Our trip back to Ontario is flying by so quickly. I cannot believe that our time in south-western Utah is already behind us.
Utah is an absolutely beautiful State. The varying landscape is incredible. We camped about 15 minutes outside of Zion National Park for three nights on BLM land and enjoyed the wide open space of the desert. Our nearest neighbours were a group of Airstream owners circled around a common space like the old pioneer wagon trains.
We spent two days exploring Zion National Park. The place was definitely as busy as Yosemite National Park, but so much more organized. Like Yosemite, Zion also has a shuttle bus which runs along a route of trailheads. But, cars are not allowed on the Zion bus route so there was no traffic congestion and, unlike Yosemite, Zion’s roads were not under construction. Bikes would be an awesome addition to your experience as there are several trails that are bike accessible and if you don’t want to take the shuttle bus (the lineup to get on the shuttle at the visitor centre was insane) you can simply ride your bike to the next trail head. We decided to walk the Pa’rus trail hike that went between the first, second and third stops of the shuttle bus run instead of standing in line to get on the bus. Further down the route the line-ups were not so bad and we were able to get on the bus no problem (although sometimes standing room only).
Our first hike was the Watchman hike which was a two hour hike, although with Wesley and Rosie, I think it turned out to be quite a bit longer than that. ;-) We had a great time on the trail and ate a picnic lunch at the top of The Watchman while enjoying a view of the valley below.
After the hike we visited the museum and the children listened to a Ranger talk about the park as part of the requirement for their Junior Ranger badges.
We ended our day by riding the bus all the way to the end of the route and walked the Riverside Trail to The Narrows.
I should note that since parking in the Park can be a problem, the Park has a free shuttle service that runs in the small town just outside the Park, where you can park in lots (for a fee) or on the street. This free shuttle will take you to the Park’s entrance. We were, however, able to find parking in the overflow parking area next to the Nature Centre and Southgate Campground. We arrived just after 9am our first day and well past 10 the next day. There is also a dump station beside this parking area and a place to get fresh water. So, each day we made sure to bring our empty water containers to fill them. We also brought our garbage and recycling here as well. The dump station was too small for our large trailer so on our way out of the area we stopped at the Maverick gas station in La Verkin where they have a free dump station (we also bought diesel). The overflow parking also happens to be at the trailhead for both the Watchman hike and the Pa’rus hike.
The second day at the park, we seemed to move a little more slowly. The children picked out some souveniers from the gift shop (We collect postcards from each of the parks we visit.) We enjoyed another picnic lunch and then made our way to the museum for Wesley and Rosie to hand in their Junior Ranger workbooks and get their Junior Ranger badges. Emma-lee’s foot was really bothering her and Rosie did not want to go on another hike so we left them to have a “big sister-little sister date” and went on the Weeping Rock hike. Although fairly short, it was amazing. The water is soaked in through the top layers of sandstone until it gets down to a denser layer of rock where it cannot permeate. As water will always look for an easy way out, the water squeezes out through the layers of rock thus making it looking like the rocks are crying. Scientists have tested the water coming out of the rock and believe it to be 1200 years old. How neat is that?!
After meeting up with Emma-lee and Rosie once again, we decided take a drive up the Zion Canyon Road to check out the mile long tunnel (built in the 1930s) that connects the south and east sides of Zion National Park. It is also the continuation of highway 9. The road takes several switchbacks up the canyon wall and the views are spectacular. The tunnel has look outs along the outer wall and then eventually opens up to a what seems like a whole other park. The landscape seems so different than in the canyon. It seemed drier and the deciduous trees were replaced with coniferous ones. We also had the privilege of seeing a lot of wildlife there too.
Upon leaving the Park for the final time, we made a quick stop back at our trailer to pick up our shower things to go to nearby Sand Hollow State Park where you can purchase a shower for $2/person. Of course, you could buy a timed shower in the town next to Zion National Park, but it was $4 for a 5 minute shower…a bit pricey for this family of 9! :-)
We loved Zion National Park and would definitely like to come back, but not while Wesley and Rosie are still so young. They are simply too young for a lot of the big hikes that have big drop offs and are too lengthy for their little legs. I felt like two days was enough time for our family, although, you could easily spend a couple of weeks at this park exploring trail after trail. It is so diverse and so very beautiful.