Monday, May 5, 2014

Hiking in Zion National Park–Up and Down!

Zion National Park


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.

Riverside Walk


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.






Following the river through the canyon

Nicolas checking out the river










Don't let that rock fall!


The trail was a little over a mile long, each way, but fairly level and an easy hike.

Virgin River

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”. 

Into 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!


Contemplating how much further they could go

End of the trail











We watched people heading into the cold water for a few minutes, and the boys found some nice boulders to climb on.

Along the Riverwalk

Chubby squirrel


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,

Riding 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,

Angel's Landing


as well as “The Organ” and “The Great White Throne”.

The Great White Throne


After a few photographs,     Canyon Walls

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.

Looking upriver


Canyon Floor











We made our way up, and up . . .

Kayenta Trail

stopping for a few breaks along the way.

Taking a break



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!

Hiking up the canyon wall

On the way to the Emerald Pools


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're getting higher!

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.

Waterfall from the Upper Pools

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.

Waiting for Tom & Nick

Once they got back, we continued along the trail under the canyon rim,

Walking under the rim

Under the waterfall


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 waiting for us!

Nicolas loves these trails through the woods, and we had another great view of the Great White Throne, too!

Great White Throne



We reached the bottom and crossed back over the river.










What a beautiful view!!

Bridge over the river

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.

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!


Walking on the rocks

Driving to the eastern boundary











A beautiful view

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!

The drive up to Kolob Canyon

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!

Hiking at Kolob Canyon

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 nice hike, but it was cold up there!

Ready to fight off mountain lions!


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!

Kolob Canyon peaks


At the summit!











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!

They still have energy for running!


Up for any challenge!

It was a great day in a great National Park . . . we loved it!


  1. spectacular scenery!! thanks for sharing all the photos!!

  2. Great days! Where are you headed to next? We'll be in Torrey UT for a week starting 5/13.


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