Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Zion National Park

Hello blog family,

Can you believe the year is already more than half way over? 2015 is just flying by. Right now I’m preparing for another trip next week where I will be meeting my family in Yellowstone National Park. I haven’t seen them in nearly 8 months, so I am very excited to spend an entire week together. Most recently I checked another National Park off my bucket list when the boyfriend and I visited Zion NP for the 4th of July weekend.

HOTEL: Our trip to Zion was planned very last minute. We realized we had a long weekend coming up and quickly decided to reserve a hotel near Zion. Since it was a holiday weekend and we booked so late, most hotels in Springdale (town right outside Zion) were already booked or way overpriced. We decided to stay in La Verkin, UT which is a little further out but much cheaper. Our hotel was about a 20 minute drive to the park, but the scenery along the road made the drive enjoyable. 

PARKING/SHUTTLE: During the busy summer months cars are not allowed to drive through the park. Instead, you will need to pick up the shuttle at the visitor’s center which will then drop you off throughout the park. The entire shuttle ride from the first to the last stop is about 45 minutes. Since you can’t take your car into the park, you will find there are a limited number of spots at the visitor’s center. You will want to get there early to make sure you get a good parking spot. Since we did not stay in Springdale we had to drive and risk not finding a parking spot, but if you stay at a hotel in Springdale, you will have access to a second shuttle that picks you up from your hotel and drops you off at the visitor’s center. I would suggest staying in Springdale to avoid the shortage of parking spots. *Entrance to the park is $30 for 7 days. 

FOOD: We only ate at two different restaurants during our trip to Zion and both were delicious. We ate at the Zion Brewpub twice since it is literally right outside the gates to the park. If you were any closer, you would be in the park. Everything we ordered to eat or drink we were very happy with. Make sure to try the seasoned fries (delicious). They also have a large selection of locally brewed beers that are a great way to relax after a long hike. We liked sitting outside on the patio and enjoying the beautiful views of the red canyon walls all around us. My favorite restaurant in Springdale hands down was MeMe’s CafĂ©. I had the best chicken salad sandwich of my life here! I would drive the 9 hours back to Zion just for that sandwich, seriously. Make sure you make a stop here during your trip, you won’t be disappointed. 
Brew with a view
DAY 1 (Friday): We left our apartment in Southern California around 8:00AM. When I planned our trip, I figured it would take a little over 6 hours to get there, so we would still have most of the day to explore and hike. I didn’t realize that we would be driving directly through Las Vegas which created long traffic delays. I also forgot that Utah is in a different time zone than California, so we lost an hour during the drive. We didn’t end up getting to our hotel to check in until a little before 5:00PM which really messed up my itinerary. We unpacked at the hotel, relaxed for a few minutes then ate a quick dinner. After dinner we then drove through the only part of the park that is accessible by car during the summer.  From the entrance, the road will split (left is only shuttles, right cars are allowed). I highly recommend making this drive along HWY 9 for some incredible views and amazing colors. We drove the entire highway stopping anywhere we thought would be a good place to explore. There are many designated pull off areas for stopping. One of the coolest places we stopped was at the Checkerboard Mesa which is a huge rock formation that looks like a large checkerboard. Our last stop along the highway was at the beginning of Canyon Overlook Trail. This is a short, easy trail that will lead you to an incredible view overlooking the entire canyon. I recommend doing this hike in time to watch the sunset. After this hike we went back to our hotel to get a good night’s rest for our busy next day. 
The road
Checkerboard Mesa
These colors though
Canyon Overlook Trail
The view
The road up
I love you
Matching backpacks 
It is a LONG way down
Just hanging out
Selfie stick :)
DAY 2 (Saturday): If you have ever seen a picture of Zion NP, it is most likely of The Narrows which is hike through the water in between the canyon walls. If you have a limited amount of time in Zion, this is the hike you want to do! Make sure you get here early since it is so popular, it gets very crowded. The hike starts on a paved trail that will eventually dead end. Where the trail dead ends is where the real fun begins. Hop into the river and start hiking! Make sure you have the proper gear before doing this hike. You will be hiking in the water the entire time so you will want to make sure you have the correct shoes. I recommend renting water shoes outside the park at one of the local shops. I decided to buy cheap water shoes at home and really regretted it. The bottom of the river is covered with rocks that would dig into my feet with every step I took. While you are renting your shoes, you can also rent a walking stick. I was unsure if I needed the stick, but I am really glad we ended up getting them. The rocks are very slippery so the walking stick will help you balance yourself. If you decide to bring your camera, phone, or other important belongings, make sure you bring or buy large Ziploc baggies to keep your stuff dry. Even with the walking sticks there is a good chance you will fall and get wet. If you have all the correct gear this hike will be one of the most incredible things you’ll ever do in your life. Every few steps I would look up and truly take in where I was and what I was doing. I think at one point I ever started crying. The further you go, the more beautiful it gets and the less people you will see. Hike as far as you want then turn back when you are ready. We hiked until the water was as high as our chest since we brought backpacks that we didn’t want to get wet. By the time we got back to the shuttle the entire hike was 10 miles. We had planned to do other hikes after The Narrows but we were beat. I wouldn’t plan to do anything too strenuous after this hike. We ate an early dinner, went back to our hotel, and went to sleep.
Water is cold!
It was pretty busy
Small waterfall
Feel so small
Follow me to... The Narrows
And then our camera died during the most beautiful hike ever...
DAY 3 (Sunday): Along with The Narrows, Angels Landing is one of the most notorious hikes in the country. I wouldn’t suggest kids or anyone who is afraid of heights to do this hike. Just Google pictures and you will quickly find out why. I was really excited about checking this famous hike off my bucket list, but when I woke up on Sunday morning I couldn’t move my neck. We decided that since I wasn’t at 100%, it wouldn’t be safe for me to do the Angels Landing hike. Instead we decided to get on the shuttle and make all the stops along the way getting out to explore each area. Some of the highlights were Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools. We then decided to walk along the river trail all the way back to the visitor’s center where we parked that morning. Unfortunately our weekend trip was then over, and we had to drive back for work the next morning.  
Made friends
Weeping Rock
Lower Emerald Pools
Middle Emerald Pools
Upper Emerald Pools
Walking along the river
The Wacthman
Zion is simply breathtaking. I can’t even begin to explain how beautiful this place is. Standing beside the canyon walls will make you realize just how small you and your problems are in the world. I highly recommend everyone make a trip here at least once. Yellowstone NP is up next, and I can’t wait to share it will all of you!