It seems that everyone who visits Zion National Park has good things to say. Having now been there, it’s not hard to see why. My husband and I arrived late in the afternoon after a night in Las Vegas, where we were recovering from a five night camping stint. We were too late to claim a campsite in the park (Zion only has two campgrounds: Watchman, which is by reservation, and South, which is first come, first serve), so we stayed about 45 minutes outside the gates at Quail Creek Campground, a nice site located right on a lovely reservoir. For night two in the area, however, we wanted to be IN Zion. So, as advised by a ranger, we got to South Campground just before 7am (waking at 5:30am) to claim a spot. Our early arrival secured us the third spot in the wait line, and we were lucky enough to get in – the sites fill fast!
After setting up our tent, the bulk of our day was spent hiking in The Narrows, that famous stretch of river deep inside a water carved canyon. Upon the recommendation of my sister, who had traveled in Zion the year before, we rented shoes and socks made out of wet suite material from an outfitter in town. Then we were on our way! Zion operates a shuttle to popular park sites; you can’t drive there yourself. Luckily the shuttle is frequent and well-run, so it’s no hassle. I do recommend, however, getting an early start so you can secure a spot in the visitor center parking lot. If you fail to do this, you’re stuck leaving your car outside of the park in town, and you must take two shuttles to get the main attractions. Not the end of the world, but another step to take when all you want to do is get out there.
Anyway, we were lucky enough to get a spot at the visitor center, so it was just one shuttle for us. The trailhead to The Narrows is at the Temple of Sinawava, which is the last stop on the shuttle and about a 40-minute ride from the visitor center, but it goes by quickly. Then there’s a mile long river walk before you hit the good stuff: the water! I was a bit concerned about water temps and being freezing most of the day, but as it turns out I had nothing to worry about. In mid-September, the water was easy to get into and refreshingly cool.
The Narrows is a very cool “hike,” but it’s definitely slow going. I’d suggest packing a lunch and having a picnic on some of rocks after you’ve walked in. We spent nearly four hours hiking around, and we still got nowhere close to the end.
After returning our gear we didn’t have too much time left in the day for anything big. We had wanted to hike to Angel’s Landing, the park’s most popular trek, but starting the 5.4 strenuous route at 5:15pm didn’t seem like the wisest idea. Instead, we opted for the easier Lower Emerald Pool trail, which is accessible from the same trailhead as Angel’s Landing. The short loop got us back to the campsite in time to make dinner and relax a bit before bed.
My husband and I both enjoyed the Narrows and the beautiful vistas of the park. Like all the big parks we’ve seen, this is another one we have to come back to; we could have done with a couple of extra days to hike Angel’s Landing, Observation Point, the Court of the Patriarchs, and likely others. But, so it goes. On a whirlwind trip across this huge country, it’s impossible to see everything! Glad we could at least get a taste of this beautiful place.