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2019 Utah Travel Blog (Zion National Park)

Written by Jeff Drake
5 · 15 · 19

A number of factors caused my wife and I to recently take a rather (for us) sudden trip to Utah. We usually spend more time planning for an upcoming trip, but both of us felt the need to “get away” for a few weeks. Our house was becoming somewhat of a weight on our emotions due to memories of our pet cats haunting every corner. We needed distance, but wanted to go somewhere easy and quick.

Utah has been on our bucket list for some time. In fact, we visited Utah’s northern parks of Arches and Canyonlands in 2014, but didn’t complete the driving “loop” which includes Utah’s southern parks. So, this impromptu trip was focused on seeing Utah’s big name southern parks: Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef. All are National Parks and spectacular. Additionally, we decided to visit the area around Page, Arizona, which offers a number of interesting canyons to see and beautiful Lake Powell. While in Big Water, on a whim we decided to do the 2 hour drive to see Monument Valley (and we were glad we did).

We initially thought we’d drive to Utah from home, but in the end decided to fly to Las Vegas, rent a car, and then drive. And boy, we drove a lot! Over 1900 miles in 10 days. I’m glad I insisted on getting an SUV. There is just no way you can really see the full beauty of Utah without hitting the back roads, which are dirt, gravel, sand, and full of ruts and pot holes i.e., fun! We got lucky and were upgraded to a brand new Ford Explorer, which was very nice.

Our itinerary worked well for us, although given 20-20 hindsight, we’d have done it slightly differently, knowing what we know now. Our route is shown below:

We visited the parks in the following order: Zion, Capitol Reef, Bryce, then stayed in Big Water, and decided to add Monument Valley before returning home.

Zion National Park

The first leg of our trip after landing in Las Vegas took us to Springdale, Utah. The weather forecast for a 10-day trip to Utah looked good, except for the first few days, which we spent in Zion National Park. So we played tag with the rain in Zion. The downside of this is, well, rain. The upside of this is photographic drama due to clouds and potential storms, and desert greening.

You need to take a shuttle bus into Zion from March through November. Both Lisa and I didn’t like the sound of that, but in the end decided it was a good thing. The bus service is great! Parking is severely limited and the buses run every 10 minutes, like clockwork. So we opted to stay where the shuttle runs, which is in a town just outside of Zion, called Springdale. We like to do B&Bs where possible, but given our late start in planning the places we were really interested in were taken, so we had to opt for a hotel, a La Quinta, which worked out fine. You can see the view from our hotel here:

We wasted no time beginning our exploration of Zion National Park.

Zion is just as beautiful as people say, although I don’t think it’s the number one spectacular sight we visited on our trip, which says a lot about Utah. It’s hard to choose, really, because they are all so amazingly beautiful!

There are a number of hikes in the park, from easy to grueling. One easy hike was The Narrows (photo above), which is a trail that follows the Virgin river. It’s short, maybe 2-3 miles round-trip, but the last part of the trail includes walking in the river itself through a narrow canyon (thus the name), which is usually very shallow. Not this time! Due to rains, there were flash flood warnings and so we could only do the trail up to the point of entering the river.

The photo above shows the rushing river, which is usually just a trickle.

We spent two-and-a-half days exploring Zion. Due to flash flood warnings, several trails were closed. Each trail we did had visual highlights that made it worth the walk. Seen here below, the Court of the Patriarchs was an especially nice visual.

Feeling emboldened by the easy hikes we were doing, we decided to attempt a more rigorous hike to a place called, Angel’s Landing. Technically, this trail is rated as “strenuous; steep with exposure to long drop-offs.” Long drop-offs? I suppose 1,000 foot drop offs on either side of the trail qualifies as “long”. It goes for 5 miles round trip and has an elevation change of 1,488 feet!

The way up the trail is via a series of rather incredible switchbacks, called, Walter’s Wiggles, which wind their way up rather quickly until you reach Scout’s Point. From Scout’s Point, you have time to try and catch your breath (you are up about 5,700+ feet). You can also see the path ahead, which is known as one of the scariest trails in the country. We took a look at it and decided to call it a day. Still, we did around 80% of the trail, so we were happy. The photos below show a small part of the scenery that we were enjoying.

We did more trails in Zion, which will be covered in a Utah slideshow I’ve got planned but nothing compared to Angel’s Landing. It was one of a kind!

Next, we were off to Capitol Reef!

 

 

 

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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.