One of the best things about visiting our National park system is going during the off-season so you can enjoy some peace and quiet with less people and less congestion. Well, early in November at Zion, even though the shuttle buses have stopped running, proved to be still crowded. The majority of the trails which are designated in the brochures were full of people. It was difficult to find available parking spaces even if you went early in the morning. What can you say, everyone loves National Parks, and for a good reason, so you just have to go with the flow.
So, off we went. We drove the Zion Canyon Scenic Road all the way north to where it dead-ends at Temple of Sinawava and queued up behind a pile of cars trying to find parking spots. We eventually headed south again and pulled off on the side of the road behind a long, line of cars. Yes, thankfully there is a shuttle during peak season or this place would be difficult if not impossible to navigate. We parked and headed off on to the Riverside Walk, a short paved easy walk of about 2 miles which follows the North Fork of the Virgin River along the canyon. It was a beautiful walk with many painters with their easels along the river banks painting away. Yes, the walk was crowded and felt rushed but we focused on the scenery and the fantastic weather. At the northern most end of the walk was the start of the Narrows hike which is about a 9 mile hike (8 hours) of hiking through and along the Virgin River. At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river. We were not properly outfitted at the time to forge the river whose water temperatures at this time were around 50 degrees F so we didn’t take the hike. But it is high on our list. Next time?
Emerald Pool Trail, Kayenta Trail, and Angels Landing Trail
For our next hike (and due to parking difficulties) we decided to just park at the Zion Lodge, which has plenty of available parking, and hike something in that area. We started off at the Emerald Pool Trail. There are three tiers of pools, a lower, a middle, and an upper which takes about 2 hours to get to the top. So off we went. A beautiful hike and since we started early, early, early in the morning we only had a few other hikers with us, maybe 10 or 20? A big change from the Riverside Walk which was almost bumper to bumper. The hike up to each pool was lovely and the views were outstanding. Once up there we decided to head on over to Angels Landing and check it out.
The easiest way to get there from Emerald Pools is via the 2-mile Kayenta Trail which is beautiful. It is an excellent hike and more off the beaten track so, for the most part, we had the trail to ourselves. Yay! We headed all the way down the trail and back to the Virgin River to The Grotto parking area where the trailhead to Angels Landing begins.
Off we went again. We were curious about this hike as it is one of the most popular hikes in the park consisting of a 5 mile hike with an almost 1500 ft elevation change, long drop offs, with a steep narrow ridge to the summit. The trail was quite crowded due to the hike’s popularity but we managed to climb up to “Walters Wiggles” before stopping for lunch. We sat on a rock and watched the hikers head up on to Wiggles and to Scout Lookout. For those who love narrow, steep, mountainous climbs this is perfect. I choose to not go to the top due to a fear of heights and I am glad I did. Another hike we did was to Observation Point which gave us a great view looking down on the hikers atop Angels Landing summit. Yikes is all I have to say.