My impression of Zion National Park and Utah in general had always been that of a desert landscape. But once I made my first visit that impression changed. As you can see in the photo above of the famous Zion “Subway”, there is water and intense patches of green. I have had one short visit and two longer visits to Zion. In this post I would like to give a general overview of what I feel are the highlights of the area.
I will start with the above – the “Subway”. If you search for images of the Zion subway you will find some spectacular pictures. I will let you know that there are two ways to get to the subway – one from the top down and the other from the bottom up. Both require a National Park Permit which during parts of the year are difficult to get. It is much easier to get a permit for the bottom up hike. And the top down hike requires some good rope skills for repelling and during most times a wetsuit to stay warm. The bottom up hike doesn’t require those skills/equipment – but you may not see the whole subway. I should also add that it is a tough 7 or 8 hour hike, but in my opinion well worth it.
Angels Landing is many times listed as one of the top 10 hikes in the world. The picture above shows just a degree of how narrow the ridge is to get to the top of Angels Landing. The trail is 4.4 miles out and back with about 1500 feet of elevation gain. You are close to the final ridge section when you start the unique switchback section called Walter’s Wiggles. You should always start very early in the morning as it is a very crowded trail. If you are in anyway afraid of heights don’t do the ridge section as there are many exposed sections with thousand foot drop-offs. But once you get to the top the view of the Zion Canyon is amazing and worth the effort.
The other classic adventure at Zion is the Narrows. This is basically a hike up the Virgin river from the head/end of the Zion Canyon. In a word it is also spectacular. The hike can vary based on the level of the Virgin river. I have hiked it when the river was at the strongest flow rate which hikers were allowed to hike, and it was tough, but fun. I have also hiked it with a low flow rate and much easier, and almost a fun. (the picture above was during the hike with a low flow rate) While on the hike make sure to take the first canyon on the right – Orderville canyon and go up that as far as you can. Generally people hike through the Wall Street section then turn back. You can do this as a multiday hike, but you need a permit to do that.
There are many other hikes at Zion, the last one I want to mention is the Hidden Canyon hike. I have done this hike twice and really enjoyed the middle and end sections. You can see the exposure you have for a small part of the hike in the pictures above and below.
Once past that section you are hiking up a narrow canyon and having to climb over various obstacles to make progress up the canyon. The first time I hiked it you could go up quite a ways into the canyon. But the second time I hiked it the upper section was closed because of some type of rare animal protection.
For something cool outside the park head to Kanarraville Utah, just north of Zion and close to the Kolob Canyons side of Zion. Above the town is a great little slot canyon which take only a couple hours to enjoy. The ladder to by one of the waterfalls in the canyon has been a featured photo on Bing and other picture homepages. (see below) For the Kanarra Creek hike and others listed here I recommend Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park