Sometimes the best adventures begin on a whim, making a spur-of-the-moment decision, to pack your bags and hit the road. Over last Memorial Day weekend, I had the fantastic pleasure of exploring Zion National Park with a new found friend that was visiting the States from Africa. A bit skeptical about the experience, knowing how busy the park would be, I got some valuable tips from a colleague that has spent a lot of time guiding and wandering the park. Here are a few tips I would share with you:
Hike the Narrows. If you plan to do this, be sure to check if it is open yet. There are two ways to hike the Narrows. From the top down and from the bottom half-way up and back. It all depends and the depth of the water and whether or not you can make it through certain parts of the canyon. It’s worth a stop by the Zion Adventure Company, located right outside the park in Springdale, to gauge what the river is like. They also have neoprene rentals which come highly recommended if you have a hard time with being in cold water. You will be in the river most of the day with limited sunshine. We wore our shorts and warm tops with tennis shoes and keen sandals and acclimated quite quickly.
YOU MUST, get as early as start as possible. Hop on the first shuttle up to the trailhead. You will not regret it. We were in the water by 7am and were so happy we did. There were many stretches we nearly had the canyon to ourselves. The later in the day, the hike gets packed with people, I mean packed.
Where to find a campsite? We were given a great tip by a local that worked at the Adventure shop to camp just outside of Rockville. If you are heading out of the park, take a left on Bridge Rd. where you will cross a bridge over a small river. Take this road until it dead ends then hang a left up the hill. We found a perfect spot with incredible views. Yes, we still had neighbors, which was to be expected with the holiday weekend.
Do the Canyon Overlook Trail. This is an easy hike with high rewards. The trailhead is just after you exit the tunnel in the park, you can park on the right, cross the street and hit the trail.
Looking for a place to cool off we asked a park ranger the nearest area to access to water. He gave us the insider tip to check out the Pine Creek Pools. This is not so well-known and we ended up having the waterfall and pools to ourselves for about an hour mid-day. It’s a short hike that you can access shortly after the Zion National Park entrance on Hwy 9 (via Springdale). About a mile past the entrance, the road will turn right and you’ll cross the Virgin River and pass Floor of the Valley Rd. Drive straight to the switch backs. The 1st (right) turn crosses Pine Cr., and at the 3rd (right) turn, there is a pull-off (inside of the corner). Stop here (you’re about 2.5 miles from the park entrance.) Cross the road going north. Follow the trail; It’s less than 50 yards off the road.
There is absolutely no place on earth like Zion. This was truly a trip that will never be forgotten! While trekking up the Virgin River on our hike through the Narrows we kept saying we wish we new a geologist that could explain what we were seeing. That night, at our campsite, it just so happened, that a geologist from Norway who had been conducting research amongst the many parks in Utah had set-up camp right next to us. We soon were chatting about the region and he confirmed there is truly no place like it on earth. So, be sure to add ZNP to the bucket list and take these handy-dandy tips with you!