Hello and happy Sunday everyone! Sorry for the lull in posts lately… we moved into a new house in a new part of town two weekends ago and wow, moving really takes up a lot of time. But we’re all settled in now and I absolutely love our new house! My commute to work went from 1.5 hours to 15 minutes, and same for Matt. I have so much more free time now to explore the local parks and restaurants! There’s two huge parks within walking/biking distance of my house… perhaps one day soon I’ll do a post about Houston parks!
Anyway, Houston parks are nice but don’t even begin to compare to the beauty that is Zion. As you may have guessed from my last post, Zion National Park was the last stop on our Las Vegas journey. It was also my favorite part of the trip, by far. We were unfortunately only there for the day, but it was a good introduction to the park and I am thoroughly glad we went.
Zion is actually a shorter drive from Vegas than the Grand Canyon. It took us about two and a half hours of very scenic road to get there. We arrived to the park around 11am local time (10am Vegas time) and to our surprise, the parking lots were already full! I had no clue the park would be that popular that day. I recommend getting there early or of course, staying overnight and avoiding the rush altogether. (If you missed my posts about Vegas and the Grand Canyon, check them out!)
Let me pause for a minute and give a word of advice to anyone planning to do a trip similar to what we did – SAVE YOUR ENTRY RECEIPT FROM THE FIRST NATIONAL PARK! It gives you entry for 7 days to any National Park, a fact we did not realize. We left the receipt back at our hotel in Vegas and had to pay the $30 entry fee again at Zion. Learn from our mistakes.
I had done some minimal research into the park before traveling there and had a list of 4 hikes I wanted to complete. However, I did not understand the expanse of this park. This was my first experience with an expansive National Park (the Grand Canyon is great – but it is not really the same) so I didn’t understand the size of this place. To complete all the hikes I had planned, we would have had to arrived a few hours before we did. That’s okay though, now I just need to go back 🙂
If you have not visited Zion or a similar park before, you, like me, may not know that they actually offer a shuttle service through the park. I was imagining having to park, hike, drive, park, hike, drive, etc. In fact, you park, get on the shuttle, and it drops off at 9 locations in the park. Each stop has a list of the hikes that start near the shuttle stop. It is so convenient and easy, and yes it is free!
The first hike we did was to Weeping Rock. This is an easy hike that is well worth the 30 or so minutes it takes round trip. It was at stop 7 on the shuttle. This hike leads to a section of mountain where water seeps out of the rock. But it doesn’t just seep and gently trickle down the side of the rock, oh no. This is Zion. It literally rains down on you from above like a storm. It’s pretty awesome, but expect to get wet. I liked this hike also for the small informational signs describing lots of the local flora along the path to the rock.
Hike Info: Weeping Rock
- Difficulty: Easy
The second hike we did was the Emerald Pools hike. There are actually three hikes associated with Emerald Pools – lower, middle, and upper. Many people choose to do just the lower or middle pools hike, and that is perfectly okay. The views there are gorgeous and worth the time spent. We chose to do all three pools hikes, and it took quite a while. These hikes are all at stop 5 on the shuttle, as are the restaurant and hotel.
I’m going to admit how out of shape I am here and say this hike was difficult for me. Not the lower or middle, but getting to the upper was a challenge. I live in Houston, which is literally a swamp that lies at – no joke – 50 feet above sea level. The upper pool is 350 feet up from the start of the hike, which is already at like 3500 feet above sea level. So yeah, this one was kind of tough for this Houstonian.
This hike was only 3 miles round trip but, as I said, the elevation made it seem much further. However, the scenery along the way is beautiful and actually changes quite drastically just in the short hike. The lower pools lead you behind a large waterfall. It’s very cool to see, but when we went there were dozens of others there as well. The path is quite narrow so you have to kind of squeeze by the returning hikers on your way up. Oh, and you’ll get wet here too, though it’s a bit of a relief from the hot temperatures.
The middle pool area takes you up a rocky trail to a scenic area where you can rest before heading up the sandy trail to the upper pool. This last leg of the hike – between middle and upper pools – was where I started to struggle a bit. It’s a steep sandy trail that just feels like you’re walking straight up the whole time. I had to sit down several times along the trail to rest. Meanwhile, some little 8 year old kid was running by me continually so I felt like a fat hag. I like to think that kid lives somewhere at 10,000 feet above sea level and could take the thin air better than I could. 😉
Though it was difficult, the upper pool trail was well worth the struggle. It is an absolutely beautiful hidden pond of sorts. There is a waterfall that leads directly into the pond. At the time we were there, it was completely shaded and cool, with the mist bringing the temperature down several degrees. There were still several people up at the pool, but nowhere near as many as at the lower or middle pools. There are several large boulders to lounge on and recoup from the hike while taking in the scenery. There’s also several squirrels that are fun to watch.
Hike Info: Emerald Pools
- Lower: Easy
- Middle: Easy+
- Upper: Difficult
Climbing back down from the pool was so much easier than climbing up. At this point it was 3pm so we stopped at the restaurant on the park grounds and got lunch. I wanted to stay longer and do another hike, but the one I wanted to complete (Canyon Overlook Trail) is actually on the East Entrance of the park and is not shuttle connected. There was not enough time for us to drive there, complete the hike, and then drive back to Vegas at a reasonable hour. So alas our trip ended here and we drove back to Vegas to fly home the next day.
I will be going back to Zion one day, no question. I am very new to this whole hiking and exploring thing, and while I am greatly enjoying it, I realize my skills need some fine tuning. There are some very extreme hikes at Zion (Angel’s Landing, anyone?) that I was not ready for yet. In a few years I hope to come back and stay for at least 3 days and complete some harder trails. Zion is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life and I recommend everyone who can make the trip out there!
Zion National Park Stats:
- Ease of access: easy and relatively quick drive from Vegas. Quite a scenic drive as well.
- Price: Cheap, $30/car entry fee. BRING YOUR RECEIPT FROM ANOTHER PARK if you have gone within 7 days.
- Clothes: Hiking gear required! I wore capris and was glad I did, as I sat on several rocks on the Upper Emerald Pools trail and didn’t scrape my thighs. I was also glad for my hat and sunglasses, as it was quite sunny out.
- Crowds: Crowded. Apparently I went during spring break, but I see every day on the Zion twitter feed that the campgrounds and parking lots are full.
- Recommend?: Absolutely. In fact, please take me with you when you go 😛
Zion marked the end of our Las Vegas trip. However, there’s more trips to document! Stay tuned for information about a spectacular cave in the Ozarks.
National Park Count: 2/59