This week we’re posting a series of posts to celebrate National Park Week (April 15-23, 2017), America’s largest celebration of national heritage. Each post will feature one PSO team member and their favorite national park in a Q&A style format. Go Find Your Park! and enjoy free admission April 15/16 & 22/23!
Zion National Park, Southwest UT
What is your favorite NP?
So far, this would be Zion National Park in southwest Utah.
What is it that makes this park so special for you?
My first visit to Zion was with PSO during our #pso2moab trip last spring. While we didn’t get a chance to see the park itself due to time constraints, it served as a spark that urged my wife and I to return to the park a few months later. During that trip we got a chance to really experience what the park had to offer, including an attempt at the infamous Angel’s Landing hike—more on that later. We also did an easier trail to the Emerald Pools for some much needed shade in Utah’s sweltering Augusts.
What are your favorite memories there?
We actually visited the area twice on the trip. Once for a night out and some great food at the Bit & Spur Saloon in Springdale and then we hiked the next day. Everywhere we looked was beautiful as the park has an extremely diverse ecosystem and topography. But the highlight was our attempt at Angel’s Landing. The views on the way up were incredible. Once you clear the initial switch backs (see picture above) and get through refrigerator canyon (a constant cool zone that’s perpetually in the shadow of the Landing) you only have to get through Walter’s Wiggles until you’re on the ridge and get your first good vantage point of the valley. From either side you can look down to the Virgin River as it snakes around rock formation. It’s truly an amazing experience being that high up and also incredibly dangerous.
Warning: this is not a hike for small kids or if you have a fear of heights or during inclement weather…SERIOUSLY.
There are places on the trail where it’s only 2-3ft wide and a sheer drop on either side with 800-1000 ft drops. Several people have died there including a man just last month. We had beautiful weather, though hot, and our time in the grotto and on the Emerald Pool hike helped keep us in the shape partially as well.
What else do you want people to know about your favorite National Park?
Unfortunately, because of its beauty, Zion is known for being one of the busiest national parks in the country. We can attest as we waited at least an hour to board the shuttles just to ride into the park (no cars are allowed unless they’re driving to the lodge or the bypass on Mt. Carmel highway.), even when arriving around 8am, but I’ve heard stories of 2+ hours wait time during peak season. This mass of people didn’t stop at the gate—as you can see in the photo above, this is what you can expect on a normal day on the trail. We did make it past this first section, but ultimately gave up for safety sake at Scout Overlook. Where the photo below was taken from. The trail only gets more narrow and when you have that many people, most of which don’t have good trail manners and won’t give you the right-of-way, it’s a recipe for disaster. Don’t let this discourage you though, choose your timing wisely and you can have an excellent trip like we did.