The word Zion has many different meanings for many different people.
It has come to mean a safe homeland (Israel for the Jews), a utopian society for the righteous (Utah for the Mormons), and a sacred spiritual place (Heaven for the afterlife).
Therefore, it makes sense that one of our nation’s finest National Parks should also carry this name. Zion National Park encompasses these ideas and more. It is a kind of heaven on Earth. Beauty is omnipresent within the park boundaries. Whether it’s the glow of the towering sandstone cliffs in the late evening light, or the lush green of the vast valley in between, or the symphony of the rushing Virgin river.
The park brings a calming of the soul, a peace of mind.
Zion National Park never ceases to amaze me.
This was my third visit to the park and I was still blown away by the scope of this incredible canyon. The walls seem to rise on forever above the valley floor. The park is massive and there is an endless amount of hiking trails. We stayed four nights and I left wishing we had spent even more time.
During our stay, we developed a bit of a routine. We woke up early and hit the trail, getting the hard hiking over by late morning/early afternoon. Then, as the midday sun scorched the canyon, we splashed in the cool water of the Virgin River. After, we sprawled on the riverside rocks like lizards, soaking up the sun’s warm rays. At night, we lounged around camp, reading, eating, and watching the stars paint the night sky.
It was a wonderful time to say the least.
Observation Point (8 miles rdtrip)
Our first full day in Zion, we made the trek up to Observation Point. Starting from the Weeping Rock Trailhead, the trail gains more than 2,000 vertical feet over 4 miles. It’s a real quad burner! Long switchbacks quickly take you from the valley floor to the start of Echo Canyon. At the entrance to a neat slot canyon, the trail continues climbing up to the left. There is little shade after this, but views of the entire canyon entice you forward. At 6508 feet, Observation Point is the BEST view in the park.
Angels Landing (5 miles rdtrip)
The following day we did another Zion classic… Angels Landing. Sticking out like a tack in the wall, this steep rock fin juts out 1,800 feet from the canyon floor! Carved partly by a bend in the Virgin River far below, the narrow strip of rock is only made accessible through the use of chains. In fact, it received its name because some of the first visitors to the canyon believed only “angels could land there.”
In an attempt to beat some of the crowds, we caught the first shuttle to the Grotto and began the hike. We crossed the Virgin River via a footbridge and headed up some partly paved switchbacks. The switchbacks led to a cool canyon, before rounding a bend and ascending 21 really steep switchbacks affectionately known as Walter’s Wiggles. At the top, you reach the Point of No Return.
Gripping the chains, you make your way up the narrow ridge, dizzying drop-offs on either side. At the summit, the vast canyon opens up before you. With a bird’s-eye view, you can see the Virgin River making its way downstream towards Springdale and onto Lake Mead and the Colorado River. The river has done its finest work here in the park, creating the world famous Narrows.
The next day we did some shorter hikes including the Watchman Trail and the Emerald Pools Trail, the latter leading to a hanging garden of sorts. They both showcased the beauty that Zion has to offer. (Here is a link to a great hiking map and guide to view some of the other hikes in the park).
We did leave the very best for last, however.
On our final day in the park, we hiked the entire Narrows, Top Down!