May 17, 2017

Exploring Zion National Park

It’s been talked about, spoken highly about, and has continued to attract more tourists every year. I’m always trying to explore new terrain and see places that are extraordinary, so I decided to check out Zion National Park.

It’s been talked about, spoken highly about, and has continued to attract more tourists every year. I’m always trying to explore new terrain and see places that are extraordinary, so I decided to check out Zion National Park.

Zion National Park is situated in southwestern Utah and was the state’s first federally designated park in 1919, making it the oldest national park in Utah. It’s also Utah’s most visited national park, drawing more than three million visitors annually. –With stunning scenery almost too beautiful to be real, it’s no surprise why. Zion is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with a large variety of challenging hikes and rock climbing routes, as well as canyoneering, horseback riding, and more.

Zion means “the heavenly city”… best described as a place for peace and relaxation. These are the exact words I would use to describe this heavenly place.

I went during Memorial Day weekend, one of the park’s busiest weekends of the year, which I wouldn’t recommend if you want to avoid heavy crowds. The months that see the best weather—April to July—are also the busiest, in addition to holiday weekends, so book well in advance and start hiking early in the morning to beat the crowds.

I traveled with a group of friends from Los Angeles, which it’s is only a 6.5-hour drive away. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb property in St. George, a 35-minute drive from the park. Springdale is the town closest to the park, but St. George is a great choice if all of the accommodations are booked in Springdale.  Our beautiful 2-bedroom condo comfortably slept 6 and came with all the amenities we needed.

Diving into my adventure to Zion National park….

The first day we went to one of the Slot Canyons, which boasts unreal natural formations you can experience throughout Zion. Considering the potential crowds, we avoided the Narrows, the most popular trail in one of the Slot Canyons. Instead, we went to Kanarra Creek Trail, commonly referred to as Kanarraville Falls.

This 3.5-mile hike includes a good portion of wading in a stream, so I recommend bringing water resistant shoes. The Springdale visitor center rents them to hikers for your convenience.

the beauty and uniqueness you get to see…

The best feature of this hike is the ability to climb up the waterfall. The first waterfall is 15 feet high, and  a ladder is there to help hikers climb up and over the waterfall. This makes for a great photo op, if there are no people waiting to climb the ladder. The Narrows can have waist-deep water, but this trail has only knee-deep water at most.

Nature really has a beautiful way of expressing itself…

I highly recommend this incredible hike. It was breath-taking ever turn you make. 

The next day we had intended to go on the monster hike, Angels Landing, which provides spectacular views but is also one of the world’s most dangerous. Towering over and jutting into the canyon, the peak of Angels Landing is 1,488 feet above the Virgin River. The 2.2-mile hike might seem tame, but it includes many switchbacks over sand and slick rock, long drop-offs, and exposed edges. I intend to complete this hike one day, but we had some with us afraid of heights. This is one hike not appropriate for people who are afraid of heights. So we hiked to Observation Point, which stands at 6,507 feet above sea level and is 700 feet higher than Angels Landing.

Observation Point is an 8-mile out-and-back hike in Zion National Park that sees a moderate amount of foot traffic but is much less crowded than Angel’s Landing. It’s considered strenuous, but it offers some of the highest and best views overlooking Zion Canyon. I personally think this is a must do hike!

I highly recommend starting early for a long hike like this, or for any hike in the park. Once inside the park, you will need to take a bus to the beginning of each trailhead. The later in the day it gets, the longer the lines are for the buses. Another reason to start early is to take advantage of shade along the hike. The only way you’ll get shade along these switchbacks is if the sun is behind the cliffs.

Some views not to miss on way up… the incredible backdrop overlooking Big Bend

The scenery changes throughout the hike, as do the challenges. Some sections may be uncomfortable for people who are extremely afraid of heights, but overall, the trail is much more comforting than Angels Landing.

There is nothing more rewarding than reaching your end of destination. Then to see all you imagined with your own eyes. Simply stunning views. What a blessing to experience.

On our third day, we had a wild adventure. We pulled on our cowboy boots and went for a  horseback ride through Zion Canyon with a group of other riders. Jacobs Ranch in Zion boasts great reviews, and for good reason. They offer an exceptional experience unlike most typical trail rides, one ride that is certain to be unforgettable.

We first met up at the ranch with the rest of the group (15 in all). We were able to watch the staff round up the horses and take them to their stables. We then got a briefing on each horse at the ranch—the good, the bad, and the ugly; nothing was sugar-coated. We learned the name of each horse and what type of ride it usually offered. If you want an adventurous ride, a runner, a relaxed-lazy horse, or one that just follows the other. Take your pick.. The process of choosing a horse was amusing.

After we each chose a horse, we got acquainted. Each horse and rider goes into a 50-foot diameter training pen where the horse performs multiple tasks, including directional circles, jumping over high barrels, and more with your direction. It’s a way for the rider and horse to bond and learn to trust each other. This can make for an excellent, comfortable ride.

Feeling the country side of me… saddled up and ready to join the group of riders in another area where we were free to learn how to trot, a slow but bouncy pace that many beginners find hard to get the hang of. (I always do).

 The full-day ride (6 hours) offers opportunities for loping, galloping, and even jumping the horses. Most of the time, though, the horses simply follow each other so you can expect if leader is galloping, so are you. Let the adventure begin…

The scenery was breathtaking, and it was awe-inspiring to ride through such an incredible canyon with nonstop 360-degree views.

Thank you, Jacob’s Ranch for the awesome experience and adventure. I can’t recommend this experience enough if you’re in Zion National Park. 

The trip ended there, but it couldn’t have been more complete. Zion National Park is an exceptional place. You hear about it, you’ve seen the photos, but nothing will take place of experiencing it for yourself.

Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit ~ Edward Abbey