After spending the day at Monument Valley, Sharmaine and I drove a few hours through the night to Page, Arizona and camped at the parking lot at the Horseshoe Bend Viewpoint. As sketchy as it sounded, things turned out all right and we didn’t have any creepers knocking on the windows of the Jeep in the middle of the night. What we were greeted with, however, was a gorgeous sunrise over Horseshoe Bend!
We spent a portion of the morning hiking around the rim of the canyon before heading into town and grabbing a bite to eat at McD’s (gotta get those Monopoly stamps!). We then hit the road and headed back into Utah toward Zion National Park. It’s a pretty dull drive between Page and the park, but once you get to the gate, the landscape changes dramatically with painted mesas and other colorful geological features. We came from the east entrance, so we got to experience the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Caramel tunnel that descends into the main canyon.
Overall, Zion really impressed me. I had heard little of it and didn’t really didn’t know what there was to do there or what to expect (other than hiking Narrows Canyon). But Sharmaine suggested we go there and I was really glad she did! For one, it’s gorgeous. It was somewhat reminiscent to Yosemite in the fact that it’s a steep valley surrounded by dramatic peaks, but the colorful sandstone cliffs and plethora of narrow slot canyons give this park it’s unique identity. The overall infrastructure of the park was really nice too. Since the valley floor isn’t very wide, there’s little room for much vehicular traffic. Instead, visitors take buses that shuttle hikers between the park and the nearby town of Springdale. It’s pretty convenient, considering that they come every 10 minutes or so and even have a recorded interpretive program that explains all the different features as you go by them. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to actually look at the scenery instead of driving.
We parked the Jeep and took a short walk to the nearest bus stop. About 30 minutes later, we found ourselves at the end of the road where the trail to the Narrows hike begins. The initial trail follows the bank of the Virgin River as it meanders its way through the canyon for about a mile. There are often loads of tourists along this paved stretch of trail during the peak season. Fortunately, we were able ditch most of the crowds once we got to the real Narrows hike, which requires walking in the river itself.
We walked for two miles through the crystal clear (and fortunately not so freezing) Virgin River. The water reflects really nicely with the reddish orange sandstone cliffs. I wish I could be there in a few weeks when the autumn colors come in and the mesmerizing aspens turn brilliant yellow. Nonetheless, it was still all breathtaking. There’s no wonder why early Mormon settlers named the area after the Hebrew word Zion, meaning “place of peace and security.”
The deepest the water ever got was up to our thighs, but I heard it can get much deeper than that earlier in the summer. On average, it was up to our shins. We reached a point where the canyon gets narrow and forks off toward Orderville Canyon before deciding to head back. Turning around was hard to do considering there was still another 14 miles of unexplored amazingness ahead.
We got back to the Jeep around sunset and dried off before heading off to find a place to crash for the night. We were sure the campground would have been full considering the holiday (Columbus Day) and the fact most people make a reservation months ahead of time. We had looked at another nearby campground when we first arrived in the park before heading off to the Narrows, where we saw signs that said “full”. Despite this, we decided to check it out anyway just in case. Our intuition turned out to be a blessing as there was one spot left! So we quickly made our way to the site, set up camp, made dinner, before heading off to bed.
A long day, but probably my favorite from the trip. Next up, Bryce Canyon and the trip back home. Thanks for reading!