A Little History Lesson
By 1909, Zion Canyon was practically inaccessible to outside visitors; and while only a few had laid eyes on the towering cliffs, the country still understood its significance and established Mukuntuweap National Monument. In 2009, the National Park Service is celebrating the Nation’s commitment to preservation and protection of the natural and cultural resources and providing visitor enjoyment in Zion National Park over the past 100 years.
Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons.
The Adventure Begins
Full Photo Album -> HERE
Day 1 – Saturday
The plan was to stay for a week and explore the National Park. Starting and ending on a weekend, this will allow for 8 days total vacation time. Two days to travel and 6 days of playing! We left early Saturday morning and made our way across California, Nevada, and a small section of Arizona. We arrived in Utah late that same evening and were eagerly awaiting to hit the trail the next morning! Our home for the next few days would be in Watchman Campground.
Day 2 – Sunday
We woke up to find ourselves surrounded my columns and peaks of sandstone. Colors ranging in the reds, oranges, yellows, brown, and whites. The Watchman Campground had a spectacular view of the southern entrance into the park. I took a few photos of our campsite before we set off on a trail.
Upon heading to the visitor center, we discovered a tram system was in place to take the public up and down the canyon. There was enough trams running up and down the canyon one only had to wait about five minutes before the next one arrived. They ran on natural gas, so definitely planet friendly! We didn’t have to drive anywhere, not even to the town of Springdale. Anyway, we decided to take on a short trail and do recon for the rest of the day. Our first trail ended up being the Watchman Trail.
The Watchman Trail is a 2 mile round trip climb to a spectacular view of the southern entrance to the park. It was an easy mile uphill and was close to the campground. We stopped for lunch along the way, took photos of flowers, each other, and different vista points along the way.
Eventually we reached the top of the trail. It was a great way to “warm up” our muscles from sitting all day yesterday. Plus we loved the views it created. I bought a book on Zion showing all the trails, so we pulled that out and read about some of the features we could see from this vista spot.
We arrived back at the Visitor Center, where the trailhead is located, and jumped on a tram to go up into the park. The road follows the Virgin River up the canyon. We arrived at the Zion Lodge and decided to check out the Emerald Pools. This trail does a loop and is about 2 to 3 miles round trip.
The trail was paved for about 90% of the entire loop. We walked behind a tall, but small, waterfall on the lower pool and made our way up to the middle one. Somehow we missed it and went all the way up to the highest emerald pool. It was really crowded there, but pretty. I would guess the waterfall was about 100 feet tall. We stayed for about 5 minutes and then made our way back down. We did run into the middle pool on the way back, but the lower and middle pools were nothing compared to the upper one.
As we made our way down we came acros an interpretive sign. It was discussing a landslide that had happened not to long ago. Out eyes skimmed across the valley to the otherside looking for the slide. We did end up seeing it and grabbed a photo. Concluding our trip back to Zion Lodge, we stumbled upon a tour buss of high schoolers going up the trail. We were glad we were heading out of there lol. Even though it was pretty, we both enjoy not having a crowd around when you hike in the outdoors.
With the day coming to an end, we took the tram back to camp. Airing out our feet, we made dinner and got ready for bed. We crashed once the sun went down because of our hike tomorrow. We decided we were going to try out Observation Point Trail. It is 4 miles and all uphill. Hikers gain an elevation of almost 3,000 feet! We wanted to get up early while it was cool outside.
Day 3 – Monday
Up early, a bowl of oatmeal, lunches made, and backpacks full, we took the tram up to Weeping Rock. Our trailhead started there and our adventure uphill to the plateau on top of the canyon began. We took our time and paced ourselves on the way up. I took a lot of photos on the way up. Diana set the pace for us and it was a great walk up in the shade. After about a mile of hiking uphill, we entered Echo Canyon.
Echo Canyon was what I had been hoping to see on this whole trip. I wanted to walk up a river and take photos of the steep canyon walls surrounding me. Echo Canyon provided that, but only for a short distance. It reminded me of the photos I saw for the Narrows. Unfortunately, it was still dark in the canyon so I saved my photos till the trip back down. We ate our Promax Bars for an energy boost just on the otherside of the canyon.
We did meet up with other people, but nothing like Emerald Pools. In fact, we were leaping frogging with one couple for at least half of the trip up to the top. A foreign couple, with a Nikon D300, took our photo for us in exchange for taking a photo of them. Again we took our time and was just taking in all the views. The entire trail is scenic and any point you stop is a great photo shot!
Around noon, passing through some really scary 1000+ feet drops, we made it to the top of the canyon. Walking on somewhat level ground was a nice change. We passed an intersection of another trail, the East Rim Trail, and continued on to our destination. The East Rim Trail was a potential hike to go on later during the week. It was supposed to be around 10 miles long, but most of it was on the plateau.
We arrived at Observation Point and the views were spectacular. Rich colors and the contrast against the sky was amazing. We were not the only ones up here though. Others had shared the same idea of breaking out lunch and enjoying the view. We couldn’t blame them as it was a great spot to eat and take it all in. The chipmunks were out and apparently familiar with the concept of humans equal food. Don’t worry as we didn’t feed any of them. While eating, one of them came up to Diana for some food. It was about 6 inches away from her foot. We waved it away and it quickly went over to the next group of people. Our lunch spot was the only spot in full shade, so we took off our shoes and socks to let them air out. As soon as lunch was over, we made our way back down the trail.
The trail back down to the tram was challenging in its own way. The worst spot of the trail was the short section of 1,000 foot drop offs. The trai was about 3 feet wide in some locations, so we “hugged” the wall of rock as we made our way. Once we were past that section, it was just a slow trek down the mountain. We didn’t want to go to fast as all the pressure was now on our knees. I snapped a few photos and one of the trail into Hidden Canyon.
Once back at the tram, we took a ride up the rest of Zion Canyon. We considered it a “scouting” trip to see what other areas were like and where we could possibly hike the next day. Diana wasn’t feeling too good as she felt a cold was coming on. We didn’t do any other hikes that day, but instead went back to camp to rest. We both needed a shower and decided we would do that after a nap.
Showers are a rare commodity in Zion. The park does not offer any public showers, so they refer people to Springdale. There was one store with one shower and it ran $5 a person. We ate dinner and soon discovered the shower was going to close in 1 hour. A little nervous, we quickly packed up a bag with clean clothes and shower materials. Thankfully the tram continues to run through town until 10 PM. However, instead of every 6 to 8 minutes, it is a 15 minute wait. By the time we arrived at our shower place, we were down to 40 minutes. Another couple needed the shower too so we all pleaded with the store owner to stay open and let us shower. We all promised to be quick and in about 30 minutes all 4 of us were clean. The shot was able to close up on time and we were very thankful for the shower. That nights sleep was the best!
Day 4 – Tuesday
Diana woke up sick with a cold. After sleeping in and finishing up breakfast, we went to the store to pick up some medicine. We then decided to take it easy that day and just ride the tram to shorter and easier hikes. Since we had scouted the whole canyon, we decided to travel to the Temple of Sinawava. The temple was located at the end of Zion Canyon. It also was the gateway to the Narrows. A short 1 mile trail, called Riverside Walk, lead to the beginning of the Narrows. We knew we coulding do the Narrows this trip because the river was so high. However, we take the Riverside Walk up the canyon.
The trail was a very easy and very nice trail to walk on. It was paved and wheelchair accessible. A perfect hike for “taking it easy” that morning. I took several photos along the way. One of my favorite spots was near the beginning. A tall waterfall was spilling out of the canyon. With my tripod setup, we waited for the best time and snapped a photo of us.
As we made our way up the canyon, we saw the hanging gardens. Vegetation was able to grow along side these steep canyon walls. Springs seemed to well up at various points. As we continued up the canyon the walls began to narrow and the trail was pushed up against the rivers edge. We discovered two squirrels that decided to sunbathe on the manmade rock walls. Near the end of the trail we took a photo showing we couldn’t do the narrows on this trip.
We arrived back at camp and Diana took another nap. Her cold wasn’t getting any better. I decided to read up on my camera and learn a few new tricks. I practiced on various subjects around the camp until she woke up. While she was napping I checked the weather for the next few days. It was thunder, lightning, and rain until sometime on Friday. It didn’t look promising, but after discussing it with her we decided to stick it out till Wednesday and see how bad it was going to become.
Day 5 – Wednesday
We woke up several times that night to thunder, lightning, hard rain, and fierce wind. It last this way all night and in the morning the rain was on and off. Our camp, like everyone elses, was a mud pit. The sandstone and clay had become mud. We both grew about 2 inches by the time we got to the bathrooms that morning. Checking the weather once more, nothing had changed. Whenever the rain stop for a little bit, we tore down camp and started packing to leave. Our trip was getting cut short.
Bummed, we decided to check out the East Entrance to the park by going through a tunnel built in the 1930’s. Once out of the tunnel and into the eastern portion fo the park, we were able to check out Checkerboard Mesa. We also saw some mountain goats on the way back and towards home. Apparently there are only 63 mountain goats in the park. They were reintroduced a few years ago, so seeing some of them was a rare event.
Our trip back home proved that this storm was huge. It took us 30 minutes of driving to finally see some sunlight. Thunderhead clouds were everywhere on the trip home. Though we did get a lot of sun in the desert portions of the drive, the mountain areas were getting the storms.
We decided we would have to come back one day to finish the trip we started. The park offered a lot of amazing views and spectacular trails to get there. Summer time is the best for the Narrows around the end of June, according to one of the tram drivers we talked to on our way back from the shower. I guess that is when we will have to come back.