After flying into Las Vegas, Nevada, we drove straight to Zion National Park in Utah, which was only really about 2 hours 40ish minutes (or 160 miles). We also revisited Zion on our last day of the road trip loop, right before we were to head back to Las Vegas for our flight. Since the national park tickets were good for 7 days (per vehicle), we didn't have to pay extra! Yay! I wish we had more time though, I feel as though we merely scratched the surface of what Zion had to offer in our short two days there. Stinkin' short spring break! In our time at Zion, we were able to hit two BEAUTIFUL hikes. Both with unbelievably stunning views, but one with a short pay off and one where you really had to work for it. The two hikes we did are Canyon Overlook Trail (shorter, easier, great for kids) and Angel's Landing (thrilling, not for those with fear of heights).
Canyon Overlook Trail
Since our entire group all had to get up fairly early the first day and were also extremely tired from multiple prior events (concerts, Vegas shenanigans, early flights, etc) we decided to go with an easier hike for our first day at Zion. This hike is a relatively short, 1 mile round trip, walk. Elevation gain is only about 100 feet, with a bit of a steep walk in the initial park of the hike, but not really too bad at all. The trail consists of beautiful all around views of the thousand foot tall sandstone mountains. Our favorite parks included walking across a suspended bridge walkway and the large overhanging rock that came right after it. This overhang rock is shaped almost like a large open mouth, frozen in time. Since it is spring time the greenery was plentiful, scattered all over the trail and surrounding mountains. We couldn't help ourselves but to stop and continue to snap photos of these freakin' photogenic rocks! We saw many many small children, both walking independently and also on these daddy-backpack carriers (who knew those were so popular?!) throughout this hike! If those little cuties can hike this whole thing, you definitely can too!
After having reached the top, the view was quite beautiful, with the winding paths, tiny moving cars, and bushels of green peacefully surrounded by majestic stone mountains. It feels easy to sit on the edge, soak in nature's glory, and forget about life's pending responsibilities and stresses. I wanted to sit there for longer, forgetting about my to-do list waiting for me at home. It's funny how nature can be so entrancing at times. It's beautiful and complexity of the details make it hard to not believe there is a higher power, a God who's creative brain crafted these nature masterpieces. We had a lot of fun just climbing a couple of the mountains, finding quieter parks of the viewpoint to sit. The weather was a lot warmer than we had expected! So bring layers for sure.
Before heading to Angel's Landing, the two things I heard the most from people were:
1. "It's an absolute MUST DO"
2. "People have died falling off those cliffs on that hike."
I always look at 'em like... thanks friend. Mixed feelings. The hike is 4.8 miles (7.8km) round trip, with about a 1500 feet (or 460 m) elevation gain. The hike starts off at the trailhead named "The Grotto", then leads to a steep path of switchbacks, and ends with the crazy and exhilarating trek up and down the narrow spine of the mountain with crazy drops on both sides of you, clinging onto chains and guard rails for security, all the while leading to a breathtaking view of the mountains at the top. During certain months of the year (usually early April to end of October, aka when we went), private cars are not allowed up to Angel's Landing. So we parked at one of the early stops (Stop 2) and took the bus up to the trailhead, which should be Stop 6! When we went, the bus came every 5-10 minutes, very frequently! Make sure to do your research and check the bus schedule though because it changes depending on the time of year. Pro-tip, during busy/popular months, park at an earlier shuttle stop, because otherwise the shuttle gets full way too fast and it'll take forever to wait for one where you can maybe squeeze on. We went in late March and it was already extremely busy (it was full a couple stops in from the first stop and we saw a lot of people get turned away), so I can only imagine what it is like during the summer months.
I think I was so mentally prepared for the strenuous nature of the last part (I mean crazy drops on BOTH sides of you how can you not be slightly nervous), that I didn't realize how steep the first section of switchbacks were going to be. I admit, the high elevation plus my post-finals hermit-like studying-all-day sleep-deprived body got winded much earlier than I expected. There are many areas on the sides to just turn around and enjoy the view while taking a rest-stop/breather. No shame! Let your body rest! Right before the final part of the hike, we took a lunch break on this large flat surface where the rest of the hikers were chillin' too! Many people decide to stop at this part and turn around to go back, which is totally fine! We used this time to rest up and hydrate before lining up to get started on the most exhilarating part of the hike. Pheebs and I sandwiched ourselves between the two boys (just felt safer I guess) and after waiting for a bit, we got started! Because the pathway is so narrow, hikers going to and coming back from the end had to take turns when crossing certain sections of the hike. It was extremely important for hikers going both directions to be in constant communication and to be courteous since every has to take turns passing each other. I thought that once I got to the point where I was with thousand foot drops on either side of me, I would be squirming inside, but it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be! The metal chains are very secure and provided a sense of security throughout the hike. It's also perspective I guess. You could think either "I could die if I fell off either side of this mountain right now" or "there is less mountain in the way now of this increasingly gorgeous view". Perspective!
The view from the top was amazing. It was a completely different view from one edge of the mountain than when you did a 180 and looks over the opposite edge. The top wasn't as crowded as I expected it to be, so it gave us a nice room to take a breather. The trek back was so much easier because it was all downhill from there on, but seriously guys, SO WORTH IT.
Thank you Utah for an amazing trip! Missing you and your orange-ness already!!