It was 5am Saturday morning, the car was packed full, our tumblers full of joe and LA as still as ever. We had 7 hours of ahead of us before we would arrive to Zion (map here), which we now deem as one of the most incredible places in America.
Pior to heading out we didn’t do much planning. We had decided just 2 days before that we would be doing this, so everything felt a bit more spontaneous. Along the way, we made a pit stop in Vegas, built some PBJ’s in a parking lot and saw some of the most incredible highway vistas.
Once we finally arrived to the South Entrance of Zion, we came to discover that both the South Campground and The Watchman Campgrounds were full. It was understandable being that it was the first weekend the National Parks had been reopened since the government shut down, as well as the absolute best time to be there before the campgrounds close for winter on November 3rd.
Luckily, the Ranger at the South Entrance told us about Zion Canyon Campground, located less than a mile outside of the entrance to the park. It was a bit more expensive ($34 vs. $16) but it included showers, wifi?! and there was one spot left along the river. Score! We had our spot for the night. We quickly set up camp and headed back to the park for a sunset hike along The Watchman Trail.
Watchman Trail hike: Easy, less than 2 hours round trip, perfect for a nice view at sunset
Things to note:
Entrance to the park= $25 and is valid for 7 days, you can go in and out as much as you like.
Parking in Zion is limited, the Visitor’s Center lot usually fills up by mid-morning on weekends, but you can park in the town of Springdale and take the free shuttle to the park.
That night we arrived back to our campsite around 8pm, grilled some delicious portobello mushroom burgers with ginger sesame marinade, drank some of our classiest Charles Shaw and noshed on dark chocolate covered powerberries before heading off to bed… or should I say to sleeping bag.
Sunday morning we awoke at 8am, made some warm oatmeal, Pumpkin Spice coffee, packed up camp and began our adventure of trekking through The Narrows!
We had met a nice couple the day before who recommended this trek, as well as the dry pants/ dry suit to go along with it, which we rented at Zion Adventure Co, located just outside the park across from where we had stayed the night before. Drew got a solid pair of dry pants, neoprene socks and water trekking shoes ($40 rental).
I, on the other hand, was suited in a head to toe dry suit, because water was certain to fill my dry pants, along with neoprene socks and water trekking shoes ($50 rental). We also decided to go with an awesome waterproof camera bag by Ortlieb ($10 rental). We both have one thing to say about this, it was worth it!
We began our trek through the 47 degree waters at 11:30am, passing through incredible rock faces, hiking through chest deep pools and admiring the bright orange colored sun shining way beyond our reach, it truly felt like we were in an adventure movie of some sort (anything but Anaconda please!).
About 3 hours in we had finally made it to the “Boulder Pair,” which was the perfect turn around point before the pools became too deep to pass without swimming. Through out our journey we saw many people without the proper gear, meaning in shorts and t-shirts, turn around because they couldn’t bear the cold waters any longer- when in doubt go for the gear! You can do almost anything as long as you have the right gear, and necessary skill set of course.
By 5:30pm we were back on the shuttle with some incredible new memories and friends we had made along the way, sadly we had to leave our chubby little squirrel friend behind (pictured below).
After the 40 minute shuttle ride back to the Visitor’s Center we hopped into our car, returned our gear before the 7pm deadline, thoroughly enjoyed a hot shower and BOOM, set up camp in Zion’s South Campground (since it was Sunday night spots had opened up) to refuel and enjoy a toasty camp side fire.
After a night of much needed rest we woke up slow, soaked in the incredible scenery and decided to discover Angel’s Landing, one of Zion’s most famous and thrilling hikes.
This 4.5 mile roundtrip hike is not for the faint of heart, though there is the option of hiking to Scout’s Lookout , which is just 1.1 miles shy of Angel’s Landing, on a paved path without the sheer cliff climbing.
Just beyond the gradually sloping path we found “Walter’s Wiggles,” the 30+ tightly arranged switchbacks named after the first superintendent of Zion who helped engineer the steep zigzagging section. After we “squiggled the wiggles,” as they call it, yes seriously, we were presented with an incredibly epic view of The Refrigerator, which Angel’s Landing sits atop.
After this point is where the chains begin. We scaled the cliffs, gripped the sides of the rock face with our shoe soles and step-by-step we made our way atop Angel’s Landing.
An hour and many gasping breaths later, we arrived to the much acclaimed, and for good reason, Angel’s Landing. We snapped some epic shots, enjoyed our picnic and took in the amazingly fresh air. This is one trip we are sure to remember… forever.