This past weekend my friend Maggie and I road tripped to Southern Utah to visit Zion National Park. It’s my first trip to a National Park in Utah, and it was an amazing experience. We left early Saturday morning and drove back Sunday evening. It was the perfect amount of time to fit in 3 hikes, camp, and explore the park and surrounding areas. I am so excited to share our favorite hikes and activities!
We left Salt Lake City at 6:30am Saturday morning and arrived at Zion around 11am. Parking is limited in the National Park, so we parked on the street in Springdale, UT and took the free shuttle to the park entrance. There is another free shuttle once you get into the park that takes you to 9 different stops with hikes at each one. That whole process took about an hour due to Saturday afternoon crowds. Angel’s Landing was at the top of our Zion bucket list, so we decided to spend our Saturday afternoon hiking to the top. It’s a 5.5 mile round trip hike with about 1500ft of elevation change. The first 2.5 miles are a series of switchbacks; the part of the hike with chains and a steep incline is about .5 miles long at the top. There are plenty of beautiful lookouts throughout the hike that you can stop at, especially for those who are not going to do the last part of the hike. The incline is scary looking at it from the bottom, but there are chains to hold onto almost the whole way up. Some parts are too narrow for people to go both directions, so we had to wait for groups to pass a couple of times. The views from the top were absolutely worth the climb, but I would not recommend for anyone who is truly afraid of heights or if the weather is rainy or snowy. The steep drop offs on each side are pretty intense. The way down was a lot easier and faster than the way up and the rocks are almost carved out into steps. Everyone on the hike is going at a different pace, so patience is key! I made sure to wear my Green Bay Packers shirt, and I met a lot of Wisconsinites and Packer fans along the way!
LOWER EMERALD POOLS
On the way back from Angels landing, we decided to hike to the Lower Emerald Pools. It’s a 1 mile hike with less than 100 ft of elevation change. It is perfect for families and people of all hiking abilities. The waterfall was almost dried up from the summer, but it was still beautiful. It was a great way to end our Saturday in the park!
BLM LAND CAMPING/RESTAURANTS
After our hikes we had dinner and a beer at the Zion Canyon Brewery, located near the Visitors Center at the edge of the park. It was a perfect day to eat on the patio and enjoy the views of Zion! After dinner we drove to Sheep Ridge Rd about 25 min outside the park where there is public BLM land to camp at for free. We set up our tent near a few other families with RV’s, but the wind picked up and it was constantly rattling our tent. We decided it wasn’t worth fighting the wind and not getting good sleep, so we ended up car camping and slept great! The next morning we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise over the park and then the storms kicked in. We knew that there was a chance of thunderstorms all morning, but we headed into the park again to take advantage of our last day. Although we planned on making camp food with our stove all weekend, we decided to grab coffee and breakfast at a local coffee shop in Springdale to avoid the rain and fuel up for our long hike.
After breakfast, we arrived at the park around 9am. Due to the storms, there was plenty of parking inside the park and no crowds. We took the shuttle up to our trailhead and started hiking to Observation Point. It’s an 8 mile round trip hike with 2100 ft of elevation change. It was a gradual incline the entire way up, so it was perfect for conversation and soaking in the views! Maggie and I met our new friend Claire on our Angel’s Landing hike the day before, and we had dinner together Saturday night. Claire was traveling alone, so all 3 of us went on this hike together! The rain, hail, and thunderstorms were on and off the entire way up, so we were glad we came prepared with rain gear and warm layers. It was a total 180 from the weather on Saturday, but it made the hike fun and less crowded. At the top, we were so close to the thunder and lightning, but it was pretty cool to see the storm roll in over the entire Zion Canyon. The views were incredible despite the weather, and the storms cleared up as we made our descent. The landscape of the hike changed so much throughout the 4 miles, and there were parts that looked similar to The Narrows hike. We couldn’t do The Narrows hike due to risk of flash floods on Sunday, but it’s definitely on my list for next time we visit Zion!
Overall it was an amazing first trip to Southern Utah, and I can’t wait to visit the rest of the National Parks in this upcoming year!