On our way to Bryce Canyon we figured we’d stop at Kolob Canyons, which was our first introduction to Zion National Park. We hiked the Timber Creek Overlook trail at the end of the road. It gave great views looking south of much of the park.
After we visited Bryce Canyon we made are way back to Zion. Coming from the East side, we were surprised that to get to our hotel, in Springdale, we had to drive through the entire park first; therefore, we had to pay the National Park Fees. Since the park pass is good for 7 days this wasn’t an issue. There are two tunnels on the road in the park. The longer tunnel is named Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel and was completed in 1930. Since back in the 30’s, you wouldn’t see too many RVs and large trailers the height of the tunnel is rather short (compared to modern standards). Because of this, we had to stop and wait for large RV’s to take their turn before we entered into the tunnel. However, the wait was worth it, the views as we descended into the park were spectacular. Due to our schedule, we actually went through both tunnels five times – but no complaining here, each time was just as spectacular as the last.
We stayed at the Canyon Ranch Motel. Nothing spectacular, but the price was right. It did have some nice porch swings to sit and drink a cold one under the dark night sky (look for shooting stars, as we saw a few!). It was also within walking distance to most restaurants and shopping. Plan on spending 30% more for groceries and gas in the town of Springdale. If you go out to eat just after sunset expect to wait for a table, as this tends to be when everyone decides to eat.
We booked a full day canyoneering trip with Red Desert Adventures. Jefe was our guide and picked us up early from our hotel. As there are no guided trips allowed in the park we drove out of the park and up to the Birch Hollow trailhead. Jefe left us to hike down a primitive trail as he made a car shuttle for our way out. We started off on a 40′ repel to get us warmed up for the canyon. This was Kate’s first time repelling and with the help of Jefe it was a breeze. The morning consisted of repel then hike, repel then hike, etc.
We stopped for lunch just before our longest repel of the day, a 90′ drop. This would start us off on multiple short and long repels for the next 1/2 mile. We lost roughly 1800′ from where we started in the morning. Before we knew it, we were exiting out to Orderville Canyon. If we had taken a left after we got down and out we would have ended up in the park and came out of the Narrows. Instead, we took a right and hiked a mile or so back to the dropped car.
We are not a fan of guided trips, but were glad we booked it and that Jefe was our guide. We only saw 5 other people that day in the canyon, and it was easy enough to wait a few minutes to space out among the others. After a fabulous canyoneering trip we returned to the hotel, grabbed a cold drink and watching shooting stars. It was a great way to finish an amazing day.
The next morning, we woke up early to get the day going. From the visitors center we boarded a shuttle and got off at the Grotto. From there we began our hike up to Angels Landing. We hung back to avoid the mass amount of people that also got off the bus with us. Once we got started the hike was peaceful and the sun rising into the canyon was breathtaking. We weren’t expecting this to be a paved path, but it was. Walters Wiggles (though we called it “Willies Wiggles”) were fun constant short switchbacks up to Scouts Landing. We got to the landing in about 45 minutes. To do the last 1/2 mile takes about an hour due to the traffic. It is narrow path with steep cliffs on either side. A chain link rail helps those in doubt. We decided to avoided the crowd and head back down. We passed a multitude of people all on their way up to join the masses.
Back on the Shuttle we headed to the end of the road. After a short mile walk we reached the beginning of the Narrows. We then headed back to the shuttle and out of the park. The shuttle goes up the canyon 6 miles, and only takes about 20 minutes one way.
But we weren’t done with Zion yet. We had to do one more short walk that was off the beaten path. Our mission was to find petroglyphs, art of the natives carved into the rock. We couldn’t find any public information on how to get there, and we didn’t get any help from the Park Rangers either. But nonetheless we found it! Past the shorter of the two tunnel there is a pull off and a path that leads back under the road. It is less than a mile from the road, yet less than 20 groups a month sign the guest registry. It is my belief that only because these images are under an overhang and shaded that they have survived the elements. The Petroglyphs that we saw were between 800-2000 years old.
Despite the masses of people, we had a great time in the beautiful Zion National Park. Going canyoneering was a great experience and finding a trail or path away from the main attractions gave us a true appreciation for Zion.