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Trip Report Wowed by Utah - Zion and Bryce National Parks, April 2014

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We spent a long weekend April 17-21 in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and had a lot of "wow" moments. I had no idea before I began researching the trip how many wonderful National Parks there are in and near Utah. What a treat it would be to have time to visit them all. We know we want to go back after the sampling we had.

Zion
We did the top-down Virgin Narrows overnight and had a great time. We were able to choose campsite #5 (there were three of us) and we were relieved when we got to it on day one. Campsite #12, the last site, was probably another two hours down the river, which would have been misery given how footsore we were when we got to #5--there was a couple on our shuttle that had drawn that site and we saw that they had instead camped illegally at a site a short ways down from us instead of pushing on to #12.

We brought our own camp equipment but we rented Narrows gear (drysuits, socks, sticks, and river shoes) from Zion Adventures. http://www.zionadventures.com/ We also used them for a shuttle to the trailhead at Chamberlain's Ranch. They were really great to deal with before we arrived--good communication. Once we were there it was horribly busy in the morning and felt a little frantic but it worked out.

The Narrows were incredible. We just kept looking around in wonder. We had so much of the first day to ourselves and even saw very few people until the last two or three miles on day 2. The last mile and a half were overrun with people coming down the paved path for a splash in the river. No problem taking the shuttle back to the entrance at the end of the trail.

Pros/Cons of our rental:
Drysuits - We were glad we had full dry suits. We all took at least one fall and the water was 46 degrees F. I was wearing layers and was never too hot. The Narrows are significantly cooler than the rest of the park because of the tall cliffs so even though it was over 80 degrees F for folks coming down for the day, we had cooler days and night was downright chilly.
Sticks - Essential. The only reason we didn't all have injuries. There are some really slick spots.
Dry socks/Shoes - Ugh. These were a con. We didn't have a good alternative but it would be worth exploring. All of us got terrible blisters. My second toes (longer than my firsts) were bruised. Our feet hurt by the end of the first day. We rallied the second day but were still uncomfortable. There's a reason we all carefully pick our hiking boots and this is why--hiking in something not your own just doesn't work well.

We loved Zion and since the Narrows was such a small taste we would love to get back and explore the other parts. Just driving through was a pleasure. We saw a rainbow just outside the park on the last day.

Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort - We stayed here because we wanted to stay in a wagon (which we did). The trip was hastily put together and we didn't realize we would drive all the way across the park from Springdale to get here so we arrived and left in the dark. What we saw looked like a fantastic family campground with lots of cool options like cabins, wagons, RV parking or campsites with plenty of great facilities. If you are fine not being in Springdale, this is a wonderful place and prices were really good.

Thai Sapa Restaurant This was our reward meal after the Narrows. It was not as extensive a menu as a normal Thai restaurant. But it was delicious and they try to source locally as much as possible. It's expensive (but then, a lot of things in Springdale are expensive).

Deep Creek Coffee - Yum! As someone who doesn't come from a place where funky little coffee shops are the norm I found this totally charming. My friend from Seattle considered it par for the course (but good). We got there right as scones were coming out of the oven and they had so many flavors it was hard to choose! Delicious!! And friendly.

Buying Alcohol So Virginia has ABC stores but you can buy wine and beer in grocery stores. In UT it's only beer in groceries so we made a second stop to get wine at the Switchback's restaurant in Springdale.

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