In the spring, we had the opportunity to explore an area of the United States that neither one of us has been to extensively. Though we had a particular reason to be there (my sister's wedding), it was fun to get to see some new places and do some stuff we don't normally get to do. This trip was a blast, and we were able to cram a lot into a few days. We spent a few nights in Las Vegas, enjoyed an afternoon exploring the sites of Page, Arizona, cruised along iconic Route 66, and marveled at the natural monstrosity that is the Grand Canyon.
Like I said, we saw a lot, but the real purpose of our trip was to attend my sister's wedding. Though we're not from Utah, my sister and her husband wanted to get married in one of the United States' national parks because hiking and camping and such is something they love to do. It was a stunning place for a wedding, and I'm so glad we were able to be there to witness their special day. It seemed silly to venture all this way and not actually enjoy the park, so with some of our extra time, we hiked.
We were in Zion for a long weekend, and aside from the wedding festivities which were very relaxed as it was only immediate family plus a few others who attended, we had the rest of the time to go out exploring. There are a number of designated hikes within the park, so there are a few options if you're planning your own trip. Some of them aren't available at certain times of the year or when the weather is bad, so you have to plan ahead.
Here's what we did:
Court of the Patriarchs
This isn't what I'd consider a hike because it simply requires getting off of the shuttle at the correct stop and walking down a few feet, but it's still worth visiting. This three-peaked side of the canyon is named after the Biblical patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We caught this sight as the light was shining on it, and it was beautiful. This is a great stop on the way in or out of the park because it doesn't take very long to see. Also, beware that you might find some wild turkeys taking in the view with you! (I guess that's not really a "beware" as much as it is just a fun fact.)
Weeping Rock Trail
Only about 0.5 mile long, this paved trail takes you to a rock face which is always dripping water, thus the name "Weeping Rock." This is definitely a short, quick hike, so it won't take very long and it affords some neat views of The Great White Throne (one of Zion's more famous peaks). I enjoyed pausing to listen to the drip of the water with no one else around. I don't know if it's as peaceful year round, but it was a quiet, easy trail to tackle.
Canyon Overlook Trail
This was a really neat trail. After the wedding was finished, my sister and her husband wanted to take pictures around the park. One of the places they wanted to go was this trail. To get there, you have to go to the other side of the park, through a tunnel, and find a place to park. In the process of getting to this point, it started to rain, so my sister decided it wasn't worth ruining her dress just to get out to the overlook point. They turned back, but we decided we'd still try it out (in our wedding clothes, mind you).We definitely got a few odd looks as we hiked in our nice clothes, but most people who talked to us remembered seeing the wedding earlier in the day. We started the hike while it was just drizzling, and fortunately it mostly stayed that way. There were puddles and certainly some mud which made things a bit slippery, but it wasn't too bad - especially because we changed into our hiking boots. In nicer weather, this trail would have been pretty easy and straightforward, but the mud and puddles added a bit of a challenge.
This trail was unique because of the boulders you had to climb over and the narrow paths you had to take. I wish the weather had held out a bit longer so we could have enjoyed the hike a bit more, but as we finished taking pictures at the overlook, it started to rain harder. The view from the overlook point was breathtaking especially as the fog and low hanging clouds rolled in.
This wasn't a hike we did, but we set up our tripods with the other photographers to capture the sunset on the cliff face of The Watchman. There's a bridge towards the front of the park which has a perfect, front row view of The Watchman as the sun is setting. The colors in the rock, river, and sky change in the hour or so it take for the sun to go down, and it is incredible. You have to claim your spot early because it fills up! In fact, there are painted lines almost like the lines of a mini parking space for each photographer to claim.
This is probably one of the more famous hikes you can do in Zion National Park, and it's fame comes from the narrow walkways with steep drop offs on either side. It is about a 6 mile roundtrip hike to the top of Angels Landing where you get a stunning view of the park, but it takes a lot of work to get up there. With winding, steady inclines and moments where you are literally hoisting yourself to the next level by a chain in the rock, it is an exhausting hike. But if you're bold enough to try making it to the top, it's well worth the trip. Depending on the time of year you go, it can be really busy, and that means you have to wait your turn to pass through certain points of the hike. Our hike in wasn't too busy, but as we hiked out, it filled up and we had to wait a few times for our turn to descend a particularly narrow, one way area.
I think I could try to describe what it was like, but I think pictures may be a better alternative.
If you're the outdoorsy type - and even if you aren't. Zion National Park has a lot to offer. This is one of the first national parks I've had the privilege of hiking in, and I must say that it's a fun way to spend your time. Strenuous exercise, beautiful scenery, exciting company, and the pride of a goal achieved.
What kind of hike would you be up for?