Zion National park is often forgotten many times when we set our trip on the West Coast. Or we leave it as the last option until we check that there is a gap in our route. But the truth is that visiting the Zion National Park is one of the experiences that best tastes of mouth is usually in all those who bet on this park. Just to walk the 10 miles of red asphalt that camouflages the road that connects the south and east entrances, will be a visual spectacle that you will have no choice but to stop to savor. And it will be at that moment when you regret not having dedicated a full day to Zion National Park.
Unlike the Grand Canyon or the Bryce, where you start from the top to go hiking to the bottom. In the Zion National Park, you start from the bottom, to go up while exploring the park in one of its routes on foot. In Zion, you will find pronounced cliffs, narrow canyons, vertigo routes, panoramic views, spectacular viewpoints and rocks with a special beauty. The Virgin River has carved Zion Canyon, the centerpiece of this park, for millions of years. Called thus by the first displaced Mormons of the East Coast that they went looking for a place where to settle, in reference to the Sion mount of Jerusalem. Read more: Travel alone to the United States: the 8 recommended destinations
HOW TO VISIT THE ZION NATIONAL PARK
Due to this narrowness of the Zion Canyon and the more than 3 million annual tourists it receives, from April to early October it can only be visited by the park’s free shuttles. This makes the environment we are going to visit in Zion to be a more authentic landscape if possible, free of vehicles parked anywhere, and clean both physically and environmentally. The rest of the year the private vehicles can enter, but only because the number of hikers falls a lot and the activity of the “shuttles” is forced to cease.
You can park in the Visitors Center and from there take the bus that introduces you inside the Zion Canyon, stopping at 9 different places. And if you are staying in Springdale, a town located at the south entrance, you can leave the car at your hotel and take the bus that connects this town with the Visitor Center. They operate from 5:35 to 23:15 in summer, with a waiting time of 15 minutes or less. Internal shuttles allow access to some of the most beautiful views and trails in the Zion National Park. A round trip takes approximately ninety minutes. Read more: How to apply for a Tourist Visa for the USA
Temple of Sinawava is the last stop and therefore the end of the road. There begins the Riverside Walk, a paved road of 1 mile, which runs along the Virgin River along a narrow canyon. When the pavement ends, the Narrows gorge begins. This excursion is the most famous of all Zion, but also the most difficult since it is made by the bed of the Virgin River. To complete the 14 miles in total (round trip) it is essential to go to the Visitor Center the day before to prepare and learn both the conditions in which the Virgin River is located, as well as the weather. Good water shoes, a swimsuit, a second dry package packed hermetically and a cane to keep the balance while moving along the river bed, are absolutely essential. But do not be scared, you do not have to complete the 8 hours needed to travel The Narrows. Most hikers do not go further than the third part of the route.
The Grotto stop gives access to the path that leads to the Angels Landing. This trek is the star of the trekkings of the Zion National Park. The variety of ways in which we can find the way to reach Angels Landing makes anyone who does not have vertigo, choose to make this 5-mile excursion to cover between 4 and 5 hours. Start next to the Virgin River to quickly take height zigzagging through a path carved directly into the rock wall, until you reach Refrigerator Canyon. A slot so narrow that the light usually does not reach the bottom, so the temperatures usually give a break to the walker, hence its name. When you reach the bottom of this slot canyon, you climb by a strenuous zigzag that at each step you take we take height. From here the views begin to be spectacular, walking along a ridge that offers perspectives of vertigo looking down from one side to the other. There are sections with steps carved into the rock, others with chains to be able to climb and advance. The final prize is a 360º panorama that rivals any other point of view of Zion.
From The Grotto stop, you can also take the path called Kayenta Trail, which takes us to the Emerald Pools in just 1 hour’s walk. It is about ponds that are not a big deal, but it is a good way to travel through areas of the bottom of Zion without having to make any extenuating excursions. We can continue on to finish at Zion Lodge and continue experimenting with new views along the way. Zion Lodge has beautiful meadows to rest, with shops, restaurants, restrooms, and fountains to fill our bottles.
The Weeping Rock stop is a good place to get off, since here there are three trails, Hidden Canyon Trail (3 hours round trip), Weeping Rock Trail and the East Rim Trail that takes us to Observation Point (5 hours round trip). Weeping Rock Trail is a walk suitable for all ages, which ends under a slope of rock that “cries” water, as its name says in English, in which only 30 minutes are used. Both Hidden Canyon Trail and Observation Point share the beginning of the trail, transiting through places not suitable for people with vertigo. But if you dare to do the Angels Landing, none of these two trekkings will bring you practically nothing new.
In Court of the Patriarchs, you can see a set of peaks called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, alluding to the patriarchs of the Hebrew Bible. On a trail, after 2 minutes you can see these formations from the Shuttle stop. Canyon Junction gives access to the Pa’rus Paved Trail, easy and flat so that they can also enjoy the Zion National Park who has reduced mobility and move with a wheelchair.
But if we want to have a different perspective of the Zion Canyon, we will have to do the Trail called Canyon Overlook. It is a path where only 60 minutes are used between the round trip. A panoramic point of Pine Creek Canyon with a view towards Zion Canyon is reached. The perspective is totally different from what we can have in Angels Landing. The start is just past the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, where there is a small parking lot where we can leave our car and start the half-mile hike.
The dimensions of this tunnel are not very large, because when it was built in 1920, heavy vehicles were not very common. So if you go with a trailer, a ruck or a camper, you will have to pay a fee of $ 15 to be escorted while you cross the tunnel. The price includes two escorted routes. If your vehicle is 3’4m high and 2’4m wide, including mirrors, you will need an escort. To this, you have to add the price of the ticket, $ 25 per vehicle for a week.
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