Zion National Park, Trip Report

Old Oct 26th, 2011, 09:21 AM
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Zion National Park, Trip Report

If, during the week of October 17, you happened to see a navy blue Hyundai Santa Fe on the road between Springdale and Rockville, arms out the window aimed skyward, holding tight to an iPhone, that would have been DH and I. In search of an elusive AT&T signal. With one exception, there were no signs of AT&T life in Zion Canyon. For phone and text Springdale, better yet Rockville, is where you need to go. Uploading one photo to friends or Facebook took a good five minutes or more. If you have Verizon you’re in luck. Thankfully, DH also has a Blackberry (Verizon) so we were able to use it with minor issues inside the park.

You’ll find the AT&T exception in the park at the end of loop trail which follows Watchman Trail. Here, in the bottom of our backpacks, is where our phones came to life. Much like the slot machines not so far away in Vegas. Phone, text, email messages all came ringing through at once as we stood at the edge of a magnificent view during our last day in the park. We laughed. For anyone wondering why we clung so tightly to our smartphones we are six months into a new job (dh), new house, new pet sitter and we wanted to stay connected.

Trip Planning:

Thanks to Fodorite Starrs advice, I ordered through Amazon the most helpful of all books, “Zion Adventure Guide” by Greer Chesher. I wish there were a book of its kind for all National Parks. Frommer’s, “Zion & Bryce Canyon National Parks” guide helped fill in some gaps. As always, searching the Fodor’s forum for information proved useful, too. And once at the park the “Zion National Park Map and Guide”, handed to us at park check-in, came with us everywhere we went.

Helpful iPhone App:

Hiking Zion. This app offers ratings and descriptions for all in park hikes, maps, and weather which is useless unless you have a connection.

Getting there:

We flew BWI to Las Vegas, non-stop, on Southwest. 5.5 hours outbound, ugh. I knew when we moved from San Antonio I would miss the short(er) flight times West and I do. Non-stop helps tremendously. Flight arrives on time. We collect our luggage and find the rental car shuttle bus. We quickly pick up our car from Budget. Unfortunately, no one told us, and I didn’t think to research road construction myself prior to departure, that the on ramp to I-15 north is closed. We follow the detour signs, no problem. However, upon return we didn’t see detour signs, GPS proved useless, but we manage to find the rental car facility. Eventually.

Welcome to Zion Canyon:

Normal drive time from Las Vegas to Zion should take about 2 hours and 40 minutes but only a few exits away from where we entered I-15 was a major accident so it took us an additional hour to get there.

We arrive at the park entrance just as the sun is setting. The rocks are illuminated in a warm, orange glow. Beautiful. The all day travel it took to get here was soooo worth it. As we pull up to the park entrance I notice the clock reads 7:00P. We thought it was 6:00. Las Vegas is Pacific time; Zion Canyon, Mountain. So we instantly lost another hour and the dinner reservations we had in an hour and a half were now in 30 minutes.

More to follow...
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Old Oct 26th, 2011, 09:31 AM
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I get so confused with Utah/Nevada time zones. If you want to really add to the confussion then consider places like Monument Valley(an Indiam Reservations) don't have the same time as the rest of the state. One observes Daylight Savings Time and the other doesn't.

Looking forward to your Zion TR.
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 02:01 PM
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And then there's Arizona...or is it New Mexico?, that doesn't celebrate daylight savings time. It can be confusing, glad to know I'm not alone.

That first morning, I glance at the clock and leap out of bed. DH asks what’s wrong. In panic tone I stress it’s eight o’clock! "So? We don’t have to be anywhere." Oh, right. I had slept for 10 hours, nearly forgot where I was. Talk about a much needed vacation and a most comfortable bed…

Zion Lodge:

For reservations in October I booked our room in March. We stayed in suite 209 located in the Sentinel Building which is the first building on the left once you leave the main lodge. Unlike the adjacent “hotel” building and cabins it does not face forward/backward but is askew to the canyon walls. The nice thing about this is our room, although in “back”, has a balcony that faces either side of the canyon. Also, no foot or bus traffic. Out of all the park lodging we’ve stayed in this is our favorite in terms of spaciousness and comfort.


For food supplies we made the quick drive to Sol Foods in Springdale loading up on fruit, nuts, bagles, cheese. We had planned to stop on the drive in but we were so late, tired and hungry that we waited until the next morning. There is a very small fridge in the room. Also a coffee pot that uses what looks like coffee {tea} bags but we brought our own.

For lunch, we visited Castle Dome Café, located at the lodge, a couple of times as we passed it on the way from the shuttle bus back to our room. Food here is okay; sandwiches to go, burgers, ice cream. One day we stopped at Sol Foods for sandwiches which were good. Otherwise, we ate leftovers from dinner the night before.

For dinner, we were pretty much committed to the only restaurant at Zion Lodge, Red Rock Grill. Reservations are mandatory. Tired after hiking all day we didn’t have the energy to stray too far. Fortunately, the food here is really good and the staff is terrific. We did mix it up by trying two restaurants in town. Bit and Spur, reservations suggested. We liked the food here, I highly recommend the duck carnitas. And, Zion Pizza & Noodle. Reservations not accepted so go early or plan to wait. The line was literally out the door when we left @6P. DH would have preferred a full service restaurant this night, our last. Here you place your order at the counter and wait for someone to bring you your food. He pouted until he dove into the calzone and declared it the best he’d ever had. I can eat some pizza and finished all but one slice of the one I ordered, the Focaccia. It was excellent but we're not here to eat, I want to hike!

Next up, hiking the trails…
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Old Oct 26th, 2011, 02:54 PM
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You didn't get your lunch and eat outside under the tree?
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 04:00 AM
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No, but I did enjoy a hot tea ($2.25!), dh ice cream, on the big expanse of a lawn in front of the lodge one day. The apples in my backpack were usually savored on a rock or under a tree along a trail somewhere. "lunch" was grab and go cuz now it's late, we're really hungry, and would like, legs permitting, to fit in one last hike / walk about. Thank you for reading my report!
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 06:20 AM
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“The mountains are calling and I must go.” --John Muir

Our first full day in Zion finds DH sick. After our early morning excursion to Sol Foods he heads back to bed, I head for the trails. Love ya, honey! I’ve never hiked alone and find that I enjoy it very much. With so many hiking options in Zion my head is spinning. Finally, I decide to keep it close to home so I can check in on DH and later, if all is well, go further via the bus.

Because Middle Emerald Pools Trail is closed due to a rock slide, I start with Lower Emerald Pools followed by Upper Emerald Pools, ending with Kayenta Trail. It’s cold starting out but by the time I reach Kayenta my four layers of clothing (tank, short sleeve-t, long sleeve-t, light jacket) is down to one. Lower Emerald Pools is especially pretty in morning. The sun streamed through in such a way it hit the waterfall, creating a rainbow affect. The pool below reflected the mountain above. It’s wet, it’s slippery, a bit muddy. It’s simply beautiful. From here I make the rocky climb up to Upper Emerald Pools. I hear a bus load of children making their way down the path of LEP. Their echos follow me to Kayenta. Kayenta is only partially shaded in morning, full sun by afternoon. I don’t handle the sun or heat well so I’m glad I hit this in the morning. Later, with DH, we take this trail in the afternoon and it’s down right hot. Hard to imagine how challenging this would be in summer.

Ending near the Grotto, I take the park shuttle (bus) back to the lodge. The bus is easy to use and I enjoy listening to the taped narration that describes the significance of each stop.

DH is going to live, so following a quick lunch and camera battery recharge I take the bus to the final stop, Temple of Sinawava for the Riverside Walk. I really don’t have words to describe the beauty of Zion. Every path has something different to offer. This is a lush, sensory filled walk. In addition to the sights, there are two things that impress me. One, I enjoy seeing the faces and posture of the hikers in wet suits who have emerged from The Narrows. It’s clear they’ve been on an adventure, they have a certain look about them. It’s a hike I’m afraid, but would love, to do so I admire these folks. Second, an old woman nimbly pushing her walker down the path with a smile as wide as a canyon. You go, girl! Seeing her just made my day. At the end of the week I’ll revisit this walk with DH but it’s crowded. Not as enjoyable for me as it was on Tuesday but the leaves are beginning to change color along the river so that was neat to see.

Back on the bus I make my last stop of the day at Weeping Rock Trail. It’s a short, only 1 mile round trip, hike but steep. The views from the top are fantastic and the water spilling down feels good on my sweaty head. On my way back down I hear a woman complain to her companion, “you told me this was going to be an easy hike.”.

The Hiking Guide located in the in the ZNP Map and Guide gives an abbreviated but solid description of each hike and it rates them Easy, Moderate, Strenuous. I consulted this section time and again.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 06:29 AM
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Wow! Sounds like a fabulous trip. Loving the report.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 07:13 AM
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Arizona doesn't do daylight savings time and when I lived in Phoenix, I wished they had a Daylight Wasting Time where they would set the clock ahead an hour or two so the sun would go down earlier and cool the place off!

The Navajo reservation in AZ observes DST so that it remains on same time as the part of the res that is in NM
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 08:13 AM
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I'm enjoying reading your report on one of my favorite parks.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 08:21 AM
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Your trip sounds wonderful, AnnMarie! I'm chuckling at your comment of jumping out of bed after seeing the time but realizing you have no place to be! Ahhh....back to bed.

I'm happy you two had such a great trip!!
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 10:58 AM
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Thanks, everyone! Zion is so special. One of our favorite parks, now, too. "Daylight wasting time", lol!

The following day, DH feels better so we take the mouth dropping, two-hands-on-the-wheel drive up Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Destination, Canyon Overlook Trail. Driving through the pitch-black, mile long tunnel is a bit unnerving but the occasional window cut-outs are a relief. Once through the tunnel, on the right hand side, is a parking for the COT but it’s full so we head up the hill a ways and find another lot on the left. Someone pulling out tells us to look for the Desert Bighorn Sheep on the rocks above that first parking lot. And there they are… ”high on a hill was a lonely goat….” Thank you, strangers! This hike, along with Angels Landing and Watchman Trail, is one of my favorites. The scenery is spectacular along the trail and then, at the Overlook, what a sight to behold. We spend a good deal of time at the top taking pictures, chatting with strangers. It’s not an easy place to walk away from.

When we do come down we head into Springdale to pick up sandwiches and have lunch on our balcony. In the relative silence we hear voices, break out the binocs, and find two climbers scaling a tremendous façade of rock to our left. Yowza! Throughout the trip we would hear first, and then see, other climbers throughout the canyon. All I can say is wow!

In the afternoon, I revisit with DH some of the trails I had walked the day before. Lower and Upper Emerald Pool and Kayenta, followed by the pretty Grotto Trail back to the lodge. I wasn’t too jazzed about repeating some hikes until I noticed that the lighting had changed which made for a whole new and other experience.

It's now day three. The moment I’ve been waiting for and anticipated most, Angels Landing. DH was not too keen on us hiking this trail. After all he had read about it he had me nearly convinced we shouldn’t do it. But I really wanted to, there was a nagging feeling inside and I had to hike it out. Thankfully, a woman we met at Overlook told us she had hiked it several times and not to worry. Yay! Let’s just go as far as we feel comfortable, okay? Okay. Okay!

We start out around 10A and make it as far as what I believe is Scouts Overlook by @11:30. I don’t remember the exact time but it was a long hike up, well over an hour. Here, there are toilets to the left (relief!) and a fabulous overlook to the right where a lot of people are hanging out, having lunch. This is it? Where are the chains?? We sit atop a perch to eat an apple and enjoy the view when twice I am buzzed by California Condor no. 99. The sound and sensation of this guy flying inches above my head was astounding.

A couple to our left tells us the last section of the trail is to my left. DH knows I am itching to go, and I know he is not, so I leave my backpack with him and make my way with sweaty palms and feet. The chains I find helpful in places, in others I am literally on hand and knee. This is completely out of my comfort zone and there were places I just stopped and couldn’t move but there always was someone behind me to encourage me along the way. I can't explain the reason I felt so compelled to hike this trail but I did and am glad for it. Definitely, my favorite park experience ever.

From Scouts Overlook, we head up and away from Angels Landing, on a far less precarious trail, and end up even higher looking down at AL. The views here, as well as at AL, are spectacular. Heading down the mountain, the trail is so steep in places (good thing we were half asleep on the way up) we find it easier to jog down instead of walk. It’s late afternoon by the time we return to the lodge and call it a day. A fabulous day.

Just a little further...
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 11:11 AM
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What a great trip report ! I'm enjoying reading it so much. I didn't know about all the different parts of this area having different times. Oustide of restaurant reservations, it sounds like the perfect place to tuck one's watch away in the bottom of the backpack and forget about the time.

I'm very interested in visiting this area, but I'm not sure I'd be as brave as you in doing all the hiking. ( Hmm, I would not be as fit either !).

I'm sorry your DH was sick, but glad you had a good holiday in spite of it.

Thanks for the information on what guide books to get.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 11:42 AM
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My daughter sat on here bottom and scooted her way across most of the chains section. AL is definately one of my all time favorite hikes. Although, I did like The Narrows just about as well. We saw a condor too. Although, it was perched in a tree. I would have loved to see it fly. I looked at my pictures just now, our bird was $52.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 11:51 AM
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You're a braver woman than I am, AnnMarie_C! Great trip report.

Lee Ann
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 12:04 PM
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kodi, it is the perfect place to lose the watch! We initially had plans to go to Bryce but, with DH getting sick, felt it best to stay put and I'm so glad we did.

spirobulldog, lol, I did that on the way down in a few places. If I can figure it out I'll post a pic or two of 99.

Thanks, Lee Ann! (I hope my punctuation misusage didn't scare you too much!)

It’s our last day and my legs are, ooooweeeee, sore. Still, we take the bus to the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and find the trail head for Watchman Trail. The long, flat walk that leads to the climb is a nice warm up for my stiff legs. And it’s a pretty walk filled with yellow sagebrush. Another diverse and scenic climb we make our way to what we think is the end until we see small sign post that reads, “Trail Loop”. No matter how tired you may feel, stop and rest. And then keep going. The views from the tip of the trail loop are spectacular. From here we can see the cars lined up for park entry and I am reminded why we started this journey on a Monday and ended on a Saturday. It’s Friday morning and the park is filling quickly. The estimated round trip time for this hike is 2 hours but it was closer to 3 for us. Another hard to walk away from sight.

The afternoon finds us on crowded buses and a crowded Riverside Walk trail. As I mentioned before, I am glad I was here earlier in the week when it was less crowded. The leaves here are starting to change color and I am sorry I’ll miss the rest of the show.

One of the downsides of living in the Mid-Atlantic region is two days were lost traveling back and forth but it was so worth it and I will happily do it, again. Seeing Zion for the first time, we were just astounded by the beauty and enormity of the rocks and canyons. This country has so much to offer, it never ceases to amaze me!
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 12:10 PM
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California Condor no. 99

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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 12:12 PM
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 12:17 PM
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Here he is in-flight. If you can zoom in on the image the 99 is visible,

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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 01:38 PM
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I went to Utah with my daughter a year ago September.

My plan was to stop at Scouts Lookout. My daughter wanted to go on. I told her I wouldn't mind if she didn't have parents, a husband and a daughter.

She got over it quickly.

I'm too old and not brave enough.
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Old Oct 27th, 2011, 02:09 PM
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Really enjoyed your report, AnnMarie_C! Re-lived our trip there several years ago. . .all the hikes, especially Angel's Landing; the impressive tunnel entrance. It's really a gorgeous place, isn't it? Thanks again for sharing your experiences.
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