Zion is one of those places that you know you will love, even before you visit it. One glance at a photo on Instagram or Pinterest and it is clear why people from around the world come to walk her paths and gaze at the red rock formations. With that popularity, comes a necessity to be strategic, or you will certainly be lost in the hefty dose of crowds…rather than the wilderness of the park. With some creative planning though, you can have a killer time and skate right around the crowds.
Exploring The Park
For most of the year, the only way to explore the main portion of Zion (other than by foot) is to ride the free shuttle. At first, it was reminiscent of an amusement park because it was crazy crowded in the middle of the day. By mid-afternoon though, it was an easy way to move about.
We were able to scope out the Big Bend area and get our boots in the dirt.
We were also able to test out the water to see just how cool it was. We had big plans to hike the Narrows this week and we were trying to get a feel for what gear we would need. You see, this was the first week of October and the weather was great.
One thing about the fall though…the weather changes! The day that was to be the nicest, ended up being the coolest and most windy. So with water temps below 50 and some serious breeze…the gorgeous Narrows hike still beacons to us for another visit.
The one other hike that totally entices me is Angels Landing. Anyone who knows Zion, knows that this is another fabulous one for the books. Ironically, that trail was closed for annual maintenance the week that we were there. So we now have two serious reasons to return!
Rest assured though…we found plenty to explore and keep us busy. Actually, I dare say…we enjoyed this park so much that it may be one of our favorites.
I should also mention that the husband was on vacation for the week of this trip. Normally we are weekend and evening explorers (though I do venture off with the kids plenty on my own)…but this week we traveled like we were on a vacay.
I mostly say this beacause, well…as you look at some of these photos, we all might wonder who husband swapped with Chris? Though he does swap nationalities with a haircut and tan….he had a different type of mountain vibe going on this week. Throw in a bandana…and dónde está Chris?
This man…he is a man of many talents…and looks.
The Emerald Pools
You may have seen my recent post on our hike to the Emerald Pools…and noticed that it was a tad busy for our taste. Read my post HERE and notice that it is an amazing hike…just plan to visit super early in the day.
Driving Kolob Terrace Road
This drive was amazing! We discovered this paved-backroad as we traveled to the northern part of Zion when we went backpacking.
The fall foliage colors were at their peak…
…and my growing photographer had some fun obtaining the perfect snap.
I love these photos. They remind me of how blessed we are to show the kids this beautiful country…and how we are helping them to find such a different perspective.
You can find more details on this drive in my last post HERE.
To access the east side of the park (from the main section of Zion near the South Entrance) you must drive through the Zion-Mount Tunnel.
I was unsure of exactly how this would work, as we drive a dually and require a permit to go through the tunnel…but it was easy-peasy! The Rangers shut off traffic from the opposite end of the tunnel, when oversized vehicles are going through, so we were able to drive right down the middle.
The one thing I will note here is that not all RV’s can fit through this tunnel. You can find info on tunnel travel HERE.
We pull a 38 foot fifth wheel that is 13 feet tall and can not fit in this tunnel. With the height limit being 13’1″…that is a bit too close for our comfort!
If your crew likes to climb, then Zion is the National Park for you!
Even I got in on the action. Apparently I thought it important for a selfie, at the time…therefore I am documenting it here for all…“kids, this mama climbed rocks with you, be sure to remember it!”
And check out this photo…look how high Chris and the kids climbed!…
The east side of Zion is great for rock scrambling. There are turnouts every few miles, where you can stop and park. It is effortless. Park…and climb, snap a photo and on to the next spot. This was a huge hit with our kids!
Hiking The East Rim Trail
This is a beautiful and diverse trail to hike.
We hiked in, about three miles, and the trail varied throughout.
Chris and I both hiked with our trekking poles this trip…and we loved it. With all of the trail variations, we love the momentum that the poles afford.
Of course, we found a small drainage tunnel that ran under the trail.
And of course a certain 11-year old had to scare his mama and crawl through. The little stinker insisted that it was too cold for snakes…yeeks!
When we pause for a break…the girls planned their photos and the boy immediately sits in the dirt.
And this guy enjoys vacay mode…
This trail turned out to be quite awesome!
On the way back we met a man who was hiking the entire trail (11 miles I believe). I would love to see the rest of this trail…this would be a great place to backpack next time.
At the trailhead, there is plenty of parking and even a picnic table for those that want to rest. It was so peaceful…and we had a hungry crew after this hike.
It was also a great place to pull down the tailgate and finally try a different trail menu. We have been carrying around these Pad Thai packets since the kids talked me into getting them months ago. We all love Pad Thai.
And thank you Lord for little boys who carry around a magnifying glass in their pack…because this mama forgot the lighter that day and our waterproof match set was missing the little piece to strike the match on.
These are life skills here. Love this resourceful pair!
Hiking The Canyon Overlook Trail
This was our last hike in the park.
It is an in-and-out hike that promises a gorgeous view at the end.
Parts of this hike are steep and there is a crazy drop-off…so keep littles close to you.
There is also a good climb at the beginning of the trail…which consequently means there is a steep descent.
Notice the tiny parking lot near the trailhead. If you drive a dually with hips, like ours, you will want to park east of the trailhead…and walk down a good mile or so. There were spots with plenty of room for us up there. Consequently…parking in such a place requires that you are driving west, so do this hike before you drive west trough the tunnel. There really is no turning around on this section of the road.
We were headed back through the tunnel after exploring the east side of the park, when we decided to stop…and I really wanted to give this a shot. I am so glad my crew agreed! We loved this hike.
We assumed that this was a short and quick hike. It is not long, but I would suggest having your essentials and water with you. My kids went empty-handed…and everyone was drinking my water. Also, due to the location of the hike, I suggest being emergency prepared as this is definitely in a risky area…the mama bear in me can’t help but think of a possible twisted ankle or a rock-slide that could take out the trail.
Loved this hike! What a gorgeous way to top off our visit to Zion.
Backpacking In Zion
One of the most memorable parts of our trip was our backpacking trip on the West Rim Trail. You can find all the details on that trip HERE.
It was an amazing adventure and the perfect place for a family to explore.
You might not know this, but I spend a grip of time planning our trips. I probably average 10 hours of planning per a week (much more when we were planning our travels on the East Coast last year). Because I invest so much time into researching our travel, I love to share my findings here on the blog…so that others can benefit from our research. Because we know how much work it is!
We also typically plan out our National Park visits several months in advance, as we have to coordinate things around my husbands work schedule. Well, we are in a season of spontaneous travel and we literally decided to do this trip, three weeks in advance. With all the craziness that this season has brought, I just didn’t have time to submerse myself in planning.
I was finally able to test out one of the itineraries from Dirt In My Shoes. I have used a ton of info from this site before, but had never purchased an itinerary. Well, let me tell you….It was worth every penny of the $15. I purchase the 3 Day Itinerary for Zion and the travel tips and navigation ideas alone were worth it. Though we could not follow the actual itinerary (as we decided to backpack, a trail was closed and we decided to postpone the Narrows hike), the information was fabulous and the tips were such a time and sanity saver. We will be trying more of these itineraries in the future.
If you haven’t used this resource before, take time to check it out. There is plenty of free info on the site as well. You can check out the post on 10 Things You Can’t Miss On Your First Visit To Zion.
The National Park also has plenty of information on their site and you can find a map of Zion HERE.
Zion is definitely on our list for a repeat visit. Next time, we will plan ahead so that we can stay at the campground inside the park!
Have you done Zion? I would love to know what your favorite parts are.