A day’s hike in Zion National Park – Utah, USA
National parks are one of my favorite treasures in America. Zion’s National Park in Utah is only a couple hours from Las Vegas, Nevada where I was born. If you’re staying in Vegas for more than a day or two then it’s really worth it to go and discover this breath taking natural miracle.
Last time I was in town for Thanksgiving, I decided to go and spend the day surrounded by nature.
To make up for the fact we had to wake up really early (which you’ll recall from my earlier post I’m not a fan of), we decided to go get some Pink box donuts. Yum ! A very healthy way to start a hiking day J.
It took us around 2 hours and half to 3 hours to get to Zion National Park. The way there is pretty nice so I just enjoyed the scenery. Here are a few shots :
When we got there, we parked the car by the Visitor Center and we decided to immediately head for the trails and keep the tourist lodge for the return trip.
Zion Canyon Visitor Center is usually the starting point for any visit to Zion Canyon Outdoor exhibits, information desk, wilderness permits, bookstore, restrooms, picnic area, and water bottle filling station. Ranger-led programs. Access to the Pa’rus Trail and Watchman Trail.
There are many trails to hike along and so many things to see. If you want to hike for more than a day, or if you want to go on more dangerous hikes, you need to get a permit. With a single day, we got to see only a tiny part of what this national park has to offer. There are a lot of hikes for just a few hours, and at a very easy level. Beware though if you want to take longer hikes to make sure you are in the right physical condition before you start out. And also that you have the right gear.
Here is what is recommended on Zion’s website :
Wear sturdy boots or shoes with ankle support.
Take a walking stick. Do not cut tree branches for sticks.
Small children should not hike in the river due to strong currents and deep pools.
Carry out all trash: food wrappers, apple cores, fruit peels, tissue paper – everything you carry in.
Carry one gallon of drinking water per person for a full-day hike, food, sunglasses, sunscreen, and first aid kit.
Zion has a free canyon shuttle service that operates through more than half the year. I believe it stops in November. I was just in time to use it before the service stopped lucky me !
There are 8-stops along the Zion Canyon Shuttle route where you can get off the shuttle to enjoy the park. The transfer between loops is made at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You may get on and off as often as you like. I think it takes around 80 minutes if you want to go the whole 8 stops without getting off.
We stopped at the first stop, put our back packs on and started out. I was kind of surprised, but all the trails were paved making it quite easy to get around and also for a person with no sense of direction, making it easy not to get lost ! haha !
We first hiked along a river bed. We followed the Virgin River and witness as it unearthed the geologic processes that sculpt the scenery. It’s fascinating to contemplate the power the water has on the landscape. Rock is shaped by the flow of water and creates breathtaking vistas.
There were very few hikers at that time of year. I feel it’s a privileged to be able to take in the majestic scenery as if you’re the only human being on earth. Something about natures really does soothe and bring peace. It also humbles you, and makes you feel so small next to mother nature. All our problems seem to become a lot less important.
All narrow canyons are potentially hazardous. Flash floods, cold water, and strong currents present real dangers that can be life-threatening. Your safety depends on your own good judgement, adequate preparation, and constant attention. A few weeks after my visit, there was a flash flood and unfortunately a couple people died in the Narrows.
Then it was time for a mid-day break. We found a nice spot and ate our sandwiches and boiled eggs. There were benches and picnic tables, very convenient.
The weather was a little cool and I was glad I had my nice warm scarf! The sun has a hard time reaching the bottom of the canyon. The water freezes up pretty quickly. We didn’t actually have a whole day of hiking because around 3 pm the sun had left the canyon and it was getting darker and colder.
We decided to go on a another quick hike to see the Weeping Rock. The small climb was well worth it. It’s so beautiful. This hike is called the “Rock and Stroll” and it’s only 1.5 hours, moderate 1-mile walk to get to the Weeping Rock.
There is a foot path crossing over a drainage stream that is lined with cottonwood, ash and maple trees. I love trees and there were many gorgeous ones. This hike wasn’t hard but it was a bit steep and towards the end, kind of slippery due to the seeping water and moss on the ground.
At the top of the trail, steps culminate at a large eroded carved out area, something like a sponge soaking up water then releasing it slowly to feed the hanging gardens and dripping excess into the water hole below.
Continuous water “weeps” out of the Weeping Rock alcove, keeping lush hanging gardens moist. The weeping is from above where Echo Canyon, one of the parks many slot canyons is located. There are other seepage areas resulting from the “spring line” between the two rock strata, kayenta and Navajo sandstone, but Weeping Rock is an impressive one. An impermeable shale, the Kayenta layer, makes up the floor of the slot canyon that prevents water from absorbing into the ground and forces it to find a place it can penetrate, such as at Weeping Rock. This is not a quick process. The water has been in the rocks for a very long time, about 1200 years in fact!
Here are some shots from under the Weeping rock at the top of the trail :
Then it was back to the car for the ride home. The setting sun on the rock formations was something to behold! The mountain was painted in fall colors of flickering warm orange flames.
The time spent there was much too short and left me yearning for more. Till next time Zion !
What have been your past hiking experiences?
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