We had set aside Tuesday and Thursday as our days to go to the parks, and we just had to decide which to go to first. The boys wanted to go to Bryce Canyon first, but Tuesday was supposed to be pretty chilly with high winds, so we decided that hiking in the bottom of the canyon, at the lower elevation of Zion, was a better choice.
Nicolas had picked out a few hikes that he wanted to do, so we parked the car at the Visitor Center and hopped on the shuttle. We decided to leave our lunch in the car, and have a picnic when we got back to the Visitor Center.
UT-9, which runs east-west between the entrances, is open to traffic, but the road that travels along the Virgin River at the bottom of the canyon is only open to shuttle busses. We rode the shuttle bus all the way to the end of the road, at the River Walk stop.
There’s a paved path along the river, and also a footpath closer to the river’s edge which winds around and over boulders as the canyon walls get closer together.
Tom and I stuck with the paved path, but the boys (of course!) took the more adventurous route.
The trail was a little over a mile long, each way, but fairly level and an easy hike.
There was a steady stream of people walking along the river, and a fair amount of them had rented waders and were planning on hiking “The Narrows”.
This trails starts at the end of the River Walk, where the canyon walls form a narrow crevice reaching right up to the edge of the river. In fact, the trail is IN the river!
The boys would probably have loved this one, but Tom and I were not up to hiking in the freezing cold water!
We watched people heading into the cold water for a few minutes, and the boys found some nice boulders to climb on.
We made our way back along the trail, and spotted this little guy begging for food on the walkway . . . he doesn’t quite look like he’s been starving!
We hopped on the shuttle bus,
and rode to the first stop on the way back to the Visitor Center. From this stop, we could see Angel’s Landing,
as well as “The Organ” and “The Great White Throne”.
we got back on the shuttle and rode down to “The Grotto”. From here we could take the Kayenta Trail up to the top of the canyon, where we would meet up with the Emerald Pool Trails, and then make our way back down to the floor of the canyon at the Zion Lodge, the next stop on the shuttle route. The total length of the connected trails would be 1.5 miles if we only went to the lower Emerald Pool, or 2.5 miles if we also went up to the Upper Pools.
We crossed the river and started up the trail.
We made our way up, and up . . .
stopping for a few breaks along the way.
Our early morning hike along the river had been a little on the chilly side, but as we hiked higher on the trail, in the full sun, we warmed right up! It was a beautiful day!
As we reached the top, we came to a junction that would take us either to the Upper Pools, or the Lower Pools, but it wasn’t on the trail map and we weren’t sure if the upper trail would bring us back down to the lower trail, so we didn’t take it . . . turns out we could have! Oh, well . . .
We reached the Lower Pools, and there was a steep trail up to the Upper Pools. Nicolas and Tom decided to check it out, but Bryce and I waited for them down below.
We watched the water falling over the rocks from the Upper Pool, and Bryce climbed up on a huge boulder to watch for Nicolas and Tom.
Once they got back, we continued along the trail under the canyon rim,
and under the waterfall falling from above. The rest of the trail down to the canyon floor was pretty easy, although we did have to watch out for a few wet, muddy areas.
Nicolas loves these trails through the woods, and we had another great view of the Great White Throne, too!
We reached the bottom and crossed back over the river.
What a beautiful view!!
We arrived back at the Visitor Center, where we ate our lunch, and then got in the car to drive through the eastern part of the park . . . through the Zion tunnel.
This is the area of the park that Tom and I remember driving through when we were here almost 20 years ago . . . we may have also driven along the river, but couldn’t really remember (no such thing as a blog back then!).
The views in this area are still amazing, and there are a lot less people!
We reached the eastern edge of the park, and then turned around and drove back through to the western entrance to go back the way we came. There’s another area of Zion National Park about 15 miles north on I-15, and Nicolas had one more hike identified for us!
For this one we would drive to the top of Kolob Canyon, and then hike on a ridge trail that would take us to over 8000 feet elevation!
Talk about a temperature change – we probably dropped 20 degrees on the way to the top, and the wind was brutal!! We all needed our jackets, and we were still cold!
A sign at the trailhead warned of the possibility of mountain lions, so Bryce armed himself with a big stick and a handful of pebbles! Thankfully he didn’t need them . . . we never saw any mountain lions . . . but I did use the stick as a hiking pole on the way down!
Once again, reaching the top, we were rewarded with some absolutely amazing views!
This one mile hike brought our total for the day to 5 miles (6 for Tom and Nicolas), but two of us were hardly tired at all!
It was a great day in a great National Park . . . we loved it!