Zion National Park – Hiking

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Zion National Park, East Entrance

Over one year ago I was asked about joining a group from Indiana for a whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I thought about it for a couple of days, accepted the invitation and made the reservation. The time finally came    and on Sunday, June 5th, Jeff and his neighbor Rod and I headed out to Zion National Park as a sort of pre-vacation, vacation.

We spent two days at Zion National Park   and camped outside of the park at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort  .  This is a decent place with a mixture of all sorts of camping accommodations; tent sites, RVs, wagons, wall tents and cabins. Showers, swimming pools and hot tubs helped make this a nice place to return to after a hot day of hiking in the park.

We got up early to get into the park without having to wait in lines. It is a busy park so being early is very beneficial. How early? Get to the park entrance by 7AM if possible. As the morning wears on, finding a parking place becomes a challenge. In the main section of the park, there is bus service only, and they arrive at stops frequently and were a pleasant experience.

Grotto Trailhead, Angels Landing – Our first stop was at the Grotto Trailhead so that we could hike to Angels Landing.

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Trail to Angels landing, looking back towards the Grotto Trailhead

The trail has two sets of switchbacks prior to arriving at the level area (what Jeff and I later termed “the chicken-out area”) before the final approach to Angels Landing and where the chains begin.

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Me and Rod just before the chains to Angels Landing

The hike is fairly easy up to this point if you’re in decent shape. From here on up to the Landing it’s mostly mental.

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Jeff and Rod as they begin the chains to Angels Landing

We noted the sign on the trail which cautions hikers that 6 people have died on these cliffs since 2004. Rod did this same hike last month, so how bad could it be, right? So, Jeff and Rod began the ascent where the chains begin. I waited for Jeff to get started and then started climbing myself. Jeff got to a section of the trail where there was a gap in the chains and slipped a bit . . . I’ve since decided Jeff makes me more paranoid than I normally am on steep slopes and within minutes turned back to sit in “the chicken-out area”.  I explored the area a bit watching people of all ages heading up the chains wondering when I developed this fear of cliffs. I could blame my father for setting me out on a tree limb which extended over a 200-foot cliff when I was 4 or 5 years old as my mother yelled at him and I cried terribly, but I’m an adult now a need to get over it. Unfortunately, I’m not there yet. Anyway, the view is still great from the chicken-out area.

Once Jeff (who only went another 50 yards before turning back) and Rod (who only went 100 yards, or so) returned, we hiked away from the landing to get a better look.

In the lower-right of the next photo you can see the warning sign and some people for perspective at the chicken-out area. If you zoom in and look closely you can see the hikers along the trail. Uhmmm . . .  yeah. It’s a 1400 foot vertical drop from the top.

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View of Angels Landing from the West Rim Trail

For a little closer view check out the next photo

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Close-up view of hikers along the chains

Hundreds of people either attempted or succeeded the climb to Angels Landing while we there, which just made me think that I really need to find a way to get over the fear. This was actually part of the reason I began climbing a few years ago, but didn’t keep at it. Maybe I should have brought my climbing harness? Oh, well. I guess I now have a good excuse to take another trip out there. On the way back down, a girl with tattoos on her shaved head passed me by. I saw her on the way up so, I now asked her if she made it all the way to the Landing. She said she did, but also said that she used to be an electrician and has a fear of climbing on ladders. So she can climb up that, but not ladders . . . go figure. I’m jealous.

Once at the trailhead we got back on the bus and rode to the Weeping Rock stop. This is where water seeps out of the rock to form a sort of hanging garden.

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Weeping Rock

The next stop was at The Narrows. This is a nice cool area loaded with people. The idea is that you hike up the river, as in . . . in the river. This would have been a nice hike, but I didn’t get the word that we were doing this today and didn’t have the right shoes for it. I hiked a ¼ – ½ mile barefoot in the river before heading back. It wasn’t bad, except that it was really slow going. The three of us agreed to return the next day with the proper gear and hike up the river for 2-3 miles.

The Narrows, day 2. This time I had my Keen sandals and we headed right for the river, first thing. The big advantage, once again of being there early was the lack of other hikers. After a mile or so hike along the trail, we hit the water to begin the actual hike. Jeff and Rod found walking sticks, but I preferred to not have one as I find hiking on river rock in water easier without it. I find that turning my body a little bit up-stream while crossing helps fight the strong current while keeping me pretty stable. This whole hike was a blast. In and out of the water in a narrow, cool canyon was quite pleasant.

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Jeff and Rod at one of many river crossings

We hiked in a maybe two miles and then hiked for a short ways up creek in a side canyon. It might have been Orderville Canyon, but I’m not certain. After a few photos we returned to the main channel to hike up further.

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Narrow walls along the river, hence it’s name, The Narrows

We hiked until we got to a section where the river was narrow and deep enough for the water to be up to our chests and decided that was far enough. On the way out we noticed lots more people in the river now and were quite happy that we got there so early.

Once back on the shuttle bus we stopped at the visitor center for ice cream as Rod had been talking about it for hours. We each bought some soft serve cones and sat outside under a huge cottonwood tree in some cool grass.

One thing I noticed about the National Parks out west is that the scenery is so enormous that photos can rarely express the reality of being there.

That was our trip to Zion. Next up . . . tomorrow we will be rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on a 7 day trip.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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