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Trip Report Zion National Park Trip Report

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We spent two full days in Zion in mid-September – the first visit for both me and my husband. I would have to put Zion on my top 10 list of national parks. Even if you just take the 12-mile scenic drive through the park you will see incredible scenery.

During our first day we hiked up the Canyon Overlook Trail which starts just outside the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel on the east side. The trail does pass a few long drop-offs, but the most dangerous sections have fencing along the edges. One interesting spot along the way is the bridge you have to cross. It hugs a cliff face, below an overhang, before leading into a fairly large alcove. Once at the top, you'll have views of Pine Creek Canyon, lower Zion Canyon and the winding road below and if you look closely at the wall on your left while standing at the overlook, you may notice a “window” carved in the rock tunnel.

To get through the tunnel, you have to wait in line for a few minutes as there is only one-way traffic, but the rangers do a good job of keeping the traffic flowing. The tunnel is 1.1 mile long through sheer rock wall. While you’re driving through you’ll come across several “windows” and what looked to be a large observation pull out area. My guess is when this tunnel was built in 1930, it allowed drivers to stop and check out the scenery, but the pull out is now blocked off to cars.

From there, we drove to the visitor’s center where we parked our car and utilized the park’s shuttle system to get to our next hike, the Emerald Pools. I think this must be one of the most popular hikes in the park as there were quite a few people on the trail. The part I liked the most was the 100 foot waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool which flows right over the outside edge of the trail. Although not much water was coming down on our visit in September, we still felt the spray. In the spring, I would imagine you’d probably get wet!

Our next destination was to take the Riverwalk trail out to the beginning section of the Narrows, a popular slot canyon which can take you through chest deep waters, depending on the time of year you visit. Although we turned around at the end of the Riverwalk, we saw lots of people crossing the rocky water heading into the Narrows…maybe we’ll attempt that on our next visit!

Our second day, we arrived early since we were hiking up to Observation Point. An 8-mile round trip hike that climbs over 2,000 feet. For a good part of this hike you’ll be traveling along switchbacks and have spectacular views of the entire canyon. There is one section where you’ll go through Echo Canyon, a destination in and of itself. You’ll be enclosed by sheer cliff walls and find yourself grateful of the cooler temperatures in the canyon, especially on a hot summer day. Near the top of Observation Point, there is a section of trail which I found a little unnerving…but I have a little fear of heights. It’s a narrow section of trail with sheer rock wall on one side and sheer drop-off on the other. When you get to the top of Observation Point, you’ll have a clear view of this part of the trail…yikes! You’ll want to spend some time at the top and soak in all the views. There are some trees at the top that provide shade and plenty of places to sit.

I’d like to add that Zion does a fantastic job with the shuttle system. I don’t think we ever waited more than a few minutes for a shuttle. With limited parking at most trailheads, it’s really the best way to travel throughout the park if you’re hiking.

For more details and pictures of our hike, visit our blogs on our trip to Zion:

http://rockymountainhikingtrails.blogspot.com/2012/10/zion-canyon-overlook.html

http://rockymountainhikingtrails.blogspot.com/2012/10/zion-canyon-from-observation-point.html

http://rockymountainhikingtrails.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-emerald-pools.html

http://rockymountainhikingtrails.blogspot.com/2012/10/riverside-walk-to-narrows.html

http://hikinginglacier.blogspot.com/2012/10/zion-national-park-exploring-lesser.html

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