Zion National Park. A vast wilderness where the silvery sage of the grassland meets rock faces of reds, creams, grays, and black. Stunning and yet forbidding. A place where the adventurous can hike in a river through narrow canyon walls or scale rocks to dizzying heights for magnificent views. Those who are less inclined to do these things can hop on a shuttle bus (the only way in peak season to traverse the park) and be dropped off at any or all of 9 trail heads with names like The Grotto, Weeping Rock or the Temple of Sinawava. From said stops, trails venture out and range from the easy to the extreme.
We spent two nights in a lovely RV park a short drive from the south entrance of Zion so we had a day and a half to explore. The afternoon we arrived we took the car up Kolob Terrace Road, a 24 mile drive that winds itself through outstanding long range views of Zion. The road begins at an elevation of 3,550 feet where the land is dotted with small shrubs and few trees. As we continue along the way, the flora changes to reflect the elevation gains and we soon are surrounded by tall pine forests. By the time we reach the end of the road we are at 7,890 feet and in the midst of quaking aspens beginning to reflect their fall colors. When they say high desert, they mean high! Somehow I have never equated desert with high elevation, but in these parts that is certainly the case. When all was said and done in our stay here, this road was the highlight of our visit.
The next day we visited the national park and we were reminded of how sparse the crowds are in Alaska compared to these popular spots in the Lower 48. And, while it certainly was not as busy as the summer months when wait times for shuttles can run an hour or so, it was still standing room only on them. But not to be deterred by people and because it was a perfect day of sunshine and temps in the 60’s we explored two trails that encompassed maybe 3 miles of relatively easy walking. The first was the Riverside Walk which as the name implies follows along the banks of the Virgin River that carved out this canyon eons ago. Most parts of this walk are shaded by sheer cliffs with ferns growing from their crevices. The river here shows no evidence of the power it must have once had to create this landscape. Beyond the Riverside Walk the trail continues into the narrows where you must wade through the river to venture further into the canyon. For this type of excursion, one needs special equipment to stay dry and warm. We saw some folks testing the waters just to see what was around the next bend…I’m sure it was beautiful.
Our second trail was to the Lower Emerald Pool which had some elevation grade to it, but very doable. When you reach this pool it is below you as you stand under an overhanging cliff with small waterfalls coming over its top. Some of the views along this path were more long range and gave you a good perception of how big this place is.
Once done with this trail we left the park and headed back to the RV. In discussing our day we determined that this area of Utah is a place that must be further explored. Zion is just the tip of the iceberg – there is Bryce, Canyonlands, Moab and more! Guess we will be RV’ing for a while!!