Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Few Days in Zion

IMG_1911                                           Bridge over the Virgin River along the Pa’Rus trail

Without advance planning it has become almost impossible to get a campsite in Zion National Park, but I spent over a week checking the reservation site multiple times a day and finally found a cancellation for three nights. Although not very level, it turned out to be a great site with a view and an electric hookup in the RV friendly A loop.


The price has gone up to $30/night since we last stayed here in 2010, but with the senior pass we thought $15 was a bargain for the convenience of being right in the park, since we didn’t have to use the car at all during our stay. It’s probably the nicest national park campground we’ve stayed in.


After we arrived on Tuesday we went for a walk on the Pa’Rus trail with a detour to the Human History Museum to check out the “Artists and National Parks” exhibit. There were some nice paintings but we like our friend Bobbie’s work better.

Some scenes from the trail, one of the most scenic easy walks in the park.








That evening we just walked across the bridge to Springdale and had dinner at Zion Brewery. Our quinoa burger was good and the beer was okay, but the service left a bit to be desired. We were sad to see that the Zion Theater next door to the brewery is now closed and will be reopened as a hotel and conference center next summer. We enjoyed seeing a few movies there on the giant IMAX screen on past visits.

On Wednesday we planned to hop the shuttle and take a hike on one of the trails in the canyon, but Jim had some issues trying to order his medication so we got off to a very late start. It was after 11 when we walked over and found a Disneyesque line. What you can’t see in this photo is that behind the vegetation on the right are probably a hundred more people waiting to board.


After watching one bus being boarded and the line barely moving, we changed plans and decided to hike the Watchman trail, just across the road. We had only done this hike once, the first time we visited Zion, and didn’t remember much about it. It was not crowded and the scenery is pretty spectacular, so it was a good choice. It’s about a mile and a half to the overlook and uphill most of the way.



Looking down on the trail.





After the hike we saw that there was nobody waiting for the shuttle so we hopped on for a ride up to the lodge, where a soft serve swirl cone was waiting for us. Unfortunately there were more people waiting to come back so the buses were standing room only. After being bounced around standing on the bus we decided to get off at Canyon Junction and walk back down the Pa’Rus trail for two miles. We’re always surprised at how few people are ever on this trail.


Knowing our time was short here, I was in the mood for a bike ride up the canyon after we got back. Early evening is the perfect time for a light show on the peaks, and with the shuttles running there is almost no other traffic so you feel like you have the road to yourself.


Jim had some computer stuff he wanted to do, so he suggested that I take the shuttle up canyon early Thursday morning to avoid the crowds and do a hike. He must have read my mind, because I had already been thinking of that. I was out the door at 8, filled my water bladder at the visitor center and was on the shuttle by 8:10. Having previously hiked all of the trails in the canyon, I was trying to decide where I wanted to go, and remembered that we had only hiked the East Rim trail to Observation Point from the top down, accessing it from the easier East Mesa Trail, so it would be new doing it from the bottom up. I was the only one left on the bus after the others got off at Angels Landing trailhead, so when I arrived at Weeping Rock there were only a couple of other people there at the restroom.

Nice way to be greeted at the trailhead.


Although quite cold because the sun hadn’t reach the canyon yet, the constant uphill from the start warmed me up pretty fast.


The first mile and a half or so is steep switchbacks of broken pavement.


This is looking down on the trail where it intersects the one to Hidden Canyon, another great ZIon hike.


In about a mile and a half the trail goes through Echo Canyon, with its colorful swirls of rock.


There was a couple in front of me and I kept one of them in this photo for perspective. Zion makes one feel very small.




Finally after a couple miles of darkness there was light. On this section I hiked over a mile without seeing another person, so it is possible to get some solitude even in an extremely popular national park.




This trail has such diverse scenery which helps distract from the 2,200’ of climbing



It was a hazy view from Observation Point. There were only around 10 people at the top and dozens of little ground squirrels that were so bold as to climb up our boots and legs. It was hard to eat a snack and I didn’t dare sit down since I wasn’t crazy about them crawling all over me.


Looking down on Angels Landing and the Virgin River. It’s much more impressive in person.


On the four mile downhill trek back the sun had finally reached the canyon. I passed quite a few people making their way up, but not as many as I expected. It was a lovely morning in one of my favorite places.



And I even found some fall colors along the way.

Zion NP 20171

That afternoon we took a walk into Springdale and browsed in some of the outdoor gear shops. I’ve been searching for a new backpack for awhile now as mine is falling apart but just can’t find one that feels as comfortable.

Our time in Zion was up yesterday so we moved down the road to a boondock site near Virgin. Our Lazy Daze friend Chris had arrived the day before, and Laurelee and her dog Libby showed up about an hour after we did. Our favorite spot was taken but we all managed to find fairly level sites across the road, where we plan to hang out for awhile.


We spotted this tiny home on our walk last night.


Today is Laurelee’s birthday and she wants to go for a hike, so we’re heading out soon.  Jim’s birthday is Monday and I have a feeling a hike will not be on his wish list for his special day Smile


  1. Gorgeous site for sure.
    Oh my goodness, Paul would have never waited in that line either!

    You bring back such good memories. We did Watchman trail with our girls many years ago. They fell in love with hiking. Your photos are outstanding!

    Weeping Rock is beautiful. How awesome to be able to hike without hearing others chit chat. Looking down on Angels Landing is stunning.

    Happy early birthday wish Jim. Hope Gayle lets you do what you want on

    1. Got to watch the almost 3 hour long Blade Runner moving today in a theater with leather reclining lounge chairs and a great sound system. It was a terrific movie. Gayle wouldn't go but our friend Chris went with me.


  2. Beautiful solo hike. Angels Landing gets lots of hype, but I think your hike up to Observation Point really captures the valley.

  3. That was a long line and I am too impatient to wait that long!! Your hike was awesome!! The pics show some spectacular views!!
    You found some beautiful fall colors along the way!!
    Zion is a gorgeous place!!8

  4. I remember coming down East Rim and looking up at the kicker that is Observstion Point - had no inclination to do it at the end of a hike. Maybe I’ll follow in your footsteps some day.

    I must admire you for being on the go at 8am, especially when the sun technically rises (gets light) at around 7:40am and overnight temps are cold!!!

  5. What a gorgeous hike! And amazing that you had it to yourself for long stretches. The early morning start and 2200 feet of elevation gain probably had something to do with that. :-) Love that tiny home, but I can't imagine towing it.

  6. The early bird certainly gets the trails to themselves at National Parks! Nice job getting such a great site for a few nights.

  7. Very sweet of you to mention my art❤️

  8. What a beautiful spot you two have found. We really need to get to Zion, preferably with the two of you, since you know the lay of the land so well. What a great hike you took Gayle. The landscape that you captured in your photos is breathtaking! A very happy birthday to Jim. Being in Zion I'm sure will make it very special. :)

  9. Our daughter's college roommate's parents just finished a two week trip across southern Utah. They wrote about the billion people in Zion. They got the shuttle at 7:00 AM. I can't imagine waiting in that line, jamming into the bus, then hiking any trail in a congo line. Who does that!! Maybe people will finally get disgusted and stop coming. I'd love to return but haven't decided the best time of the year. Glad you had a few nice days. Glad Observation Point wasn't crowded so you could enjoy it. Your photos are beautiful:)

    Happy Birthday, Jim! Hope you decide on something fun for your birthday:) It's your day!

  10. Happy Birthday to Jim. Nice to know some of the Zion trails aren't crowded. I'm thinking of going next week, but may just camp outside the park. Gorgeous views and photos.

  11. You were very lucky to get a spot in the park - there weren't any available in the surrounding area when we were there. And zero parking to even think about getting a shuttle :-) Sure glad you did all that hiking so we can see more of the park.

  12. I agree about staying in the park. I so love not needing a car. But I had no idea there were so many people there in mid October. How do they do it? I never could before I retired. Such gorgeous pictures of this fantastic place. We were there in late summer and did the up on the first bus thing too but we like that anyway. I was hoping to return in the less crowded fall. Guess not. So thanks for all the stunning photography.