We were driving north after visiting Grand Canyon, into Utah, to see if there is something comparable in the many national parks the southern part of the Mormon state holds. Zion was our first stop. It’s a pretty small national park, but we had seen some great photos and heard good stories about it and long story short- they were true! Scroll down to see why.Although the park encompasses a bit more, the main sights and trails are concentrated in Zion canyon, that is closed off for private vehicles and is only accessible by a shuttle bus. That helps to spread out the people and give the canyon a more natural and wild, carefree look.
Red cliffs towering above the winding river and the narrow green strip around it give the park a really powerful look. A lot of the trails are carved into the canyon walls, taking the hiker up high quite fast and offering scenic views. Our first destination was the Hidden Canyon – a side canyon to the main area. As said, we first had to go up high and enjoy the views and only then turn into the side canyon. Although claimed to be hidden, we found it pretty easy, but that was only half the fun. There is no maintained trail in the side canyon, making it less crowded and giving everybody a chance to challenge themselves to go as far upstream as they can. After a bit of rock hopping, climbing and crawling we got to a point, where the canyon got pretty narrow and the stream had formed a deep clear pond and not too many people had wondered before. We took a quick dip in the cold water and headed back the way we came.
There are two campgrounds in Zion, one of them is always full and reserved months ahead and although the other one is first come-first serve, it usually gets filled already around 9 am. As we weren’t thinking about sleeping that early in the morning, we had to find something else. We found a nice little saloon in a nearby town and after a light dinner dozed off in their parking lot.
The next morning we decided to check out the most famous hike in Zion – Angles Landing. The name was given by early explorers, because the destination is on a cliff that they thought was so hard to reach, that only angels could land there. A park Superintendent in the 1930’s didn’t agree and had his men build a trail so everybody could enjoy the heavenly views. The trail isn’t easy though, it goes through a series of switchbacks (Walters Wiggles), over narrow ledges, steep and tight cliffs, where you need to hold on to a chain and has a lot of exposure to potentially deadly falls. Despite that, on most days the trail is packed with people, looking like little ants from afar, coming and going. But it truly is Angels Landing, as it gives you the heavenly feeling you can’t get from anywhere else!The advertising and the heard effect helps a lot of people to get where they normally wouldn’t go and experience the birdseye view for the first time in their lives. That is what we think everyone should experience at least once, but sarcastically saying, if you get up to Angels Landing, you’ll find babies and the elderly, the blind and the wounded, all sitting and having lunch on a rock in the prettiest place in Zion.
To sum it up, Zion is definitely worth a visit, it feels more intimate and wild than Grand Canyon, for example, but get there early in the day, parking fills up by 10 am and the shuttles can only carry so many. Unfortunately the Colorado River was still too high when we visited, so we couldn’t wonder into the Narrows, the upper part of Zion Canyon, where the 20 m canyon walls are about 2 m apart and the river is the trail! Definitely a must do for the next time!