Rounding out Utah's big 5: zion national park

After our first visit to Zion, we weren’t convinced that anything could change our minds about this most popular park. Don’t get me wrong, it was stunningly beautiful, but the sheer amount of people in the canyon made it feel a bit overwhelming. That being said, everything flipped upside down when we got there at the crack of dawn to hike Angel’s Landing. And again when we went back the following weekend to hike Observation Point. You see, Zion may be insanely busy in the summer, but if you can time it just right, you start to understand the jaw-dropping allure of this place.

 

 
 

 

We left Jacob Lake on Saturday morning, swiftly falling 5,000 feet down to St. George and our home for the next couple of weeks. We had decided it would be easiest to visit Zion with a car, so we booked for the weekend and picked it up on our way into town. After doing our normal “find a Walmart to leave it at” move, we went in search of the one thing that could make the whole day fade into a happy, sleepy coma- tacos. We made our way to El Coyote Charro, stuffed face, and headed back to the RV with full bellies.

 

Since Angel’s Landing is one of the most well-known trails in the United States, we knew we needed to beat the crowds. We woke up Sunday and started our drive before the sun, getting on one of the earliest shuttles around the park. As we stepped off and prepped to start our hike, it was clear that we would have a unique view. The nearby Bryan's Head Fire was still growing, and winds that day had pushed massive clouds of smoke down into the canyon. The more we climbed, the more the smoke filled our lungs, and the eerily hazy yet beautiful landscape started to sprawl beneath us.

 

 
 

 

Honestly, we didn’t think the trail was as hard as it’s made out to be. As beautiful? Absolutely… but not the most challenging. The beginning was steep, “the wiggles” were steeper, but the trail totals about 5 miles round-trip, so none of it lasted longer than we could bear. By far, the most challenging part was the final chain section, which many opt out of in favor of relaxing at a larger open area near the top. It was already busy when we got up there, and it’s easy to understand how long it can sometimes take to do this hike- one-way chain traffic over 4,000 feet in the sky is nothing to rush through. 

 

After Angel’s Landing, we explored for a while, grabbed our standard magnet, and made our way back to the RV. From there, it was on to our home for the next couple of weeks: Sand Hollow State Park. With the sweltering temperatures, we needed to find hookups, and this little state park provided water access. But get this… when we got there, we learned that Swimmer’s Itch was in effect. If you’re not familiar with Swimmer’s Itch, I suggest following this link if you want to be grossed out. Personally, we weren’t feeling the idea of bird-poop parasites trying to burrow in our skin, so we passed on swimming for most of the time. Overall, it was an uneventful, hot week.

 

 
 

 

That is, until we decided to stay the following week and rent a car to go to Zion again on the weekend.

 

That Friday, we picked up another rental and headed out for a night out on the town. We made our way to a local sports bar, had some killer wings, and listened to a bit of live music. Saturday morning, we hit the road early again, our sights set on Observation Point.

 

 
 

 

This was a longer, more challenging hike in Zion that was far less popular, even though it provided sweeping views of the entire canyon… essentially making Angel’s Landing look like a stepping stone through the cliff walls. Far and above, this hike changed our opinion of Zion. It was quiet, stunningly beautiful, and challenging, with an incredible view as payoff at the end. If you’ve hiked Angel’s Landing but not Observation Point, you’re really missing a lot of what Zion has to offer.

 

 
 

 

The upcoming week was the 4th of July- yes, I realize this gives away how terribly behind on blog posts we are- so we decided to lay low. Normally, these types of holidays mean crazy campgrounds and lots of people, so we took advantage of the AC and microwave and holed up inside. Plus, each day was easily soaring over 100°, so trying to do anything active outside was downright miserable for us northeasterners.

 

After another relatively uneventful week at Sand Hollow, it was on to the first big city we had visited in quite a while- Vegas!

 

 

Camping:

Sand Hollow State Park