Zion National Park feels somewhat like an inside out Grand Canyon. You enter the park in the bottom of the canyon along the Virgin River. The sheer canyon walls tower above you, in some cases 4,000 feet, as you travel deeper north into the canyon. It’s certainly not the same scale as the Grand Canyon but it definitely impresses.
We took on a couple of the hikes here in the Zion Canyon. The first is the Angels Landing Hike (via the West Rim Trail). It’s listed as a 5.4 mile round trip with 1,488 feet of elevation. The first part is fairly straightforward with a good surface although steep at times it provided nice views of the canyon. Later you come to Walter’s Wiggles which is a series of very short, steep switchbacks. This takes you to a plateau from which you get a dramatic view with sheer drops of about 1,000 feet. From this point you must scramble across a steep rocky surface to get up and over an intermediate peak. You are provided a chain that you can hang onto to ensure you don’t tumble off into oblivion. Past this first peak you can then see the final scramble that will take you to the top of Angels Landing. It first crosses a narrow span and then up the spine of the next peak. The sheer drops on both sides will leave your throat a little constricted. We made it past the first peak but I was not prepared to take on the remainder so we took some nice photos from this vantage point and began our return hike.
Our next hike was the very popular Narrows Hike. This hike follows the Virgin River as it winds through the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. There is no maintained trail, the trail is the river. You spend about 60% of your time walking and wading in the river itself. This can be very difficult and potentially dangerous if there is a lot of water in the river due to any recent rainfall. You may recall that a couple of weeks prior to our visit, there were several deaths in Zion resulting from flash flooding. During our hike the deepest water we encountered was below waist level and there was a very low probability of flash flooding. The entire Narrows hike is 16 miles from one end to the other which is either a very long day hike or an overnight hike splitting it across two days. The alternative is to enter from the south end and hike in as far as you feel comfortable with and then hike back the way you came. This was our choice, we hiked in about two hours and then returned. It’s a very beautiful hike with dramatic canyon walls, sometimes no more than 20 or 30 feet apart.
Next stop: Mesquite, NV