When we were planning out this trip, we had places in mind that were a must for us to see but were still undecided on a couple spots. Notably, the last 3-4 nights were completely unplanned in terms of where we were going to camp at. One of the biggest questions was whether to visit Bryce Canyon or Zion. After talking to a couple of friends who know the parks very well (and accounting for our limited time), we decided to head to Zion.
During the one full day we had at Grand Canyon, we drove west through the park on Hermit Road (you can read more about it on our previous blog post where I wrote about the 2 days we spent at the Grand Canyon), so on the way to Zion we took the opportunity to the see the west side of the canyon and enjoy the views along Desert View Drive.
The weather wasn’t great that morning – it was not only very cold, but also foggy – but it didn’t take away from the canyon’s beauty. From there we headed to AZ-64 west towards AZ-89. We really wanted to stop and see Horseshoe Bend, but It started snowing and we decided to keep driving because you literally could not see 5 feet in front of you! Before we knew it, we were passing the Glen Canyon Dam, and crossing into the State of Utah.
Zion National Park
As we were getting closer to Zion National Park, it stopped raining and the sun came out. At the entrance, we ran into the same situation as in the other parks: no fees being collected, limited staff and services, and only one campground open on a first come first serve basis. But to get to the campground and see if there were spots available we had to first drive through the park, and we didn’t know we were about to get our minds blown!
Because our trip was a rather spontaneous one, we were unable to reserve campsites at most places, including Zion. Only one loop in the entire park was open: loop B at Watchman Campground. But we were lucky enough to walk up to the last campsite available for that day. We set up camp, cracked open some beers, and celebrated a great day by the fire.
It was so hard to decide what to do at Zion having just one full day at the park but after some deliberation – and suggestions – we decided to hike the Narrows. But there was some things we had to figure out before heading there: what to do with Roxy since dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Zion National Park and what to wear to stay dry and warm.
I googled dog care around Springdale and found Doggy Dude Ranch in Rockville, just a few miles from our campsite at the park’s south entrance. Their website mentioned that they require reservations, however we decided to take our chances and check it out since it was so close. We got there and they were extremely accommodating and were able to take Roxy, probably since it was not the busy season. If you’re planning on taking your pooch with you, keep this place in mind and remember to bring your dog’s vaccination records – it is required!
Now that Roxy was safe and sound at the ranch, I did some research on what kind of gear we would need to rent out in order to safely hike in 36 degree water temperatures. I found a lot of places along Springdale’s Main Street and one of them was just across the river from our campsite, called Zion Outfitter. They offer different packages, all at very similar prices and products compared to other companies around. We chose the Dry Bib Package, and at $45 it included a pair of neoprene socks, shoes, walking stick, and a waterproof jumper. We were officially ready to go.
To get to The Narrows, we had to take the shuttle – private vehicles are not permitted on that road, bikers and hikers are welcome – which also stops at most places along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Despite the government shutdown, the shuttle lines were running normally. We were pretty shocked at how long the line was to get on the shuttle, though, so prepare to wake up early if you want to get to the top quickly! Once on the shuttle, the ride took approximately 45 minutes and so we arrived at the trailhead around noon.
For the first 20-30 minutes of the trail you can choose between two routes – the meadows and the accessible ramp. These two paths converge at the entrance of the river canyon and at that point you have no choice but to go in the water.
The whole trail is about 3 hours each way. We started the hike a bit late, so we planed to hike 2 hours into the canyon in the river in order to be back before the sun started to set. We really wanted to finish and enjoy every single step of the trail, though.
We were mesmerized as soon as we started the hike. The Narrows is hands down the most beautiful trail we have ever hiked! I’ve always heard how busy the trail gets, but due to the cold weather that was not the case. It is a fairly easy trail, with some deep river spots along the way. I’m 5’10” and at the deepest point the water was up to my waist. As for our gear, it kept us nice and dry. Water only got into our shoes, but the neoprene socks kept our feet warm and the dry bib kept the water away from our clothes.
Once we got back from the hike, we picked up Roxy and decided to check out Zion Canyon Brew Pub which is just next door to Zion Outfitter. They had great food and beer and I also learned about some of Utah’s alcohol laws. TL;DR most of the beer you will find is legally capped at 4% ABV. We then went back to the campground.
Zion National Park was the biggest surprise of the trip. We knew it was a beautiful place, but it blew our minds. Frank even said that it is his new favorite national park, taking the previous first place from Yosemite National Park. I can only imagine what other amazing trails and activities Zion National Park has to offer, but I was very happy we chose to see the Narrows. And it is safe to say that we will be going back as soon as we can.
As for the last few days of our trip, we’ll be checking out Red Rock Canyon National Preserve right outside of Las Vegas, NV, and Death Valley National Park.
This post is part of a series in which we visited Oceano Dunes SVRA, Los Padres National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Red Rock Canyon National Preserve, and Death Valley National Park.
– Pt 1: San Francisco to Joshua Tree
– Pt 2: Joshua Tree to Grand Canyon
– Pt 3: Grand Canyon to Zion (this post)
– Pt 4: Zion to Death Valley and back home (coming soon)
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