When you enter Zion National Park you’re immediately hit with tons of beautiful photo opportunities. This place refreshed our souls and senses. We had visited other national parks before Zion, but this was among the top of our “must see” list of biggies. Personally, I think that Zion is my favorite national park yet, mostly because of the beautiful scenery and the overall experience. There was so much to do AND we hit it on the shoulder season* which was the PERFECT time to experience it.
Zion was breathtaking in every way possible. I thank God for making such beautiful things for us to enjoy. His artwork was displayed all over Zion. The raging river and waterfalls, the rocks that would jet high into the clouds, the beautiful plant life; I loved it all! We took several hikes; one along the Virgin River, another to the Watchman (the most photographed landmark in the park), and I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about hiking before! We even found petroglyphs! They had a bus transportation system that dramatically cut down on the amount of traffic to key destinations throughout the park, and also made it easy to navigate (no worries parking a dually…point for Zion!). Although we took some pretty amazing hikes, the canyon overlook hike was probably my all time favorite….
On the main road there’s a tunnel which is famous for the windows that are blown out of the side of the tunnel (…as a side note, we did shut the tunnel down in order to have the whole tunnel to ourselves because our dually’s rear end was too wide to make it through with normal traffic! You have to pay extra for that little mandatory service). Right before entering the tunnel you get a view of The Great Arch of Zion. Later on, when we learned there was a hike to the top of the arch, well….we HAD to do it! The trail took us through the rocks (sometimes including a bridge with ropes-don’t worry, Benji was safe) and over a tiny bridge into this cave/rock overhang, then lead us to an overlook that gave us a birds-eye view of the whole canyon (hence the name:)! On the way up, we even got to see some wildlife, as two bighorn sheep ate their way onto the trail! It seemed as though it was time for them to get some grub, and scare hikers all at once, so they started boxing us in. Literally, there was one on the trail in the front, one behind us, and one looking down on us from the rock peak closing us in! We could just hear the leader sheep and his evil laugh, preparing for the attack! Not really, but it was funny all the same:) Check out these little guys–
It was a little disappointing that we couldn’t venture to the Narrows (they were closed due to snow melt), and we didn’t want to hike Angel’s Landing (too risky with Benji), but the views that we did get to see were hard to rival!
Some waterfall hikes we did were the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools trails. Weeping Rock wasn’t exactly a waterfall; more like water that seeps through the sandstone and drips over a rock ledge that you stand under! The Lower Emerald Pool was amazing, featuring more than one waterfall into a blueish-green pool. There ARE two Emerald Pool hikes–Upper and Lower–but the Upper pool wasn’t open. You do have to remember that these trails may be a little wet; mud was quite prevalent on our shoes afterwards:)
As a rule, we don’t eat in National Parks. Ever. Nothing against them; the food is just expensive and not always the best. We’ll either find somewhere outside the park, or just pack a bunch of snacks! We stuck to that rule in Zion, and mostly refueled with homemade trail mix. There was more than one occasion, however, that called for more than trail mix, so we sought out the local digs. A small cafe called MeMe’s had great crepes (according to the boys), and Rosita’s Santa Fe Kitchen was an awesome outdoor style Mexican joint with insane nachos! Warning on the lemonade though… Rosita likes it sour!
Our reservation for Zion River Resort was the first (and only!) solid reservation we made before launching. Usually we wing it at NP’s, but this time we were so glad we didn’t. If we’d just shown up without reservations, we wouldn’t have been able to do much of anything; everything was full! The resort itself was amazing, and we enjoyed the amenities from the pool/patio area to the gift shop to the scavenger hunt for colored Popsicle sticks! We even found a little trail leading straight to the Virgin River right behind the campground:)
Looking back at these pictures reminds me of how lucky I am to have the privilege to travel the country with my awesome family. I mean, how many kids get to do school looking at Zion National Park? I think we truly did find love, and don’t forget those bighorn sheep!
~Bonus~ Us goofing off on a cool rock and a little slug on the trail!
*A shoulder season is the time right before or right after peak season. It is when the park is still busy but not super, over-the-top busy/crowded…like bees on a honeycomb. You may not be able to see every single thing in the park (for instance, The Narrows trail was closed because of the snow-melt) but it’s a good trade-off for less people and hardly any waiting in lines. We like shoulder seasons!
**Get ready for a post explosion! We’re catching up now that we’ll have signal, so they’ll be rolling out soon:)