We had heard great things about Zion National Park and it delivered! Prior to visiting, I thought it was over-hyped and wasn’t expecting too much but I sure was wowed. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and near the top of the best experiences of our trip so far. We spent almost all our time hiking so I decided to rank the hikes we did from least exciting to my new favorite hike.
Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.
5.) Riverside Walk
We had really been hoping to backpack the Narrows – a hike through a very narrow canyon which is considered the best hike at Zion and one of the best hikes in the whole country. Back in March, when the permits became available, we stopped at a McDonalds somewhere between Houston and San Antonio to ensure we got one of the limited number of overnight permits.
Found this on the internet since I didn’t see it in person
Unfortunately, the snow fall was extra high this year, resulting in a large spring run-off, leaving the Narrows closed until weeks after we visited Zion. We settled for the Riverside Walk – a path that leads to the mouth of the Canyon, so I could at least see the start of the legendary trail (Zach had done a day hike in the Narrows when he came to Zion a few years ago with his family).
I didn’t take any pictures of the Riverside Walk but here’s our really cool campsite
Not that I was expecting much, but the Riverside Walk was a letdown. Being the easiest trail in Zion, the path was full of strollers, elderly tourists and people blocking the way to take pictures of every squirrel. I would avoid this hike unless you’re continuing onto the Narrows (which I plan on returning to the park to do).
And here’s the really cool coffee shop we worked from
4.) Emerald Pools
We fell a bit behind on blogging. It’s been over a month since we were in Zion and it that time I’ve forgotten all but a few distinguishing details about the Emerald Pools. It’s one of those hikes that would be amazing if it was in Ohio but gets overshadowed in a place like Zion. There were some waterfalls, an emerald pool and, most excitingly, a rattlesnake!
The ranger said it might be a gopher snake, but I’m going with rattler
If you’re looking for a shorter, family friendly hike lacking scary cliff edges, this is the one for you. Otherwise hit it up if you have an hour or two to kill (we fit it in between work and dinner on Friday).
3.) Angels’ Landing
You know a park has some great trails when Angel’s Landing is ranked third on your list of best hikes. The five-mile hike starts off modestly enough, but after reaching Scout’s Landing, which itself has spectacular views, it quickly becomes very strenuous. Narrow, steep, with thousand feet drop offs on each side, it is not for those frightening of heights.
Heading up the spine of the landing
Neither Zach nor I are fans of heights but after turning around on a hike in Mount St Helens two summers ago due to the fear, I vowed to never again quit a hike because of heights. But multiple people have died from failing off the trail, including someone a few weeks before our visit, so I was nervous but determined.
Zach getting close to the edge
The trail was more crowded than I would have preferred, especially given its narrowness. In the upper section, there are chains to hold on to in the more treacherous sections. But with people moving both ways, someone must let go of the chains to get around the other. Usually I opted to stand there and let them go around.
Using the chains
All in all, it wasn’t as frightening as I expected and the views were amazing from the top. There were some over friendly chipmunks which climbed into my lap to get the almonds I was eating and even went as far as biting my hand. I, as a rule-abider and a believer that wild animals should find their own food, followed the signs saying not to feed the animals, and refused to share.
I would strongly recommend Angels Landing to anyone visiting the park. I think any relative fit person without a debilitating fear of heights can do it. The hike is challenging without requiring any special skills and the views from the top are first class.
2.) Observation Point/Hidden Canyon
Observation Point is an 8-mile roundtrip hike with quite a bit of elevation gain. The trail winds its way up the canyon before reaching a spectacular observation point. You have a great view of Angels Landing, nearly a thousand feet below.
Angels Landing is the rock formation in the middle of the canyon
At the top, I talked to a guy that had done the previous year’s Ohio 70.3, which I had also raced. While it’s by no means a small race, it was crazy to see a fellow compactor on the other side of the country. We took the long way down, detouring into Hidden Canyon. Along the way there were more chains, steep drop offs and great views.
So many cool rock formations
I deliberated for a while rather to rank Angels Landing or Observation Point higher on the list, but in the end, I went with this hike. Angels Landing is very-hyped, rightfully so, but Observation Point has more stunning views and is longer with more elevation gain. It’s a leg-burner but I would highly recommend hiking it if you have the time.
My favorite picture from the weekend
1.) The Subway
This was our consolation prize for not being able to do the Narrows. And it is my new favorite hike. Only eighty permits are given a day, and we were luckily enough to get two. There isn’t a trail but rather you follow a river upstream, crossing it uncountable times, navigating through boulders and climbing waterfalls.
Hiking up a waterfall
I love water, climbing over rocks and trail blazing and this hike had it all!
Writing super short paragraphs so I can fit more pictures
The titular subway is difficult to describe so here’s a picture:
There were pools of water at the end which extended the trail by about 100 feet so they weren’t necessary to swim in but we wanted to do it all. They were very cold but we sat in the sun afterward to dry off and eat some snacks.
Swimming Pools (of chilly water)
Because the Subway requires a permit, it requires so planning ahead but I would highly recommend anyone traveling to Zion to at least attempt to get one. They become available a few months ahead of time so be proactive!
Zach’s trail name is ‘The Trashman’
Since this blog took a really long time to write, I’ve created our Utah video in the meantime