Hiking in Zion National Park

The Narrows hike, Zion National Park

The Narrows hike, Zion National Park

During our road trip around the USA we visited several of that country’s incredible national parks, namely Rocky Mountains National Park, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Redwood National Park, Yellowstone, and Badlands National Park. Some of them we just drove through, stopping off for some pictures here and there, but we camped out in a few of them and managed to fit in a couple of short but beautiful hikes.

Zion National Park is located in the southern part of the southwestern state of Utah, a state famed for its geological wonders including Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Monument Valley, to name just the more famous of them. Zion National Park is basically composed of two connected canyons named Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon; Zion Canyon is the more often visited of the two, and that was where we camped for a couple of nights en route from the Grand Canyon to Vegas. On the first day we arrived quite late from Bryce, and after setting up camp just had time to walk the Emerald Pools trail as the sun was going down – the evening light looked spectacular as it struck the pink streaks which run through the sandstone strata of the canyon’s walls. It’s a nice short trail you can do in an hour or two, taking you a little up and then along the canyon wall to a few small pools, the waterfalls that feed them, and some fantastic views. You can take the shuttle from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center and get off at the Emerald Pools trailhead. A lovely little hike.

On our second (and only full) day in the park, we went further up Zion Canyon to hike the Narrows. This is a very narrow slot canyon with sheer rock walls towering over you as you wade up the river – this is a river hike, meaning that you are mostly walking in the river itself, and you are ankle-deep to waist-deep (or possibly even swimming) depending on the water level. Doing this in summer, we were generally only knee-deep so it wasn’t too tough, but you have to be careful with your footing as the water isn’t clear – be careful not to drop your camera! The full hike is 16 miles long, taking one long day or two more relaxed days, and requires a permit. However it is possible to hike the first section of the canyon without a permit, which is what we did; you just take the shuttle to the last stop and then proceed on foot into the canyon. You can hike up the river for a few miles before heading back to the car park. It’s slow going wading through the water, so this actually makes for a good few hours’ worth of hiking. The scenery is spectacular, and apparently it gets better and better if you do the full hike as the canyon gets narrower and narrower and the walls higher and higher. It was a real shame we didn’t have time to do the whole thing, and we turned back with regret; should I ever return to that part of the US, I’ll make it a top priority to do the full Narrows hike. Make sure you’re sensibly clothed for walking in a river (footwear especially) and pay heed to the warnings on the park website about flash floods – do not attempt this hike during or following periods of rain.

Zion National Park (and Utah generally) is an amazing place – highly recommended whether hiking or not!

Have you been to Zion? How was it? Leave a comment below!

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