For ages I’ve wanted to go to Zion National Park. Ever since we drove all the way through Utah in February to go skiing in Park City. We’ve had such a busy summer and it was difficult to find the time to fit it in so a while ago I earmarked the first weekend in November for the trip and booked it in.
It was about a 6 hour drive to Zion, so we left on Friday afternoon and arrived fairly late on the Friday night. We stayed in Springdale, a town just at the entrance to the park. It’s not like Yosemite where most of the hotels are an hour drive from the park entrance, you could actually walk from our hotel if you wanted to.
We stayed in the Springdale Hampton by Hilton hotel and it felt like a real treat! As we are travelling quite a lot at the moment we are trying not to spend a lot on hotels, so while we got a good deal on this hotel it was also really nice with an amazing pool and hot tub with a view of the mountains, and free breakfast which is always a bonus and not that common in hotels in the USA.
For most of the year there is a shuttle that runs through Zion Canyon, and to keep the road free of traffic you can’t drive up there while the shuttle is running. The first morning we jumped in the car and totally missed the car park for the shuttle so ended up driving up the east side of the park. We went up winding roads and through a really long tunnel before ending up at a trailhead, surrounded by Bighorn Sheep!
We hadn’t really planned anything but decided to park up and take the Canyon Overlook Trail. It’s only about a mile round trip, but is rated as moderate as there are some quite steep drop offs. I was a bit nervous being terrified of heights and there were a couple of points where I nearly turned back around, especially this bridge…
The trail was actually very doable though, even for a wimp like me and was so worth it for the incredible views.
After completing the trail we drove back down the mountain and did find the parking by the visitors centre for the shuttle. We jumped on the shuttle and had lunch at Zion Lodge before taking the Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools. It’s a relatively easy 2.3 mile round trip to the Lower Emerald Pools and goes from The Grotto shuttle stop. There is a shorter trail from Zion Lodge but the bridge was closed when we there so we couldn’t take that one, although the Kayenta trail apparently has better views along the route so I would recommend doing that one anyway.
I’m going to say something that might be a bit controversial…. we thought the Emerald Pools was a bit disappointing! The trail there was beautiful and so worth it, but maybe it was the time of year we were visiting, but the pools themselves didn’t feel very special. It’s one of Zion’s most popular hikes though, and like I say, worth it for the actual trail.
On our way back down the canyon, we got off the shuttle a few stops early to walk back to the car along the Pa’rus trail, a paved bicycle path along the canyon floor. We got some nice views of the red mountains and it was a nice way to end an easy day in Zion.