Zion National Park

I was in Vegas for a conference, so after that ended I picked up a rental car. Before starting the 3 hour drive to Zion, I wanted to detour to see the Seven Magic Mountains, an outdoor art installation about an hour south of The Strip. I had first seen pictures of it on Instagram about a year ago. It’s similar to Cadillac Ranch in Texas, but instead of cars there are 7 brightly colored rock pillars in the middle of the desert. It’s free to visit. Be sure to bring water and sunscreen with you! It’s makes for great photos, but depending on the time of day you go, you may have a hard time getting shots without other people in the background. One of the pillars has a bottom rock that you can climb up on if you have a buddy to give you a boost.

I was solo (see this post for more on that), so I brought my Go Pro on a selfie stick in case I needed to take my own photos. Thankfully I was able to make friends with a group of girls who were climbing onto the rock for pictures. I waited until they were done and then explained I was alone and asked if they could possibly take some pictures for me. One of the girls literally let me stand on her leg to climb up, and then another went to town snapping pictures from all different angles and even putting it in portrait mode. She was clearly a pro at getting the perfect Instagram picture, and I love the shots she got!

Then I drove to Springdale, the little town right outside the entrance to Zion, where I checked in at the Holiday Inn Express. I have an IHG credit card, and I used my free points to pay for two nights at the hotel. This was a nicer than average Holiday Inn and because of the proximity to the park, it was normally $250/night during summer! So I was really happy to be able to use points for the stay; even better was that parking, wifi, and breakfast were all free. After checking in, I went outside and read by the pool for a bit before walking to dinner at Casa de Amigos. It had good size portions, affordable prices, and I had my food within 10 minutes of ordering. Only downside was that the guac paled in comparison to what I get in Texas.

Springdale is a cute little town with sidewalks running the whole distance, and a free shuttle bus to get to Zion and other main restaurants/hotels in the area. Aside from a Subway, all of the other restaurants and shops were locally owned businesses.  There is something charming about being able to walk to dinner. Oh, and despite being a mosquito magnet, I never got a mosquito bite here!

The next morning I woke up at 7am, ate breakfast, and was on a shuttle to the park by 8am. When you get to the entrance for Zion you have to transfer onto another bus, because private vehicles are not allowed in the park. It was a complete shock to me when I turned a corner and saw how long the line was. Both days it took me 20-35 minutes to get through the line.

On Day 1 in Zion, I hiked The Narrows from about 9am-1pm, grabbed lunch at The Lodge, and then hiked Lower Emerald Pools before returning to my hotel for a nap and some ice cream. The Narrows is great because you can turn back at any point, making it as long or short of a journey as you want.  According to my phone, I hiked about 6 miles roundtrip at The Narrows.  If you haven’t heard of The Narrows before you are basically walking through a river the entire time with steep canyon walls on either side of you. Occasionally there is a little “shore” of rocks you can get on to take a break.  I heard a park guide say the water in the river was 45 degrees! But on the plus side, the cold water helped your legs be not as sore the next day. Here are the basics of my Narrows hike:

  • Wore: quick drying athletic shorts, sports bra, tank top, a long sleeve athletic jacket, and my tennis shoes. I started hiking before the sun made it down into the canyon and I was SO grateful I had the jacket; in fact, I was wishing I had a sweatshirt too. I had brought my Chaco sandals thinking I would hike in those, but a couple who had done the hike before advised against it and I’m glad I listened.
  • Brought: In my day pack (found on Amazon for $18 – lightweight and water resistant) I had two water bottles, an apple, a protein bar, sunscreen, sunglasses, go pro, and my phone which I kept in a plastic bag to protect it from water damage in case I slipped and fell
  • If I could do it again, I would do __ differently: I would rent the water proof hiking shoes and walking stick they have at the Zion visitor’s center. And I would wait to start hiking until 10am or later so the sun was in the canyon.

Later in the afternoon, I walked from my hotel to the Springdale Candy Company to get some ice cream. It was only $3 for a generous scoop in a cone! Highly recommend.

The next morning I woke up at a similar time with the plan to hike Angels Landing. Angels Landing and The Narrows are THE iconic, popular hikes that most visitors to the park try to do. Angels Landing is a very strenuous hike with a lot of elevation climb to a gorgeous viewpoint called Scout’s Landing. From there you can decide if you want to continue the last leg of the trip where the path is very narrow, you hold onto a chain for safety, and 9 people have died hiking this bit. What makes it so dangerous is the pure magnitude of people trying to hike it at once and the fact that people go out and back holding onto the same chain. So in order to pass each other one of you has to let go.  I got to Scout’s landing and then went about ¼ of the way out on Angels Landing before decided to turn back. The heights didn’t actually scare me, but the mass of people did and I decided to err on the safe side. The hike ended up taking me about 2.5 hours round trip (which was faster than I anticipated) and was almost 5 miles.

  • Wore: capri leggings, sports bra, tank top, and tennis shoes. (Yes, tennis shoes with good treads worked just fine, I don’t hike enough to justifying buying hiking boots)
  • Brought: In my day pack I had two water bottles, a granola bar, sunscreen, sunglasses, go pro, and my phone.
  • If I could do it again, I would do __ differently: I would wear a hat, because a lot of the hike was in direct sunlight. I would also start earlier in the day, in late afternoon, or at least not go on a weekend in hopes of having less people

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