ZION - Utah
Our journey home was roughly planned, winding our way up through Utah and across to Colorado, stopping at the national parks for a couple of days each to see the scenery and do a little hiking. So, the night before going to Zion, I thought we should look at the website and get an idea of where we should walk. To my dismay, we could only go into the main part of the park via shuttle bus, and the tickets for that day had all been reserved!!
Undeterred, we woke early the next morning to a lovely blue sky that promised to host an extremely hot and bright sun later in the day. We traveled down to Zion across the Mount Carmel Highway which was very pretty, with deep valleys and gorges appearing closer to the park. A very impressive tunnel took us down towards the junction close to the park entrance. The rocks were tall and majestic, but totally different to the rocks of yesterday at Bryce Canyon. These great dollops of dense heavy rock towered high above us with their array of pale cream, pink and green strata. They were rounder, and softer looking than the sharp, harsh towers of Bryce, and our gaze was always upwards, rather than across and down as it was when viewing Bryce.
We arrived at the visitor center and picked up a map of the trails and found out what was open. We were told that although the shuttle bus tickets were sold out, at 3pm they would be giving out ‘walk up’ tickets so we could get further into the park and deeper into the canyon. Great! We decided to hike one of the trails near the visitor center which took us up to a craggy outcropping, giving us a good view along the valley. Booted up and poles at the ready, we headed out. It was about a 5 mile walk and quite a steep incline in places. We spotted deer and mountain sheep on the trek, and it became busier as the day progressed. We reached the top and once again took in the amazing views, and the enormity of the rock faces on the opposite side, which were now bathed in the late morning sun. The colors were spectacular.
After a drink and a snack, we headed back down to the visitors’ center and picked up our lunch from the car. We headed out along a flat, paved walk which followed the Virgin River and found a shady spot under a tree, on the riverbank. Shoes off and feet cooling off in the cold fresh water, we relaxed and enjoyed our lunch. Time ticked along and we wanted to make sure we could get a ticket for the shuttle bus, so we headed back to the visitors’ center. On the way we saw signs advising people not to go in the water as there was poisonous algae present! Oops. We waited in line. It was hot, but we were assured we would be able to get on the bus, even though there were limited numbers allowed due to COVID-19.
The bus took us to the end of the canyon, past towering rocks, Court of the Patriarchs, Emerald Pools, and Angels’ Landing. There were so many trails we could have taken, but it was too late in the day to start, and we vowed to come back and spend more time here and do some serious hiking. Finally, we reached the Temple of Sinawava. Here we alighted the bus and took the trail north, along the river to The Narrows. There were so many people! We felt uncomfortable as not many people were wearing masks, so we managed to get off the trail a little and follow the river, but when we reached the beginning of The Narrows there were so many people in the water, we turned around and headed back. The Narrows is literally that; the walls of the canyon are remarkably close to each other and the river runs between, so you would be walking in water for some of the time and flash flooding was possible. It is about 16-mile hike to the end and back, so this would have to be a very early start. On our list!
Our wait for the shuttle was stressful. Again, so many people not wearing masks, closer than 6 feet and impatient to get home. However, we were treated to the sight of a mother deer and her baby munching on the grass, as we waited in line. As we traveled back through the canyon on the bus, we vowed to come back and stay longer at this amazing place, we will just plan a little better next time!
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