it!

The view from the top

The view from the top

The California Condor, once nearly extinct, has made a great comeback

The California Condor, once nearly extinct, has made a great comeback

Going back down was even more difficult than climbing up.  We found it easier to go down backwards

Going back down was even more difficult than climbing up. We found it easier to go down backwards

If you want to see more of this hike, watch this video on YouTube (the music is a little corny and one silly family brought their baby but it shows the hike better than my pictures can).  It was an amazing hike, but also pretty terrifying!  I never felt like I was in danger though, just be smart, careful, and hold on to the chains like they’re the hand of your dearest lover.

We got done with the hike before noon, so we spent the rest of the afternoon bumming around Springdale, the little touristy town next to the park.  We had lunch at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub and I swear an ice cold glass of water never tasted so good.  The beer and food were great too but I was all about that water.  We poked through all of the little gift shops and I picked up a little sandstone bear figurine and a piece of Navajo horse hair pottery.  I’ll have to show pictures some time.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with this crazy long post, but there was just so much to share after a week in such a gorgeous part of the country.  I plan on posting a little round-up of the hiking gear that helped us out the most on this trip, but for now I’ll let you scroll through all the pretty pictures again.

Have any of you ever been to Zion?  I’d love to hear your stories!

– Steph

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