The southwest corner of the USA is one of the best destinations for nature lovers. UTAH’s 5 National parks are all close here and Zion National Park is one of the absolute best.
Zion National Park surrounds the small town of Springdale and is only 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, It’s not difficult to get to but certainly is hard to leave. For me the Canyon is a rare combination of elevation, open spaces, spectacular slot canyons and massive cliffs. There’s also a river and brilliant geological colors all in an area not too big and not too small, its “just right”.
Zion is also a hiking paradise for both adventurous and family oriented hikers. There is everything from flat paved paths to the infamous Angels Landing. The Narrows and Observation point are just as spectacular but in a completely different way. (Angels Landing was closed whilst we were visiting due to a large storm and resulting flash flood.)
I visited with the family in summer and stayed a few days exploring Canyon Overlook, The Narrows, Observation Point and a few others along the way. The hikes in Zion range from mild to strenuous but are all amazing due to the stunning scenery you will see.
The Narrows was our first choice as weather can change the conditions in a slot canyon dramatically, conditions were predicted to get worse during the week. As predicted the weather was good going in but a thunderstorm developed on our way out so the return leg was swift. Later on in the week large afternoon thunderstorms developed on the plains north of the park with some flooding reported.
The Narrows is a unique experience, walking on a shallow riverbed for hours is fatiguing on muscles that are not often used. Not being able to see where your feet are going certainly slows you down. Despite this I carried the camera in a waterproof backpack (up to chest deep) and captured some amazing scenes.
Whilst a walking stick is a necessity, I used my camera tripod for support during the journey, I wouldn’t recommend this though. The fine silt found its way into the metal threads. I spent plenty of time cleaning fine sand from the leg lock mechanisms later in the day.
After the Narrows a rest day was needed, we woke later had breakfast at the hotel and went to Weeping rock. We then explored the start of the Observation point and Hidden Canyon trail. After a few minutes we jumped back on the shuttle and headed back out of the park to the Payrus Trail. From there we walked the paved path to the visitor center and grabbed a few souvenirs. This was an easy morning so we took the afternoon to explore Springdale on the way back to the hotel. There’s a nice selection of art and souvenir shopping in Springvale.
After a small rest we planned an early dinner to allow time to go to Canyon Overlook for the sunset. Car parking was tight (we filled the last spot) and we took the short but interesting hike to the overlook and sat on the rocks until it was dark. Torches were needed to get back to the car but its a view to remember and worth the time to really enjoy.
On Day three we tackled the Observation Point trail. This was a big day for us, climbing 2500ft during a 7 hour walk in 35 degree heat (I’m glad we trained for this). We set off on the first shuttle at 6.00am with about 12 liters of water and packets of food for our little trio of explorers. Big thanks go to my wonderful wife as she carried all our food and three liters of extra water for me (My camera bag has limited space for water). This is such a rewarding hike with many places to see stunning scenery, Echo canyon is its own destination and is only about half way to the top. Just past this point we saw some Bighorn Sheep on the side of the cliffs having a feed on the natural vegetation.
The view from the top of the Observation Point lookout is stunning, It’s certainly deserves to be one of the top hikes in the park. It’s longer and much higher than the famous Angels Landing and offers many views as you climb, it’s a constant adventure. The amazing view gives the entire valley some perspective and as we looked down we could see the tiny little busses (the small white speck) dropping more visitors off along the park.